Unless you are very adventurous or have money to burn, starting a business means building slowly sacrificing short-term satisfaction for long-term opportunity. Starting a business takes a tremendous amount of energy, and it can sometimes be overwhelming to face this challenge. Over the next two weeks, I’ll provide five ways to help you focus on your goals and make progress every day as you work toward more meaningful and fulfilling opportunities.
Work toward small victories
Creating short-term goals and achieving them gives you the momentum to start thinking bigger and facing the challenge ahead with confidence. This philosophy closely follows Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” approach, where a person escaping debt pays off the smallest debt first. When you start with a small goal and achieve it, you naturally feel good about what you did. You tell your friends, and you receive encouragement from your friends. You eagerly focus on the next, slightly larger goal and quickly develop a plan to achieve that goal.
When I created the Whiteboard Business Partners blog, my first goal was to create five blog posts and schedule them on my site. I enjoy writing and wanted a library of posts so I didn’t always feel pressured to create something at the last minute. When I created those posts, I felt great. I had developed two weeks’ worth of content for the site, and I gained a lot of confidence in how I develop my posts. Writing continues to become easier for me now. The weekend I wrote this post, I blocked time in the morning to write blog posts and articles and time in the afternoon to build my podcasting studio. I set calendar time to hold myself accountable to finishing these tasks, and I followed through. You must determine how to best hold yourself accountable as I have.
When you focus on small goals, the final goal does not seem so overwhelming. As the well-known cliche goes, “What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”
Create focused blocks of time to work on specific activities
Starting a business is a lot like being a circus juggler. There are plenty of objects in the air, and your job is to not let something crash to the floor. When you look in the air, those objects can appear daunting. How do you focus on just one?
You must commit to spending large blocks of time on focused activities. If you attempt to spend just a little time on a lot of different tasks, you will never accomplish anything. Intentional, focused effort for an extended period of time will make you more productive and allow you to accomplish more in that time frame.
My friend Justin Lukasavige from CoachRadio is a master at this process. In a recent CoachRadio blog post, Justin gives a sneak peek into how he is accomplishing a three-day work week. I looked at this post with a lot of amazement and respect. Justin knows exactly what he is doing every hour of each day, and he maximizes his limited time.
I freely admit that I am not the best person at focusing and maximizing my time. I’m sure many of you share my concerns. After reading Justin’s post, I am spending time organizing my schedule and ensuring I MAKE time to focus on important tasks. For me, I’m using my calendar to block chunks of time to work on specific projects. I keep my calendar through Google Apps and link it to my iPad and iPod Touch, so I always have access to how I want to spend my days.
Focusing also means removing distractions from your time. For many of us, the siren song of the Internet and social networks continue to pull us toward time-wasting activities and away from what we really need to do. I am currently testing a system called Freedom, which is $10 and allows me to set a time frame for which I cannot access the Internet. If I try to click on a web browser, I receive the “Unable to access the network” message. I have found this tool invaluable so far and fully plan to purchase the full version. If you tend to lose discipline in your work, this tool is worth the investment.
My next post will offer two additional tips to help you make progress every day in your quest to find work you love to do. In the meantime, work on those goals and focus!