THE ENTREPRENEUR'S PITFALL: LACK OF FOCUS
Why Is My Business Stuck?
OK WHAT'S THE PROBLEM ANYWAY As business professionals, if we don't keep a laser-focus on what we're trying to achieve for our businesses, we get thrown totally out of whack. So this is about how to maintain laser-focus in the face of all the things that can trip us up: distractions, insecurity, and FOMO (fear of missing out). We get tempted to go in too many directions at once, and then we're not getting much of anywhere at all. The solution - let's start with that - is to get a plan, define the steps, set the time frame, and keep moving forward toward the results we want, efficiently and without distraction. But yes ... easier said than done.
A FEW PROBLEM SITUATIONS, RIPE FOR ACTION Here are examples of some very smart, capable but overwhelmed entrepreneurs who came to see me for help.
Emily - Chasing Her Tail Emily was health and wellness coach who wanted to write a regular series of blog posts for her business. But whenever she tried to start, she just sabotaged herself. She sat down to write, but decided she wanted to read and research some more before she was ready. But no, she changed her mind and she wanted to get back to writing her blog again. But then she thought, maybe she should engage a few people on her Facebook group for ideas she might have missed. Or maybe check her email so she wouldn't miss an important message. This is a great example of what happened to her mind because she was not laser-focused. And a cluttered mind just leads us to go around in circles and chase our tails. No focus, no results.
Jacob - Analysis Paralysis Jacob was a skilled photographer who wanted to turn his photography hobby into a side-hustle while he kept his corporate job. His enthusiastic thinking overwhelmed him. He had so many business ideas and approaches that he kept jumping from one to another. He just kept thinking and thinking in circles, and got himself into the analysis paralysis mode. Result - he didn't start one idea, he didn't start another idea, he didn't start any of them. His lack of focus led to frustration and inaction - nothing happened at all.
Madison - Creativity Shut-Down Madison had not one, not two, but five brilliant marketing plans and ideas for her graphic design business start-up. But she just refused to focus on one and say no to the rest. She tried to pull them all off at the same time. In fact, she did start three of them, she defined step-by-step execution plans for each, but she couldn't keep up with all the steps - just too much going on at once. In a short amount of time she was overwhelmed. And then, sadly, she shut them all down. A lot of frustration and nothing accomplished at all.
LET'S TURN THAT FOCUS-SWITCH TO "ON"! The unfocused business person, the unfocused entrepreneur, is usually on the fast track to nothing good. Once we turn the focus-switch to ON, when we spend our time laser-focused on our priorities and say no to distractions, when we put aside all the other great ideas for another day, well now we're talking. When we're on the laser-focus track, our major ingredients should be: a) clarity of purpose, b) clarity of goals, c) clarity of action, and d) clarity of results. This is the success path that I'd like to see for all of us! How do we get there? I have four actions that - in my experience - are right on target and that my clients say are precisely what has worked for them.
Action #1: Learn to "JUST SAY NO". This is simple to understand but challenging to actually do. It's easy to want to try different things and it's easy to get distracted by the next exciting idea. But the result is - it just gets overwhelming. And too often the response to feeling overwhelmed is some sort of paralysis. Nothing gets done. So learn to say no, just NO! None of those ifs-ands-or-buts. Ignore what might be a very enticing opportunity that wants to take you away from that laser-focus of your main goals. Just say no!
Action #2: Follow the "JUST ONE THING" principle. If you're truly laser-focused, then at any moment in time there can only be ONE THING you will be doing. When that one thing is in line with your purpose and sits on top your priorities, it's the most productive thing you can do to achieve what you want to achieve. So you need to always be asking yourself, "What's the ONE THING that I need to do right now?" You have to decide on that one thing and do it. First, you make your decision. Then you write it down. Next, you follow that direction, and that's your plan for today You can have as many "someday" goals as you want, but for today, you need to work on that "just one thing". But ... how do you know which "one thing" is THE "one thing"? Well, that's where we get to the next action. Which is ...
