Focus is a word lots of us know, many of us would like more of and pretty much all of us struggle with at some point or another. But what is focus and why is it important particularly as a business owner?
Focus is defined as "the centre of interest or activity" and "the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition." Whilst the latter is more aimed at the literal optical version, I think it's an important concept to consider as usually a lack of focus is accompanied by a blurry vision for the business on the strategic side.
In episode NTM003, Angharad talked about the inertia that can be achieved by doing what is often termed 'busy work' - work that makes you feel busy but is not really achieving anything. There is so much information overload out there and too many options doesn't always lead to better choices. Her analogy was researching wholesale suppliers for fabric. You can spend all the time in the world trying to find the perfect one, but until you make a decision and go with one, you cannot move forward.
I caution at length about 'busy work' and indulging in all the 'shoulds' of running a business - you 'should' be on Instagram, you 'should' write a blog or any other 'should'. I prefer to call these 'coulds' - you could do any of them but the only 'should' I offer is that you should do the ones you enjoy and that have the best return on investment. There are many ways to run and structure a business - make it easy on yourself by choosing the marketing and operations that reduce as much friction as possible.
The other huge factor with 'busy work' and determining what is busy work as opposed to what needs to be done to generate revenue. That should be the ultimate question: "How does this directly contribute to creating revenue for the business?" You can't do everything. A US Bank survey found 82% of businesses fail because of poor cash management. Look for where the money is coming from. It's not being all Scrooge McDuck greedy, it's about making sure your business is viable.
Planning is a key way to ensure you gain and maintain focus. It's a huge subject but the main premise is that again, you can add a million tasks to get to a desired outcome, but the key is to choose the ones that move the needle the furthest, rather than doing them all.
As always, I have a top five tips to help you become more focused that you can implement today and see results with.
1) Reduce distractions. Don't watch TV - the average Briton spends 9 years - NINE YEARS - of their life watching TV. Cancel Netflix and reclaim your time. Also lose the notifications on your mobile phone. Set a time to check them that suits you to avoid distraction.
2) Work at your best time. Lots of studies suggest the morning is best - I say find out what time works for you and keep it sacred.
3) Deal with other monkeys when you are tired. Number one culprit for other people's monkeys is email. It almost never has something to help you in there - more often than not it is an inbox filled with other people's demands and not aligned with your personal goals. Leave the inbox for the afternoon. Remember Jo's No Email Before Lunch Rule. Do not get covered in monkey poo.
4) Inbrief and Debrief. As we love these in the military, I've added these in. Inbrief yourself for the day and have a schedule that you can achieve. Review the success of this at the end of the day and plan tomorrow's activities. Set your workstation up so you can go straight into work the next day without being distracted - have the right windows and documents prepared, ready to go. Leave space in your plan for the unexpected.
Consider using themed days to help you remember to do the ongoing, bigger picture business tasks, like marketing and finance.
5) Reward yourself for performing. If you want to make focus a habit, you need to make it pleasurable! If you're done, then you're done, you don't work 24/7, go get a biscuit.
I've created a free group on Facebook for the podcast for all listeners to hang out together, get hints, tips and support in their business endeavours. Please come over and join me there!