You’ve played Mortal Kombat 3, right? Yea, that old video game from the 90’s.
I spent hours playing it every day.
With Sub-Zero, I was unbeatable.
Back then, I never thought a simple, harmless statement at the intro screen of MK3 would make my life hell a decade later.
“There’s no knowledge that is not power”
Yea, that’s what it said.
I took this a bit too seriously, I guess.
And while I love the people behind Mortal Kombat for what they created, I hate them for showing this at the start of the game.
It’s a lie, a BIG FAT lie!
But, for most of us, it’s a part of our belief system. We actually believe that knowing more is good for us.
You might not have played this game (or just didn’t take it as seriously) but you’re probably struggling with the same problem.
As a budding entrepreneur, this is one of the biggest things holding you back.
You think you need to know more and, as a result, you lose focus and fail to take action at the right time.
Every year, you see new success stories emerge out of your industry. You’ve seen countless newbies become experts and influencers.
You’ve read case studies of broke homeless guys turning their lives upside down making six figures online from beach resorts.
But even after reading all of it, and purchasing dozens of info products online, you’re right where you were a year ago (okay, I’m being a bit harsh – you’ve moved an inch, happy?)
You know why you keep doing this over and over again?
Because you think you need to know more.
STOP kidding yourself!
And in the age of information overload, this feeling will never go away.
Until you realize that you DON’T need to know everything to find success.
You just need to focus on a few things, do them better than a few others, and get your fair share from the market.
Easier said than done, right?
Here are a few ways you can program your brain to focus on your goals, and take action on what you already know.
What You'll Learn in this Post
- How to program your brain to focus on the most important tasks.
- A simple process you can use to identify your most profitable information sources and scale them up.
- A powerful framework that will make your daily to-do lists much more effective
- How you can break down bigger goals and objectives into smaller activities and take immediate action.
1. Define Your Working Hours To Minimize Distractions
Sounds boring, right?
One of the biggest perks of the internet lifestyle is the flexible work schedule it offers.
But that’s also one of its biggest drawbacks.
When you tell your brain that you can work at any time and from anywhere, it loses focus and doesn’t know when to actually get in the working mode.
A research discussed in the renowned book, The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less, shows that when we have too many options in life, we’re likelier to feel dissatisfied and unhappy with.
Why? Because our brain is always thinking of the opportunity cost, the “What if”.
When you limit your choices, you make more concrete decisions.
Similarly, when you don’t have a fixed schedule, your brain is unable to prioritize things.
As a result, you either end up doing very little work, or work 12 hours on the trot.
Studies show that people who follow fixed working hours feel much more in control of their business.
So it doesn’t matter if you want to work just 3 hours per day.
But fix those 3 hours in your schedule, and leave everything else aside during that time.
This will get your brain functions more focused on the tasks at hand, and increase your productivity several times.
I’m not interested in a debate on this.
Just give it a go for a few days and experience it yourself.
"You can't get much done in your life if you only work on the days when you feel good" - Jerry West
2. Write Down Your Goals and Set Deadlines To Reduce Uncertainty
Do you have goals for your business?
If you don’t have goals, you can’t plan.
And failing to plan, is planning to fail.
A study by Massey University (Switzerland) established a direct relationship between goals, focus and self-motivation. People with clear goals have a much greater sense of purpose, and remain more focused and self-motivated.
As a result they’re less likely to waste time, and usually have a higher success rate
But there’s a difference between concrete goals and mere wishes.
They turn into goals when you write them down, break them into milestones and smaller activities, and set deadlines.
Yes, write them down on a piece of paper, not on Notepad, Evernote or Google Docs. Pin it to your work desk, or any other place where you can see it every day.
When you set your goals, make sure they’re SMART.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time Bound
For example, your goal can be creating a niche website and earn money from affiliate commissions.
But this is a vague goal. You need to make it SMART.
- Write down the specific niche you want to target.
- Write down all the activities you need to perform in order to create a money making niche website. For a niche website, your activities could be
a. Keyword research
b. Domain registration and hosting
c. Installing and setting up WordPress
e. Creating content for your blog.
f. Creating social media pages, and promoting your content
- You can list many other activities as well, but each of these activities must be time-bound. Set deadlines for each of them and make yourself accountable.
A person with clear goals wakes up every morning knowing exactly what he needs to do in order to grow his business. He’s able to track his progress, learn from his mistakes and make improvements where necessary.
On the other, if you don’t have goals, every new day is full of anxiety and lots of wasted time.
"I believe the 80/20 rule is fundamental to every business person – to every human being – it could potentially change your life." - Yaro Starak
3. Identify Your Most Profitable Information Sources And Scale Them To Maximize Impact
If you’re like the average niche marketer, you’re most likely subscribed to dozens of email lists, and regularly receive offers, notifications and messages from countless other blogs. Plus, you follow all of them on Facebook, Twitter and every other social network as well.
There’s no harm in it, as long as you can prioritize your information intake.
This is where productive and successful internet marketers are different from you.
They identify their most important information sources, and shut off everything else. They realize that they don’t need to know every new research that comes up or every new blog post that someone has written.
You need to do the same.
The world won’t stop spinning if you stop noticing.
A simple way to do that is to align every source of information with your goals. Whenever you’re tempted to read a new blog post, a new research or any other form of content, ask yourself if it contributes directly to any of your goals.
If it does, consume it. But if it doesn’t, just move on.
Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, is a renowned productivity expert. He mentioned in his book how he managed information overload by completely quitting T.V and News. Instead, once a week he would ask any of his friends if anything big had happened in the last week.
