5 Common Distractions for Online Entrepreneurs

Focus is crucial when creating an online business. Here are five common distractions for entrepreneurs and tips for how to overcome these. Make sure you click through to the post to download the free cheatsheet.

Even though I love the work I do in my online business, I am by nature a bit of a procrastinator. Heck, I spent nearly an hour this morning setting up my laptop and work stuff outside because it’s such a beautiful, sunny day! When it comes to buzzing around before getting stuck into the actual work stuff, I’m quite the expert.

It’s because of this natural inclination that I’ve had to become really aware of what my biggest distracters are, as well as to create strategies to stop these from taking over my day. Here are five such distractions, as well as some strategies for how to overcome them.

1.    Letting email control your time

Email is a great way to stay informed and connected with others, which is especially important if we spend our days working in isolation, yet it can also be a huge distraction. Email creates a constant drip-feed of new content and potential interaction to pull our attention from our work, and ultimately be carried away from our own priorities to focus our attention on the demands of others. It’s kind of like having a group of people standing in front of your desk, shouting and vying for your attention.

Checking email has an almost addictive quality to it and I think some of this comes down to the level of stimulation we are guaranteed to find whenever we check our inbox. Bored? That’s cool – just 'quickly' check your emails and you’ll sure to have plenty to keep you amused or busy! And don’t even get me started on the time it takes to clean up the email inbox... that's almost a full-time job in itself!

Strategy for overcoming this:

Create structure around when you check your email, including:

  • Setting aside specific times of the day to check your email.  You may even find it useful schedule these in your diary.
  • Switching off automatic updates and notifications
  • Checking your email in conjunction with another task, such as just before you break for lunch or when you have time allocated to social media engagement

2.    Researching and consuming others’ content before creating your own

Keeping with the same theme as the above point, consuming the content of others under the guise of ‘working on your business’ can be a huge distraction. It’s natural to want to learn about how to improve and refine your business, and there sure are a lot of resources to help you achieve this. Too many in fact. But spending a lot of time reading through others' content as a way to build your business is like reading interior design magazines and expecting your kitchen to renovate itself.

One of the pitfalls of consuming so much content is that it’s all too easy to feel like you’re being productive by researching and investigating, and ultimately pursuing the improvement of your business. I speak from experience here! But ultimately you are still not producing anything and your business can stagnate as you have very little to offer your customers.

As a business owner, I do think it’s important to be continually learning and expanding your expertise and general understanding, but not at the expense of creating your own content. Creation of things of value is one of the factors that defines whether your blog is your business, or your hobby.

Strategy for overcoming this:

The strategy here is two-fold:

  • create boundaries around when and how you consume the content of others; and
  • have a framework for when you’re in creation mode. What works well for me scheduling blocks of time when I solely work on creating new content.

3.    Being distracted by other humans (and pets!)

This next distraction is similar to the two we’ve already looked at and concerns times when your focus is being pulled away from your work by the priorities of other people, and on their timeline.

Humans can be great. They can also pretty distracting. Whether it's your family (including the furry, four-legged variety), friends, colleagues or strangers on the internet, there will always be someone around who would like a piece of your time. They have their own needs and wants, and all too often those will not match with those you set for yourself. It may be in person, over the phone or via electronic means, but the interactions and requests of others can be a huge disruption in your carefully planned day.

My dog, Billy, can be a big distraction for me. I love him to bits and mostly he’s pretty good while I’m working but sometimes he will just sit next to my desk, looking up at me and hoping I’ll give him a snack or throw a ball. His staring sessions can last for an impressively long time. I don't know about you, but I find it very annoying and highly unsettling to be stared at and without fail I'll lose my concentration and need to get up to walk around, hoping to get him off my case. Super distracting and disrupting to productivity!

Strategy for overcoming this:

Again, this strategy is two-fold:

  • Establish boundaries around how you would like to interact with others during your day and where possible be clear with the people in your life about your availability.
  • Expect to be distracted! Despite our best intentions, others will cross our carefully planned boundaries so the key here is to manage your expectations and know that distractions will occur. The key is to find a way to get back into a productive headspace more quickly after interruptions.

4.    Doing only the fun or easy stuff

Running your own business is usually a mix of tasks you enjoy and tasks you know you have to do. As online business owners there are usually elements we're passionate about, while other elements can feel like one big chore.

I know that I have a tendency to spend more time on the tasks I enjoy or those which are easy, and relegate the harder, more tiresome stuff to be done ‘in the future.’ Well, all too often ‘the future’ never really arrives, or it arrives when a big fat deadline looms and then I have to work like crazy to get it all done. Not only is this the opposite of fun, but it’s not a smart way to run a business.

Easy tasks can trick you into thinking you're hard at work and kicking goals when it comes to moving your business forward as you are still working, but what you will likely end up with is an imbalanced business where you excel in some areas, and neglect others.

Strategy for overcoming this:

Knowledge is power, so learn to understand what you enjoy the most in your business, and what you find most challenging, boring or just plain hard to do. It’s ok to acknowledge that sometimes all you will feel like is the fun stuff, and that’s fine. I’m a big fan of anything that moves your business ahead. But it’s crucial to ensure that you’re also working on the tasks you naturally avoid. I find that batching these tiresome tasks together allows me to knock them over in one go, freeing me up to get back to what I enjoy most.

5.    Being physically uncomfortable

Depending on your business, you may spend a lot of time sitting down or staying still in one place. Activities such as staring at a computer screen for hours, or doing close work with your head bent down over your work can quickly take a physical toll on your body. Aches and pains develop, and it becomes very hard to concentrate. Yet, the work needs to get done so we persist through the pain, and keep exacerbating the problem and pretty soon we’ve got ourselves into a vicious cycle.

When we’re in pain or discomfort, it can be very hard to concentrate and our ability to enjoy work begins to suffer. Physical pain is ever present and serves as a constant distraction, making it increasingly more difficult to shift our mind from our bodies.

Strategies for overcoming this:

There are a few things you can do to overcome this distraction:

  • Pay attention to your body and notice if you’re getting too tired or uncomfortable. If so, get up and move around.
  • Ensure that your workspace is comfortable and ergonomic. Buying yourself a better chair could make all the difference.
  • See a doctor or someone who specialises in the area of pain you’re experiencing.

I hope you've found this list helpful, and are able to adopt some of these strategies to help you feel less distracted in your work.

How about you? What do you find most distraction? Anything on this list strike a cord? I'd love to hear more in the comments below.