Today, being an entrepreneur can be all encompassing. You are always on, all the time. The danger of living in a world where it is possible to be on call 24/7 is that the majority of your time may be spent fielding phone calls, emails and social posts — meaning the tasks you wanted to complete remain untouched. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We spoke to 27 successful entrepreneurs on what strategies they use to maintain focus and get work done.
1. Don’t let your inbox take over your to-do list.
Strategy: Each Monday I prioritize what I want to accomplish that week, and then I think about what I’ve done at the end of the week and share it in an email to my employees called “Reflections.” It’s a great way to make space in your head, otherwise your inbox and email becomes your to-do list, which is ridiculous because you didn’t create that to do list. [It was sent to you by other people.]
2. Create time blocks
Name: Daniella Yacobovsky
Strategy: I am pretty OCD about creating to-do lists, and I am constantly prioritizing what I put at the top of the list. I also think it’s important to break your workload down into digestible nuggets. I break things down into things that feel doable within a span of one to two hours. That helps me methodically sort through everything that’s on my plate.
3. Take it one step at a time.
4. Get outside.
Name: Merrill Stubbs
Strategy: Take breaks. I really step away from something after I’ve been working on it, take a short walk, talk to someone who has nothing do with what I’ve been focusing on and stay hydrated. I usually just walk around our office in Manhattan.
Name: Jennie Ripps
Company: Owl’s Brew
Strategy: I try to compartmentalize my days. For instance, I’ll spend an hour before the workday sending out emails, and I won’t look at incoming emails until everything is completely outbound. I find that I focus more when I do only one thing and not a million things; it cuts down on the noise.
6. Stay active.
Name: Ryan Holmes
Strategy: Like lots of entrepreneurs, my attention is always pulled in a dozen directions at once. The one thing that really helps me stay focused is exercise. After I jog, do yoga or get out and do some backcountry skiing, I always come back with more clarity and focus.
7. Take steps toward the big goal.
8. Meet your goals head on.
9. Put your phone away.
Name: Dave Rusenko
Strategy: I have a personal policy that any time I’m with someone — at a meeting, dinner, or over drink — that I will never check my phone or watch, and make sure to keep 100 percent focus on the person. This carries into our meetings. We have saying at the office during meetings, “laptops down.” Unless you’re the presenter, the rule is everyone needs to shut their laptop in the meeting. It allows the person to be physically and mentally present.