How to focus your entrepreneurial skills

Pads, laptops and smart phones are now part of almost every entrepreneurs business arsenal, and with the tendency to do things on the go, it is essential to be organised and avoid easy distractions. You can learn to do almost anything if you focus, but entrepreneurs often have so much going on it’s a hard thing to do.

Here Dr. Stephen Fear, businessman and Ambassador for the British Library Business & IP Centre, outlines some key skills you should hone in order to be an entrepreneurial success:

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Learn to speed read

Speed reading is a skill I rely on heavily which improves my productivity, knowledge and education and in turn helps my business succeed. However, it is only possible if you are 100% focused on the task in hand. My analogy regarding speed reading:  if you were driving a car at 200mph, you would pass road signs – which although you are glimpsing them quickly, you would read and understand – as you have to in order to remain in one piece.  Therefore, if you scan a document whilst speed reading, you will understand the document and take in the information – as long as you are focused 100% on the task in hand.

Do one thing at a time

Dealing with more than one thing at a time is impossible regardless of what people may say. Of course you are able to run things through your mind which can appear as if you are thinking of lots of things at the same time. But in reality you are not, you are thinking chronologically at great speed, not simultaneously, which means that your mind is flitting from one thing to another, increasing your stress levels as it does so. Don’t fall into this trap: concentrate on one thing at a time, until there is nothing more you can do on that particular thing and then pick up the next.

Employ a clean desk policy

I have two desks in my office set apart by an old swivel chair which I have owned for a very long time. One desk is surrounded by files and paperwork. My in-tray sits on this first desk usually looking overloaded, and my laptop sits alongside. My other desk is empty.

Over the years I have found it very distracting to have too many things in my line of sight. I get agitated and feel overloaded to the extent it will affect my productivity. By swivelling my chair around and away from the pile of work behind me I am able to clear my mind and focus on the one file or item in hand.

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Photo credit: Sam Lane

Do the thing you dislike first

Another technique that I have developed over the years is doing the thing I dislike the most first. Never ever leave it untill last. Attack it, get it done and watch the stress drop off leaving you to relax into the more pleasurable tasks ahead. So if you are putting off that phone call to the bank, don’t put it off any longer- just do it! You’re going to have to ring eventually, so do it now and save yourself the stress of all the things that ‘might’ result running through your mind all day.

Streamline your meetings

You also need to ensure that people around you are organised, this will in turn improve your own ability to focus and ultimately deliver. Always prepare an agenda ahead of a meeting and, where possible, share this 24 hours in advance of the meeting; list all the items in the order you would like them discussed.

Make sure that people are allocated individual actions post-meeting and ensure they take ownership of that particular task during that section of the agenda before moving on. Note the date by which the action will be completed and make a diary note for yourself.

Stay on the main highway! This is important because meetings have a habit of drifting if you allow them to. Don’t waste time by allowing personal discussions to develop during the meeting. There is plenty of time after for people to reminisce about their holidays!

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Photo credit: Sam Lane

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As an entrepreneur you can often feel isolated and don’t know who to turn to. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help in order to help you focus.  Staff in the British Library Business & IP Centre provide hour-long advice sessions, to talk through your ideas in confidence and help you to identify the information and organisations which will help you develop your business ideas and a business plan.

Dr. Stephen Fear, businessman and Ambassador for the British Library Business & IP Centre

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