When I was working in the corporate world it was crucial that I could run a number of projects and deal with having lots of plates spinning at the same time. I always brought projects in on time and on budget – great news for my line manager. However, when you have a team of people supporting you and you’re directing the plate spinning it’s an easy job… right?
Well actually when I look back, although it was doable it was very stressful and feeling burnt out was the norm. Since working for myself, I have discovered that regardless of how agile you are no one can spin all the plates, all of the time. In fact, trying to spin just two different plates at the same time can be extremely difficult. Why? Because unless you have a team behind you, at some point one of the plates is going to stop spinning, drop and smash, which could mean the loss of a client.
So with a smorgasbord of choice, how do you make sure that you stop feeding those Gremlins (factors that can stop you getting to where you want to be!) and feed your future success instead?
Gremlins can appear as:
Often when you start a project and come to a road block, rather than trying to fix the issue people put the entire project to one side and start on something else. This allows you to hide failure, stay stalled, and miss deadlines, which can result in your project taking much longer.
2. Switching back and forth
Every time you stop a project there is an amount of time you use getting into the next project and back into the old project; this is known as ‘switching time’. The more projects you work on at the same time, the greater the switching time. This means that every project takes longer. Not a smart way to spend your precious time.
3. Getting distracted
You are in the middle of a piece of work and your phone rings, you answer and need to do something as a result of your conversation. Or you hear the ping of your computer alerting you of a new email and you just have to see who it’s from. Or you’ve remembered a task that has nothing to do with your work, but is just going to take five minutes and if you get it done now… and so the list goes on.
4. Bright shiny object syndrome
This is when your gremlin is telling you that you are bored with a particular project now and you want to move onto something else. You become your own worse enemy; you stop working effectively and just close down.
So how do we avoid these Gremlins that eat away at our time? Simple, you get disciplined and focus. Now that is easier said than done and we don’t want to underestimate how the mischievous Gremlin’s friend ‘Procrastination’ can play a part in stopping us from furthering our goals. But we need to remember that we are savvy business owners and that we have taken the very brave step of starting our own business. We know that we are made of tough stuff.
So what do we need to do to become more focused?
1. Make an impact
Spend the majority of time on the most impactful activities that generate sales for your business. For example:
- Undertaking client work
- Meeting existing and prospective clients
- Speaking at events
- Creating new products and services
- Making time for thinking, creativity and innovation
Delegate the mundane activities and get someone else to do them, such as a virtual assistant. If your budget won’t stretch to a VA then you need to batch up activities and do them in one go so that you make the most of your time.
3. Be methodical
Work methodically to solve problems. They need to be resolved as soon as possible so you can move to the next stage of the project. Solving problems is part of everyday business life, it’s how you handle those problems that is crucial. Developing ‘problem solving skills’ is essential to growing a successful business.
4. Agree a time period
Set some parameters when working. Don’t always be tempted to answer the phone or respond to text messages or emails, complete the task in hand first. Agree a period of time when you are going to focus on work and then take a break. It could be 45 minutes, one-hour or longer. The aim is to agree a time period and stick to it. When you are focused and cannot be interrupted you can accomplish so much more.
5. Repair and recuperate
Sleep is the most important activity to undertake if you want to be firing on all cylinders. It’s really easy not to put such a high prominence on this, but like exercise if you want to be your best you have to be fit and healthy. Getting a good night’s sleep allows your body to repair and recuperate from the stresses and strains of the day. You will find that you will be more alert and this will enable you to focus better on achieving the results you want for your business.
6. Get a Life/Business Coach
If you are prone to any of the above Gremlins, get a life or business coach to help you keep on track. Those pep talks and opportunities to check in with someone are invaluable. What are you going to say to your coach when you meet them the next time and you haven’t taken your project any further forward? A good coach will pull you up on your lack of action.
7. Say ‘No’
Probably my favourite, just say ‘no’ to people. When friends and family know you are working for yourself they can sometimes think that you have all this free time to do with whatever you want. To a certain extent that’s true but what is also true is that your clients are probably working 9-5 and you need to be available to connect with them during those hours. So don’t worry about pleasing people – you might never win with them completely but just make sure that you are doing the right things that will please your business.
Retaining focus and motivation is the single greatest challenge that small business managers and entrepreneurs face on a day-to-day basis. Making the best of your talents and your experience, as well as your time and your efforts, is essential if you are to give your company a real chance to grow and become the business you’ve always wanted it to be. Ultimately that can mean getting out of your own way and making sure that you are not responsible for creating stumbling blocks that might stand in the way of your own path to success.