Staying focused is one of the most brutal challenges in business. Here’s how the winners do it.
We’ve all been there.
Staring at a blank screen, wishing with everything we’ve got that somehow, some way, this task we’re dreading will magically do itself.
We’ve been putting it off for weeks, or longer. Of course, being busy with a million other things makes that easy to do.
But whether we like it or not (we don’t), that task still has to get done.
What do you do?
Businesses aren’t built on procrastination.
How do you develop the focus and time management skills that it takes to achieve your goals?
Here’s what six successful founders do to keep themselves productive:
1) Stop Doing Things You Hate
Laura Roeder, Co-Founder, MeetEdgar
Get rid of every task that you dread. When you procrastinate on a task, you are slowing down the progress of your entire company. It doesn’t matter if it’s dealing with taxes, scheduling, technical challenges, or anything else that falls on a founder’s lap – you have to face the truth that it isn’t getting done. (By the way, if you are putting off a task that isn’t hurting anything short or long term by not getting completed, that’s a pretty clear signal that you can eliminate that task entirely!)
Every task that you drop the ball on hinders your startup’s progress. So face the reality and find someone else who will get it done, whether that means moving the task to someone already on your team or finding a new employee or freelancer. We often have the feeling that finding someone to do it would take longer that actually doing it. Well that might be true if you were actually doing it, but you’re not! So take the time now to get someone else to own it so that this task doesn’t keep on being a roadblock in your company’s growth.
2) Streamline Your Life
Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder of Moz
One thing that really helps me is keeping all my communication and obligations through two channels: email and calendar.
I have everything go through my email or my calendar so if there’s nothing on my calendar and I’m at inbox zero, I have nothing to do and I can do whatever I want. But if there’s anything in my inbox or something in my calendar, then I have to do the thing on my calendar until it’s done and then I have to go take care of my email until that’s done, but that means that I never have to worry about anything else.
I don’t answer text messages, and if you leave me a voicemail, I’ll never reply to it. I looked on Facebook and I have like 700 messages I’ll never read. I don’t respond to all the crazy messages on LinkedIn.
If it comes through my email, I’ll take care of it. If not, it doesn’t exist.
3) Be Brutally Honest With Yourself
Neil Patel, Founder, Quick Sprout
Excuses are bullshit. It’s like, you don’t have time to blog but you have time to watch three hours of TV? You have time to hang out with your friends and get drunk.
Yeah, you might have to make sacrifices in life and you might not have as much fun, but who cares? If you want to do something and you want to get good at it, you have to put in the time and effort.
Often, people don’t have the time because they’re inefficient in their lives. I use tools like RescueTime, which tells me where I’m wasting time and how to fine tune everything so that I can focus on the most important tasks.
4) Free Your Mind
Natalie Nagele, Co-Founder, Wildbit
At any given moment, I have 7 different projects going at once, and some of them are work-related, some of them are personal, some have to do with my kids; I so much in my head at any given moment, and I was getting overwhelmed by the middle of the night wakeups of “crap, I have to remember to do this,” and “oh my god, did I do that?”
I read Getting Things Done years ago in college, but I didn’t really realize the value until I was actually busy and I read it again.
What it allowed me to do was take everything out of my head and open up so much space in my mind for thinking about the business, and for getting creative.
It removed all of the unnecessary thought that was built up by fearing the next task, and this constant anxiety that I’m forgetting something.
So now I use OmniFocus, which allows me to brain dump, organize and make things disappear that aren’t being worked on.
It’s amazing; I feel like I know that my work will get accomplished and my mind is free to think about other stuff.
Read our interview with Natalie
5) Know Yourself
Kate Kendall, Founder, CloudPeeps
It’s not a simple journey, but I believe time management gets easier if you really know yourself. If you work on your self awareness and consciousness, you start to get on top of energy management, your likes, dislikes, and understand things that aren’t a good use of time.
Through that process, it becomes easier to manage your day-to-day schedule and activities.
6) Wake Up Early
David Hauser, Co-Founder, Grasshopper
Wake up an hour earlier. There are entrepreneurs that say they don’t have time, but they get in and start working at 9 am. Why didn’t you get up at 5?
To me, that’s the biggest change anyone can make. It’s like getting free hours. If you get up at 5 and you’re done with your workout and breakfast by the time you get to the office at 7, you just bought yourself two free hours that no one else has. Get up earlier. It’s magical.
How To Apply This To Your Business
Time management is one of the biggest challenges that almost everyone struggles with, myself included.
I hope that these tips help you find ways to get more done in the time that you have, and that they’re as valuable for you as they have been for me.