Increased efficiency seems to be the Holy Grail of today’s modern fast-paced society. It’s created a multi-billion dollar industry composed of countless smartphone apps and self-help books promising to increase your ability to get things done. It’s all frankly quite distracting! Before you go spending your hard earned cash on that sort of thing, save yourself a few dollars and read the list below.
I believe at the heart of being efficient and being productive is the ability to stay on task. If you’re focused you can not only get things done quicker, you can then get a lot more things done. Pay attention in your office, or to your friends and you’ll soon notice the people who get the most done are the ones who start and finish things in one sitting. This is what the tech boffins in Silicon Valley mean when they say, “don’t work hard, work smart.”
So, here are my top 5 ways to stay focused throughout the day.
1. Keep a Tidy Workspace
You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how neat your workspace is but you definitely should. Excluding your bed, you probably spend more time in your workspace than anywhere else on the planet. Keeping it tidy will improve your efficiency and reduce distractions.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind.” Well, this is the attitude you should apply to your workspace. Every item within your line of sight should be relevant to what you do. By all means, personalize your workspace, put up pictures of loved ones, have a few pretty plants, but don’t place them directly in front of you. Having an organized workspace will dramatically unclutter your mind and help you focus on the task at hand.
2. Get More Sleep
Sleep has been referred to as the single greatest performance enhancer known to humankind. Oh sorry, correction, single greatest natural performance enhancer. I’m sure Lance Armstrong and his friends have a few other performance enhancers up their sleeves. But for you and I, nothing has the power to improve our ability to stay focused during the day than sleep.
Study after study has proven that individuals who sleep better are more accurate in their work, better at retaining and recalling information, more efficient, and better decision-makers. Should you want more detail, the team at the Sleep Advisor blog often discuss the importance of a good night’s rest has on mental performance in much greater length.
3. Experience the Benefits of a Power Nap
Nothing, and I mean nothing, can beat the cognitive performance boost that a good night’s sleep gives you. One thing does come close, however, and that’s a power nap. A microdose of sleep taken during the daylight hours.
Napping has been shown to be particularly effective if you are attempting to learn new skills or retain information. Studies have shown that individuals studying languages have an improved ability to recall words if they take a nap shortly after a study session.
Throughout the course of the day we all experience peaks and lows in terms of energy known as circadian rhythms. We are thought to be our most effective around 11 am and then comes the post-lunch slump, or the postprandial torpor, a decline in energy in the early afternoon.
Many power through this slump with caffeine. But a more sensible option is to lean into it and have a nap. You will find that after you wake you will have a vastly increased ability to focus. That’s what I call working smart!
4. Exercise More
Stress is one of the biggest impediments we all have to get things done. Worrying too often clouds our thought patterns and can lead to muddled behavior and sometimes complete inaction.
When we worry, the body releases a chemical known as cortisol into your system, also known as the ‘stress hormone’. Apart from sleep, the most effective way to combat elevated levels of cortisol is to engage in physical activity. This can be anything from going for a jog at lunchtime, lifting some weights or targeting a flurry of jabs at a punching bag.
You might be saying to yourself, “who has time to exercise during the day?” Well, I’d answer that exercise again falls into the category of working smarter. An individual who sits at their desk all day worrying – their system flooded with cortisol – will have less ability to focus on the task at hand than someone who gets up, goes for a run and comes back with a clear head.
5. Make Lists in the Evening
Some of the most focused people I know are also the most avid list makers. They make them in the mornings and in the evenings. I even have one friend who makes lists of lists. While that might be taking it a step too far, I do firmly believe the process of writing a list has an incredible power to focus the mind on what’s really important.
Take five minutes in the evening to list your duties for the following day and then highlight the number one priority. This will give you a great boost to how you start the morning. Achieving that top goal should come before everything else, before you check emails, return calls, before anything. Then once you’ve ticked that off, you can get to work on the rest of your goals.
