Focus, the achelies heel of small business.
Do I sleep?
I get asked this once a week by somebody. Let me be the first to tell you I do not get everything done I want to do, but my to do list will never get done. We do so much creative work that I default to creative when it strikes. Sometimes that has to be journaled to help me remember as something more pressing is at hand, but I have a system to deal with the distraction.
Seed, transplant, harvest, wash, package, deliver, go to market, send out social media & email announcements, the kid’s game/recital/birthday, your date night with your spouse, your doctors appointment, mail invoices, pay bills, order supplies, squeeze in those continuing education credits, repair that hole in the greenhouse, change those filters-all before noon.
I’m throwing the lame “we all wear too many hats” looney platitudes off a bridge. Small business is under appreciated, over worked, and it is the downfall of many organizations. Getting the I’s dotted & T’s crossed divide successful businesses to those that fade away or get caught up in nightmare audits.
I firstly am a Dad & Husband, & Son. Then an owner of a property management company, hydroponic farm with weekly modified- CSA type event, public speaker, blogger, and now launching my largest endeavor with http://stateofthesoil.com, Virtual Summit. At the end I make time for an ever narrowing group of friends.
In State of the Soil’s FaceBook group (join here:State of the Soil FB Group) I asked what people are struggling with. FOCUS was the issue of the day, so here is how I deal with the shine object syndrome. I get bigger down by the many things going on at Victory Gardens as well as the Summit launch preparations.
If you need to get through a report, make a schedule, wright a book, or simply make a schooling list for the grocery store; these scalable actions can help eliminate distractions.
Let’s break this down.
Focus on the set up
What do you want to accomplish, and will it have the desired effect in the end? Stop before you start. Think-will this really accomplish anything? Can you delegate, hire, or put hold? What really is the most pressing matter.
If this is the thing you need to accomplish, let’s get all of the junk out of the way & get it done. Commit to doing what you feel you must do, simply committing is the first step.
It’s hard to launch a product, harvest a field, or build a hydroponic set up if over the next six weeks you have two weddings, a conference to go to, and it’s the middle of your kid’s t-ball season.
You don’t have to RSVP to everything. Your family trumps the wedding. Harvesting for market feeds the family & pays the bills. Are you spending time on hobbies that are getting in the way of your bigger potential? Look, I get you like your hobbies, but isn’t it more enjoyable when you get to enjoy them vs. feeling guilty about the thing you know you need to be listing to? Flip side, you need a brain break and the hobby recharges your batteries. We’ll get to that. The thing about this list is there are overlapping similarities & contradictions.
Small projects are no big deal, but sometimes projects will take days, weeks, or like State of the Soil, Months.
So, how did I mitigate my obligations? Be upfront with your family & the top 5-10 people in your trusted circle.
” This is what I’m doing, this is why, this is how long it will take, & why we are doing it.” Explain it will take extra work, but you are still committed to being there for them, but there might be hours or days at a stretch that you may be working and will need time to get it done.
Starting a farm, launching a new farm service/event, or building a new hydroponic system will tale weeks or months. Give your family the courtesy of understanding how your unavailability will effect them, but give them a how it will help the family in the long run & will be worth the temporary sacrifice. You now have a green light from the people who matter most to proceed.
Friends? Explain your absence before you check out for awhile. They will appreciate it and it will eliminate the feeling of “are you mad at me” conversations that you don’t have time for. When you are done, your friends will help you celebrate. Don’t be surprised when you inspire them to do better themselves. And don’t be surprised if some of your friends never return to the fold. Some people cannot accept when you play up, DO NOT get drug back down.
Are you on the PTA, Rotary, bowling league, and part of some committee? Be up front with these people too. You do not want to ruin civic relationships, but sometimes you need to take off to better yourself & business. Take the time away, you’ll get back quicker and you won’t blame them for, “If I didn’t have to do _______, I could have made my project better.”
As you can tell, from experience I have had to let go of some people & personal involvement to Launch State of the Soil, my life is on hold for six months, but I am doing it with the support of the people that matter the most.
Are you building a system, tilling a field, wighting a novel? give yourself room to work. Clean & organize our work area. Put all of the tools you will need where they can be effectively used & accessed. Then put them back where they belong when finished.
This decluttering to stay in focus mode can extend to all surroundings. My coulleuge Chris Powers of http://www.wildgrowth.org/verticle-farming-101/ who is also hosting a Summit on Urban Farming and I were talking before we really turned up the heat. He wanted to clean his entire house top to bottom. He prepped his entire living environment to streamline his focus.
I have to clear my desk before I write. No papers, no stacks of distracting tasks. Chargers set, pens & notebooks at the ready. Pre-loaded research & reference files at my disposal, water, and a snack or two. I’m good for hours.
Focus on the outline
Organizing your thoughts first will help your work flow. Knowing what you want to accomplish & where you want to go first will get you there faster & more organized.
Focus on brainstorming:
Want to plant a high tunnel full of vegetables? Envision what the end result & intentions will be then deconstruct how that will happen. Have a farmers market to prepare for, make a checklist of everything you will need before hand based off past experience. Writing an article, sketch out what you want to say; the information is already in your brain, you just need help pulling it out.
For larger projects break it up into manageable tasks.
Give timelines for completion:
For those larger projects, you will drive yourself & anyone around you bonkers if you don’t break the project up.
Need to make 100 phone calls, batch 10 at a time. Need to harvest 10 rows of corn, do ten & grab a water. In a groove & almost done, push on for a bigger reward. These motivational milestones help you focus on one task at a time. Just set reasonable goals & push yourself to completion.
Dealing with distractions:
I have an Olympic gold medal in distraction. What to do when you have to preform something to completion? Earlier when I said I have notebooks at the ready, it’s to journal the flood of ideas I get when working on something. Get it down or you’ll forget, remind yourself to do something later, but stay on topic. FOCUS!
Not only will journaling keep you on the right path buy it has a way of filtering the ideas you need to get out but will never act on.
When you get to those natural stopping points and you are on or ahead of schedule get up & change gears. Your work will not suffer if you are operating at your best. Get some water, get some outside time. This is a small break incorporated throughout the day.
Recharge your batteries:
This expands to taking a weekend, or a day, or for some of us; just the night off. Leave the computer at the office & give your family the 100% you. Make time to grab a meal with those friends you have been ignoring. Do it in the middle of the week & watch 10 hours of The Simpsons while ordering a pizza. Do whatever it is that will make you feel the best and get your mind off of topic. You never know when the next big idea will hit. So keep a journal by your bed & next to the shower.
Get outside perspective:
I like to ask for a second set of eyes about a quarter way through a big project. That’s enough time to get some concrete down on your foundation, but still time to move some walls around. Ask people who know the subject matter and you. Ask those who know your strengths and weaknesses & give them permission to be blunt. Make sure they know that is the best thing they can do. And then don’t get offended by critical advice, you asked for it. Is something way off the mark? get a second opinion. This initial testing can help a project along the correct path in the early stages.
Get an Accountability Partner:
Make sure they are as driven as you. Hopefully they will know about your industry and be able to help you co-network and you can help them. I personally have had an advantage with Chris Powers as our trajectories, goals, & start points were similar.
Don’t be afraid to try different partners out, I have leaned on different people before I realized they were not right for me at the time. You can outgrow a partner if they cannot keep up with you or have too much personal baggage.
Afterthoughts on Focus
Accomplishments are no accident. Focus takes practice & needs structure to be done repeatably well. Practice your Setup, Outline, and Stamina and watch your focus get to a point you can dial it in when you need it for big & small projects.
What are your favorite focus techniques? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
PLANT SEEDS DAILY