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Summary:

If you’re a small business owner or freelancer, you probably feel like you’re being pulled in about a thousand directions. Everything seems to be competing for your attention, and you can’t figure out what’s the most important priority for this very second. You have phone calls […]

arrowIf you’re a small business owner or freelancer, you probably feel like you’re being pulled in about a thousand directions. Everything seems to be competing for your attention, and you can’t figure out what’s the most important priority for this very second. You have phone calls and emails to return, projects to complete, quotes to compile, and somehow, you have to figure out how to generate more business (that you really aren’t sure how you’ll keep up with).

At the end of the day, you feel spent, yet you don’t feel that you’ve made any real progress toward your goals. You’re left feeling frustrated, like you’re floundering and can’t find solid ground.

The good news is, it’s actually fairly easy to get out of this mess and start moving forward again. All it takes is laser focus and the willingness to let go.

Step 1: Get Focused

Here’s the reality. You can’t be all things within your business. Well, let me rephrase that. You can play multiple roles, but you’re going to have to limit them.

There are tons of things that could be done within your business, but what are the things that really matter? If you’re a graphic designer, for instance, you really only have two main roles, increasing awareness around your business (finding clients) and completing design projects (doing the work). Once you know your roles, you need to break them down into specific actions that you’ll need to do each day.

Your first role is to find clients, which means lead generation. There are tons of lead generation and marketing tactics that could be used to market your business, but what would be the most effective for you? Lay out all the options, but then pick the top four or five tactics that make most sense for your strengths and weaknesses, budget and availability. You might be tempted to try every new social media and networking tactic that glitters and sparkles, but the reality is consistency will win out in the end, so you have to have the “sticktoitiveness” to see the tactic to success. Find your four or five strategies and vow to stick with them for at least twelve months before moving on to something else.

For example, you might choose to:

  1. Post a daily blog
  2. Send a monthly email newsletter
  3. Participate at your favorite social networks
  4. Write for article directories
  5. Host a monthly tele-seminar

That’s it. Those are your tactics. Each day, you’ll spend your time maintaining them.

Your second role is doing your work, and if you were a graphic designer, that would likely include:

  1. Doing the actual design work
  2. Compiling quotes for prospective clients
  3. Communicating with current and prospective clients
  4. Setting up new clients
  5. Closing out work you’ve completed

Again, you’re limited to a handful of tasks that must be done on a daily basis.

Step 2: Let Go

Although it’s tempting to want to over-complicate the days with busy work, if you hope to be successful, you have to get to the meat of it and focus on those things that most directly contribute to your bottom line. It might not seem as interesting or exciting, but the key to success is doing what works over and over again. Everything else must take a back seat to your core responsibilities that you need to maintain each day. Distractions will present themselves often, so it’s helpful to step back and remember your primary roles within your business. In most cases, that will consist of the two main roles (finding clients and doing your work). Everything else is secondary and is a lot less likely to contribute to your long-term success.

How do you stay focused each day? What techniques do you use to make sure you stay on point, working on those few things that directly influence your bottom line?

Image from Flickr by antony_mayfield

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  1. Amber I’ve started using rescuetime.com to help me work out where I am using up most of my time. It’s pretty cool. It seems meetings and phone calls are where I need to cut back. A few months ago it was emails that I needed to cull so I unsubscribed from almost every newsletter I was signed up for.

    1. Fran – I too use rescuetime.com and it is so helpful seeing where your time is spent. I have alerts set up that tell me if I’ve spent to much time not working.

      Step 2 is going to be the hardest one for me to do. However the first step is going to help me out tremendously. I’m going to make my list this morning, as it is important for my work to be accomplished.

  2. It’s especially difficult as an entrepreneur, when it is extremely difficult to determine what’s productive and generating revenue, and what’s a pure distraction.

    Spending time on blogs like this has at many times made me more productive, but the desire to constantly peek at the RSS could lead to distractions.

    Not to mention when you’re blogging for clients of the http://www.pay4bugs.com service, the effects of SEO sometimes really cannot be measured.

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  4. Enjoyed your article very much! Great reminder to keep it simple!
    THANKS.. sharon

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