How To Stay Focused As An Entrepreneur And Human Being
Here’s how to get and maintain focus.
Most people make the mistake of assuming that focus is one thing – a magic, laser-guided instinct that operates independently of everything else.
In most cases, focus isn’t anything like that. It’s about fundamentals. It’s about creating the right environment and sticking to a clear plan.
So we’re talking about staying focused in this article; but we’re more talking about how to generate and maintain focus without focusing on that as a primary goal.
Set Goals And Move Towards Them
The biggest issue people have with achieving their goals is that they don’t have any goals to achieve.
People have dreams. Dreams go unfulfilled for the most part.
You need to set goals – things you’re going to bring into the world. You then need to chart a course between your start point and the end point.
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This is the first thing you need to do and you need to do it well. You need to be realistic – I’ll talk about that in the next section – and you need to set time and dates for achieving the way points for your goals.
Many people shy away from setting dates and putting time stamps on things, but it’s important. You need to know how you’re progressing, if you are working to schedule or if you need to change things.
You can’t know any of those things unless you set the times in the first place.
When you start a project, you will have motivation, energy and a clear view in your mind. You won’t always be able to rely on those things. So use them while they’re there.
Don’t Assume You’re Superman
A big problem that people have is – having done the above – take their shiny new goals, hype themselves up, and pull out their diary. They then say, “Ok. I’m revved up. I’m going to get up at 4am every day. I’ll do research until ten, work hard until the evening, take ten minutes for something to eat and then work until midnight. Then I’ll do it all again.”
A big problem people make is, when motivated, they’ll assume they’re superman.
Don’t believe you can do everything and work continuous sixteen hour days for months. Unless you have a track record of being able to do this, it’s unlikely you’re going to dramatically change to the point where you’ll be able to.
Now, if you’re in a motivated state, you’ll believe you can change. But motivation is a fleeting thing.
After a couple of long days, your energy wanes and then you’re left with a schedule you can’t stick to and a sense that you’ve failed due to unrealistic projections. You haven’t failed, you just tricked yourself.
Be reasonable and don’t fall into this trap. Set a reasonable, achievable schedule and believe in it.
Until Your Core Proposition Is Done, Put Everything Off
Let’s talk about another mistake which ties into the one above.
When you’re starting out or you’re looking for fresh success, you’ll have a million ideas. You’ll want to get your Twitter marketing down. You’ll write email letters or start a YouTube channel. Maybe you’ll go and buy some flyers or business cards. Check out some FB Ads courses and worry about what happens when you’re making a million a day.
You have a finite amount of energy and until you have a core product, all of those things are a waste of time.
You build your Instagram to a million fans, and then what? You can’t sell them anything and the chances of converting them later are lower.
Meanwhile, you’ve bled time and money.
Until you have a minimum viable product, all of those things are a waste of time. Your first focus is always getting the business up and running. That means income and not a pretty website.
Split Your Tasks Into Two; High Focus And Low Focus
Nobody can work for hours and hours a day at 100% concentration. You have a finite energy supply and your focus is tied to that.
“But what…” you may ask, “… do super-productive people do differently?”
Mostly, it’s a case of filter low-attention activities from high-attention activities.
You can spend hours doing “productive stuff” like organising documents or reading. You can spend a finite amount of time doing heavily analytical work or heavily creative work.
You can’t spend hours doing the heavy lifting.
Where most people go wrong is mixing the two activities. If you’re most productive in the mornings and you spend those productive hours organising your documents, then you’ll have a tidy office and not a lot to show for it.
If you spend all of your time trying to do the heavy lifting, you’ll find you’ve wasted ten hours trying to program something only for it not to work (you’ll make mistakes because of the time) and you’ll have an untidy office too.
Find your most productive tasks. Do them at your most productive times. Then do the low-attention processing stuff when you’re spent.
Set Way Points And Rewards
Rewarding yourself for productivity is a tricky business. I’ll admit I haven’t got it quite right yet.
However, if you don’t reward yourself and don’t enjoy the fruits of your labour, then bad things will happen. I have found this.
People suggest dumb rewards and it never quite comes across well because your rewards, goals and desires are individual to you.
I could say for a small goal that you could buy yourself a cheeseburger. For a bigger goal, you could spend a weekend away.
Those things will seem stupid if you hate cheeseburgers and have a fear of holidays. I don’t know.
Set your own goals and focus on the positive outcomes. You want the process to be rewarding, but you should also set commensurate goals that are unrelated. These are individual, but should exist.
If you do it right, your happiness will increase and even the act of getting a reward will mean you spend time recharging. If you want to maintain focus then these recharging periods are paradoxically more useful than constant work.
Don’t Overwork; Stick To Your Schedule
Life isn’t a sprint, and unless you have very specific target goals, then neither are your goals.
I consider a “sprint” something you can do whilst motivation and energy are high.
Let’s use exercise as an example. You might have a “12 week diet plan.”
At the beginning, you might want to work out for 4 hours a day. You’ll eat all the protein cookies and go to the gym at 4am. This is probably not sustainable and the motivation will wear off in a matter of days. You need to plan for that.
That’s different to a “3 day fast.” You can probably push yourself through a three day window on motivation. It’s a sprint.
Most goals aren’t sprint goals. In that majority of cases, you’ll gain nothing by pushing yourself to the limit. Instead, you’re using energy and that’ll make focusing harder across the long run.
Stick to your schedule. If you feel like you can do more but you’ve achieved everything you set out to do, then great. At the end of it, you’ll feel fantastic.
Don’t fall into the trap of “just another hour” because it’s bad for you and you’ll have to balance the books later.
Final Point: Look After Your Health
For all the talk of “pushing it to the limit” that goes on in blogs and in the motivation sphere, very few people actually have a personality that’s attuned to shutting everything out and ploughing through working constantly.
Very few people can go into “monk mode” even though a lot of people talk a big talk about it.
If you are one of those people that are thus-driven, this point is particularly for you.
In terms of focus, your big problem will be that long term you’ll suffer burn out. This might not even be mental – it could be physical.
Plenty of people say, “Work 18 hour days until you are rich” and you can tell that they haven’t actually done that.
Because the human body isn’t remotely designed for that. (There might be outliers, but in general terms.)
If you work eighteen hour days for a few months, then your health will suffer. If you do it for years, you’ll be permanently fried. Take a look at long-term emergency doctors, nurses and other people of the same type – military, bankers, lawyers and police guys. They are all mentally frayed.
Physically, your health will deteriorate rapidly and this will ruin your focus (and the rest of your life.)
Keep the basics in mind: flexibility, sleep schedules, diet and a reasonable exercise routine.
Of course… if you’re the monk mode type, you’re going to nit-pick that and try to systematise it. Don’t.
Relax and get a general program, and only push yourself as far as is reasonable. This is the best measure for long term focus and health.