If you’re an artist or creative building your business as an entrepreneur, you have no shortage of IDEAS, amiright? The problem for a lot of us is organizing those ideas and choosing which ones to put into action.
And add to it that, as an entrepreneur, we’re often wearing so many hats that we don’t know which one to wear in any given moment. Should I be a creator, a social media manager, a blogger, a strategist…what do I focus on today?
In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown discusses the importance of defining the thing that truly matters and then saying no to everything else. “You can do anything but not everything,” he says. If we can strip away the nonessential pieces of our day-to-day, what’s left are the rich, meaningful things that have purpose and allow us to make true progress.
Here are 7 things to try that will help you create better focus as a creative entrepreneur.
1. Stop trying to multitask. (But DO multipurpose.)
We have fooled ourselves with the idea of multitasking — believing we are being extraordinarily productive by hopping back and forth from answering emails while watching an art tutorial to sketching ideas and brainstorming strategies while jogging on a treadmill. Gary Keller said in his book The One Thing: “Multitasking is a lie … It’s an effective way to get less done.” Gary, my friends, is all too correct.
According to this article from the University of Southern California, when you focus on a task, your prefrontal cortex fires up. It communicates with the rest of your brain to help you complete said task. The brain is working as a team would. When you add a second task to the mix, it forces the brain to split in half and work independently of each other. Meaning you don’t get the benefits of full-brain focus. This causes you to make a lot more mistakes and forget details in both tasks.
So stop task-hopping. It’s tempting when you feel the need to make a social media post, learn calligraphy, add a new piece to your portfolio, update your website shop, check in on your quarterly goals, and send that email out to your list.
So instead of hopping around and expecting to do everything in one day, pull back and decide which 1 or 2 tasks are the most important to reach your current goals. Then be sure to create focus on one at a time.
But you’ll notice I put “DO multipurpose” in parentheses, however. This is all about working smarter, not harder, as I’m sure you’ve heard before. So this means creating blog posts that you can also multipurpose as social media posts and email newsletter content. Or doing a tutorial to learn a new skill but focus your project on making a piece of art that can fit your portfolio, be social media content, and get used for your own shop.
Multipurpose what you do, but don’t try to do different tasks at once.
2. Clean house on your task list.
In order to give more focus to the tasks that matter, you have to let go of what doesn’t. Yes, you might have to make hard choices. But do a full assessment of where you spend your time and decide what can be cut. If it can’t be cut, can it be delegated or outsourced to someone else? Are you spending a lot of time on tasks that give you very little return? (Maybe spending 45 minutes a day on Instagram reels that get 5 views isn’t worth it.) And on the contrary, is there a task which, if you did well, would give you a huge return? Think about focusing your energies on the tasks that fall into the latter category. If you can’t cut it and you can’t delegate it, can you at least minimize the time spent on it?
To really assess your list accurately, be sure to “zoom out” and decide what your ultimate goal is. Where do you want to be in 3 years? In one year? What can you accomplish in 3 months that will lead you closer to those goals? Keep breaking that down further. Those 3 month goals break down into monthly goals, then into weekly goals, then into daily goals and tasks.
3. Commit to a focus mini-session.
You don’t have to go all-in from the beginning. If you can’t devote an entire day to razor-sharp focus, then don’t. Choose an hour time-slot where you’ll be most likely to succeed. When do you have the most energy and the least distractions? Commit to focusing on a single task (one that you’ve chosen as top priority). Schedule this time into your calendar, and make it a daily thing. When you’re ready, expand that time slot as needed.
4. Block distractions.
Remove the temptations. Sometimes an overwhelm of ideas leads our brains to shut off and do “easy” tasks that either have absolutely no productive value — like scrolling your feed — or that have value but it’s just not a priority at that time — like cleaning out the junk drawer or clearing the downloads folder of your desktop.
If you can’t help but reach for your cell phone every five minutes, then put it on the other side of the room. Turn off notifications and put it in silent mode. Do this at least for your designated focus time. Do the same thing for your computer and your browser windows. Close out social media and email browser tabs, and if you have no willpower, there are apps that will block it out for you. Don’t make it hard on yourself by keeping all these distractions open and within arms’ reach. We are creatures of habit, and they say that old habits die hard. It takes a while to make changes, but always come back to what the benefits are and why you are making the changes in the first place.
5. Batch your tasks.
This will help you streamline your workflow so that it’s easier to create that focus. Organize your work week, to the best of your ability, so that you do similar tasks on the same day or in the same time period. For instance, maybe you do all your computer work on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Maybe you create all your social content on Monday. Maybe you make art on Wednesdays.
I actually organize my master task list for the week by categories (Use whatever works for you, but right now, for example, I have as categories: “Art Creation,” “Video Creation & Editing,” “Learning,” “Errands,” and “Computer & Brainstorming.” This helps me group tasks so that I can match up what needs to be done with what I’m actually in the mood for. (e.g. I tend to do writing in the morning because my brain just can’t do it after lunch.) Grouping also helps my brain make sense of how to space out the tasks through the week. And it also me to do small tasks in a batch at the same time, often with computer tasks. (e.g. sending customer invoices, scheduling the next email newsletter, and ordering new art supplies.)
6. Set (and maintain) your boundaries.
Put out a “Do Not Disturb” sign, whether that’s literal or simply in your own head. What does that mean, you ask? Well, for example, if you work in a shared space or perhaps you work from home and so does your partner (This is my experience!), be clear on your boundaries with whoever else is in the space. My husband and I came to the agreement that he would only knock if something needed immediate attention, and if possible, he would text me instead to be respectful of my focus time. I’ve also got a small whiteboard on my studio door so I can leave a message if I want him to avoid knocking.
As entrepreneurs and being our own bosses, we also have to set boundaries with ourselves and treat ourselves like the CEOs of our business. This sometimes means setting specific “working” hours and not getting distracted by housework, laundry, or dealing with personal tasks when you have promised yourself to use that time for growing your business. (This one took me a while to get, but I’m so much more productive on the business when I’m not trying to do it ALL at once.)
7. Get organized.
If you are going to strip away the nonessential, streamline your routine, and give your true focus to a few select tasks, you have to be organized. I’ve already mentioned zooming out to set clear goals and align them with your daily priorities and tasks. The good news is that once you set the big goals and commit to seeing them through, making all the other choices is much easier. So take the time to figure out what’s most important to you, and write it down. Schedule monthly and quarterly check-ins so that you stack on track with where your focus should be.
Take a few moments at the end of every day to plan out your next day. Being organized and sticking to it leads to less confusion about where you should spend your time, energy, and focus.
Take charge, my friend!
Want to hear the best news ever? You are the ruler of your own life. Whether or not you work for yourself or for an organization, you get to choose how you show up. Put these ideas into practice, and it won’t be long before you begin to see the results in your creative business that you’ve been longing for.