4 Ways to Stay Focused When You Feel Pulled in a Million Directions

If you aren’t organized or thoughtful about how you plan your days, you’ll soon see that you’re off track on your most important goals.

Learning how to be an effective planner as an entrepreneur and changemaker has a learning curve. You need to find a planning method that works for you and make following that plan part of your job as you lead your social enterprise.

In the second year of The Sedge, I learned a big lesson about time management as an entrepreneur. I’d recently returned to Canada from my time in Chile and was surprised by all the social innovation that had surged. I was excited to get involved, so I ended up taking a few volunteer roles to connect with these people and organizations.

After 6 months, I noticed that I’d stopped hitting milestones with my own work. Even though these volunteer projects were wonderful things happening in my community, I realized I was ignoring my own passion and purpose.

In reality, there were a lot of different people who could’ve helped with those volunteer projects, but only I could be responsible for leading The Sedge forward. If I wasn’t 100% focused on moving it forward, nothing else was going to happen with it.

I had to get intentional with how I was spending my time. These 4 things are what really helped me stay focused and get back to my top priorities.

 

#1 – Fill Your Life with Important Things First

When you think about all the things you want to be involved in, imagine that your life is a jar. There’s a limited amount of space and if you fill the jar with medium-size rocks or second-level priorities, you won’t be able to add the large rocks or your top priorities because there won’t be any room.

If you flip that around and put the bigger rocks in first, it’s actually easier to fill in the jar with smaller stones and everything else you’d like to add.

You can fit everything in your life as long as you fill those main priorities first. Make sure your main thing is a main thing in your calendar.

 

#2 – Track Your Time

When I felt like I wasn’t making progress on the goals I really wanted to achieve, I started to track my time. I went into my calendar and added up all the meetings I went to and time I spent on other projects. It ended up being 10-20 hours a week spent on these extra things. While they were connected to my work, they weren’t moving my goals forward.

If you’re not making progress toward your goals and you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, track your time like I did.

Then ask yourself, “Am I leaving enough time to do the thing that I say is most important to me?”

You might be surprised where you’re actually spending the majority of your time. More often than not, you’ll find that your priorities aren’t aligned with how much time you’re spending on each thing.

 

#3 – Learn to Say No

After I analyzed my calendar, I found that I had too many commitments and not enough time to focus on my goals for The Sedge. When you find yourself in this situation, you have to learn how to say no and funnel away the things you don’t have time for.

You have to make space for the less urgent, but more important goals if you want to move forward with them.

To do this I stepped down from several projects, which was a bummer. Sometimes it’s hard to step down and let someone else take over. I just reminded myself that someone else can take over these roles, but only I can lead my company.

You can always be involved to a lesser extent. If there’s a charity or nonprofit you want to be a part of, you can support them as their biggest fan, even if being on their board isn’t possible. That’s still a great way you can be involved, but have a lesser commitment.

 

#4 – Get Clear on Your Goals

If you aren’t clear on what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them, other things will seep in and take over your time. In order to put the big rocks in your jar first, you need to know what they are and you need to stuff them in the jar right away.

Get clear on your priority or milestone and make sure it’s front and center. You can even put up a sticky note to remind yourself of your main goal. Once you’ve taken care of that, you can move on to the other important things.

Set your S.M.A.R.T goal, but don’t just leave it there. Break down your goal into milestones and actions you can do every day to make progress. If your goal is a year long, break it down month by month. Work back from the big picture and figure out what baby steps you need to be taking every day to work toward your goal.

Map out what you need to get done today to work toward that goal. Your plans have to be purposeful and systematic to keep you on track.

 

 

Once I did these things, I was more conscious about planning my days. I connected my major goals to my granular to-do list so that I was working toward what I wanted to accomplish every single day.

I’ve used this system for a while and ended up turning it into the Changemakers GPS planner. This planner goes through the exact changes I made to my schedule including getting clear on your goals, deciding what actions to take, and tracking your progress.

If you can’t lead yourself forward to make progress, it won’t happen because no one else is going to do it for you. I know you want to share your gifts in so many ways, but I urge you to focus and prioritize so you can reach that big goal of yours first.

 

Want more detail + behind the scenes nuggets on this topic? Watch the video that inspired this blog post:

 

 

This is part of a 4 week daily challenge to share lessons learned over my first 4 years of launching and growing The Sedge social enterprise!

Take a look at the full list of behind-the-scenes stories and my top 20 lessons learned: 

4 Year Throwback: Top 20 Lessons Learned From My First 4 Years in Business

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