As an entrepreneur, you are often filling multiple roles in your business. At times, you act as the CEO, marketing specialist, customer service, and human resources (HR) among many others. With a constant stream of emails, employees, clients, phone calls, and social media, it can be nearly impossible to stay focused on the task at hand. Our brains are susceptible to distractions, so with all the outside noise and motion, we find it hard to focus in today’s digital age. All of this makes it harder for an entrepreneur to reach their business goals.
Our need to constantly shift from small task to small task means things are slipping through the cracks. Even if you feel like you are getting a lot done, there is a cognitive cost and you probably aren’t getting as much done as you think. A study by the University of London showed that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to someone who had just smoked marijuana or hadn’t slept all night. Additionally, the toll of multitasking hits men particularly hard. According to the same study, men who multitask can experience a 15-point drop in their IQ level, making them the cognitive equivalent of an 8-year-old.
To accomplish the goals that you’ve set, you’ve got to learn to focus on them on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. In this article, we’ll look at how you can stay focused on your goals to reach them faster.
Set Meaningful Goals
One of the first ways to make sure that you focus on your goals is to make your goals meaningful. If your business goals are something you truly want to accomplish, they should mean something to you. You shouldn’t set goals that you feel obligated to accomplish because others have reached them. Even worse, you shouldn’t set goals that you don’t care about at all.
The reason why setting meaningful goals works to keep you focused is because, usually, meaningful goals tend to stay top of mind. This may be because there are emotional attachments to those goals. For example, as an entrepreneur, you may want to set a goal to increase sales while outsourcing some of your activities. The reason why you want this goal could be something like wanting to make more money. But perhaps there is a more meaningful pull like wanting to have more time and energy to spend with your family and friends because you were able to outsource some of your responsibilities.
As long as the goals really mean something to you, accomplishing them is easier because you will not be able to stop thinking about them and finding ways to achieve them. This is especially important if you want to reach your long-term business goals.
Make Sure Goals Are SMART
One of the better ways to stay focused on your goals is by setting SMART business goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each element of the SMART framework plays a crucial role in goal setting, making it a widely adopted strategy in various industries. Here is a breakdown of the acronym.
- Specific: The “s’ in the smart acronym stands for Specific. This means that your goals should be clear so you know exactly what needs to be accomplished. This can eliminate any vagueness. The clearer the goal the more likely you will be to focus on it and the strategy needed to accomplish it.
- Measurable: Your goals need to be able to be tracked and measured. This means that your goals should be quantitative so you can measure if you are on track or not. Think of it as the numbers for your goal. For example, a measurable goal could be increasing sales by 20% within the next quarter.
- Achievable: You should set realistic goals if you want to accomplish them. Your goals should be something you and your team feel are achievable. If they are not, you could get discouraged or lose motivation if you miss milestones.
- Relevant: Goals should also be relevant to your business’s mission and values. You don’t want to set goals that you can hit but really don’t contribute much to the growth of your business.
- Time-Bound: Your goals should have a deadline. Think of them as an expiration date. Without knowing the cutoff point, it will be hard to know if you are succeeding or failing.
Unfortunately, we have trained our brains to be distracted. Now, you must retrain your brain, like a muscle, to fully concentrate again. Start small and block off just five minutes per day to focus on just one task and one task only.
Once you have built up 15-20 minutes of concentrated time, try the Pomodoro technique. First, create a list of all essential tasks and then start the timer. This timer uses work intervals broken up into 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. After four work intervals, take a longer break, about 15-30 minutes. This helps you manage your distractions because you are only allowed to stop working on the task at hand when the timer goes off. The Pomodoro technique also helps increase your accountability, because you are keeping a list of your completed tasks and tasks that are still left.
Rethink Your Schedule
Typically when we begin our day, we start with the easiest, mindless tasks and then slowly work our way up to the toughest, most time-consuming tasks. However, this actually tires our brains out because every decision we make takes cognitive energy and focus. After an hour of doing mindless tasks, we actually have less capacity to concentrate.
To make the most of your brain energy, reverse the order of your day. The night before, create a list of all your tasks for the day and rank them in order of importance. Start with the tasks that take the most creative energy or focus first thing in the morning, and then switch to the easier, more mindless work (like catching up on emails or social media) later in the day.
