No more having to show up at certain time in an office. No more set meetings filling your calendar. And you keep getting Instagram notifications, and you just remembered you haven’t watered your plants this week, and…is it lunch time yet?
“Getting into a rhythm of how to structure work time and an optimal working environment is a challenge that I see almost every new freelancer/independent/entrepreneur face,” says Alison Gilbert, founder of Project AG. Gilbert is a pastry chef turned COO turned business strategist and coach, and she’s helped over forty entrepreneurs across industries clarify their focus, set strategies, and create strong foundations for growth. “It’s a universal and normal part of the experience of transitioning into an entrepreneurial way of living.”
It’s especially difficult because there are so many new responsibilities you’re taking on and adapting to, and creating new habits such as how and where and when to work draws on your energy just as much as working with a new client or developing a new recipe.
To help, Gilbert shared some of her best tips to fight distraction, get focused, and hone in on maximum productivity. In other words, you’re totally going to kill it.
3 Tips to Fight Distraction as an Entrepreneur
1. Figure out how to toggle between “inspiration” and “doing-the-work” modes.
“To be an entrepreneur is to be a creative. And fundamental to the creative process is toggling between inspiration mode and doing-the-work mode. These two activities require a different set of circumstances to yield the desired outcome.
For inspiration mode, do you need a stretch of uninterrupted time to let yourself go down the rabbit hole of the internet? Or time to go walk around or visit a museum to jog those creative juices? For doing-the-work mode, do you need to work alone, first-thing in the morning to be most productive? Or do you know being at a cafe jamming all day on your headphones will be the environment that best suits you?
Don’t try to apply a prescription for how to manage your to-do list. What works for one person may not work at all for you and vice versa.”
2. Schedule your week in advance.
“Nurture the habit of planning and looking at your week ahead. Carve out some time on a Sunday or a Monday to look at your week, determine what you want to get out of it and what tasks and activities need to get done.
Then, gut-check on what mode you need to turn on for those upcoming activities and tasks and use your Google calendar or calendar of choice to time block for those tasks and activities. If you know that you have a bunch of doing-the-work mode tasks and that you are best at knocking all those out in the morning, time block and hold spots on your calendar specifically for doing-the-work mode tasks.
If you know you need a long stretch of time to explore and be free in your mind to gather inspiration, time block a long stretch of time on the calendar on a day that feels most optimal.
3. Do a distraction audit.
“We underestimate how many breaks we need to get work done. The more we are firing on all cylinders, which we pretty much always are as entrepreneurs, the more we need to give our brain muscles a breather. Feeling distracted is usually a signal that we’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even excited about the tasks before us. And, approached in a mindful way, distractions can actually be a healthy way of navigating overwhelm.
Do a distraction audit. Determine what distractions are helpful to you and know which ones are not. A distraction should be something that helps you escape so that you can return to the task at hand more charged and with your brain refreshed and re-energized. Even if at face value a certain distraction seems “bad,” be honest with yourself. Once you indulge in that distraction do you feel you’ve had an escape? Do you feel you come out of indulging in that distraction more fresh minded? Then proceed and plan for those distractions to be a part of your process.
A lot of people have this idea that the ongoing Instagram checking is really bad for us, and when not used in a mindful way it can be. But perhaps checking Instagram—and looking at beautiful aspirational spaces, or checking in on what your friends are doing, or getting lost in an abyss of adorable puppy videos—is what helps your mind escape to then re-energize.
Or maybe letting the dishes pile up in the sink until they become so distracting that you have to take action, maybe that’s your personal insurance policy to have an escape because doing the dishes clears your mind. The key here is energy management. You want to expend less energy fighting the distraction fight so you can use that energy for the work you need and want to do.” You know, from accounting spreadsheets to taste testing which vegan ice creams to recommend to clients.