What to Do When You Just Can’t Concentrate

What to Do When You Just Can't Concentrate

My email in-box is jam packed, I have several calls from sales people that I haven’t returned yet, my desk is a mess, and I’m finding it very hard to concentrate. What in the world is going on here!  

Well, for starters, my friend Chris is undergoing her second brain surgery today (a 7 hour procedure that will hopefully eliminate what remains of the tumor), my husband is recovering from surgery that was definitely not as easy and painless as the doctor lead us to believe it would be, my staff is about to double from 3.5 of us to 7.5 of us. All of this has caused me to totally lose my focus.     

Losing focus can be disastrous for any one, but it’s especially deadly for entrepreneurs and small business owners. And I don’t know about you, but for me it tends to be a vicious cycle. I lose concentration, then I get mad at myself for losing concentration. So I end up “beating myself up” and focusing on the fact that I’m not focusing. The next thing I know, the entire day (or week!) has flown by and I haven’t accomplished a single thing.  

And, while poor Michelle and Cyndi and Paige are sitting back waiting for me to snap out of it and tell them what our next moves are going to be, there is no one taking charge of our business growth.  

And the worst part is, so much of this – the whole “beating myself up” thing and “focusing on the wrong stuff” thing – is going on in my subconscious, so I’m not even aware that it’s happening until it’s almost too late.  

So how is an entrepreneur supposed to take control of an issue like this, one that she can not see, can not touch, and is probably not even aware is happening?  

The first step is to try to make yourself aware of the issue before it gets too out of hand.   

Use Checklists to Keep Your Focus in Check   

I’m a big fan of checklists and tracking sheets and scorecards and the almighty egg timer. When I’m having a hard time concentrating, my checklists and tracking sheets help ensure that I haven’t missed a step in any certain project.   

I started using scorecards and kitchen timers when I noticed certain projects were taking way too much of my time. Since we charge our clients based on the project and not based on an hourly rate, it was easy to lose track of how much time we were spending on each project. Eventually, I had to start allotting only a limited amount of time to particular jobs and particular clients, so I developed scorecards for each project and used the kitchen timer to keep me honest.  

Let’s take copywriting for instance. According to my scorecard (based on experience), it should take no more than 3 hours to research a solid target market profile to be used as background information for writing a sales letter. And I should be able to brainstorm at least 2 dozen effective headlines in one hour. It should take about 90 minutes to write, rewrite and perfect a clear and compelling, irresistible offer.

I simply set the timer at the beginning of each task and keep track of how long it takes.  

What I’ve noticed lately is that using this system helps me identify potential “focus issues” before they get out of hand. If I’ve just spent 4 hours doing market research for a sales letter, I would ask myself if this is a particularly difficult market, or if the client hasn’t provided enough background information, or if my brain is “dilly dallying” and not concentrating on the task at hand. Sometimes, just making myself aware of the fact that I’ve lost focus will help wake me up and get my “brain escape” in check quickly.   

Use Binaural Beats to Activate Your Brainwaves   

I’ve also become a regular user of binaural beats. If you’re not familiar with binaural beats, they are “two slightly different audio waves being heard separately by the left and right ear (such as in a pair of headphones) in a manner that encourages the neurophysiology to generate a specific unified brain wave pattern.”   

Basically, you send different sounds to different parts of your brain to activate certain brainwaves. Binaural beats sound almost like the old fashioned ocean noises, or a small motor running. While they don’t sound like much, they are actually scientifically engineered to stimulate specific parts of your brain.   

Different beats affect different brainwaves which have different benefits to your mental state. For instance, 40 Hz Gamma waves are known to result in higher mental activity, including perception and problem solving, while 13-40 Hz Beta waves result in enhanced focus and concentration.

Since binaural beats are best used with headphones, I put them on my mp3 player and listen to them whenever I’m struggling with my focus. If you’d like to give it a try, just search for “binaural beats” on the internet. There are several free downloads available. Just make sure you download a stereo version (as opposed to mono) since you want each side of your brain to receive a different sound.

Another great way to get your focus in check is to pay better attention to your emotions. As entrepreneurs, many of us tend to be analytical and systematic, so we downgrade the part that our emotions play in our overall success. But our emotions are simply a symptom of our thoughts, and if we’re not thinking correctly (which we often don’t recognize) we won’t be accomplishing the things we need to accomplish.   

Pay Attention to What You’re Thinking   

My friend Steve Ulrich recently sent me a book by Esther and Jerry Hicks called “Ask and It Is Given”. If you’re not into woo-woo existential thinking you might get turned off by the book. But I think it was a brilliant insight into how our unconscious thoughts control the results of our days, and it also provided some neat mental exercises for managing those thoughts. And after all, it’s almost impossible to concentrate on the task at hand if your thoughts are running away with you.  

In business and in life it’s easy to let outside circumstances that we have no control over get us down and cause us to lose our momentum. By following the few simple steps above, you can improve your focus, regain your momentum, and achieve better business success.