Pivot to Your Purpose . . .
Put the Unique Power of Focus to Work for You

Put the Unique Power of Focus to Work for YouRight on the heels of launching your own business comes the equally formidable task of running your own business. And that takes focus. With so many things competing for your attention and limited hands on deck, it is easy to get distracted with activities that are not even aligned with your core purpose.

Most entrepreneurs have a strong bias for action which is a good thing. But action that isn’t directly tied to your clear purpose can create a burdensome to-do list that actually distracts from getting the most important things done. “The key to success is how you allocate your time to what matters most,” says the President of Pace Productivity and author of The Poetic Path to Getting More Done, Mark Ellwood.

His company conducted a time study with clients where they discovered that most employees spend about 50 percent of their time on value-added work. But that top performers spent 60 percent of their time on value-added work. Improving productivity means allocating your time to the things that are most in tune with your purpose and will have the greatest impact on your progress. Consider these techniques to eliminate distraction and focus on what matters most.

Prioritize. There are entire books written on this topic, but most boil down to the fundamental need to capture necessary tasks in one central place and then decide which are most important. Some of the most popular prioritization techniques include Eat the Frog where you tackle your biggest and most important projects first and then move on to smaller tasks later in the day.

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a prioritization technique based on a four-quadrant interplay between task importance and urgency used by the former U.S. general and president. Important and urgent tasks are tackled right away, important but not urgent tasks are planned for, not important but urgent tasks are candidates to be delegated to others and tasks that are not important and not urgent are considered for deletion.

Chunking is a prioritization method that breaks larger tasks into components that can be tackled in one, uninterrupted block of time. By blocking out other distractions and scheduling the time, you might empty your inbox, draft a sales proposal or research a vendor solution knowing you will not be disturbed for that period.

Say no and feel good about it.  As your business gains momentum and attention, more and more people want a piece of you. From employees who want you to weigh in on an ad design to your alma mater inviting you to speak at a business symposium, success leads to more opportunities. That is exciting and will sometimes aid in furthering your business. But every opportunity comes with a warning sign. If it’s not directly aligned to your purpose, it may simply siphon off time and energy that would be better invested in core activities.

When you put requests through the filter of whether they further your purpose, it is easier to say no immediately, confidently and without equivocation knowing that you’re not turning something down, you’re turning up your commitment to your core purpose.

Take a break. No matter how many times science tells us that people are more productive with shorter work periods and more breaks, we cling to the idea that powering through is the way to go. If you can adopt a new mindset about breaks, you will be better able to achieve your primary goals.

A recent study using a computer application to track employee work habits found that people who took frequent breaks throughout the day were the most productive. The ideal seemed to be working in a focused way for roughly an hour and then taking a 10- to 15-minute break. But note that taking a break doesn’t mean working on a report for an hour and then checking email. A break is something that takes you away from your work for a brief period to recharge and refresh, such as a short walk, talking to a friend or even looking out the window at nature.

Stop multitasking. As current brain research shows, multitasking is a total hoax. Rather than actually doing two things at once, your brain is simply switching from one task to another, lowering productivity with every toggle. All that bouncing back and forth forces the brain to keep retracing its steps to figure out where things left off, making the same work take longer and leading to more mistakes, according to neuroscience professor at MIT, Earl Miller, Ph.D.

Staying true to your core purpose and values will help you minimize costly distractions, maximize focus and enable you to quickly know what opportunities you want to say “yes” to and which you can confidently turn down.