Staying Focused in a World Full of Distractions
Advice From a Female Business Owner Trying to Make it All Work
I have to be honest. I’m writing this blog as an accountability exercise to make sure I’m practicing what I preach. As a project manager, it’s my job to be on top of things, but life gets messy, and some days months it’s hard to stay focused.
Over the years I have found a few tricks and apps that make the hard days a little bit easier and keep me focused on my work even when my personal life feels chaotic. The easiest way to give you a rundown of how I stay focused would be to take you through one of my typical workdays.
Here we go…
While I’m adjusting my eyes, I open up my email to see what is waiting for me when I get around to opening my computer. I don’t reply to any emails this early, but this check-in allows me space to mentally prepare for the priority tasks that are waiting for me. Then I open up our Preview App to see what’s in the queue for our social postings that day. I can think through any stories that might make sense. If I’m really feeling jazzy, I’ll set an alarm for myself to post because who can remember things like that when you are trying to focus on everything else? OK, out of bed… time to make coffee, lunches, breakfast and wake up the littles.
Like clockwork, at 8:02 am, I get my motivational text from ShineText. After dropping Maisie off at school, I sit in my car, let that motivation soak in and allow myself a moment of joy. Now it’s off to the gym. My YMCA app has a schedule feature that allows me to choose what group exercise class I’m in the mood for that day… Spin or Sculpt? And let’s be honest, some days I look at the schedule and still decide to drive home.
By this time, I’m either home from the gym, or my house is clean enough that I can actually sit down and focus on pressing projects. Right around this time, I get a push notification from Slack asking me if I’m ready to submit my daily Standup. Melody and I use Jell to keep each other in check and also allow for both of us to see what each other’s tasks are looking like for that day. It’s essentially a daily checklist of what has been done, what we are doing and what challenges are keeping us from getting those things done.
Once I know what I need to have done, I take a minute (or 5) and do a quick meditation in the 10% Happier app. Set my intentions. Clear out the distractions. Now I’m ready to work.
Because I only have 4 ½ hours for any client-facing work, I have to use my time wisely. What can wait until bedtime? What needs my attention during office hours?
After burning through four hours of client check-ins, completing proposals, answering customer questions, hosting strategy meetings with clients, and completing website review calls with the team- it’s time to recenter in my daughter’s car-rider pick up line with My Gratitude Journal. This app allows me to take advantage of some quiet time so I can prepare for whatever 1st grade emotions are about to come barreling into my car.
I should say, some days I use this time to grocery shop on my Kroger Pickup app. Ladies, if you aren’t using this app, you are doing life wrong!
So, after Elsie gets home, I enter into full mom mode until about 8:00 pm. I try to push all things work-related out so my energy can be spent on managing emotions, sibling battles, cooking dinner, bribing them to eat said dinner, working through homework and reading, then it’s bedtime.
I find a trashy TV show, open my computer and finish out whatever is pressing on my list. I clear out my inbox, add any items to tomorrow’s Jell list, and spend my evenings focused on our brand’s task list. Whether it’s our website redesign, social media publishing schedule, blog and newsletter content, or working on marketing funnels for our online courses, doing this work at night gives me focused and undistracted time to wrap up what needs to be finished.
Since our team works virtually, we use several apps throughout the day that allows me the freedom to jump in and out of work mode and still know where projects and tasks stand. I know I mentioned Slack, but we also rely heavily on Google Drive and Teamwork to keep up with everything.
Even though my days aren’t very exciting, my lists are long, and raising kids is hard work, our clients need to feel like they have all of my attention and focus. Using all of these little tricks throughout my day is crucial if I am going to get it all done.
Juggling Squirrels Does Require Great Skill and Patience
Challenge No. 1: Managing all of the household AND work responsibilities
I read a meme the other day that described adulthood like that feeling as a kid when you fell on the trampoline but everyone keeps jumping so you can’t get up. That’s what my life feels like constantly! On top of work obligations, I have a 1st grader in Girl Scouts AND ballet. I am the room parent for both of my kids’ classrooms (don’t ask me why — and I don’t recommend this!). I became a business owner so I could be a part of my girls’ activities, but man is it a juggling act! On the good weeks when I have a solid handle on things, I use my time after school to work on anything involving their activities or household responsibilities. I’m not talking cleaning — that’s an impossible feat for my family. I’m talking more about signing permission slips, paying bills, scheduling doctors appointments, etc. This way, I don’t have to think about it during my designated work time, and offices are still open to actually get things done.
Challenge No. 2: Staying focused on your own brand when everyone else needs your attention
Not sure if you have noticed yet, but we have been “building” our courses for over two years now. We are just now getting around to updating our website, and we still to this day don’t have business cards for Her Data Method. My advice, which I wish I would listen to more often, would be to schedule time each day to close everything client-related (including your email) and only focus on your company’s growth. Hopefully, you will always have client work and customers to take up your time, but what happens when you hit a slow season and suddenly need to find more clients? Melody and I use a calendar/planner called the Passion Planner that has a lot of space for setting goals and holding yourself accountable to those goals. If there is a project you want to finish, a partnership you are working to form or an event you are preparing for, set aside time every day to focus on JUST those goals. It might take you longer to get there, but the more time you make for those projects and tasks, the more likely you are to stick with them and get them done.
Challenge No. 3: Making time for our “passion project” that we want to turn into a full-time career
I think the same method above holds true for this situation too. It might not be during work hours, but I would say the most important time spent is on vetting your idea. Is this a company worth building? Is there a need for the solution I’ll be solving? Is there a large enough customer base with this specific need? If you can’t answer those three questions, you aren’t ready to fully commit to this. You can find lots of exercises online that follow the LEAN business model, OR… you can take our course! In Intro to Data Collection, you will take your idea through a fundamental process (which we did too late so now you don’t have to make the mistakes we did!) and really establish the baseline for either building or growing your company. You’ll define your value proposition, your mission statement and identify who the customers are that you are trying to reach.
One more thing …
On the days where you feel like you are drowning and you just can’t seem to get yourself above water, we give you Newman. Melody’s daughter, Mary, has a new roommate at college who came with a support cat. Newman is now supporting all of us through all the photos Mary shares of his cuteness and joy.
I encourage you to find a place of solace, whether that’s means listening to Happiness Frequency Video on YouTube to boost your seratonin levels, a funny podcast or finding your own support animal. Find something to retreat to, allow time to regain your focus, then go get back to being the badass we know you are!