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.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.