Editor’s note: This post comes from our Constant Contact UK office.

What do you mean? I AM focused!

The kids are back at school, holiday season is over, your customers are back from their summer breaks, and it’s time for all of us to get down to business. To help you do that, I want to share with you some of my own best business tips, and the first of these is about FOCUS.

Yeah, yeah. You’re probably thinking that you ARE focused and who am I to tell you any different. You’re thinking that you are a business person; you work on your business every day; and, you work hard too.

I know all of that stuff – as a small business owner, you HAVE to be focused on your business or you wouldn’t be in business any longer.

What I’m talking about is getting focused on a specific thing that you want to achieve with your business, and I’m going to tell you why it’s important and how you can do it too.

Why focus matters for YOU

If you don’t focus on achieving one thing at a time, your business will suffer. I understand that everyone has many things to do in the course of a day, but we need to give one thing the most attention at any one time, and it shouldn’t be the thing that has become an emergency – it should be the thing that is going to help us the most.

Someone once asked me ‘what happens if you try to chase two rabbits at the same time?’ Of course the answer is that you don’t catch either of them. That’s what can happen with our businesses as well – we try to do too many things at once and end up not doing anything well or effectively.

If we focus on one thing at a time, we actually get things done more quickly as well. Multi-tasking is really a fallacy, as it means switching mental states between tasks and we just can’t do that rapidly. So, what actually happens is not that we’re doing many things at the same time, we’re just switching tasks after very short bursts of attention, and it doesn’t work.

It’s much better to concentrate on one thing for a set period of time or until the job is done. Then you’ve achieved something, rather than trying to do too much at once and not finishing anything.

Focusing on one thing at a time also gives you a sense of achievement (which we could all do with more of!) Because you are doing one thing, you get it finished more quickly, and you can look back with a happy glow and tick that thing off your too-long to-do list!

How to create focus in three easy steps:

1. Set goals

You can’t create focus unless you know what you should be focussed ON, so pick something that you want to achieve (it should be something that will move you forwards in your business), and set a goal around it.

A good goal is something that is measurable and time-bound, i.e. you need to quantify it and have a deadline. For example, ‘I want more email subscribers’ is not a proper goal, but ‘I want to gain an additional 250 email subscribers by the end of October’ is a great goal. If you’re at all confused about that, ask yourself ‘will I know when I’m done?’ If you answer ‘yes’, then it’s probably a good goal.

2. Have a current project

I picked up this tip from a great book by Mark Forster called ‘Do It Tomorrow’ (isn’t that a brilliant title?), and it’s very simple. All you have to do is designate one thing that you want to achieve as your ‘current project’, and the rule is that you dedicate the first 15 minutes of every day working on it.

Yep, that’s it – 15 minutes. You can do more if you want to, but you only need to set aside 15 minutes.

However, this only works if you do it before ANYTHING else, e.g. no ‘just quickly checking email’, no ‘wondering what’s on Facebook’, no ‘just catching up with the industry news’. You can’t do anything else at all until you’ve done your 15 minutes current project.

It sounds silly, but I promise that this works. It’s amazing what you can achieve in 15-minute chunks.

3. Keep to a schedule

In addition to your current project, I want you to set aside time in your diary to do specific jobs. This will ensure that your whole day doesn’t get eaten away by ‘busy-work’, because ‘doing things’ is not the same as ‘getting things done’.

For me, this means not having my whole day eaten up by reading and responding to email – you might be the same, or it might be something else that swallows your time but doesn’t really get you anywhere.

The truth is that work will expand to fit the time available, so if you limit the time available for individual tasks, then you can usually get the required work done in that time.

So, all you need to do is take your diary and block out a chunk of time to write your newsletter, for example, and make sure that you do it in the time allowed.