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I used to struggle with this too.
Not only does it lead to wasted time, effort and lost customers, but you end up insanely frustrated too.
And as a solopreneur, keeping your head about you is absolutely key. We have only ourselves to rely on.
So in this post I am going to show you my secret methods to getting stuff done, and making an impact as a solopreneur.
That’s right, I am going to reveal all my secrets, and make your life soooo much easier!
Ready? Let’s jump right in…
Since reading the book The One Thing I’ve found myself constantly remarking to others,
“Remember: the one thing!” or asking myself, “What’s the one thing…?”
It has become my mantra.
The reasoning behind it is simple: you can only focus on one thing at a time.
I beg to differ with those people who say they can multitask.
In her New York Times article, The Mediocre Multitaskers, Ruth Pennebaker cited research from Stanford University showing that the most persistent multitaskers perform badly in a variety of tasks.
To do two things at once is to do neither. – Publilius Syrus
When you focus on one thing at a time without any distractions you can achieve a whole lot more than hopping from one task to another.
Let me share an example, paraphrased from the book.
Imagine you’re at your office desk and you’re working on an Excel sheet. You’ve got all the data in front of you and you’re analysing it.
You’re in the zone.
Then a work colleague comes sidling up to your desk, exchanges a few pleasantries and asks if you can spare a few minutes to have a look at something he’s working on as he needs an opinion. You oblige and give him your time. It’s good to help others, right?
You get back to your desk and start looking at your data again. But now you’ve lost your flow.
Your train of thought has been broken. And essentially you’re back at the beginning.
This is why you need to focus.
When you focus all your energy and brainpower on the task at hand – the one thing – then you will achieve your end result much more quickly.
As a solopreneur you have so many things to do in your business, and if you’re not careful you will end up doing them all badly.
Why? Because you didn’t focus on the right thing at the right time.
There is only so much of you, metaphorically speaking, so don’t go spreading yourself too thinly.
The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go as small as possible… When you go as small as possible, you’ll be staring at one thing. And that’s the point.
So what should you focus on?
It’s difficult for me to tell you what you need to focus on because each of us has different goals and objectives in our business and in our lives.
For me, as I have worked with my coach Diana, I have gone through a very systematic step-by-step process.
Simply said: I have worked on one thing at a time.
I knew vaguely what I wanted to achieve this year, but I wasn’t specific enough.
My first exercise was to really zone in on the small details that would be needed in order to achieve the big results at the end of the year, and the year after.
It took a few iterations to get there, but now I have something tangible to aim for and a path to follow.
Have you set your SMART goals?
If not, do that first so that you know what you are focusing on and why.
Have you printed them out so you can focus on them daily?
Printing them out and having them nearby is really helpful in achieving your goals, and sooner too.
At the beginning of the year I was all over the place with my services.
My Services Page was more like the Yellow Pages.
I needed to focus on the one service that I was going to offer, and then make it super specific.
Here’s how I did it:
In the end, it was glaringly obvious which service I should focus on.
I started off with the following topics:
I ended up with Writing.
But Writing as a topic is still too big.
So I niched down even further and ended up with Web Content Writing.
And then, with the help of my coach, I went even more specific and developed my Upwork Byline and Profile based on my value proposition.
Will it change in time? Yes, it will probably evolve over time.
But for now, I have a solid starting point on which to attract new clients.
Have you chosen your niche or are you offering way too many services?
First thing you need to do is to narrow down your offering/service and focus on what you do best. Once you get traction and a name for yourself you can widen it again.
Have you worked out your value proposition?
People will buy your services more readily when you offer them something they can really benefit from. Try to figure out what it is you provide them and how to put that in a simple statement (a USP).
We all have the same amount of hours in the day. You need to decide how you are going to use those hours to achieve your desired results.
Do you have ToDo List? They can be a blessing or a curse can’t they?
I’ve seen people in the office who used to rewrite their todo list every day trying to write it in a logical sequence of priorities. (Hint: That’s a waste of time!)
I only ever had one list of things. They were not listed in any specific order, they were just items that needed doing at some point.
Unknowingly, I was on the right track according to what Gary wrote in his book.
When you look at your list you should ask yourself, “What is the one thing, the most essential, the most imperative thing I should do right now?”
Do it. Cross it off the list. Rinse and repeat.
It’s a Success List, not a ToDo List!
Getting your focus is one thing, but how do you maintain it each day?
I know, you wanted to be a Solopreneur so you could make your own rules no 9-5, no set holidays.
And you certainly can do this. To a certain extent.
But in order to be productive you still need self-discipline in your life.
You need a framework that you will work.
A framework that will help you maintain your focus.
