Action, not distraction: simple tricks to avoid wasting time

Amy Pay
Stay focused on your end goal by turning off your phone and scheduling short periods of ‘power-working’ - Andrew Crowley

Don’t let procrastination cost your business – listen to what these SME owners have to say about maintaining focus and maximising working hours.

Procrastination is ow never more than a click away – it’s all too easy to find your time disappearing into your smartphone or down a Google rabbithole.

But for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), every second counts. We spoke to experts from SMEs to get their advice on staying focused and dealing with distraction.

Set a detailed schedule

Maintaining focus is all about balancing long-term vision with short-term activities. When Cheryl Clarke, director of Ginger Marketing, needed to create an additional £3,000 of monthly turnover in 90 days, she used a structured goal-setting technique.

"I broke the 90 days into two-week chunks," she explains. "Every Sunday afternoon I booked tasks into my Google Calendar for the week ahead and colour-coded them to separate goal-related tasks and everyday business tasks."

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Using an online calendar gave Ms Clarke the flexibility to adjust her schedule when she finished something faster (or slower) than expected, ensuring that every moment of her time was used effectively.

"Every fortnight, I assessed where I was and adjusted things accordingly, which left no room for procrastination," she says. Using this method of flexible planning, Ms Clarke ended up bringing in £4,000 additional monthly turnover – and well ahead of her 90-day target.

Take control of your time

We all have 24 hours in a day, but PR professional Amanda Ruiz makes every second count by using a timer technique.

"I silence my phones, turn off alerts and close non-work browser windows, then set my kitchen timer for 30 minutes of power-working," she says. Once the alarm rings, she has five minutes to relax with her dog or walk outside before repeating the process. This keeps her focused and breaks up the spells of intense effort.

Rob Williams, co-founder of clothing company, Hawthorn, works on specific jobs at set times during the day so that he doesn't end up juggling tasks and losing focus. "It gives me the best chance of achieving what I set out to do. I still answer emails, but only in the allotted time," he says.

Keep your target in sight

Marcus Franck, founder of renewable energy technology company, Franck Energy, makes sure that he and his workforce have complete conviction in their end goal, as well as the progress towards it.

To launch, we focused very narrowly on the absolute priorities

Scott Phillips, Rise Art

"From the start, we’ve communicated the business aims transparently to every team member, which helps us to achieve optimum focus," he says. "Naturally, the team has an interest in renewables, but to minimise daily distraction, we structure regular company updates."

Having clear objectives is also crucial for Rise Art, an online marketplace for artists. Its four staff members got into the habit of honing in on tasks right from the outset.

"To launch, we focused very narrowly on the absolute priorities, blocking all distractions," says co-founder, Scott Phillips. "It gave us extra time to test and develop the product."

Take time to think

To keep the company's values and goals in sight, Mark Roberts of retailer, Beer Hawk, likes to take a step back and reflect without distraction. "Our team always has new ideas, most of which we could implement and see a positive effect from," he explains. "I have to choose the best, so I need space and thinking time.

"I’ve been in organisations where nobody takes responsibility for decisions, and I've learnt to set aside decision-making time, because the rewards are so fruitful.”

Alexa Mullane, founder of wellbeing company, Potion London, has learnt to say no, to keep her attention focused on the right areas.
She’s often approached by bloggers requesting samples, but now turns away those that don't fit her brand.

"It's tempting to grab every opportunity – be it an idea for a new line or a chance of coverage," she says. "However, it’s up to you to guide your SME in the right direction and stay on course."


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