As a small business owner you wear multiple hats not only within your business but in your life. (I know, I’m a small business owner too!)
Your attention is divided moment to moment, every day, week and month. As life continues to get busier and busier it’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed, so you fall into a pattern of reaction, reacting to what’s coming at you in the moment. Then when you reach the end of the day, you find yourself wondering what happened to all that time. Asking yourself “What did I achieve?”
Sound familiar? Today l’m going to share 4 tips to help you clear your mind and focus on what you want to do, instead of what the day throws at you.
1. Start the day with a walk
Start with a walk to clear your head and get your energy flowing.
It doesn’t have to be a long walk. An hour is great, but even 20 minutes is enough.
It doesn’t have to be as soon as you get out of bed either.
Nowadays I like to get up an hour before everyone else and have this time for myself, but I haven’t always done that. I used to get up, organise the kids and get them off for the day, then come back and do my walk.
The aim is to
· Have a time and space dedicated to you when you can relax or even process and plan for what’s coming up in the day.
· Get out and feel the fresh air and the natural light. This is especially important if you work from home, or drive directly from home to the office.
· Get moving. Get physically warmed up and you’ll be mentally warmed up too.
Walk in a way which works for you
Some people struggle with walking – they find it boring. If this is you, here are some options that may help:
· Listen to your favourite music and feel free to dance like no one’s watching.
· Stimulate and inspire your mind by downloading your favourite podcast and listen to that as you walk.
· Walk with a friend. Or take your phone, call a friend, walk and talk.
· Practise being present in the moment and look out for details around you. It’s possible to walk the same path every day and notice different details. The houses and gardens. The birds.
You don’t even have to do the same thing every day. But do get out and walk.
2. Remove distractions from your environment
Your external environment is a direct reflection of what's going on in your mind.
If your workspace is disorganised, you are going to feel disorganised. That's not going to help you focus.
For example, all I have on my desk is a pot plant, some hand cream, my laptop, a pen holder with pens and my bottle of water. Plus whatever I'm working on at the moment.
We all have plenty of different projects, but I make sure the only things on my desk are the ones I’m working on in the moment. For everything else, it’s cleared away. I use magazine boxes, but you might have drawers or a filing cabinet. The main goal is to remove all other tasks as distractions.
If you’re working from home, another tip is to spend 10 or 15 minutes tidying up when you come back from your walk. Put the dishes away. Clear up after breakfast. Make the place feel clean and tidy.
If you live with a messy person, clear your workspace and the kitchen, where you’re likely to go during the day. Then shut the doors to all the other parts of the house – so you don’t become distracted by the housework yet to be done.
3. Remove or limit electronic distractions
Just as you want your physical desk clear, you want your computer desktop clear as well. That means turning off notifications.
My world changed when I turned off notifications.
It takes 17 minutes to get right down into the focus zone, that space where you are the most productive. A distraction might only take seconds or a minute, but be aware that it takes another 13 minutes or even more to get back to the same state of focus. That’s how you lose time and lose focus.
I don’t even check email until my scheduled time. I make sure I know about any appointments – but apart from those, it’s just my top priorities for the day.
What about putting the phone on mute?
When you need dedicated time to work on something, or if you get lots of phone calls, yes, put the phone on mute and turn off notifications for apps that aren’t crucial. You may not need to do it all the time. I usually allow notifications for phone calls or SMS, but nothing else.
I have regular times when I go in and check my other apps and respond to anything I need to.
It’s about respecting your own time the way you respect everyone else’s.
When we have a meeting with someone, we block out that time, but when we schedule time for ourselves to do something, we let ourselves be distracted. We need to value and respect ourself and our time as well!
4. Plan your day
Spend 5 minutes – literally only 5 minutes – dumping all your thoughts and plans onto a whiteboard or a piece of paper. You can do this at the beginning of the day, or the end of the day.
Now divide those thoughts into two columns – priorities your must do versus all the rest of the list. Then pick your top 3 priorities for the day.
These top three are probably only going to take a few hours and that’s perfect. It leaves you time for meetings and for other things which pop up. It means you’ll achieve your priorities, feel better and stay more motivated.
How this works for me
I have a whiteboard where I keep my full list of everything that I need to get done. I stand in front of it. I write everything that’s in my head. Then I decide which are the top three which will move my needle the most today. I write those three on a piece of paper and that’s what’s on my desk. So my focus is on the top three only and I can let the rest go for the day.
I’ve also got into the habit of scheduling meetings for the afternoon. That means my morning is free to concentrate on those top priorities. Often, I’ve got them all done by lunchtime. Then I can go and look at my whiteboard again and think, ‘What else can I do today?’ Suddenly I’m ticking off extra things to do, rather than drowning with a list that I can’t get on top of.
A walk. A quick tidy up. Turning off notifications and setting top priorities.
The walk is key. It gives me energy and a clear mind to get off to a great start for the day. I notice on the occasions I miss my walk, I just don’t perform in the same way.
Altogether, these simple tips or habits take less than an hour every morning, but they will help you clear your mind and focus. You’ll also get a great feeling of achievement. Why not give this routine a go?