Action #3: Commit yourself to having an overall strategy in place. This overall strategy is your guide to what's most important, and it's what gives you the clarity to identify that "one thing" to work on each day. To be clear, just acting and staying busy, even if it's only "one thing", is a "no-no" unless it's in line with your priorities. What if you're going far afield? What if you're doing the wrong thing? How counter-productive is that! So you need to - first - identify your goal, and then create the best strategy in line with that goal. Your strategy becomes your "one thing" task list. Once you're clear on your strategy, then you know exactly what you should be achieving on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis in line with your goal. And your "one thing" actions fall into place.
Action #4: Eliminate the temptation to second-guess yourself. The fourth action to help you to stay laser-beam focused is to stop second-guessing yourself! And how do you do this? Sometimes it's not so easy, but a good way to do it is by setting time frames. You WILL BE DONE with this action by a specified day and time. And if you don't feel done, so what ... you're still done! The constant asking "What if" questions eats up your valuable time and kills your laser-focus. You can end up going round and round in your thinking, asking, "Well, what if we try this strategy instead?" or "What if we shift to a different market?" or "What if we add this feature to our service?" "What if " thinking does not serve your interests. It ends up wasting time and pushing you off course. Too many "what ifs" will send you zigzagging in multiple directions, with the result that you're going nowhere, certainly nowhere good.
SO BE THAT LASER-FOCUSED PERSON! Be that disciplined person. Say no to distractions, determine your "just one thing" in line with your strategy plan, set a time frame for each step of your strategy plan, and when that time frame is done, then you're done. Put it down, look at the next item on your list, and ... just move on! Carry with you this nutshell of wisdom.
"You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results."
The actions are what move the needle and get you to where you want to be. Lack of focus can be a barrier to success, and laser-focus is the way to smash that barrier. It's is a mental game. It requires you to work hard, to break bad habits, and to build new ones. The work is worth it. The payoff of a laser-focused mind is growth, achievement, and success in whatever you set out to do.
Let's always go for the win!
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THE ENTREPRENEUR'S PITFALL: THE DEMON OF DISTRACTION
Are You Letting Distractions Sabotage Your Entrepreneurial Success?
OK WHAT'S THE PROBLEM ANYWAY Distractions are one of the biggest threats to a business owner’s success. They suck you in and before you know it, you’ve spent precious hours on a side path that lead nowhere and uses up your precious time. The solution is to spot those distractions early, and eliminate them before they infiltrate into your time. Sure it's tough. But to succeed, shut out everything except the most important thing right now, and advance laser-focused toward your overall goal.
A FEW PROBLEM SITUATIONS Here are examples of some very smart, capable but overwhelmed entrepreneurs who came to see me for help.
Jessica - Chaser of The Bright Shiny Object Jessica's business was selling handmade jewelry. She loved her business, she enjoyed new people and new challenges, and she was always on the hunt for the next big idea to promote and sell her jewelry. However, she struggled with the distraction demon, and ended up bouncing around like a ball from one intriguing idea to another. Too often she strayed from her action plan, and her business was losing momentum.
Michael - The Mind Wanderer Michael was trying to write a "how-to" book in his professional field. But often when he sat down to write, his mind would quickly lose focus. He described it as being like a train which gets switched onto an unexpected set of tracks. And it frequently led his mind so far afield that he struggled to remember what point he had been making in his writing. Result - very little accomplished and a lot of frustration.
Hannah - Mindless Saying "Yes" Hannah had recently opened her gift-basket business. As a start-up, she was focusing on multiple areas at once, and had a solid plan action plan including steps and time frames. However when her friends wanted a special favor or some of her time that she had planned to devote to her business, she easily got distracted, and struggled to say "no" and set boundaries in accord with her business priorities. She started feeling frustrated, stressed, and discouraged.
