Have you ever felt that you can’t stay focused, you’re bouncing between ideas and projects, and your mind is spinning 24/7? Then you’ve had a touch of EADD: Entrepreneurial Attention Deficit Disorder.
I think all entrepreneurs have some variant of ADD in their DNA. And, if you’re like me, it sometimes makes you crazy! But EADD is also a good thing: it’s part and parcel of our creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. But too often it gets in the way of running our businesses.
The problem we have as entrepreneurs is often not a lack of ideas but, rather, too many. Knowing when to put the blinders on can be a real challenge. Often an idea seems so exciting that it takes our attention away from a more important problem at hand.
How can you control these urges—or at least channel them into achieving the greater good of your company?
The best place to start is by having a highly detailed vision or “painted picture” of what your company will look, feel and act like at some select point in the future. Whenever I dream up another new idea, I ask myself, “Will this bring me closer to my vision?” If the answer is no, I toss the idea. (Experience has taught me that if you trash what could have been a good idea, it will eventually come back to you.)
Your vision is a great filter for big ideas. For small, day-to-day distractions, I use a tool called Top 3. The first thing I do every Monday morning is create a list of the three most important things that I need to do or think about that week. They are listed in order of importance, and they have to be items that will get me closer to my vision.
Top 3 helps control self-generated distractions, but what about all those people who ask for your time every day? I still apply Top 3: if I don’t think I have the time and energy to satisfy their needs without compromising the completion of my Top 3, then my goals win out. I also create a daily Top 3 that lists what I need to do that day to ensure I’ll achieve my weekly Top 3. It’s a simple system.
The next step in maintaining focus is to share these two tools with your team. You need to be focused as a leader, but your team needs clear direction and clarity on priorities, since they will be the ones executing.
I remember a time about 10 years ago when I used to come to meetings with all sort of ideas. It got to the point where my team would say, “Watch out—here comes Scudamore. Let’s see what his flavour of the month is!” My EADD was making others crazy, too, threatening employee retention. It was time for a self-intervention.
So, I created a simple system to help set company priorities each quarter, and then I publicly committed to sticking to them. This meant that NO new ideas would be pursued. It required great discipline for me to contain my ideas and let them marinate.
It helped to dump all my new ideas into a folder in Outlook, a process I’ve since automated by setting up an e-mail rule: I simply note the new idea in an e-mail message, send it to myself with “new idea” in the subject line and—presto!—it goes straight into my Ideas Folder for later review. What I’ve found is that at least a third of my “great ideas” don’t look so great at second glance. Now there are 33% fewer distractions for me and my team.
I make a point of reviewing my ideas once or twice each quarter. This discipline allows me to make choices, so that I pick only the best ideas to present to my team for debate at our next quarterly review.
These quarterly strategy meetings also allow others to present their ideas for consideration. Everyone writes down their ideas of things to work on in the quarter on Post-it Notes, which we then stick on the wall under headings such as finance, operations and sales. We remove the duplicates and then debate which items should become a part of our quarterly plan. Once the team agrees, they are set in stone, allowing for clear focus for the next 90 days. Rejected ideas can be revived at the next quarterly meeting.
What if things go off plan or someone has a really great idea that can’t wait 90 days? Yes, sometimes you have to go with the flow. The primary objective of my systems is to create a pause in which one can weigh the benefits, costs and timing of any idea.
Lack of focus is a major contributor to business failure. I look at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s franchise partners, and the difference between success and failure among them often boils down to the franchisee’s ability to define clear goals, set optimal priorities and stick to a plan, all in the pursuit of a detailed vision.
So, pardon the distraction, but I challenge you to practice focusing right now. Write down your Top 3 and refer to them frequently over the next few days. I guarantee you’ll enjoy a more productive week—with far fewer flashes of EADD.