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. The combination of these traits means we have the unfortunate tendency to be easily distracted, both on broad and small scales. And while innocent in most contexts, being chronically distracted in your business can lead to some serious consequences.
Consider these ways you’re probably getting distracted in your business:
1. You’re constantly pulled in by communication. 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 you’ll never get any work done. One of the best solutions to this may surprise you — simply turn off all forms of communication. If it’s not an emergency, your team will probably figure it out on their own. Schedule some heads-down time for yourself and focus on actual work.
2. You’ve lost sight of your end goals. When you’re concerned with what’s happening to you right here and right now, you might 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’re looking 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 — you 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 these short-term problems for too long, they might 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.” These are significant problems that demand immediate attention, and since you’re the entrepreneur in charge, you take it upon yourself to try and address all of them. Unfortunately, if you take 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 if you want 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 aren’t making 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 your friends, family, and even your own 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.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!