As we continue down this journey to becoming better entrepreneurs, we have found a couple of key things that add something like rocket fuel to our mad creation (our business). Intriguing, right?
One of these incredible fuel sources we've discovered is the power of focus. This has been an area of struggle for both of us. It's not that we don't sit down and get our work done it's something bigger than that. There's a reason most jobs require you come to work for a set amount of hours per day. It's so you can give yourself entirely to working on work and not get distracted with things that might be happening around your house. Sure you often still have access to your smart phone at work (and some workplaces are admittedly more distracting than others), but the truth is without all the day-to-day distractions we can get so much more work done. Is it possible to stay focused at home and still meet your goals? Of course it is... with some adjustments. Let us give you some context.
This summer we decided to take a course to improve our business skills. (Yes we did this right in the middle of crazy wedding season - what's a little more work right?) The course was an Intensive Business Course and it was!!! We felt like we had been hit by a truck and dragged along a dirt road for 6 weeks. It was hard, demanding, and we were in a constant state of working in overdrive, but we learned something significant.
The power of focus comes from eliminating distractions and focusing on just one thing at a time. There are always a million tiny things that "need" to get done everyday and a million more things that are more enticing than the task at hand. Its easy to sit at your desk or on your couch all day "doing something" but how much is actually getting done when you keep glancing at facebook for five minutes (ok, more than that! that thing just sucks you in.....) or constantly checking your email.
During our course we HAD to focus. There simply wasn't enough time to get EVERYTHING done, so we had to cut out distractions and focus on the things that were essential (facebook didn't make the cut...). And to our surprise, we discovered we could get so much more done than we thought we could.
Don't get us wrong, we already knew focus was important and we did have focus in certain areas, but this was different. It's like we went to a whole new level of focus. We learned that focus is not necessarily the fact that you are working on something but rather its how much of your attention and mental power you are really putting into what you're working on.
You see, your brain really has multiply levels of creativity. The fact is you can get more accomplished in less time by not multitasking and giving your brain just one thing at a time to focus on. It's like sleeping. We have 3 levels of sleep that we go through at night. REM sleep is the deepest cycle, this is where the dreaming takes place and where the body begins to restore and fix itself. Similarly our brain has different levels, and when we focus we let it access the deepest levels of creative power. This is the kind of focus that you must learn to harness.
When we multitask or get distracted with phone calls, social media, or even daydreams, we are pulling our brain out of this deep well of creative flow and putting it back into the multitasking role. The same results would happen if we never went into a deep sleep cycle at night. We would be in bed sleeping for hours but not getting the deep results that we are looking for - we'd never actually get rested and restored. We'd never get the full results that we need to thrive.
Being single minded and focused is like pouring fuel on the fire. Distractions take a toll on your ability to think and be creative. Multitasking can be helpful sometimes, but not as an all day way of living. When it's time to make things happen, come up with creative solutions, and get something done you need to put your focus on just one thing at a time.
Some of the principles we now use to stay focused are to
1. Set actually hours of dedicated work during your day and do not look at your email, phone or social media notifications during this time. Also, be sure to set a goal for what you want to get accomplished in this timeframe.
2. Use head phones and listen to music or a podcast that is inspiring but not distracting
3. If you work from home like we do, go to a coffee shop and get out of the house for a few hours or half the day. It really helps. When you work for home you have the ability to get easily distracted and I mean easily. Food at home is free and you don't have to use your debit card to open the fridge, not to mention the bathroom breaks that you somehow need more.
4. Cut out all talk and chatter. If you work with your spouse like we do, its helpful to set times where you are working on something specific and don't want to be distracted. Even little comments or questions can cause your focus to shift from what you were working on and onto what they're doing and saying. Schedule time for this later in the day when you have already tackled the big things.
So back to our summer school story. Yes, we made it, and yes, we are still alive! And we learned an essential element of success - that we can do more than we think we can if we cut out the small distractions and unnecessary things that add no value to our business or life (... and have less meetings, but that's another story for another day). Are we perfect at this yet? By no means. But since we started being intentional about focus, we've seen our business move forward by leaps and bounds.
Try it and watch what happens. We're positive your productivity will go through the roof!!
We would love to hear what you think about the power of focus. Or post below if you have any helpful tips to staying focused.
Tim and Lisa