Being an entrepreneur can be overwhelming and all-encompassing, with an ‘always on’ work style that pulls them in multiple directions, answering the phone, sending emails and managing their social media. All the while, some of the most crucial business tasks end up unfinished. Some apps and tools can help focus the mind and increase productivity, but some entrepreneurs have discovered their own ways to stay focused in business.
The ability to multitask, perform two tasks at once, or switch from one task to another is a skill often held in high esteem, especially among entrepreneurs. But according to Sarah Knight, founder of the Mind The Gap Business Academymultitasking is a myth that should never be a badge of honor.
She says: “There is such a thing as the cost effect of the switch. Switching from one task to another puts a cost in your attention and focus as you have to switch your brain from one to another.”
By focusing on one task at a time, be it answering emails or doing business accounts, and focusing on just that one thing, you will be more efficient and productive. “By reducing your load, you achieve and prepare yourself for success,” adds Knight.
Stand up for the task
One way to increase productivity and reduce mental fatigue is to use a standing desk, as revealed in a study by the BMJ. Paulomi Debnath, jewelry designer and founder of Handmade by Tinni, uses hers to help her focus. She interrupts her work schedule from standing at regular intervals, especially when conducting or presenting Zoom conversations. She says, “I try to stand and work for 30 minutes, followed by an hour-long break. When I’m on my feet, I’m less relaxed, allowing me to focus on the task at hand. I also feel more energetic and less stressed. However, I prefer the relaxed mode that comes with sitting when designing my jewelry, which is more complicated work.
Sarah Willingham, CEO of nightcap PLC, has found the perfect solution to keep her focus; make a pie chart every year and divide her time to show where she is now and where she wants to go. The former Dragons’ Den dragon and serial investor and her husband came up with the idea of looking at how they were spending their time and making sure they had the right balance.
“We start in January, look back at the year before and think about the year ahead,” she says. “Maybe we want to do more sports or learn a new skill, so we’ll adjust the pie chart accordingly. You need to put a reasonable amount of time into your work, showing the direct impact what you choose to do on everything else. It’s a great way to keep the right balance and see what you need to change, and it helps me stay focused.”
Take the plunge
The thought of a daily dip in cold water may not be everyone’s idea of a great start to the day. Still, Matt Connelly, Founder and CEO of Laundry Service Company i hate ironing, finds that the short, sharp jolt keeps him centered, focused, and calm, especially when under pressure. He says: “A dip in cold water has an incredible effect on body and mind. It takes a lot of willpower to get into a freezing cold pool first thing in the morning and then a lot of stamina to keep going. After a dive, I feel calm and centered for the next few hours, which helps me focus on work and get the important tasks done.”
Make a list
Creating a to-do list is one of the easiest ways to figure out what needs to be done and in what order so that the list maker can write down the tasks, perform them, and cross them off the list one at a time. It creates a sense of control and provides a clear plan to follow, a key to solid focus. It is a method preferred by Lewis Raymond Taylor, CEO of The Coachmasters.
He says: “Every week, I list everything that needs to be done in order of priority and delegate what I can, leaving me with the most important, high-level tasks that will make the biggest difference to the business. He segments the most critical revenue-generating tasks and goes big on them, which could mean spending an entire day filming video content, in team meetings, or planning a business strategy.
Many people say that background music helps them focus on their work, but unless it’s the right kind of music, it can have the opposite effect. Listening to music empowers Richard Mabey, co-founder and CEO of a law firm juro, to increase his focus and do good, in-depth work. His favorite background music is film music.
He says: “This has two advantages; the songs are longer, so you don’t have a change every three minutes like with an album, and the music is generally less upbeat and therefore, for me, less disturbing. I am convinced that my best work is due to Hans Zimmer mixing on YouTube.”