Well, there you have it my friends – five ways to stay focused throughout your day. I hope you managed to make it to the end without getting too distracted. If you didn’t, then maybe hit the hay a little earlier tonight. Give it a go. You can thank me in the morning – but not before you check a few things off your list!
As business owners, it’s easy to put the needs of others above our own. There is always somebody essential that wants or needs something – whether employees, clients, or even the dozens of emails waiting in your inbox. However, just because you have a demanding schedule, you don’t have to neglect self-care.
If you don’t make time for activities away from work, your mental and physical health will suffer – and so will your business. The healthier you feel inside and out, the more effectively you will be able to handle work responsibilities. Here are six ways to care for yourself while running a startup.
1. Schedule Me Time
The only way to stay consistent with self-care is to purposefully incorporate it into your daily schedule. Make it a priority to schedule some me time every day, even if it’s just fifteen minutes before you start work. Use this time to do anything that will make you happy and relaxed, whether that be journaling, doing yoga, practicing meditation, or just enjoying a good book. Keep this up every day, and you’ll spend more of your waking hours in a state of calm, as opposed to stressed and anxious.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is known to be one of the best stress relievers – helping to ease tension, improve your sleep quality, and boost your mood. But you don’t need to spend hours on the treadmill or tons of money at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. Doing small chunks of physical activity throughout the week is enough. During the work day, use your breaks to get moving outside, even it’s just to take the dog for a walk. Commit to a fun outdoor activity that you love on the weekends – this will give you the balance you need between work life and your personal time.
3. Plan Your Meals
The foods you consume impact your cognitive thinking. A busy schedule, however, can make maintaining a healthy diet a challenge – sometimes it’s easier to just grab fast-food or order takeout. To avoid making poor food choices, prioritize planning your meals ahead of time. Having healthy meals prepared for the week will save you time during your busy workday.
4. Take a Break from Technology
We are all guilty of spending too much time with technology. Startup business owners find it especially hard to get away from technology when you have constant emails, demands, requests, and messages coming in. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries around the times when you will respond.
When you’re taking a break, the best thing to do is put your phone and computer out of sight so that you aren’t tempted to look at work messages. This will make it less tempting to think about your business 24/7 and give you a much-needed break from technology screens.
5. Spend Time in Nature
Nature has a calming effect on the mind. The beauty and serenity of the outdoor world create a sense of peace you obviously don’t get in a working environment. Just getting outside during the week will rejuvenate your mind and help to relieve stress and mental fatigue. For additional benefit, try going barefoot – this has been shown to build muscle strength and reduce feelings of anxiety.
6. Plan a Weekend Getaway
Running a startup can be physically and mentally exhausting. If you can manage, make plans for a weekend getaway. Taking a few days to away in a new place will do wonders for your mindset and overall health. If you feel hesitant to take time off – keep in mind that it will be better for your business in the long run.
So, there you have them; six ways to care for yourself while running a startup. Do you practice any other methods for your own self-care? If so, please share them in the comment section below.
Randi Levin has helped hundreds of fledgling entrepreneurs avoid fear and overwhelm in their business lives throughout the years. She is a nationally recognized life strategist, author, keynote speaker, and reinvention expert. As an advocate for professional women, she coaches them through successful and powerful life transitions.
I recently interviewed Randi about the most common struggles women face when starting and managing a small business. Topics ranged from fear and overwhelm to productivity and time management to self-worth. I am confident you will be able to relate to this important discussion.
Life Wise Lady: When a woman wants to start a business or take an existing one to the next level, how can she get the ball rolling and skip feeling stuck?
Randi: We do tend to stop ourselves right at the door with a lot of excuses and reasons why not. The first thing you should think of doing is getting your feet wet. If you’re coming out of corporate and into private, that’s a very scary place. Ask a lot of questions. Is there someone you could shadow or a course you can take? You have to be able to see yourself in that new business.
Life Wise Lady: Sometimes an entrepreneur is intimidated because of her lack of experience with technology, social media, or some other process. How can she avoid getting caught up in anxiety and insecurity?
