When I began to take my first steps as a budding entrepreneur, I remember having big dreams about everything I could accomplish with my business. Dreams of bettering the lives of others, dreams of financial stability, and dreams of being able to quit my day job in order to spend more time with my family. At first, I was motivated and excited to start my business, but as the going got tough, I began to lose focus.
There was a time when I would wake up everyday, and find no motivation to continue doing what I thought I loved. It got to a point where I knew my lack of motivation would ultimately have a negative impact on the success of my business, but I still struggled with finding the drive to make progress happen.
What I learned from the experience is the value of motivation, and the value of discipline. There’s a significant difference between motivation and discipline, but it takes some time to truly understand why.
Motivation is fleeting and exciting; it comes and goes as your thoughts race from one vision to another. This gives you the natural drive to do something, but once that motivation passes, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut.
Discipline is quite different from motivation in that it’s not fleeting at all.
When you are disciplined, you don’t have to wait for the moment of inspiration to strike.
Rather you can teach yourself to accomplish important tasks even when you’re feeling less than motivated to do so. Discipline involves organization and planning, and it requires self-control to stay on task and on time. However, once you’ve mastered discipline, you’ll find yourself feeling more focused each day, and as a result you’ll become more productive – whether that be in the office or at home.
Learning self-discipline can be a challenge, but there are some simple ways you can reduce your distractions in order to stay focused on the task at hand. Focus doesn’t just happen, it requires discipline on your part to stay focused. For example, it takes discipline to continue working on your business plan after you’ve already spent 8 hours at the office, even though you know it’s easier to watch television instead.
Without a doubt, staying focused improves productivity. In fact, you’re likely spending much more time that you think doing unproductive tasks throughout the day, as it’s simply human nature for us to become distracted. On average, we spend around 2 hours a day distracting ourselves at the office, and we typically spend only 11 minutes on a task before we distract ourselves. While these distractions often disguise themselves as productive tasks (such as checking emails throughout the day), many times they are tasks that can be completed after the main task has been completed.
The key to staying focused is to resist any distractions thrown your way. While this isn’t always easy, there are some simple ways you can make the process more effective:
- Keep your work-space organized. One of the many ways we distract ourselves throughout the day is by spending more time than necessary searching for office supplies we need. When your desk is organized, not only will you spend less time look for paperwork you need or a pen to sign said paperwork, you will also have fewer distractions laying about on your desk.
- Get your task schedule organized. Knowing what you have to do and when you should be doing it is an excellent way to establish better focus. Creating a daily schedule with tasks you must do both at work and at home is an excellent way to remember each of your responsibilities, as well as keep you on task throughout the day. This should be done by prioritizing tasks that are most important, and setting daily minimums to achieve. From there, it’ll take discipline to really see a difference in your productivity, but by following a schedule you set for yourself, you’ll have visual representation of the work you’ve accomplished throughout the day, which in turn may work to motivate you.
- Organize your emails. In today’s business world, emails are something each of us use for important communication day in and day out. While this form of communcation is far less cumbersome than sending paperwork through the mail, emails can be a hassle to keep track of – especially if you’ve got a day job and a side business, with important emails coming in from each. Instead of using emails as a distraction throughout the day, only check your emails at designated times, which you should set each morning before you begin your tasks. Then, as you are checking your emails, sort them into relevant folders for easy access in the future. This will save you time when you are looking for a specific message, and will cut down on time spent away from other important tasks.
- Schedule your time spent online. We’ve all gotten distracted by our personal devices at some point throughout our work day. When you have access to a smartphone, tablet, and computer all at once, it can be difficult to stay away from Facebook for hours at a time. Avoid this distraction by scheduling social media time throughout the day, and stay away from your personal devices until that point in time. In fact, it’s typically a good idea to shut off all devices you do not need for work in order to minimize your distractions. In addition, time spent working away from the computer can be an excellent way to improve productivity, as many find themselves feeling more focused with a pen and notepad than with a computer and keyboard.