The Entrepreneur’s Focus Problem

You might never understand me. Heaven knows I don’t.

Am I a genius or an idiot? Maybe I’m neither?

Am I creative or practical? Can I be both?

I’m good at stuff I kind of like doing and struggle with what I love to do. Is that because my expectations are higher of myself when passion enters the equation? Is it that I’m so excited I can’t calm my thoughts down long enough to really dig in? Or is it because I honestly just suck at it?

Either way, I still choose passion.

The brain of an entrepreneur, if I may call myself that, is never still. It never rests. It’s constantly lurching from idea to idea, and if it could just get out of its’ own way, maybe some shit would get done…

The challenge I know I face as an entrepreneur is focusing. Keeping on-task in the face of immeasurable potential and unlimited ideas and options is not a small feat. I fail daily, if not hourly, to stay one hundred percent focused on the task in front of me. I have so many thoughts, so many ideas, and as a person who’s an owner in an app development company, I know that our team has the ability to make my thoughts into a concrete, tangible product. So why WOULDN’T I get excited about the potential of that new game idea or phone utility that exists only in the concept stage of my mind?

An entrepreneurship mentor once told me “Embrace your inner squirrel” and, for a guy who’s brain veers left and right like a running back avoiding a tackle, that really hit home. My brain doesn’t work in a linear fashion, and forcing myself to work that way is only going to bring on anxiety, frustration, and probable failure. Finally figuring out how my thoughts work has REALLY helped me with this whole “Getting Things Done” process.

I’m going to share a couple things that have really helped me let my brain work like it needs to while still staying on task. Before I get to that, however, I’d like to point out that you are special. No, not in the way your mother says you’re special… in the way that your brain in unique. Your thought processes may be incredibly similar to mine or completely different, but in either case, given the same exact data, I guarantee that we create entirely different results. That’s what so awesome about humans; How much we share in common while maintaining such singular individuality.

Where am I going with this… right… “get on with it, man…”

What I’m saying is that this works for ME, and that is great, but it may not work the same for you. You may need to tweak some aspects, and you may need to ignore literally every word when applying this to your own process. Don’t think of this as a ‘how to’ guide, think more like this is a ‘case study’ I’ve conducted on myself. Fair? Okay… let’s go.

teammatesFirst ‘tip’ (if you want to call them that) is to surround yourself with a good team. I honestly believe that a person can, and should, be judged by the company they keep. Nowhere is that more evident than in the workplace. The people a company hires is a direct reflection of what they are all about.

At the klaud, we have a great crew of brilliant, talented, and quite personable people working on all of our projects. Knowing they are all working on the project in front of us is motivation for me to stay on target, too. I sure don’t want to be the weak link in this chain. Surrounding myself with capable people means that I have to be accountable for keeping my part together and on pace with the collective.

Another suggestion I might toss out there is to have a consistent place to write things down. For me, I use Google Keep… probably the most under-rated tool in all of tech. It keeps all my notes saved and accessible across every platform. As a fan of post-it notes, it’s essentially a digital version of them with the exception that I have the post-it note covered whiteboard in my pocket (on my phone) or on my desk (on my computer) at a moment’s notice. Never do I need to search for a pen.

Google KeepIf you’re the type that like the tactile sensation of writing something with a pen or a sharpie, then maybe a notebook or an actual pad of post-its is more your style. If that’s the case, I would just suggest that it be within arms reach at all times. In my experience, the “I’ll write that down later” philosophy is often the equivalent of saying “I’ll forget that in about 25 seconds” and then losing that thought until you’re driving or somewhere else where you don’t have the ability to record the thought.

It’s not as important which method you choose as it is that you actually choose one. You’ll notice I said “have a CONSISTENT place” for writing your notes/ideas/thoughts, and I meant it. Whichever way you go about recording this information, make sure you’re always doing it, and constantly referring and revisiting that stuff. If you aren’t going to review it at some point, why did you bother writing it down?

How this helps me stay FOCUSED (you guys thought I wasn’t coming back around to this, didn’t you?) is that I can have a thought, record it super quickly, then get back to the task I was handling before. Knowing that I’ve recorded it in a CONSISTENT place that I know I’ll be reviewing later keeps the anxiety about “I need to act on this or it will be lost” at a minimum and, given enough practice, I can get rid of that anxiety altogether.

One last technique I’d like to share with you for staying on task is that sometimes, I just don’t. There are times when the entrepreneur’s brain is so dead-set on switching the subject matter that ignoring it is doing more harm than good. In those rare cases, I’ve actually set a timer on my phone or computer and allowed the focus shift. You need to make a deal with yourself that once that timer goes off, you really need to get back to the other goals so you don’t fall behind your team.

So if your brain works like mine, try implementing any of these tricks and let me know how that goes. I’d also love to hear if you guys have any other thoughts or methods you use. You can hit me up on twitter @markadamhfx or even email me directly at and I’ll be happy to chat with you!my workstation.jpg