Focusing Your Attention to Achieve Your Goals

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Missing the Target

Over the last year or so I’ve generally had several things on the go at once, which I thought was the way to achieve your goals, turns out I was wrong. I don’t think I realised how much I was trying to do until I started writing down the things that I’ve been looking at:

  • Work and research for contract clients
  • Developing an app
  • Building several websites
  • Marketing an app
  • Writing articles for codenutz
  • Managing and designing elements of codenutz (contact forms, logos etc)
  • Writing some guest blog posts
  • Research and learning to keep up with the latest tech
  • Evaluating several different business opportunities such as affiliate sites, drop ship businesses, a software development service, e-commerce sites etc.

And the list goes on!

The Problem

I’ve been feeling that I’m not really moving forward towards achieving my goals (identifying my goals is whole other story!). When I took a step and looked at the list of ‘stuff I’m trying to do’ its clear that I’m trying to do way too much, and nothing really well.

Part of the problem is that I love to learn things and be exposed to new challenges. I’ve certainly learned a lot over the 18 months thats for sure, among other things:

  • I’ve learned how to write Java for Android and what it takes to market an app, and get an app published.
  • I’ve learned how to build a chrome extension and get it published to the Chrome store.
  • My understanding of SEO and the various black, grey and white hat techniques is now great.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time testing markets and using minimum viable products to learn.
  • I know have a much better understanding of what it takes to make a blog successful.
  • I have a good knowledge content marketing and its applications.

The real problem with this is that learning new things is not my primary goal right now – getting a startup business up and running is. From this it was clear that I’ve been lacking in focus, and that something needed to change.

The Solution MkⅠ

The solution to this problem is clear – focus. This is a lot easier to say than do, but focusing on fewer things is the most important decision I’ve made in a long time. It hasn’t been easy and has required me to do a few things

  1. Identify my goals.
  2. Clarify my goals.
  3. Identify all of my options and different things I could be doing.
  4. Distill that list down to the ones I would most enjoy doing, and have the best chance of achieving my goals.
  5. Pick the one idea that I’m going to pursue.
  6. Say no to everything else.

This has been really difficult for me as its really hard to say goodbye to the other things I’d really like to pursue, but focusing on the end goal has to take priority. The other thing I’ve kept in mind is that just because I’m saying no now, doesn’t mean I cant tackle one of them in the future.

There is one big wrinkle though!

The Complication

One thing that I hear a lot is that in order to do get a business off the ground, you have to ‘take the plunge’.

I’m not really employed by anyone, but I’m generally working in a contract role on my clients’ site(s). This means that whilst I’m on my clients time, I’m focusing on the work I’m doing for them. I’m a strong believer in delivering value for my clients, developing strong relationships and being totally open and honest. As far as I’m concerned these principles cannot change as its how I expect to be treated in return.

A second thing that I’m determined to do is get a profitable start-up up and running without completely dropping the contracts. A lot of the time this is strongly advised against, but I really believe its something I can make work. I will fully admit that it makes things more difficult and means more personal sacrifice, but right now I’m committed to giving it a try.

So the big wrinkle that I mentioned is that for at least a large part of my time my goals are my clients goals, and delivering value for them is the most important thing.

The Solution MkⅡ

The impact of this second problem is that I cannot commit my full time and attention to my personal goals. To deal with this I have acknowledged that:

  • I have to consciously shift my focus between when I’m working for my contract clients, to when I am working on my other project(s).
  • I have to prioritize my goals and workload.

To consciously shift my focus I have started ‘priming’. Priming is a technique I first heard of on a Pat Flynn podcast whereby you perform a certain task, or just do something before you start working in order to get yourself into the work zone. In Pats example he likes to wash the dishes before getting stuck in to doing some writing. For me I’m using a this technique by doing 30 minutes of exercise before switching my focus.

In Conclusion

I’ve learned a great deal over the past 18 months, some of which has been invaluable. I will always have a desire and drive to learn, but if that takes priority then achieving other goals may be impossible. Starting a business can be difficult and having a clear focus is really important which is why (I think) so many successful entrepreneurs insist that you must take the plunge.

With all this in mind the following things can be really helpful when trying to start your own business whilst having a significant other commitment:

  1. Prioritize: Prioritize your goals, keeping the list as small as possible. Preferably 1 item, at the most 3. Write these goals down, clarify them and check yourself against them often.
  2. Plan: Decide on what is going to get you to your goal, commit yourself to it and make a plan.
  3. Milestones: Break down your plan into as many milestones as possible to help you check yourself along the way.
  4. Pivot: Be prepared to pivot your plan when your business demands it, but only when your business demands it – don’t pivot because your are bored, and don’t pivot too far away from the core purpose of your business.
  5. Focus: Don’t try to do juggle lots of different projects as you’ll never be able to keep all of those balls in the air.
  6. Priming: Use priming to switch yourself from your focus on one priority, to another.
  7. Rituals: Adopt and monitor daily rituals to do things like keep yourself healthy and focus your attention.

This is probably a list I’ll revisit and change over time, as I learn and understand more the recipe for success. For now though I’d love to hear anything that you do to keep you on track, so please leave a comment with ideas, tools and techniques.

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