Feel like you’re riding in a one-horse open sleigh? Or slipping and sliding from one problem to another, trying to plow through mounds of issues – and losing your footing trying to solve all of them? As a budding entrepreneur, one of the hardest things to do is learn the right way to balance. Another challenge is staying focused when you have so much to do. It's easy to feel like all you’re doing is simply putting out fires – and getting nothing accomplished.
I know this is an all-too familiar topic for many of you. The good news is that you can stay focused, even when it feels like you have no time to spare and you’re extinguishing whatever fire seems to be burning brightest. Here, a blueprint for staying focused from the experts who made it work.
Turn Off The Phone, Close Your Email & Shut The Door To Regain Focus
Ever hear of a digital detox? A lot has been said about the importance of disconnecting from technology from successful women like Arianna Huffington to hotel executives, who are beginning to fold a “detox package” into their offerings. Instead of a shoe shine or dry cleaning, participating locations give guests a chance to “cleanse” by dining on a special diet and engaging in a fitness plan.
Digital detox packages have been called the “next big trend” in the hospitality industry.
Another option is a mini-detox. Rather than spending days detoxing – make a few changes and see a big difference. Close out that email, turn off your phone, and shut the door to focus on what’s really important, rather than trying to decide whether or not you should post "Happy Birthday" to your ex on Facebook.
We all have the same amount of hours – so instead of trying to use your energy on dozens of tasks, target your energy on a limited number. Focus on what will give you the biggest bang for your energy buck!
Many people say yes to avoid confrontation or to save face, but as Holly Weeks writes in Harvard Business Review, you can take the middle of the road option: the neutral no. “A neutral no is steady, noninflected, and clear. It is mostly notable for what it is not: harsh, combative, apologetic, reluctant, or overly nice," says Weeks.
Saying “yes” to everything is one of the fastest paths to burnout. Practice makes perfect on this one, and for some people, saying “no” can be really hard. Just keep practicing until it becomes comfortable for you. When you do this, you’ll gradually feel more and more empowered and confident.
Take A Deep Breath When You See Something On “Fire”, Then Take A Closer Look
Although there may be another fire burning somewhere right now, just waiting for you to come put it out, it is imperative to take a minute and prioritize. Is it really something that needs your attention now? Has it turned into a total conflagration, or is it just a flare-up?
If it’s actually something that can wait, even if it’s just for a little bit, that extra time may allow for the fire to burn out on its own…and if not, that bit of added time allows me to look at the issue with a clearer mindset.
Allow yourself to set boundaries with technology.
Reset Your Expectations
Sometimes, because we have such high expectations of ourselves, we assume other people have the same expectations of us. Oftentimes, however, it’s our own expectations running the show – and rarely do we live up them.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation – but your thoughts about it,” author Eckhart Tolle has said.
Reset your expectations and be real – and by taking an unbiased second look, the situation can end up looking totally different.
Free Yourself By Delegating
This strategy is unfortunately often under-utilized by many people who think they have to “do it all”. In the Harvard Business Review Amy Gallo says if you’re working long hours and feel you’re the only one who can do the job while your staff keeps regular work hours, you may not realize that you’re hoarding your work.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.