I know I'm a sucker for distractions from my online business – but what on earth has a ballet dancer got to do with it?

Well, quite simply, when I was considering a focus for my post, I was reminded of a dancing technique called “spotting” that dancers use to maintain control of their balance and direction of travel.

I turned to Wikipedia for a better explanation and found the following:

The goal of spotting is to attain a constant orientation of the dancer's head and eyes, to the extent possible, in order to enhance the dancer's control and prevent dizziness.

So – no – I haven't started a website about dancing. I'm just using this as an illustration of how I sometimes feel I am spinning out of control, and hoping to find a solution!

Types of Distractions

Family – Of late I have had urgent family distractions, and those just have to take top priority.

Technical – I'm sure everyone else gets them, but I just seem to sink deeper and deeper into the mire with these. I was happily blogging away and someone very kindly warned me that my site was showing up as having malware on it, which obviously needs fixing urgently. (Update July 2016: These technical problems escalated until they were taking so much time, and causing me so much stress that it was worth my while to pay for Managed WordPress Hosting with Pressidium. Too expensive? NOT when I compare it to the time I was wasting trying to fix matters that were beyond my competence.)

Quick Jobs – I showed someone some pictures and they asked me to zip them up and email them. Five minute job? Oh no… not for me.

  • I had upgraded Winzip earlier in the week – but now it's telling me I am not upgraded
  • I used another free program and now my email program tells me the zip is too big to send. It's NOT, it's just 79kb after zipping
  • I tried to login to my webmail to see if my mailbox was full (that's another problem I have to fight some time) and I can't even do that, so email technical guy and wait….

The “Day Job” – My blogging is a part-time venture, and “the day job” pays the bills of living to a comfortable standard. So it has to come first, and boy has it taken up some time of late – which is good news in one way, but not good for my blogging business! Don't even get me started….

Lack of Control – I had a little online business pootling away merrily, but it relied on one supplier, who suddenly said I could no longer trade worldwide. This was lack of foresight on my part left me high and and took a long while to “fix”.

magic-compNew Things To Learn – I have much to learn on this blogging journey, and I keep coming across things I need to learn about. I'm not talking about fast income made by applying some magic 5-click formula. In my blogging community I have found so many great mentors (too many to mention for fear of missing someone out) I trust and want to follow that I am finally cured of chasing “Bright Shiny Objects”. But there is so much I'm eager to learn I hardly know where to start!

The Ballerina?

In trying to focus on my intended direction of travel I find my eyes continually pointing in one direction but I need to bring them back to my intended direction.

It's not just ballerinas who spin! Cars sometimes have spinning wheels, and that means they are going nowhere. They may be sinking in quicksand as I sometimes feel I am sinking in problems and/or information. This can be more commonly known as ‘information overload’ or ‘paralysis by analysis’.

The Dangers Of Free Information

It's tempting, when starting an online business to garner as much free information as possible – but you will quickly find that “free” comes with the price tag of your email address and a series of emails coming afterwards with the specific aim of distracting my attention elsewhere.

I'm learning now to be very selective about who gets my email address. I know who I want to follow, and I can either follow them on RSS feeds or on my blogging community – or I just go find their blogs!

Another danger of “free information” is that I maybe won't value it as much as a course I have paid for.

Just like the ballerina we need to direct and maintain our focus, to avoid spinning out of control and to keep traveling in the correct direction.

The Danger of Loss of Focus

Focus is one of those ‘by-words’ that people just take for granted that they understand. They (and I) believe they are focused because they commit to sit down at their computer and ‘do’ business for X number of hours.

Then distractions such as my list above occur and I go deeper and deeper into the quicksand trying to fix them.

With some distractions, although you think you are “working hard” you might actually be wasting your time because you are not focused on your end goal; the worst part is if you succumb too often to that type of activity you will start to spin your wheels.

But obviously some of these problem are so urgent that they need solving immediately. If my site is showing malware and my emails are not “going” I can be blogging away to my heart's content but to what purpose?

At the end of some days I feel I have worked “hard” but only at fire-fighting. From this post you will probably gather that today has been one of those days. At the rate I am going I will probably end it with more problems than I started with. (Although hopefully at least I will have one finished article!)

How To Decide Which Tasks To Focus On

The great author Stephen Covey developed a method of classifying tasks in a quadrant according to Urgency and Importance. If you're not familiar with it, Google it.

Try Stephen Covey's method when you are deciding how to prioritize your tasks and decide what you should focus on next.

How to Focus When Starting an Online Business

I won't turn this into an article on Goal Setting, because you'll find plenty of those on-line, just be sure you HAVE a goal – and most important of all, know WHY you are starting your online business.

You will probably first of all come up with a long-term goal. But you'll quickly find you need to set short-term goals, because personally I find that to focus on long-term goals allows me too much scope to “stray” into the realms of “possibilities”.

  • To stay focused on my short-term Goals I keep Google Calendar permanently opencalendar in my Browser (in fact it's my default start page). I have tasks assigned to each day, and if a task hasn't been finished by the end of the day, I move it onto the next day. Pop-up reminders make sure I don't miss something important.
  • For medium-term goals, make lists and commit to doing at least one thing on the list regularly (say once a week). Stick with it until you thoroughly explore it as a possibility.
  • I have distinct “email” slots in the day, but for the rest of the time I try to ignore my email through the day – glancing over only the email that is from known senders. For instance if I saw an urgent message from a Day Job client, that needs to be checked. (Note the word ‘glance’ here – don’t get involved!) Your email in-box looks like a war zone, right? So make folders or labels for each program or product. Just shuffle the emails into the appropriate folders or projects.
  • Use the Facebook “Save” feature to set to one side articles you want to follow up
  • Take the phone off the hook, or if that's too drastic screen calls with an answerphone. I have found that if people are prepared to leave a message it's probably important – otherwise the call is for THEIR purposes. Usually to sell me something.
  • If you work from home, make sure that friends and family understand that you being at home isn't open season for long chats and cuppas through the day. They wouldn't do it if you were working for an employer. Set their expectations politely.
  • Shut down Social Media windows / Skype it's just too tempting to pop over and look at the next joke or interesting article. It's not best practice if you have the time to do it “properly”, but I automate much of my Social Media posting. Again I allocate myself a slot in the day when I am allowed to “Like” cats and dogs and share articles that might be useful on my pages. I've written elsewhere about Automating my Social Media.
  • Set timers – allocate yourself a set period of time to do a job and set an alarm on RescueTimeyour phone to stop at that point. You'll probably have to go back and refine what you did, but with practice you'll get used to working to a deadline.
  • Use some of the free Time Recording software available online. You'll probably scare yourself to death as you see how your time dribbles away. I tried a few, but the one I like best is Rescue Time. I use the free version. There IS a paid version, but the free version was perfectly fine for me.

Your Best Tips To Focus On Your Business

Over to you now, please!

  • Do you find it hard to focus on your business?
  • What distractions do you find hardest to cope with?
  • And finally, please share your own best tips for focusing and avoiding distractions from your online business goals.