Working with entreprenuers and business owners the one thing they all crave is clear space — clear space to think, to focus on working ‘on’ not ‘in’ their businesses. Space without distractions, without constant pulls on their time and attention.

However anytime that clear space appears it quickly gets filled up — meetings, emails, “have you got a minute..”, digital pings and dings, and so it goes on and on…

Entrepreneurs all know the value of focused attention so what’s happening?

We are getting in our own way, or rather letting our brains take the easy or default option.

When you have clear space it’s sometimes easier to interfere with what should have our attention.

We dive into our inboxes.

This is easier than starting the new account strategy. We respond to the pings and dings and get our short burst of feeling good. Diverting us from building out the new budget.

Our brains often prefer the certainty and the immediate gratification of dealing with these relatively low level distractions. Plus we are very, very, very good at post-rationalising that we should have done that, had to do that, didn’t have the time to….this self-justification is where we get in our own way — we don’t want to feel that we have failed, failed to make progress on the account plans, failed to deliver the budget on time — so if we have a reason we haven’t failed, it was circumstances, it was a one off….

We are deluding ourselves. Being super busy is not going to cut it any more; the more we slice and dice our limited attention by letting stuff in, the more frustrated, stressed and overwhelmed we become.

We need a better way.

We need to trick our our way out of distraction and procrastination — get out of our own way.

We need to build in achievement into our routines, not just the delayed gratification of the long term goal but the celebration of achievement and learning on the journey.

First we need to clear space, we need:

  1. Inventory of what’s on your mind
  2. Control digital interference
  3. Clarify what we are accountable for (areas of life, projects)

For each project or area:

  1. Clarify what success looks like
  2. Be clear what doing looks like
  3. Be an action-ninja
  4. Celebrate our achievement & learning

We must clear space for our most important work; we must then use that space not waste it and then we must maintain and nurture our clear space.

Ultimately clearing space is a skill, one to be developed and practiced.

Originally published at