Randi: My favorite quote is “Say yes now and figure it out afterward.” We get in our own way. Nothing is ever really perfect. If we hang around waiting to launch the perfect product, business, or website, we are passing on developing ourselves and stepping into our business. Step into the thing that scares you the most. We all feel fear. Go! Trying things is so much more worth it than not.
“Step into the thing that scares you the most.”
Life Wise Lady: An overwhelmed businesswoman often experiences frustration and is tempted to multi-task. What tips do you have to help her stay focused and calm?
Randi: It goes back to that old issue of balance. It’s something I talk about all the time. The reality is we’re not balancing multiple things. We are balancing one thing – ourselves. What are we letting in our lives and what are we letting go of? We need to shift our view of balance and ask ourselves if we are fulfilled. We do have to pick and choose. Are the things we are working on and surrounding ourselves with the things we love? When you answer that truthfully, that’s when it all starts to fall into place.
Life Wise Lady: What time of day do you think a professional woman should take on her most challenging tasks and why?
Randi: I think it’s morning because we are refreshed. If you’re talking about business tasks, always go after the ones that deal with money first. If there is something that’s dealing with your service to a client, handle that task before the others.
Take a look at your to-do list. We are all guilty of adding small tasks so we can cross them off quickly. If you had three to five really key things to accomplish, you would have a better chance of actually doing them. Put in front of you what is doable.
Life Wise Lady: What strategies do you recommend to a woman who is overwhelmed in her professional life?
Randi: Give yourself some space. If you feel as though things are going south for you or you’re stressed, allow yourself to pause. And not necessarily for a moment. Break away from the stressors and regroup. We have so much coming at us. Take a lunch. Put the phone away.
The other piece is to stay connected. We are so connected by social media and through texts and phones. We have moved away from the in-person connections. So, bringing those back into our day takes away stress and allows us to be human.
“Break away from the stressors and regroup.”
Life Wise Lady: What causes the fear of failure and how can women overcome it?
Randi: People often won’t start something or won’t finish something unless it’s perfect. A lot of New Year’s resolutions stop because they seem like too big a mountain to climb. Reassess what you said. Who is the one who said they were going to lose weight or get three new clients? It was you.
I’m all about growth versus goals. Have the goals and the destination in mind, but what is the process? When you track your success it’s a little bit easier to get to the end result and failure seems a little less imminent.
Life Wise Lady: An entrepreneur might tend to feel like a fraud or have difficulty accepting praise or accolades. How can she move past these insecurities?
Randi: In business, people say, “Fake it until you make it.” There are certain times when we have to take a leap of faith. When we step into a relationship and get married, it’s all new. How do we know how to be married? We step into that and learn as we go. When we allow ourselves to feel like imposters, we are not giving ourselves credit for living and for all the things we know and have accomplished.
Maybe you don’t have the ten years of experience someone else has, but you have other skills that they don’t. There is something in your history that got you to do what you’re doing now. If we own our story a little bit more, all of it, we can project why we are doing what we are doing. Your experiences are to be celebrated and highlighted. The minute you take yourself seriously, people are going to take note of that.
Life Wise Lady: When should a businesswoman seriously consider hiring a coach like yourself to solve a problem or achieve a higher level of success?
Randi: The first thing is to be aware and understand when you feel stuck. Question yourself. Should I get some help? Is what I’m doing not working?
Sometimes, as women, we will go out with friends and unload our problems and our friends want to help us. So, they tell us what to do. If you do that, you’re probably going to wake up the next day and not take any of their advice. Even if you do, it may not work. The reason is that these solutions are not yours. They are your friends’ solutions.
Coaching allows you to come up with your own answers and solutions to the things that are going on in your life. We take actions on the stuff that is our own. If you’re getting at the right things, in a few months your perspectives are going to shift and you’re going to be taking action in your life. Having a coach is very rewarding. It’s a gift that you give yourself.