Angel investors and VCs have a rule of thumb that they would rather invest in a great team over a great idea. Entrepreneurs who possess traits like hard work, adaptability and integrity are those who make the grade.
Perhaps it’s time we add the ability to focus to the list.
In an age of increasing connection – connection to news, e-mail, friends, colleagues, stats and more, we are never more than a click away from anything.
The fancy new gadgets that come out each year only further our ability to stay “on top of things.” Unfortunately, that may mean staying on top of your Twitter feed or ESPN 360 as much as your Google Analytics.
How can an entrepreneur avoid the alluring siren song of all those non-essential things just a click away? How can they add “focus” to their list of strong characteristics only investors can love?
Recognize the Problem
Like any good rehabilitation program, the first step is recognizing the distractions that eat away at your productivity as an entrepreneur. After all, if you don’t think you have problem, there’s no way to start fixing it.
You can do this the old fashioned way, by simply taking note of where you spend your time each day. Are you interrupted by instant messages while working on client proposals? Do you leave all your social networking accounts throughout the day?
This gets back to the 80/20 rule, clichÃ© as it has become. Take an assessment of all the things you do in operating your business for one week. Now identify which actions produce the most results, and which actions do little of the sort. Work more on the ones that produce the most results (money, customers, subscribers).
There is also a litany of software solutions that can help you avoid distraction and organize your work. Seemingly all inspired by the infamous work by Tim Ferris, The 4 Hour Workweek, give these a try:
Basecamp – Organize and manage projects.
RescueTime – Automated tracking of where you spend time throughout the day (Google Analytics for your work day)
NutShellMail – Bottle up all your social network alerts into one daily email.
How to Get Focused
Another interesting take on slaying the pitfalls of the Age of Distraction is being hashed out by entrepreneur and writer Scott Scheper. Scott’s book-in-the-works, How to Get Focused, pleads with all of us to realize the effect focus has in making a business a success.
In one chapter/post, entitled “Giving Up Your Cell Phone,” he experiments by abandoning his iPhone for a standard-issue talking box and gives us these anecdotes:
“It was a great device. It was a horrible device.”
“In my specific case, giving up the phone was geared towards disconnecting from the internet. I wanted to extinguish constant email checking, tweet checking, new app downloads and finding blog posts to kill time.”
Your Path to “Focus”
Regardless of how you harness the power of focusing for success, there’s no denying the positive effects of 80/20 and balancing how you spend your time for the better.
We may already be living in a time when the difference between a successful venture and the one that turns to dust depends on focus. My fellow investors beware.