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Have you ever put in what feels like a full-day’s work and thirteen cups of coffee, only to find zero actual tasks checked off on your to-do list? For entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is an easy trap to fall into. Go-getting founders with all-encompassing roles live in a world where it's possible to be on call all hours of the day. There is no clock to punch, unlimited emails to send, and a demand to be Jack-of-all-trades AND master in your field. The bottom line is, it's not uncommon for entrepreneurs to get overwhelmed, frustrated, and unfocused.
To get at this, we’ve compiled a list of top techniques and tools to help optimize your workflow and stay sharp.
Some of the most typical ways a lack of focus manifests in workplace leaders include a decrease in productivity and an increase in stress, says Rahul Vij, CEO of WebSpero Solutions, a digital marketing agency.
“When there is a lack of focus, it ultimately shows in the work when targets are not achieved on time,” he says. “As a result, one cannot concentrate on the daily office work,” which leads to a degradation in work performance.
Likewise, when organizational goals are not achieved on time, it leads to stress. In addition, pending tasks can increase a person's stress levels, Vij says. That is one of the reasons it's crucial to have the capacity to remain fully focused while working, but that is easier said than done.
Tips to Stay Sharp
For many people, wearing multiple hats can be difficult. Juggling different responsibilities and goals can be overwhelming and cause stress, says Darren Litt, the cofounder of Hiya Health. However, there are a number of tips that can be useful, including:
- Create a support network: Having a group of people on whom you can rely for help and advice can be invaluable when trying to accomplish multiple tasks, says Litt.
- Set achievable goals: Ambitious start-up owners often set out to boil the ocean, but trying to accomplish too much at once can lead to frustration and feeling overwhelmed. It is important to set realistic goals in order to stay on track.
- Utilize “Task Blocking”: This can be done by completing similar tasks in one sitting each day. For instance, Josh Snead, CEO of Rainwalk Pet Insurance, does this by blocking his time for specific chores to reduce the number of transitions in his day, therefore limiting his chances for distraction. “On an average workday, I'll have no more than 4 or 5 transitions — one of those is to lunch, and for all the others, I have a new ‘block’ of tasks already lined up, so I don't even need to take time deciding,” he says.
- Set aside days for specific projects: “As a long-time entrepreneur myself, what really helped me was having ‘theme’ days, focused blocks of time, and taking short mental fitness breaks every 3 hours,” says Angela Marie Christian, a certified positive intelligence coach that trains entrepreneurs. “When it comes to ‘theme days,’ for example, I decided I would only record podcasts on Thursdays and Fridays.”
Tech to Stay Focused
While there is a seemingly unlimited number of tips for the business owners of the world, we set out to speak to experts and find some of the more unique and surprising tools on the market today to help founders stay sharp.
- The PQ app - This tool, also known as the Positive Intelligence app, helps support your daily mental fitness exercises, coach challenges, journal, and more. This “helped me with concentration and focus so much that I decided to become a certified PQ coach and train other entrepreneurs,” Christian said.
- Blinkist - This application can help entrepreneurs stay focused and productive, says Rajeev Kumar, co-founder and CEO of DocuCollab, a contract management platform
“This program reduces the time it takes to read a book to just 15 minutes,” he says. “You can choose from a large selection of books. Reading books takes 3 – 4 weeks on average, but this app can help you save a significant amount of time. You will be able to gather knowledge while also effectively managing your time.”
- Microsoft To Do - This app, which was formerly known as Wunderlist, can be used to “create to-do lists, set due dates, choose a relaxing background image, and cross items off your list. You can also set reminders on your mobile device if needed,” says Nikita Chen, founder & CEO of LegitGrails, a company that authenticates designer goods. “I use Wunderlist and find that the really simple and uncluttered interface is exactly what I expect from to-do list software.”
- Narbis smart glasses - These neurofeedback smart glasses (affiliate link) analyze brain activity to detect whether the wearer is showing brainwave patterns indicative of paying attention or losing focus, and can help entrepreneurs learn to stay focused.
Over time, Narbis users’ brains get trained to pay attention during tasks that require focus. Whether it’s answering emails, or getting through a pitch deck, or copywriting for your website.
- Slack - While one of the more well-known instruments for success, this is a “powerful tool perfect for growing entrepreneurs to manage and regulate their business operations,” says Tommy Mello, the founder, and CEO of A1 Garage Door Service, a company specializing in garage door sales and repair.” Even for organizations with a flatter structure, it allows the creation of divisions and groups, which makes it easier for managers to manage their teams. The versatility of the tool makes it a perfect one for entrepreneurs of all sizes.”
As you move forward in your journey as a leader in the workplace of your dreams — and manage your seemingly never-ending to-do lists — it is important to prioritize your mind’s ability to remain focused. When the pressures of the role become overwhelming, turn to these techniques and tools for help.