How to avoid overwhelm and stay focused in your business, Part 1

The internet is a noisy place, and if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get distracted.

Instagram! Pinterest! The perfect website! Email marketing! Ecourses! Webinars!

There’s so much that you could be doing to grow your business — although if you’re being honest with yourself it probably feels like it’s stuff you should be doing, right?

The problem is this: there are still a limited number of minutes and hours that you can actually dedicate each day to moving the ball forward and building your own little creative empire. The only way to make the most of the time you have is to FOCUS.

How to avoid overwhelm and stay focused in your business. Tips for goal setting, saying no, and being more productive as a blogger and creative entrepreneur or business owner. #productivity #creativeentrepreneur #goalsetting #focus #goals

We all know what a lack of focus looks and feels like: Scattered activity. Half-done projects. Stalled progress. Overwhelm.

Ugh. Who wants that? Not me, and I’m betting not you.

Fortunately for us, we have options. You, my lovely friend, have options.

You can choose how you spend your time and what you say yes to.

You can prioritize the things that matter the most to you, to your business, and to your customers and clients and readers.

And on the flip side, you can say “not now”, “not yet”, or just straight up “NO” to the things that won’t get you the maximum return on your investment, be it time, money, or effort.

Choosing to do these things is how you exercise focus in your creative business.

And when you do, here’s what you get: targeted, consistent progress on the things that matter most.

I’ll take a little more of that, please!

BUUUUUUT…. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Because again: Distraction. So.Many.Things. SHINY STUFF.

Yeah, I feel you.

So for the next couple of posts, let’s walk through some ways that you can actually practice focus in your creative business. We’ll start with some big picture stuff today, and then next time we’ll talk tips and tricks for making the big picture happen.

Ready? Pour yourself a beverage, grab a pen and paper, put aside your phone for a second (little bonus focus tip for you right there), and let’s jump in!

Set goals

Here’s a question for you: Where are you going? Why does it matter? What are you really trying to accomplish in this area of your business or life?

Okay, that was three questions.

But here’s the point. If you want to be able to focus on something and make progress on it, you need to know what, why and how.

  • What is it that you want to achieve?

  • Why is it so important?

  • How will you do it?

  • How know you’ve achieved it?

Goals help you answer those questions and give you a roadmap so that you can get to where you’re going with as few dead ends, U-turns, and detours as possible.

Sadly, I don’t have the space in this post to go in-depth on goal-setting (and more importantly, goal-achieving), so for now, let’s just leave it at this super short and condensed process:

  1. Go through the four questions above (What, Why, How, How) and brainstorm your answers to those questions.

  2. Using your notes, identify 3-5 goals that will move you in the direction you’ve said you want to go. Make sure you have short, clear answers to your What / Why / How / How questions for each goal.

  3. Once you’ve got some clear action items figured out, write them in your calendar (make time for them!) and then go DO THEM.

As you’re setting your goals, I recommend starting with the big picture and then breaking things down into smaller chunks based on these time frames:

  • Yearly

  • Quarterly

  • Monthly

  • Weekly

  • Daily

If setting yearly goals feels too overwhelming, no worries! Go with quarterly instead. If that’s too big, start with monthly. There are no wrong answers or perfect way here — it’s just about finding something that works for you. Pick something manageable and start with that. You’ve got this, friend.

The point here is to make some choices about what is important for you right now, and how you’re going to focus on those important things in a practical way. That’s what goal-setting does.


Choose the things you won’t focus on right now

Once you’ve chosen what you’re going to focus on, it’s time for a reality check: What are you not going to focus on?

Here’s the thing: The biggest enemy of focused, targeted work is distraction. Shiny object syndrome. The “things I should do because everyone else is doing them and I feel like I ought to” list. Or, just as bad, the “things I want to do because they’re fun / make me feel good, even if they don’t get me the best results for my effort” list.

I’ll say it again, because it’s important: The biggest enemy of focused, targeted work is distraction.

If you want to be laser-focused in your creative work — and enjoying the rewards that come with it — then it’s time to start saying no to things.

And when I say “start saying no to things”, I don’t just mean the time-wasting stuff that just sucks up your time and effort and doesn’t give anything back (I’m lookin’ at you, Facebook scroll).

I also mean the things that are really good, but don’t help you accomplish your goals right now. The things that take your eyes off the prize and move you away from that point on the horizon you’re working so hard to get to. It’s not that they’re bad things, and maybe they’re working really well for others — but for you, for right now, it’s better to say no.

Sometimes no means “not now”.

Sometimes no means “not yet”.

Sometimes it just straight up means “NOPE, not doin’ that”.

Why? Because you need to say no to good things to focus on the best things.

So here’s the question: What are current or potential areas of distraction in your business? You have your goals set out, and you know what you need to be doing. What are the things you shouldn’t be doing in order to focus on what’s important?

Maybe it has to do with how you’re using social media, or the projects you’re dedicating your energy to, or incoming requests for your time or expertise that need to be put on hold or declined. Whatever it is, I’ll bet there are a few things popping into your mind right now that you know qualify.

And next, here’s my challenge for you: Now that you’ve got a list of goals and actions you’ll be focusing on, it’s time to make a second list — one that identifies the things you’re choosing not to focus on.

Keep that list with your goals. Post it on your bulletin board, or save it in Trello or Asana or Evernote.

Practice saying “no”… and watch your focus increase as a result.

That’s it for today, friend. Next time, we’ll look at some practical ways to choose focus in the day-to-day of running your business and making things happen! That post is now live -- you can read it right over here

Along with the next post, I also have a guided workbook for you that will help you take everything we’ve talked about here and apply it to your business. It’s called Reset Your Focus, and it’s got worksheets, notes pages, and a step-by-step process to help you ditch overwhelm and regain momentum in your creative business. Head over here to learn more!