This article is one in the multi-part series entitled The Entrepreneurial Mindset.
According to research conducted by the University of California, Irvine, in which they followed around 36 workers in various positions for a half-day, they found that most people only had three solid minutes of actual work before being interrupted by things such as phone calls, co-workers coming into their office, and emails, or switching to a new task. Well, three minutes and five seconds, to be exact.
To make matters worse, they also discovered that it took them just over 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand. With findings like this, it’s a wonder people can get anything done at all during the work day!
As difficult as it can be to handle these types of distractions and yet still produce high-quality work, most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that success relies on the ability to focus on whatever it is you are doing. This means that you must be able to shut everything else out so that you can concentrate on the task in front of you, thereby increasing the quality of your end result and decreasing the likelihood that you will make mistakes.
So, what can you do to improve your focus in an effort to achieve higher levels of small business success, despite the odds that are working against you? Here are some options to consider:
Clear Your Mind
When it comes to distraction, researchers at University of California, Irvine, also found that 44 percent of the time, it was the worker himself or herself that caused the interruption. This means that they voluntarily switched activities or decided to work on other things. Stopping this type of behavior can have very positive results then, and one way to do that is to clear your mind and commit to whatever it is you need to get done.
Before you start your task, take a couple long, deep breaths and make a conscious effort to clear your mind. Let go of everything else you have to do and make a deliberate decision to only think about the task that lies before you. Everything else can wait, so let it.
Limit Your Distractions
Obviously, the fewer distractions you have, the better your end result, so do what you can to limit your interruptions. If possible, close your office door to keep people from popping in whenever they’d like. Also, hit the divert button on your phone so that your calls go directly to voicemail.
If you work in a room with a lot of outside noise or distraction, throw on some earbuds with some calming music to help keep you focused. Turn off the automatic alerts for your emails and text messages so that you aren’t notified immediately every time someone wants to get in touch with you.
Write It Down
Sometimes our focus can be dissolved because we have this great idea that we don’t want to forget. In fact, it is often said that every person has at least one million-dollar idea in his or her lifetime, so what if this is yours? You certainly don’t want to lose it, right?
Well, you don’t have to if you write it down. That way, you have it for when you are ready to expand on it but it won’t detract you from what you are doing right this moment. Just log it in your smartphone or even on a scratch piece of paper. Don’t worry. If it is a good idea today, it will still be a good idea tomorrow.
Create a Schedule or Plan
It is possible that the reason you lack focus is because you don’t know what you should be doing. That is where creating a schedule or plan can help as it will keep you on task, constantly working toward your goals instead of flitting from one thing to the next.
Every morning, sit down and create a basic schedule for the day, covering the things that you absolutely need to get done. Be sure to allow for extra time so that you don’t cut yourself short and cause any additional stress.
To-do lists help too, as they are a gentle reminder of all of the things that need your attention. Prioritize yours so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed by everything you want to take care of in the next day or two.
Eat Focus-Enhancing Foods
Yes, it is true that the foods you tend to eat can be either helping or harming your ability to concentrate. Therefore, WebMD suggests you eat these food items or ingredients in order to boost your brain power and enhance your ability to focus:
- Caffeine (just don’t overdo it)
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark chocolate
Follow these suggestions and you may be able to go longer than three minutes without being distracted. Well, three minutes and five seconds, to be exact.