In all my learnings from entrepreneurs and successful business owners, I’ve discovered one consistent thing: many of them list “focus” as the defining quality they have.
Focus is the ability to say “yes” to the things that matter, and say “no” to the things that don’t.
As a small, local business owner, you have 1,000 things pulling at your attention. The bathroom in your shop has a leaking sink. Your shift manager called out sick. You’re out of 2% milk. You have to finish launching the new food item you’ve spent 3 weeks creating. And you owe quarterly estimated taxes.
Those are all real things that need your attention. All of them need to get done.
Having focus doesn’t mean you say “no” to those things permanently and never execute on them. It simply means that you pick one thing, the most important thing, and complete it (as much as you can). Then, you move on to the next.
When you run around frantically, jumping from task to task, you leave a mess of unproductivity in your wake. You have 5 open projects, none of which are actually getting your full attention or being done well.
Tips to help you focus, and actually get things done.
- Make a list of all the things that you need to get done in the coming week. I recommend making this list on Friday (or Saturday or Sunday) for the following week.
- Organize your projects using whatever works for you: from a comprehensive solution like Basecamp to a simple document on your computer. The point is, keep all your projects in one place.
- Each day, pick what you need to get done that day.
- Work at a project until you complete it. If you can’t (the plumber can’t make it that day, or you get pulled away), make a note and mark it “pending” so you can remember where you left off when you come back.
- Complete each project, and don’t move on until you do.
- Don’t check/answer text messages, emails, instant chat, etc. throughout the day. Do it at set times.
- Set structured work times where employees (and customers) can’t reach you, so you can do deep work and get things done.
- Outsource what you can. As Matt says, ‘if you don’t trust your employees, why did you hired them?’
I’m generalizing, yes. And maybe this sounds too simplistic for you.
You don’t have to do it my way, but you do have to do it. If you want to get things done (launch a new product, expand your shop, improve your marketing strategy) you need focus.
In my experience, it’s been the single biggest attribute to getting a lot done, in a little amount of time.