LET'S SHUT DOWN THAT DISTRACTION DEMON Avoiding distraction isn't easy. A commonly quoted statistic is that the average person is distracted or interrupted every 40 seconds when working in front of their computer. And let's face it, it's not easy staying on task when an exciting new business idea comes your way. Unfortunately, when our attention is derailed, it can be a major struggle to refocus back. To succeed in advancing toward your overall goal, shut out everything except the most important next step in your action plan. How to get there? Here are five actions that - in my experience - are right on target and that my clients say are precisely what has worked for them.
Action #1: Keep your vision and goals in mind. Lock in on your goals by being clear on why you need to focus? What are you trying to accomplish? Think about it. Define your end result. Knowing why we need to stay focused can help us push through the tough and tedious parts of our business, when our ability to focus is really tested and when it’s most needed.
Action #2: Reduce each day's intrusions by focusing on 2 to 3 key tasks. If you have 20 tasks on the day's list, how effective do you think your focus ability will be? Not so good, right? Break it down to the essentials, two to three, and even one is okay. But no more, even if it slows you down in your track. Slower is much better than giving up early because you took on too much too early.
Action #3: Control external distractions by periodically disconnecting. Many modern distractions are temptations of technology or being around other people. A phone call, an email, an instant message notification, a knock on our door, and our focus can be completely broken. Try scheduling specific hours during the day, or days during the week, to entirely disconnect, when you turn off notifications and let people know that you're unavailable. Then you can dive into your business activities and be all in.
Action #4: De-clutter your physical and digital workspaces. Physical clutter does a number on your brain and can cause it to become just as cluttered. A clean desk, clean computer screen, and neat surroundings help you avoid this kind of distraction. Instead, you have a blank canvas that that can actually help you focus on your work. And when you take breaks, make sure to leave your work area, a message that it's ok to let your thoughts roam free.
Action #5: Saying "No" is the best way to say "Yes" to success.
We all want to be liked by our friends and colleagues. However, when you're asked to do something you don't have time to do or that throws you off track of your focused action path, it's important to say "no". Maintaining your business priorities is not being selfish, it's being smart. So stop, take a breath, and refocus back on your goal-based business action plan.
CONQUER THAT DEMON OF DISTRACTION! Each person needs to discover the best tools for them, to help them master control over distraction. Find out what works for you, for the way you think and function. It's different for different people, so it's up to you to find the best ways that work with your personality. As Steve Jobs once said:"People think that focus means saying YES to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying NO to the hundreds of other good ideas that there are."
The payoff is moving ahead on the fast track to success and achieving your goals. You can do it! Let's go!
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THE ENTRERENEUR'S PITFALL: THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Crush The Imposter Syndrome - No Holding Back!
OK WHAT'S THE PROBLEM ANYWAY
When we doubt our accomplishments, when we're convinced we haven’t earned our position or status as an expert, when we feel that we'll be exposed as a "fraud" in spite of being absolutely qualified for our role, that is the Imposter Syndrome.
If you've ever been in a room of smart, talented, successful people, and thought, "I don't belong here," you've experienced it. Or if you've walked onto your presentation stage, looked at your audience, and thought, "I'm a fraud," yes there it is again.
Most of us feel it at one time or another, that sense of fear and like we'll be exposed for something we're not. But if we sit around waiting for that fear to go away, we can be waiting for the rest of our lives.
As business professionals, why should we care. So what if we tamp things down a bit until we reach that status we dream of. Well, giving into Imposter Syndrome can derail our businesses. We procrastinate until we're "ready", as judged by our harsh inner critic. We may avoid networking events because we feel we don't measure up. Or we go, and either don't give our pitch at all, or we give our pitch in a less-than-confident way. And for some of us, we set prices of our service or product too low or we don't raise our when it's appropriate to do so. To sum it up, giving in to the Imposter Syndrome can mean not taking all the actions we need to fast-track-grow our business.
COMMON IMPOSTER SYNDROME TYPES
Is this you? Do you set goals with unreasonably high standards? Do you expect to show a flawless performance? When reality inevitably doesn’t measure up, do you berate yourself? Even if you do hit the mark, do you discount your achievement or blame it on luck, and always feel as though you could have done better? And when others praise you for your achievements, do you have trouble believing you deserve it?
