Focus in Small Business:
The Focus Fairy Has Officially Screwed Me
Since I was a kid, I was always in the “Are you paying attention?” boat (with a ton of other kids). Our teachers knew what the problem WAS…but they didn’t know the root. Turns out…it was a damned focus fairy!! I’d start paying attention to something I was supposed…only to have her come buzzing around my brain 4 minutes later, distracting me into some sort of alternate thought path.
I had problems not ONLY with paying attention, but with finishing projects, kicking my goal’s assess, and getting simple tasks done every single day.
Surprisingly, ADD has been one of the GREATEST assets of my small business career. I can multi-task like a freakin’ animal…and my ideas come like wildfire and a dry wind. It’s pretty fantastic. NOT surprisingly, that little fairy STILL likes making her appearance every now and then.
In the last 33 years of my life…I’ve developed a kind of “fairy jar” for this little Tinkerbell.
So, what do I do when I have a to-do list of 20 bajillion things and an ADD moment?
Ok...enough bitching. How about some problem solving?? I actually have a LIST of methods I use to keep my focus. They are a little bit on the odd side...since it's a bit of an odd problem. ADD doesn't mean that you CAN'T focus...it just means that your method of focus is different than others.
The below nine steps are usually used in conjunction with each other. ADD rears it's head hundreds of times throughout the day in little ways and in big, so the methods below are used when I start to wonder...and when I think each one is appropriate!
1.Ask yourself "What needs to be done in order to make a profit tomorrow?"
This simple question get's me back on track NEARLY every time. Perhaps I'm just money driven (but I ask you, what small business owner isn't?). Asking this question allows me to put into perspective exactly what needs to be done next and hyper focus on it. Will looking at Facebook Blogging groups make sales? No. But creating that ad for our FREE "2017 Mini-Marketing Planner" will! .
2.Carry around a notebook with you. Keep it on your desk.
This is one of my favorites. It gives me an excuse to buy notebooks. 🙂 I like paper. (Totally just said that like Forest Gump.) I actually carry around two notebooks with me at all times. I carry a big cloth bound notebook (you can almost always buy these at Barnes and Noble in their discount section!). I don't want to get this notebook confused with the mass amounts of spiral notebooks I have, so I like the way the thick, book-like notebook stands out.
I use this book to write down ideas that come to me in the middle of doing something else. For instance, as I write this post, my mind has wondered a little bit into Never-Neverland... Tink has appeared (freakin' Focus Fairy...I'm tellin' you!) and has veered me towards Googling images of drunk fairies. (I DO believe...0_0 ) .
Coming back to reality, I've written jotted in my journal to look for images of a drunk fairy to go with this post AFTER I've finished writing this post.
See image above.
I also use this book for notes, product ideas, etc. Anything I need to get out of my head in that instant.
The second, smaller notebook is used PURELY for "to-do's". Each small page has the date printed at the top. Before I go to bed each night, I write my to-do's for the next day.
(Sometimes, I just move over to-do's from the previous day...but no one knows except me.)
3. Turn the Lights Down When You Work
This one MIGHT be a "to each their own" suggestion. There are certainly some professions that should NOT take this advice. (Although, it might help a few photographer's work I've seen recently.)
If you are sitting at a desk near a window, turning off the overhead lights when you work can be super beneficial! Window light tends to wrap you in it's own little warm bear hug while you work. It's easier to focus on what's on your desk than what's going on in the rest of the room behind you.
If you can't dim the lights and aren't near a window, turn them off completely and get a desk lamp! Again, this is technology's way of smothering you in kisses. (Ok...fine. I'll stop it with the mushy analogies.)
4. Make a List
Perhaps it sounds like I've said this one before. Well, I have! (Kinda!) If it's one thing I am a proponent of, it's list making. Legit list making...not the "Wake up in the morning....check!" kind of list. But a getting SH*T done, kinda list!
If you can't seem to concentrate on what you've set out to do, take a minute to brain dump. Start with your original to-do, and create a detailed step by step list that will get you to the end. When I say detailed...I mean detailed!
Get as nit-picky as you possibly can!! A lot of these items might only take you 5 minutes to accomplish...but you'll get to your goal SO much faster!!