Eliminate Distracting Websites
If you are unable to cut the cord completely from distracting websites such as TikTok, Instagram, or ESPN, try to at least limit your use of them. There are plug-ins available that allow you to disable sites that you know are going to distract you. This way, you can still browse the Internet if you need to for work but aren’t tempted to take a quick peek at your favorite team’s scores or your best friend’s latest post on Instagram. You can choose to block certain sites for the entire day or a shorter amount of time. If you are a Chrome user, StayFocused is a free add-on that lets you block any website for any amount of time. Leechblock provides a similar free service for Firefox users.
If you have a secondary device available to you, you can take this tip a step further. Use your primary computer for all your work needs and use a different device only for surfing the web. For example, if you have an iPad or tablet available to you, try to make that your dedicated browsing device. By creating this distinction between work and fun, your brain will have to make a mental jump from one device to the other. This will make it more difficult to procrastinate.
Declutter Physically and Digitally
Studies show that clutter draws your attention away from what you can focus on and bombard you with excess stimuli, making your brain work unnecessarily hard. Having piles of old paperwork or knick-knacks can frustrate you and make you more anxious. For most, nothing is harder than trying to work while frustrated.
Clutter is not only physical, it can be digital too. Your phone and computer are filled with files, documents, and photos that you do not need. Also, they only weigh you down when you are searching for the one you need. Take time every day to delete unnecessary files and old emails. This small task will keep your digital workspace clean and clear.
Take a look at your workspace and see how many things are piled up on the desk. If you don’t use it, don’t want it, or need it, then get rid of it. Try and find everything on your desk in a designated spot, preferably out of sight. A clear desk can help you clear your mind, meaning you don’t have to waste cognitive energy on wading through the clutter. Make it a habit of cleaning your workspace before you go home every day, helping to jumpstart your mornings.
Make Goals Public
Making goals public is a powerful strategy to stay focused and committed. When you share your goals with others, it creates a sense of accountability. You’re not just accountable to yourself, but also to those you’ve informed about your ambitions. This can be a significant motivator, as the prospect of sharing your progress (or lack thereof) can push you to stay on track.
Publicly declaring your goals can also open up avenues for support and encouragement from friends, family, or colleagues. They can provide valuable feedback, offer helpful resources, or simply give you a morale boost when needed. Additionally, making your goals public increases the likelihood of finding others with similar business objectives. This can lead to forming support groups or partnerships where members motivate and help each other.
However, it’s essential to choose wisely who you share your goals with. Sharing with supportive and positive individuals can uplift your journey, whereas sharing with overly critical or unsupportive people might hinder your progress. Moreover, making goals public should not lead to undue pressure or stress. It’s about finding a balance between seeking support and maintaining a healthy, self-motivated drive towards your objectives.
Review Goals Daily, Weekly, Monthly
Regularly reviewing your goals is crucial for maintaining focus and direction. Daily reviews allow you to start each day with a clear understanding of your immediate priorities. This daily check-in keeps your goals fresh in your mind, helping you to make decisions throughout the day that align with your long-term objectives.
Weekly reviews provide a broader perspective, allowing you to assess your progress over the past week and plan for the upcoming one. This is the time to reflect on what worked well, and what didn’t, and how you can adjust your strategies accordingly. It’s also an excellent opportunity to celebrate small victories and stay motivated.
Monthly reviews are essential for a more comprehensive evaluation. They offer a chance to measure your progress against your longer-term objectives and make significant adjustments if necessary. Monthly reviews help in identifying patterns or challenges that may not be apparent on a daily or weekly basis. They also provide a moment to reassess the relevance of your goals. Sometimes, goals need to be modified or replaced due to changing circumstances or newfound insights.
Incorporating these reviews into your routine ensures that your goals remain a central part of your daily life. It helps prevent drifting off course and keeps you consistently aligned with your long-term visions.
There are few things sweeter in entrepreneurship than reaching the goals you set out. Whether they are financial or non-financial business goals, accomplishing a goal is validating and exciting. The more you can focus on them the quicker you will experience victory.
This article was first published in 2018 but has been updated and expanded