Is this something you struggle with? Do you feel like you don’t know enough about your area of expertise, even if you have a lot of experience in it? Are you plagued by the fear that you'll never know enough and eventually you’ll be exposed? Do you seek more and more credentials to validate your expertise? Does it bother you when people call you an expert? Do you refuse to consider opportunities to express your expertise, such as being interviewed on a podcast, giving a talk, or writing an article, unless you can check each box for expert status?
Do you have the mindset that the mere act of asking for help works against you?
Do you often avoid help even if you need it? Does the idea of being completely "self-made" sound like it should be your goal? Do you fear people thinking, “If you’re qualified, why would you need help?” Does it bother you when people offer their help?
The Superwoman or Superman
Are you pushing yourself hard and work even harder, in the name of “catching up” to others in your field and to prove your worth? Do you feel you need the validation that comes from the act of working always harder, and that becomes almost more important than completing the individual tasks ? Do you put in more hours than pretty much everyone else in spite of finishing individual tasks in a reasonable time frame? Do you tell yourself that you simply don’t have enough time for your extracurricular passions?
Are you one of these types, more than one, or all of them. Doesn't matter. We're going to crush it and be more confident and productive in our business success.
LET'S CRUSH THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME ONCE AND FOR ALL
Crushing the imposter syndrome, and not letting it get us off track, is all about mindset. Ultimately, we need to separate feelings from fact. The feeling may never totally go away. But feeling and acting are two different elements. And we're here to stop it in its tracks, and don't let it derail us from pursuing greatness in our business.
Let Go Of Your Inner Perfectionist And Embrace Mediocrity
Realize you're not perfect. Stop comparing yourself to the ideal in your mind. A great way is my three step risk-management approach to put things into a real-world perspective.
- First, identify the risk that you're worried about. Give it a name! Be specific! If you fear not being able to answer a technical question, state your fear in those words.
- Second, assess what you have to lose by holding back due to your fear that everything is not perfect. Think particularly in terms of lost opportunity costs, for example, missing the chance to connect with new prospects and possible clients, not hearing about a terrific event or learning opportunity. Per hockey hall of famer Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".
- Third, mitigate. If your effort or activity doesn't go perfectly, know in advance how you'll handle it. Having a Plan B will help eliminate some of the fear. Sometimes it's helpful to view the occasion as a training experience, take notes, assume you're still in learning mode, and plan to rehearse how to do it with improvements next time.
Track And Measure Your Success And Do It Consistently
Keep aware of your successes in a notebook, a journal, or other means to record your wins. Write your successes down in as much detail as possible. Then look back regularly on your written record. You now have the evidence for how you've earned your expert spot. Your accomplishments are the proof that you're not a fraud.
It's Ok To Look For Help From Others
If you’ve been operating with the though that “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help”, well, start asserting your rights to get help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to be proud of. It means we're human, and we each have our gifts, our strengths, and our weaknesses. No one is good at everything, so it's important to accept the reality that we will sometimes need help. It could be a mentor, an assistant, a contractor, sometimes even a colleague. No need to be superwoman or superman. No person is an island.
Get Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable, and Fake It Till You Make It
It's important to realize you cannot always totally get rid of the imposter syndrome. For many of us, the feelings are always going to be there to some extent. What we can do is just learn to work with them. Don't let them hold you back from growing your business. How can we do that? Sometimes we need to "Fake it till you make it!" Just because you're faking it, doesn't mean you're a fraud. It can actually be very helpful, because acting confident, smiling when you don’t feel like it, and talking in a confident professional way can increase the feel-good inner sense that can make us actually feel more confident and competent. Give it a try and you'll be amazed.
To summarize, if the Impostor Syndrome emerges from the shadows, do not give into it. You can name it, you can acknowledge it. But don't let it stop you. Focus on the value you provide. Appreciate yourself when you've done great work. And always keep moving forward in spite of it.