Being able to stay focused on the task at hand is key for any entrepreneur and a core skill for the successful. A mantra of well-known brain coach, Jim Kwik, tells us that: ‘It’s not how smart you are, but how are you smart’. These are wise words to apply to the process of becoming more focused on what you do.
So, as entrepreneurs, how can we apply this mantra to our own lives and business?
Focus on focus
While mobile and other technology has brought us great benefits, and also created many business opportunities, it has also left us in a near permanent state of distraction. Research suggests for example that attention spans globally are getting shorter, as our brains become ever more accustomed to viral videos and a life of entertainment, news and socialising served in app sized snippets.
A shorter attention span means less ability to focus and do the intellectual leg work that any business is going to need. So, how to cultivate focus in a world of notifications, 24-hour news and fear of missing out?
Organise from the outside in
Research shows that our ability to organise our internal thought processes is very much dependent on how we organise our external environment. The environment we create for ourselves makes a real difference, and recognising this is a key first step towards boosting focus and productivity.
So, while it may sound simple, ensuring your desk, office, study and wider environment are organised and decluttered can have a real impact. Physical clutter competes for our attention with some studies suggesting that clutter overloads our visual cortex – the part of the brain responsible for integrating and processing visual information.
It seems counterintuitive, but setting limits is key to productivity and focus. Limits give us a reason to get something done. A time limit for example – the dreaded deadline – means we have to do the work. Say you have a presentation to write – but it can be done anytime – then why do it today when it could easily be postponed until tomorrow?
Constraints force us to concentrate, focus and get the work done.
Other limits we might set ourselves are how many tabs we allow ourselves to have open on our browser, or how many magazines we might have laying about our office. Too many of either can equal distraction and loss of focus, so think about your environment – and ensure it’s set up for success.
In this short podcast, Jim Kwik reveals that whenever he sits down to write, he turns off his Wi-Fi. In our age of instantaneous digital communication, this seems drastic. Imagine however if a quick scroll of your feeds, or a quick search for a good local restaurant simply isn’t an option when you’re writing – it could have a real impact right?
Find time for the golf course
It’s also important to master the art of switching off on a regular basis. Finding time to deliberately de-focus, have fun and rest the brain is vital.
Otherwise, an entrepreneur can become like an artist who spends all their time with their nose an inch away from the canvas they are working on. They are so committed and so involved that they forget to step back and see their work from the point where everyone else will.
A second point can use golf as a great example. Imagine a professional golfer as they prepare for their next tournament round. They will spend a good period of time in the practice area. This will involve hitting a great number of balls over varying distances. Different shapes and styles of shots will be practised.
However, when the professional arrives on the first tee, it’s one ball and a single target. Many entrepreneurs could benefit from being able to switch focus in this way. Arrow in on a single key area and for a specific and clearly designed purpose.
Focus is key to good delivery, I hope some of the ideas in this article help you find your focus!