The entrepreneurial brain is a marvelous and dangerous tool. We tend to think creatively, and quickly, whether it’s in response to solving a problem or as a way to kill time in line at the grocery store. We also aren’t afraid to explore our options, which means we’re usually considering three or four things at the same time.
But when we combine these traits, as life makes us do, we have the unfortunate tendency to be easily distracted, both on a broad scale and a small one. And, while innocent in most contexts, the tendency to be chronically distracted in your business may well lead to some serious consequences.
Consider these ways you’re probably getting distracted in your business:
1. You’re constantly pulled in by communications.
People need you. They need to get your opinion on their work. They need you to help make a decision. They need your final approval. Sometimes, they just want you to be a part of the discussion. If you leave your phone on and your computer connected to the internet, you’ll be pulled in different directions all day and never get any work done. One of the best solutions to this may surprise you: Simply turn off all forms of communication. If a specific event isn't an emergency, your team members will probably figure it out on their own. Schedule some heads-down time for yourself and focus on actual work.
2. You lose sight of your end goals.
When you’re concerned with what’s happening to you right here and right now, you may forget about the end goals of your business. Sometimes, this is due to being too emotional in your decision-making; and, other times, it’s a result of short-term thinking. Either way, you’re so focused on today that you lose sight of tomorrow; for example, you might choose to make a duct-tape fix for a serious problem, delaying a harder but more long-term beneficial solution.
3. You look too far into the future.
Conversely, you might also be so focused on your long-term goals that you’re distracted from the here and now -- the need to strike a balance if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. For example, if you’re looking at how your company will be profitable in the next three to five years, you might not notice that your cash flow is suffering a major hit. If you ignore short-term problems like this for too long, they may prevent you from ever getting to those end stages.
4. You’re busy putting out fires.
Problems arise from every direction in business. On any given day, you might be faced with a server going down, a team miscommunication, a missed deadline, a serious customer complaint or any other number of “fires” you need to put out. These are significant problems that demand immediate attention, and since you’re the entrepreneur in charge, you take it upon yourself to try to address all of them. Unfortunately, with this approach, you’ll never be finished with your work; new problems will always arise, and you’ll never make progress on your actual work.
5. You refuse to delegate your work.
Entrepreneurs still get saddled with micro-tasks, such as completing research, entering data or drafting emails, and many entrepreneurs take pride in continuing to execute them. However, taking on too many responsibilities this way can distract you from the tasks that only an entrepreneur can complete. Even though it may seem unimportant or inefficient, you need to learn to delegate these tasks efficiently in order to stop getting distracted by them.
6. You’re caught in inefficient strategies.
You could also be distracted by strategies that are flat-out inefficient. If you’re so bogged down in traditional advertising strategies, you might not even realize that higher-ROI strategies exist. Open yourself to the realm of other possibilities, and don’t be afraid to learn something new.
7. You don't make time for yourself.
Most of the items on this list have been about outside sources distracting you from your business; but don’t forget that your business can also distract you from what’s important in life. If you’re so fixated on making your company a success, you might lose track of friends, family, even your personal health. Take time away from work to regroup every now and then. Otherwise, it won’t matter how successful your business becomes.
There’s no easy or final way to solve your distraction problems, especially with a mind as active as yours, but being aware of your most problematic distractions is a good way to start. Making lists and following them precisely, writing down ideas to pursue later, learning to delegate effectively, removing unwanted distractions altogether and reminding yourself of your short-term and long-term goals can all help you.
But at the end of the day, every entrepreneur is different, and your distraction-prevention strategy will have unique demands.