Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
To keep up with the demands of running a successful business, entrepreneurs often spend countless hours interacting with customers, fulfilling orders, managing their teams and juggling a wide variety of administrative and business tasks. We all have the same number of hours in the day. Although entrepreneurs might appear superhuman on the surface, accomplishing all of this while maintaining a reasonable work-life balance requires intense levels of focus to pull off.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of distractions and environmental factors that can shake your ability to focus during the day. If you find yourself putting in tons of hours but accomplishing very little, the following six reasons could be why.
1. Fear is disrupting your focus
Being an entrepreneur can be overwhelming and straight-up intimidating. As an entrepreneur, you might be facing an angry client, a supplier issue or an impending economic disaster. Ultimately, this can have devastating impacts on your ability to focus. People are naturally inclined to avoid tasks and experiences that are inherently dangerous or unpleasant. This leads our brains to sidetrack our focus to less scary activities such as checking email, reading the news or scrolling through social media.
On the surface, this is counterintuitive. The obvious course of action is to remedy or avoid these challenges (which should in turn reduce our anxiety and fear). The reality is that’s not how we are hardwired, making it easy for our minds to wander and shift our focus to other tasks.
As an entrepreneur, you might even find yourself working on tasks that appear productive but provide less value to the business. For example, you might spend your day connecting with existing customers who you feel comfortable with. On the surface, this seems like a great use of your focus and time. But you might have subconsciously chosen this safe activity instead of the riskier and more uncomfortable task of cold-calling potential new clients.
Start by making a list of your worst fears and concerns within the business. Once you have your list, start crossing out the ones that are beyond your control. For the ones that are within your control, create a list of action items to help prepare you and the business to address these challenges. This should make your fears more manageable.
2. Your business lacks strategy
We chose to be entrepreneurs because it gives us the freedom and flexibility to build our business and brand the way we want. It’s easy for entrepreneurs to fall down the rabbit hole of endless possibilities for product designs, marketing campaigns, and target markets. The “what if” mindset is what makes entrepreneurs great. However, it’s easy to lose focus on your business without a clear strategy and goals in place.
If you’re finding it hard to remain focused on your business day after day, you may need to revisit your strategy. If your new ideas don’t align with your strategy, you may want to carefully consider whether you should pursue them or not.
3. You’re not getting enough rest
Entrepreneurs are notorious for working long, grueling hours. In addition to these physical work times, entrepreneurs spend countless hours outside of work stressing and thinking about the business. This can have significant impacts on the amount and quality of sleep you get.
Lack of sleep can disrupt focus, attention and concentration. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that the average adult get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. Adjusting your sleep pattern could give you the boost you need to remain focused during the day.
Other healthy habits in addition to sleep can also improve focus such as eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and exercising.
4. You’re working in the wrong environment
Trouble focusing can also be a result of your work environment. Do you stop and read news articles when they pop up in your browser? Does your attention get averted by the people around you when working in a busy cafe? Do you find yourself visiting the pantry for a snack multiple times a day when working from home?
Eliminating external distractions and adjusting your work environment might be what you need to improve your focus. Try keeping a journal during the week of your activities and what triggered you to engage in those activities. Simple adjustments like turning off digital notifications or moving to a quieter workspace may support a more focused and productive workday.
5. Wearing too many hats
Entrepreneurs often have a million responsibilities and wear multiple hats. In many cases, they spend their day putting out fires and handling administrative tasks. These low-value tasks can break your focus on what’s truly important for the business.
If you find yourself working on a lot of tasks, but never actually accomplishing anything, you could be suffering from doing too much. One study found that less than 2.5% of people can successfully multitask. Instead, delegating low-value tasks to others and focusing on just one high-value business activity at a time can increase your effectiveness as an entrepreneur. You can even look to technology to automate some of your work activities to free up time.
6. You hate what you are working on
In the beginning, starting a new business and being an entrepreneur is exciting and challenging. At some point, your excitement and drive may dwindle as you get into a groove. Your focus might suffer from simply not enjoying your day-to-day responsibilities. In the workforce, people can simply find a new job when they no longer enjoy what they are doing. For entrepreneurs, this isn’t always an option. You can’t simply walk away from the business that you have spent so much blood, sweat and tears to build.
Instead, think about what activities you enjoy and don’t enjoy. Perhaps, there are some unpleasant tasks that you can avoid or outsource. For example, if you hate the bookkeeping part of the business, you might consider hiring a professional bookkeeper to take this off your plate. That may free up your time to work on more enjoyable projects.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to always function at their very best. By reclaiming your ability to be laser-focused on your business, you will have the ability to accomplish things that you never thought possible.