Even if you don’t go to that extent, here’s a simple exercise you can do to cut off unnecessary information from your life.
- Identify where you spend most of your time on the web and list them down on a piece of paper. Email, Facebook, Twitter and random browsing are likely sources.
- Now look at each source and ask yourself if it is contributing to your goals in any way.
- Give an importance score (1-10, 1 being most important) to each information source.
- Eliminate anything that’s below 6.
- Now sort the remaining sources according to importance and allocate a time duration for each of them. For example, you could allocate 15 minutes to Facebook.
- Now instead of randomly accessing these information sources, schedule them at the end of your work day or distribute them into multiple slots. Make a conscious effort not to exceed any of the slots.
Limiting your information intake and taking control of your time is one of the most important steps towards achieving your goals and getting things done.
4. Cut Down on Email and Social Media Usage To Maintain Focus
Did you know that email and Facebook are the biggest time wasters for an average American?
Studies show that an average American employee checks email 36 times in an hour. And it takes around 16 minutes on average to refocus on tasks every time after checking email.
When you combine these two stats you truly understand the productivity havoc email addiction is causing.
Similarly, American consumers spend 40 minutes every day just browsing Facebook.
Of course, Facebook is a very important platform for internet marketers. But you need to honestly assess how much time you spend on Facebook doing something that directly contributes to your business (see point no. 3)
Tim Ferris recommends cutting down on email usage and anxiety with a simple technique. Use an email signature like this.
“I respond to emails at 1PM, 3PM and 5PM. If you need a quicker response, please call”
It’s also important to minimize your smartphone app notifications. You don’t need a notification every time there’s a new email, a WhatsApp message, a retweet or a comment on Facebook.
A study by American Psychological Association revealed that people who receive constant smartphone notifications have much shorter attention spans and find it hard to focus on tasks. As a result, their productivity levels also go down.
Change your smartphone notifications to only the most important apps. Keep all other apps for your spare time.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra
5. Follow the GTD Framework for Creating Effective To-Do Lists
We’ve all heard of To-Do lists.
Every productive and goal oriented person maintains them at some level.
But a simple change in the way you create to-do lists can make them much more effective and help you focus only the job at hand.
In his book Getting Things Done, renowned author and productivity guru David Allen discusses the GTD system for creating to-do lists.
It’s a simple system that focuses on writing everything down and keeping your mind free. The GTD system has three parts,
- Archive list – list of things you might need one day but don’t need immediately.
- Current task list – a list of active tasks that need to be done. Every task needs to be written as an action item which should give you a clear guideline on what’s next. For example, instead of writing “Make my blog more secure”, write “Ask Jim about the best security plugins he has been using”. The more precise your action item is, the better. Try rephrasing everything on your to-do list in a way that leads you to the next action. This small activity has a huge psychological impact.
- Daily Task Folder – a folder for each of the next 31 days of the current month, plus 12 separate folders for the months to follow.
You can manage this whole system either on apps like Evernote or Google Keep (my personal favorite).
Every day you can pick up your current to-do list for the day and review the actions for that day. If you think a task or a piece of information might be important, but not sure about it, send it to the archive list.
If you see an item that needs to be done later in the month or year, just move it to the relevant folder.
The remaining tasks on your list are current to-do tasks that have clearly defined action items.
Doing this activity every day for a few days will get the GTD system rolling for you, freeing up your mind from unnecessary clutter, and making it easier for you to focus on the tasks at hand.
6. Pass Your Daily Activities Through the 80/20 Rule Filter
You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, right?
Also known as the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule says that for almost every event, 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.
With extensive testing, several management experts have come to the conclusion that this rule applies to almost every aspect of business and life.
You can apply this rule to your current to-do list as well.
For example, if you pass all your information sources (blogs, Facebook groups, etc.) through this filter, you’d realize that 80% of the most valuable information comes from 20% of the all your information sources.
The same applies to the different tasks you perform related to your blog.
Once you identify the 20% activities that bring the 80% results, your job is to scale them and cut off the rest of the activities. This will help you focus on the things that have a direct impact on your life and your business, and give you a sense of direction.
You can learn more about applying this theory to your business in this detailed post
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King
7. Get Rid of the Perfectionist Syndrome To Make Progress In Your Business
You might not have heard the term “perfectionist syndrome” before, but you’re most likely suffering from it.
This is one of the biggest reasons why many people, despite knowing enough to start an online business never do so.
If you’re suffering from this syndrome, you procrastinate everything and wait for the perfect time (which never comes).
You know affiliate marketing works, and people are making full-time passive income from it, but you still want to buy just one more eBook before starting your own site.
The origin of the perfectionist syndrome is fear.
Deep down inside, you fear failure. You fear embarrassment. You fear financial loss. You want assurances before starting something.
That’s not how business works.
And that is why the only cure to this syndrome is to actually start taking action.
And to make this easier for yourself, you need to follow the first six steps I’ve shared in this post.
Fear comes from uncertainty – when you don’t know what’s next.
And you can simply eliminate uncertainty (and fear) by planning.
But in order to plan, you need to have goals, which takes us all the way back to the second point in this post.
Time for You to Take Action
The truth is clear and simple – the world is an imperfect place, and so is everything in it.
Waiting for the perfect time is nothing but procrastination.
In this age of information overload you can never know everything. But thankfully, you don’t need to.
You just need to know enough to accomplish your goals.
So leave your comfort zone, stop blaming others, and start planning for your success.
You already have everything to start a successful business, all you need is start taking action.