Entrepreneurs

Staying Focused: Six Entrepreneurs Share Their Secrets

Being an entrepreneur can be overwhelming and all-encompassing, with an ‘always on’ working 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 boost productivity, but some entrepreneurs have discovered their own ways of staying focused in business.

Ditch the multitasking

The ability to multitask, performing two tasks simultaneously, or switching from one task to another, is a skill often held in high regard, especially among entrepreneurs. But according to Sarah Knight, founder of the Mind The Gap Business Academy, multitasking is a myth that should never be a badge of honor.

She says: “There’s something called the switch cost effect. Switching from one task to another incurs a cost in your attention and focus, as you have to switch your brain off from one thing to another.”

By focusing on one task at a time, whether it’s responding to emails or doing business accounts, and focusing on only that one thing, you’ll be more efficient and more productive. “By reducing your load, you are achieving and setting yourself up for success,” adds Knight.

Stand up to the task

One way of enhancing productivity and reducing 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 breaks up her work schedule with regular intervals of standing, especially when on Zoom calls or presenting. She says: “I try to stand and work for 30 minutes followed by a one-hour interval. When I’m on my feet, I’m less relaxed, which helps me focus on the task. I also feel more energetic and less stressed. However, I prefer the relaxed mode that comes with sitting when doing my jewelry design, which is more intricate work.”

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Plan ahead

Sarah Willingham, CEO of Nightcap PLC, has found the perfect solution to keep her focus; creating a pie chart every year and dividing up her time to show where she is currently and where she wants to go. The former Dragons’ Den dragon and serial investor and her husband came up with the idea as a way of looking at how they were spending their time and ensuring they had the balance right.

“We start in January, reflect on the year before, and think about the year ahead,” she says. “We may want to do more exercise or learn a new skill, so we will out the pie chart accordingly. You need to put in a sensible amount of time for work which will show the direct impact what you choose to do has on everything else. It’s a great way of maintaining the right balance and looking at what you need to change, and it helps me to keep focused.”

Take the plunge

The thought of a daily cold water swim may not be everyone’s idea of a great start to the day. Still, Matt Connelly, founder and CEO of laundry service firm ihateironing, finds the short sharp shock keeps him centered, focused and calm, especially when under pressure. He says: “A cold water swim has an incredible effect on the body and the mind. It takes a lot of willpower to get into a freezing pool first thing in the morning and then a lot of endurance to keep going. After a swim, I feel calm and centered for the next few hours, which helps me be focused at work and get the important tasks done.”

Make a list

Creating a to-do list is one of the simplest ways of working out what needs to be done and in what order, allowing the list maker to write the tasks down, carry them out and cross them off the list one by one. It creates a sense of control and provides a clear plan that can be followed, a key to solid focus. It’s a method favored by Lewis Raymond Taylor, CEO of The Coaching Masters.

He says: “Each week, I make a list of everything that needs to be done in order of priority and delegate what I can, which leaves me with the most important, high-level tasks that will make the biggest difference in the business.” He segments the most critical income-generating tasks and goes large with them, which could mean him spending a whole day filming video content, in meetings with the team, or planning business strategy.

Stay tuned

Many people say that background music helps them focus on their work, but unless it is the right sort of music, it can have the opposite effect. Listening to music allows Richard Mabey, cofounder and CEO of lawtech firm Juro, to increase his focus and do good, deep work. His preferred background music is movie scores.

He says: “There are two advantages to this; the tracks are longer, so you don’t have a change every three minutes as you would with an album, and the music is generally a little less upbeat and consequently, for me, less distracting. I’m convinced that I owe my best work to Hans Zimmer mixes on YouTube.”

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