If you can’t maintain your focus, you won’t achieve the goal, unless it’s such an easy goal that it would have happened anyway. It’s that simple.
It depends on your lifestyle as to how many hours each day you spend on business or relaxation or hobbies. Only you know how many hours you need to work in order to pay the bills and put the food on the table.
By now, you should realize that you need to block time to complete specific activities, and that you must not get distracted during that time.Remember: Airplane Mode was developed specifically for those flying solo! Click To Tweet
It has nothing to do with aviation safety. It exists purely so that solopreneurs don’t get distracted. Try it!
I’ve found the best way to maintain my focus is by having a timetable.
Here’s how I manage the various activities in my day by blocking time:
Time (24 hour time)
Rise and shine. Stretching exercises. Shower
Personal Social Media and Email
The One Thing - the most important activity
The Second Thing - the second most important activity
Tea Break and TV
Admin Time: Social Media/Email/Blog Comments
TV / Relaxation time
Important Things to Note:
The One Thing: This will vary depending on your schedule. For example, in February, I dedicated 3 hours a day to the course I was following. Without that I was going nowhere, so it was the most important thing to do each day.
The Second Thing: This is another major chunk of time I allocate to a specific task. It’s really the one thing after I’ve completed my morning one thing. For example, it might be completing your client’s project or it might be prospecting for new clients, job posts, making proposals. Only you know what is the most important thing.
Exercise: remember it’s important to keep your body moving, especially when you’re sat on your backside most of the day.
Eating: Very important. Also a good time for talking with your family if you can put your phone down for a few mins!
TV: I try to watch an hour of decent TV or perhaps a DVD just to chill out. This could be something different for you. The point is, this isn’t work.
Reading: Most often I’m reading a fiction book. But I also use this time for business books too. Just get a mix and make sure it helps with unwinding at the end of the day.
Sleeping: This is important to me. I’m useless without it. Some people need more than others.
Listen to your body.
By following this timetable I’m able to get some structure in my day. It’s not rigid. There are no tablets of stone. But get yourself in a natural rhythm and you’ll start to get a flow to your work.
And you’ll feel stacks better when you achieve results!
– Here Are Some More Activities To Help Maintain Your Focus –
As a solopreneur it’s important to invest both time and money in yourself.
For me it was investing time and money in a course with Diana. She was the specialist coach who offered the training I needed.
Ashley chose to invest in a course with Brian Dean.
You know what is the best investment for you.
Also consider getting a mentor or at least somebody who will make you accountable for your goals and actions.
It’s hard being on your own. You have to make a ton of decisions each day.
So, why not give yourself a chance to offload and discuss progress and direction with a mentor?
You deserve it!
Another possibility might be to join a Mastermind Group. I haven’t had the chance to do this yet.
I know Ashley does. And I know of other solopreneurs who do. Make sure the group is at the right level for you.
Too high and you won’t contribute.
Too low and you’ll have everything sucked out of you.
It needs to be a place where you can grow and help others to grow.
I started off in a mess. I was all over the place. I had no focus. I was earning zero because I didn’t have any paying clients.
I needed to take action, or to be more precise, I needed to take the right action.
Fortunately, I chose well.
I read a great book which helped change my mindset and planted the seeds for my mantra The One Thing. I’ve only shared a few ideas and excerpts from the book here.
Do yourself a favour: please read it yourself to get the full picture.
I engaged Diana, an expert in Freelancing, to get my freelance business started on the right track.
You can buy the book and challenge yourself on the homework assignments. But if you’re in a similar position to where I was then I think you will get so much more from engaging Diana as your coach too.
With Diana’s help I was able to position myself in the market properly. I’m starting to get enquiries from prospective clients on Upwork because my profile has been created in one niche with my value proposition.
I also reached out to contacts to offer my service of Web Content Writing.
You have to go and find the work and who better to start with than your contacts. If they can’t use you, they might know somebody else who can.
Now I have my first paying client who has ordered several blog posts to be written over the next few months.
You can do it too. If you take the time to focus.
As a solopreneur you need to remember this one thing:
Solo = One
You alone are responsible for achieving the results you desire.
Start with your end big goal and work backwards in small steps so that you know which one thing you have to start with.
> What is the ONE thing you are going to do or sell in your business?
> What is the ONE thing you are going to specialise in with your value proposition?
> What is the ONE thing you are going to do right now?
Focus On It – Achieve Results!
> What mechanisms do you have in place to ensure you focus?
> What results have you achieved as a result of your focus?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Tell me what is working for you!
David Hartshorne is a freelance writer working with personal brands, marketing teams, and digital agencies to create detailed, actionable content that resonates with their audience. When he’s not writing about marketing technology, you’ll find him chilling with a thriller or roaring on the Villa.