When I asked what you needed to grow your business, an overwhelming number of you responded with “more time.” But before you try to find more time in your already busy day, first you should make sure you’re spending the time you have on the most valuable parts of your business.
And while I can certainly justify both activities as “working on my business,” they don’t fall into my primary goal of getting ready for the gift fair. Nor did they make me any immediate money.
In short, I was using “work” as a way to procrastinate from my real work.
How many times have you done this? Perhaps it’s not rearranging furniture, but hanging out on social media under the guise of “marketing.” Or working on new designs when you should be focusing on promoting the ones you already have.
So how do you stop getting distracted by “pretend work” and start focusing on the tasks that will legitimately grow your business and make you more money?
First, you have to ask yourself why you’re compelled to focus on these lesser tasks over the more important ones. For me, it was the result of coming home from the vacation that wasn’t really a vacation. (I think I was on my computer almost every day.) As a result, I hadn’t really gotten over the business overwhelm I was feeling before I left, and so my brain wasn’t really ready to focus yet.
It may also have to do with the fact that everything on my to-do list (like ordering postcards) required making a semi-permanent decision, and it was easier to focus on way less permanent things like moving furniture or redesigning my website, both of which could be completely changed tomorrow.
Often, there’s a reason we feel compelled to focus on certain tasks over other, more important, tasks. It may be because they are easier, more fun, or just require less brainpower. But understanding why we’re wasting our time on these tasks can go a long way towards helping us stay focused.
So what do you do to keep yourself focused on the more important tasks, not just the ones that you feel like doing today? Here are a few ideas:
1. Prioritize your to-do list. Sure, you probably keep a to-do list. But do you list your to-do items in terms of priority. When you don’t prioritize your to-do list, it’s easy to fall into the trap of tackling the easiest things on your list first, regardless of importance. Instead, go through your list and identify the most important tasks. Then tackle them first, and leave the easier tasks as a reward for getting the more important stuff done first.
2. Set a time limit. Think you “just can’t focus” until your office is clean or you’ve checked the latest gossip on Twitter. Then allow yourself to tackle that task, but set a time limit. Set a timer for a short period of time, and when it’s done, move on to more important tasks.
3. Take time off. Sometimes, what you really need is to take a break from the business. If you’re finding it difficult to focus, you may be better off doing something non-business related, rather than fooling yourself into thinking you’re working by tackling non-important tasks. Take a walk, have a snack, or even take a day (or two) off. When you come back, you should feel more ready to dive into those important tasks.
4. Delegate. If there are important tasks for your business that you can never seem to get around to doing, maybe it’s time to find someone else to do them for you. If you’re constantly hanging out on social media to avoid tasks like emailing the press (because secretly the idea of contacting the press scares you), then maybe it’s time to think about hiring a PR rep. Or maybe you can find an intern or virtual assistant to handle some of those little tasks to give you more time to focus on the larger, more important projects.
It’s easy to spend all day “working” on your business, and not really get anything done that moves your business forward. By focusing on your priorities and monitoring the amount of time you spend on lesser tasks, you won’t find more time in your day, but you’ll make better use of the time you currently have.