How to stay focused and block out the noise as an entrepreneur

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How to stay focused and block out the noise as an entrepreneur

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur collaborators are their own.

Our society tells us that the way to be successful is to do as many different things as possible. Consume as much information as you can. Try as many different careers as possible. Spend time with as many people as possible. Read tons of books. Listen to a lot of podcasts. The list goes on and on. However, if you study the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and business owners, you’ll find that they are exceptional at blocking out the noise and focusing only on the things that move the needle the most. This is the fastest way to success.

Distractions are everywhere. But as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that there are really two main types of distractions that threaten to undermine your success. They are as follows:

  • Productivity killers: This category of distractions includes anything that actively works against you to reduce your productivity on a daily basis. This includes digital distractions (such as notifications), environmental distractions (such as a noisy office), and personal distractions (such as relationship problems at home).

  • Shining Object Syndrome: As an entrepreneur, you are bombarded with information and offers on a daily basis. Every time you open your email inbox, there is another person offering a product or service that is “guaranteed” to help you increase your revenue, reduce your costs, find new customers, etc. If you’re not careful, you can easily spend all your time chasing the next shiny object. And guess what happens when you chase shiny objects? You never actually put anything into action (which means you never get any results).

If you want to thrive as an entrepreneur, it’s imperative to block out these distractions so you can focus on creating maximum value right where you are. Distractions will always be there, but your success depends on your ability to let them go.

As you look for ways to improve your focus, here are a few strategies that I believe will help you avoid productivity killers and prevent shiny object syndrome:

Related: 7 Proven Strategies for Overcoming Distractions

1. Keep your calendar

You need to get better at protecting your time. And the best way to protect your time is by keeping your calendar. This means intentionally blocking off chunks of time each day to accomplish specific tasks. You’ll even want to block off segments for downtime, family time, exercise, etc.

2. Silence your notifications

How many notifications do you think you get per day? Between phone calls, texts, emails, and push notifications on your smartphone, there are hundreds of them. And every time one of your devices rings or rings, it distracts you and prevents you from doing the work you need to do. It also takes a few minutes to refocus after being distracted. By this time, another notification had already arrived.

Want to improve your focus? Mute your notifications and only check them at certain intervals throughout the day. If you can get away with it, one morning ‘notification check’ and another in the afternoon is ideal. However, this is not always practical when running a business. Some entrepreneurs opt for short 10-minute check-ins at the end of each hour.

3. Clean up your email inbox

Your email inbox is a significant source of distraction. It’s also one of the biggest lightning rods for Shiny Object Syndrome. That’s why I recommend unsubscribing from all promotional email lists and anyone who sends marketing and sales messages.

If you don’t want to unsubscribe, you can always create your own dedicated email account just for promotional emails like this (make sure you only check it once or twice a week). Another option is to use a tool like Unroll.me to combine all of these emails into one daily “digest” email.

Related: Distractions Hurt You More Than You Realize: Here’s Why

4. Do one thing at a time

Make a promise to yourself that you will stop multitasking. Commit to doing just one thing at a time. This means reading only one book at a time. Integrate only one new application at a time. Only one course at a time. Only learn how to master one social media platform at a time, etc. A deliberate approach like this allows you to stay focused on the things that really matter. It also forces you to finish things once you’ve started them.

5. Give yourself some rest

Don’t forget to give yourself some rest. Productivity isn’t always about it doing, doing, doing. Sometimes you need to take some time away from work to recharge your brain and process creative ideas and information.

I recommend taking regular breaks throughout the day (including physical activity breaks) as well as extended breaks throughout the week/year. While a two-day weekend is ideal, always take at least one day off per week. Then every two to three months, take a long weekend. And at least once a year you should take a week’s vacation away from work.

6. Focus on income generating activities

Distractions often come in the form of processes and procedures that can indirectly affect revenue or even not affect revenue at all. Although revenue and income may not be the direct focus of your business, it is still necessary to ensure the longevity and sustainability of your business in the future.

Don’t get bogged down in tasks that aren’t directly related to revenue, especially if you’re a startup looking for growth capital. Raising money from investors is easier if you can show that you know how to generate more of it.

Related: 5 distractions that are holding back your business

How good are you at doing more with less? By focusing your time, energy, and finances on only the things that matter, you can actually accomplish more. And instead of getting half-baked results, you’ll get quality output every time. Here’s a simpler approach!

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