5. Take a Walk or Pace
This is one of my personal faves. I've been a huge fan of "getting my steps in" (I'm on Fitbit...friend me) for almost two years now. I start my day off by walking 10,000 steps before lunch. I keep my above mentioned large notebook with me, so when I think of an idea...I write it down to take action on immediately after my morning walk! If it's raining...I pace the room. (No excuses, people!!)
I recommend NOT doing chores in liu of this. I know...you're tempted to be productive, but this time should not be spent thinking of anything other than what you plan on doing when you sit down to work. Think about it like a fighter who is riled up by trainer minutes before a fight. By the time he is in the ring...it's ass kickin' time, and nothing else matters.
6. Turn On The Music
A secret to my super focus? Music. True, I get SUPER distracted by anything I can sing along to (Neil Diamond or Simon and Garfunkel...and sadly, not even kidding)...so those are out. Instead of music I become actively involved in, I've fallen in love with bands like "This Will Destroy You" (currently playing as we speak) and Sigur Ros (I don't know Icelandic...so it works!). These guys give my active mind a little bit of grounding. It becomes kind of like working in a trance. Be careful, though!! The music you choose can change the feeling of whatever you are working on.
I think I'm going to the dark side. 0_O
7. Set A Timer
This is a SUPER handy idea...and there are couple of ways you can do this! The more obvious method is to use your phone or computer and set an alarm clock. For instance, if you need to write a blog post, set a timer for one hour (or however long you need). There are also some pretty fantastic focus apps. Try FocusBooster or the Pomodoro app on iTunes! Both are timer apps that help to eliminate distractions on your desktop **cough**Facebook**cough*
You can also set a "to-do" type timer. Make plans to start your next task, no excuses, at a certain time. That way, this allows you to come to a good stopping point in your current task before you move on to your next. These is an especially beneficial suggestion if your task involves leaving the house for an appointment or a meeting. If you say "I will get this post written before I leave," you'll be more driven to do so...without checking the latest tweets from Michael Cera (what....? He's weird. I like it.).
8. Create an end of day goal
In my opinion, this is the one you should be doing everyday anyways. My goal, everyday, is to complete at least one project. Sure, a ton of my projects take multiple days to develop (...those projects get broken down into smaller tasks and added, one by one, to the smaller book I mentioned earlier.) What I am talking about is goals which consist of one "to-do" item. Today, along with some other more challenging goals, I needed write a blog post.
So here you go! If you say "by the end of the day, I have to AT LEAST have this item done", you will be more likely to get something done everyday. You won't lose focus...because should you follow the fairy, you can easily remember how to get back on track.
9. Step Away From the Technology (Read that like a cop through a megaphone, please...).
This is a hard one...but one of THE most cathartic methods of focus you will ever do. Leave your phone and your computer behind...grab your notebook (no...not the digital notebook. The paper one. To the left. No...your other left. THE FLAT WHITE THING WITH THE LINES ON IT, DAMN IT!!)
Grab paper and pen...walk, ride or drive to the nearest coffee shop, lakefront, lunch restaurant with a fireplace ...and work. Brainstorm, write, people watch, create your detailed to do lists....anything! Just ALLOW (not force) yourself to focus on wandering. I know that sounds silly, but when you aren't SURROUNDED by distractions...in addition to having an end goal in mind for this session, you'll be able to focus on something that needs to get done.
10.Don't be afraid to be weird.
My relatives, friends, and fellow biz people think I'm a little strange. When I work...I need noise! I need music on with no words, or a movie on that I've seen 5 billion times (I've recently been obsessed with Phineus and Ferb), or a busy place with people talking. That white noise allows me to focus and my brain to kind of RELAX.
So, don't be afraid to to tell yourself it's ok to be different. If you find that you get INSANE amounts of work done with Forest Gump on loop...then let' er loop!!! If you find that you HAVE to work with the windows open in the middle of winter because the street noise helps your brain ignore everything else...put on a coat and get to writin'!!
Every brain is different, but every brain is an advanced tool we humans use to rule the world. So be PROUD that your brain is a little bit different than the rest...and learn how to use your tool to further your own dreams and goals in business.
Focus is not easy. Especially not these days with apps, widgets, and TV, websites, messenger(s), social media platforms, friends, family, work, health and Netflix. HOW IN GOD'S NAME DO WE STILL EXIST AS A SPECIES!!?? I feel like the planet should have spontaneously combusted by now (told you I was getting dark).
Tell me below how YOU focus during your work day!!