As a business owner who runs their own enterprises feeling pulled in many directions at the same time is just part of daily life. Over time you come to accept that's part of the deal and can often feel overwhelmed by the outstanding to do list, all those things you just didn't get to.
Are you getting enough time to focus?
I was sorting through a pile of office papers and found a "To Do List" and realised it was a month's worth of work. It wasn't a day's scope of activities, not even a week's lot. And it dawned on me that I've never looked at one of those lists of mine as being what I need to achieve during a month. I've always written them with some level of expectation that I'll get it all done in a day or so.
Now the reality is that's bullocks. I'll never get all those tasks and activities done in such a short amount of time and the negative internal chatter going on about failing to do so can be crippling, stopping me from even getting started on the list.
So I've started doing things a bit differently, I've started looking at the big picture, figuring out what I want to be achieving for the businesses and over what time period. I've broken it down into just five core elements for the year and am looking at things in terms of phases - just as I did when I built She Inspires and had to take the big picture ideal of an online magazine into a reality. It meant focusing on designing the site architecture and usability, creating the graphics and writing not only the stories but all the other content needed within a site.
It took months of focused work to build She Inspires and I broke it down into phases, into chunks and just focused on them.
And that's the key, focusing.
Kids and animals have it figured out, just watch how they focus on what's at hand.
Whenever I've achieved something it's been as a result of focusing on the task at hand. When I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks I've written down for myself or having raging around in a whirlwind in my head then I don't complete my tasks. I don't achieve my goals.
I've had three months of focusing on big pictures, plans and working through phases and I'm starting to get some rewards for focusing. It feels great.
The secret to success has included changing my mindset and internal language about having enough time. If it wasn't for the planning, asking myself the big questions and working on a path that has progressive goals I simply couldn't have made it work.
I did start the planning journey with the expectation I would settle down to it over a two week period and have the year all sorted out, all planned and ready to go. That's also bullocks. I've realised now that it is a continual process of refining the big goals for the year and making them happen. Happily that means it isn't all so daunting, I can now tweak and improve as I go.
7 tips for focusing and knocking that to do list for six
1. accept your are not a business super hero but rather a wonderful human being that can only get so much done in any time frame.Here are 7 practical tips for achieving that to do list:
2. stop the running around on the hamster wheel, get off, breathe and recharge your batteries - whether it's a holiday or a yoga retreat, you need to change things up and that especially means your head space.
3. prioritise what you want in your life - in your personal life and your business life. What do you want the business to look like now and in five years? What do you want your work week to look like? Who do you want to be interacting with in and around the business? What sort of balance do you want with your personal and business life? And if money is driving the answers ask yourself questions around that and find ways for you to create the sorts of balances you want. You can only do this when you start understanding the types of balances you want.
4. help yourself out with some tools. I started planning out the regular activities, costs, requirements, commitments I have in my life by both my businesses, my personal life, administration and growth channels. I repurposed a family organiser calendar that's originally designed for a family of six. It's working really well. I now know where the outgoing cash is each month, when I need to take time out for family visits, even when key shows and exhibitions are on that I want to get to. I've planned out newsletters, stories, new design periods for my other business and when the big shows are on. I keep updating the calendar and I'm loving how such a practical tool is simplifying my life and giving me more time and a great sense of control. So look to your tools.
5. be kind to yourself and block out time for you. No one else, just you. I've gone back to yoga and am loving it. For me, it's something that stills this busy creative mind of mine and is giving me more focus within myself. Yoga is only in part about flexibility. It's much more about strength and focus. But whatever floats your boat, that's positive and energising is important for your me time. Let yourself have it.
6. stop running away from the things that scare you. Either get someone else to do them or do it yourself. Fear is an awful inhibitor and it wastes a lot of time and energy. The great news is when you shed light on whatever is spooking you it suddenly looks a heap brighter and you usually discover it's not so scary after all. I've realised I was scared of loosing something of myself if I planned out my year, as if there wouldn't be any room for my creativity. It was the big organising calendar that made me feel safer with it all. I was daunted of writing on it so I went with something easy - family birthdays and scoping out time when to head to the country to be there for them. From there it became progressively easier and I finally figured out what had been scaring me - loosing something that's really valuable to me. So I have blocked time for it too.
7. block out time for projects and tell people you're not available. We all accept others saying they have meetings and activities they need to get done and you know what? They accept you do too. It's only by being focused for a particular task at a particular time that you can get the work done. It's that simple. There are few meetings where it is so urgent that you have to drop everything and focus on that. So when it's needed, do it. But know the difference.
The secret is, you don't need to do everything in one go. It's such a normal aspect of entrepreneurs to have loads of ideas for our businesses and to see how they can all happen. While we feel like we need to do it all we simply can't. And that's fine.
What we can achieve is a great deal when we simply consciously plan what we're doing and focus on the task at hand.