Everyone has days where they struggle to accomplish even the most minor task. You start to work bright and early only to look up and realize it’s nearing lunch and you’ve barely managed to finish an email.
These types of days can be frustrating when you run your own business. As an entrepreneur, startup, or solopreneur, your time means money. If you’re not getting anything done on the job, you could fall short of your weekly or monthly income goals, and that can put your business in jeopardy.
Part of boosting your productivity is knowing what saps it in the first place. Here are four common reasons your to-do list might be suffering, along with strategies for making sure you stay focused on the job.
1. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
It might be a cliché, but a lack of adequate sleep can be a major drain on your productivity. Many entrepreneurs think they can accomplish more by running on a few hours of sleep a night. In reality, skipping sleep or trying to power your mind on caffeine can backfire.
According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, there is a strong link between going without sleep and diminished cognitive function. Even more alarming, studies have shown that insufficient sleep destroyed brain cells in mice. Scientists who studied the mice said that sleep deprivation caused the neurons in mice’s brains to become damaged. Over time, the neurons died off.
While caffeine can offer a temporary jolt of alertness and focus, the effects eventually wear off. Worse, caffeine can cause negative side effects, such as jitters and rapid heart rate.
Health experts also say it’s better to consume water when you’re feeling sluggish and tired. Medical experts say up to two-thirds of people in the United States may have chronic dehydration, which can lead to long-term health problems, including difficulty concentrating. Water can give you the boost you need to accomplish a task, and there aren’t any side effects to worry about.
In the long term, however, you should do your best to revamp your sleep routine. The National Sleep Foundation says most adults should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
You can also improve your sleep by making your sleep environment more comfortable. For example, set bedtime each night and stick to it by going to bed at roughly the same time every night. You can also help induce better sleep by dimming the lights about an hour before you’re due to go to bed. Health experts recommend staying off phones and avoiding watching television a couple of hours before bed, as the light from these devices stimulates your brain, which can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
In addition, most people sleep more soundly in a colder environment. You might find you get a better night’s rest if you turn down your thermostat before bed.
2. You’re Distracted by Social Media
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that checking social media can pull you away from work and make you less productive. Many people start out by telling themselves they will take a short break to check Twitter or look on Facebook, only to end up spending an hour or more scrolling through photos and news.
Furthermore, researchers have found that both good and bad news stories can negatively impact an individual’s ability to focus.
When it comes to bad news stories, studies show the human brain processes negative news by amplifying an individual’s personal anxieties. In other words, when you consume negative stories, you perceive even small personal threats and concerns as much bigger than they are in reality.
Unfortunately, it’s also true that negative stories tend to get more clicks and views than positive ones, so you’re more likely to see these types of news reports in your social media feed. This is because humans evolved to constantly scan for danger as a defense mechanism. The primitive parts of our brains want to be aware of any potential threat so we can prepare for it. In modern times, however, what should be a defense mechanism can end up putting you in a bad mood, which hurts your ability to get work done.
Interestingly, good stories on social media can also serve as a distraction. When you read something positive, your body can experience a rush of dopamine or adrenaline. If your excitement level gets too high, it can be tough to stay focused.
To avoid getting distracted by social media and online news reports, you can try setting aside short bursts of time for social media breaks. Many people find it helps to set a timer for these breaks. If you go into it knowing you only have 15 minutes to scroll, you’re less likely to get lost in hours of mindless scrolling.
Some people even put their phone in a drawer, bag, or some other location out of immediate reach. If your phone isn’t within easy access, you’re less likely to reach for it as a source of distraction.
3. You’re Trying to Do Too Much
One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is trying to balance multiple roles. When you’re launching a startup or running a small business, you don’t typically have the budget to hire a large staff or work with contractors. This means taking on a lot of tasks.
While being a successful entrepreneur often means being willing to hustle, trying to do too much can actually leave you doing less over the long haul. In one study, which examined the relationship between speed and stress, researchers discovered that people who were routinely interrupted as they worked ended up working more quickly but ultimately produced less finished work.
Researchers also found that interruptions, which mimic the environment of multitasking, cause parts of the brain to produce the stress hormone, which triggers the release of adrenaline in your bloodstream. This can leave you too anxious and jittery to truly focus on work.
Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t have a choice when it comes to multitasking. Without an extensive budget, they’re left balancing multiple tasks all at once.
If you’re bogged down with work, one strategy for minimizing your stress is to focus on controlling the things you can. For example, you can wear earbuds or noise-canceling headphones to reduce noise while you work. Other people use apps or software that stops them from checking email or looking at social media as they’re working.
It can also help to work in a coworking environment rather than trying to work from home. While it can be convenient to work out of your dining room or basement office, working from home can also pose a challenge. For example, it can be tempting to turn on the television or throw a load of laundry in the washer.
Working from a coworking space like Venture X Dallas can help put you in the mindset of work, providing a much-needed division between your home life and work life. If you find yourself multitasking because you’re trying to balance all the tasks of your personal life along with work obligations, having this separation between both sides of your life can be a game-changer.
4. You Dislike a Task or Project
No matter how much you love what you do, the reality is you’re going to encounter a task or project that feels like pulling teeth or is simply unenjoyable. In some cases, work is truly work, and it can drag you down. When you come across something you dislike, you can lose focus and end up with flailing productivity.
For example, you might constantly delay accounting tasks or sending out invoices. These can be busy work tasks that fail to offer any real inspiration. When a task like this comes around, some people end up browsing social media, rearranging pens in their desk, or stepping out for a snack.
It can be tough to tackle a task you just don’t want to do, which is why productivity experts recommend doing these types of tasks first. You can make a to-do list and put them right at the top. By getting them done quickly and first thing as you begin work, you get them out of the way and enjoy the boost that comes with knowing you don’t have to dread those particular tasks for the rest of the day.
Of course, this might not work as well for a bigger project that demands more of your time. In that case, you can try breaking it up into smaller, more manageable chunks and scheduling time to work on it when you know you’re at your most focused.
This is another area where using a coworking space can help. If you have a project that is both time-consuming and challenging to take on, working from a coworking space can be extremely helpful. If you need a lot of focus time, you can work when it suits you best, whether this is first thing in the morning or late at night. You can also get a quiet space to focus and develop your project free of distractions.
Start Being More Productive Today
Good productivity can be key to running a successful business. In many cases, increasing your productivity is an easy fix, such as getting more sleep or moving your workspace to a coworking space so you can focus more and get more done. Your business will benefit from it, and you’ll end up feeling more confident about the direction your business is moving.
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