In this second exclusive extract from his new book, Entrepreneurial Spark co-founder Jim Duffy gives some advice on avoiding the danger signals:
Star Wars creator George Lucas has a great saying about focus: “Always remember – your focus determines your reality.”
He’s not wrong. Keeping insanely focused on your task, goals and vision is what the entrepreneur game is all about.
But it’s not always simple.
The enemies of focus
The first enemy of focus for entrepreneurs is a cheeky little distractor called ‘white noise’. When you’re an entrepreneur, you will be surrounded by people sharing their opinions. As Dirty Harry said, “Opinions are like assholes – everybody has one.”
Then there’s procrastination.
I see many entrepreneurs suffer from bouts of procrastination. They muddle along. They look like they are going to do something. You check in with them a week later. And they haven’t. They are sitting, waiting… procrastinating.
Thirdly, imagine that, out of nowhere, what you have created is blown away by a new competitor, business model or trend. You are motoring along, creating your new creation – and bang! It gets knocked out of the way.
This is called being blindsided. And it frustrates the hell out of entrepreneurs. It’s an enemy of focus because once it hits, believe me, you’ll find it hard as hell to focus – but it’s also a frequent result of a lack of focus. Blindsiding happens when you least expect it and are not planning for it. It comes out of nowhere like a tawny owl swooping down in the night.
How to find focus as an entrepreneur
Keep a GoDo List
What do I mean by a GoDo list? It’s not a glorified post-it note, like something you might stick on the fridge to remind you to buy milk. No, a GoDo list is action-oriented: massively action-oriented.
I know that by getting through it, it will bring about genuinely significant outcomes for both me and those I am working with.
Be obsessive about your task, ruthless about distractions
Another great tool for keeping focused is embracing being obsessed about the right things.
Sometimes you’ve just got to go all in.
You have to cut out the distractions. Lock yourself away in a remote cottage if that’s what it takes. Or just shut the door to your study, unplug the internet, put your phone on airplane mode, set an alarm for a few hours’ time – and GoDo. Give yourself every opportunity not to be distracted.
Know when to down tools
Probably one or two days a month, I am at sixes and sevens. I am unproductive and not really of any use to myself or others. When I realise that I am having ‘one of those days’, I down tools and consciously decide not to crack on with important stuff.
Imagine the unimaginable
The way to avoid getting blindsided is to always be on – even when in sleep mode. This does not mean that you have to be constantly awake, drinking gallons of coffee and chewing caffeine tablets. It simply means you need to be alive to the dangers out there – the threats that can knock you off course or chew you up.
An awareness that you could be out of business, irrelevant to people or that your ideas could be quickly executed upon by someone else at any time really helps you to focus. Oh yeah – it sharpens the senses.
Defrag your mind
Just as my old laptop needed a regular defragmentation, so do we as entrepreneurs. How you achieve this is actually quite a personal thing. There’s a whole raft of activities out there that are designed to help you focus and de-clutter. Some people like yoga, others a long brisk walk, some like to listen to music, others appreciate a Scotch.
However you choose to defragment is up to you. But it is essential that you do it regularly.
Tomorrow: Jim explains what he means by creating something special
* Create Special, Think and act like an entrepreneur to change your life by Jim Duffy MBE is published by Harriman House on 15 May (click on advert above right to order)