One of the toughest parts about being a web entrepreneur is keeping your eye on the prize. As someone who rifles through 450 e-mails a day, 20 phone calls, is totally addicted to Twitter and LinkedIn and completely fascinated by Pinterest and Facebook, I’m the first to admit that staying focused can be tricky. Here are 10 tips to help you cope with the information overload:
1. If you’re just starting out, don’t get lost in the setup. It’s natural to think you need to set up things like what e-mail account you’ll use, what you’ll name your company and what colours your logo will be before getting down to business, but ignore all the small business setup how-to’s out there. The only setup musts are to incorporate a company, get a bank account and a landing page. Focus on tasks that will get you users, generate revenue and prove that your product or service will work when you ramp it up. The rest – like securing office space and service providers – can be done later.
2. Filter thy inbox. I get e-mails from clients, designers, manufacturers, partners, staff, friends and family among others daily. If my inbox didn’t have auto-filter it would be 6 p.m. before I could focus on building my business. Create subfolders in your inbox and then rules that immediately move ‘e-mails from’ to those folders. Anything that can be looked at ‘later’ gets filtered into an inbox folder thus allowing the actual inbox to breathe and alert you to top-of-mind matters.
3. Don’t get distracted by your latest idea. Create a subfolder in your inbox ‘New Ideas,’ then apply a filter so it moves anything with subject line ‘New Idea’ into that folder. When your great ideas are top of mind, e-mail yourself with the words: “New Idea” in the subject line. Review this folder once a quarter only. Rest assured you’ll be amazed not only by what you actually thought was brilliant back then, but that you’ve been tossing around some genius ideas for a while now. As you go through the inbox if you still think it’s a brilliant idea, allow yourself to act then and only then.
4. Know the good from the bad. Of course you’ll be inclined to research, research, research. Establish some satisfaction boundaries or you’ll exhaust yourself; if you read something three times, chances are it’s a good piece of advice. Move along.
5. Time to unsubscribe? I’m all for RSS feeds and newsletters, but recognize your needs will change regularly. They do have unsubscribe buttons at the bottom of e-mails for a reason. The next time you roll your eyes deeming a newsletter or story irrelevant, be diligent and swiftly hit the unsubscribe link before you hit delete.
6. Clean house. Your needs and interests will change over time and there’s nothing more frustrating than being bogged down by irrelevant posts on Twitter and Facebook. Take advantage of a rainy days, TV nights or an extra long airport wait and get into the unfollow groove. It will easily be the most boring and unfulfilling task at the time, but I guarantee you’ll love yourself every day thereafter.
7. Do you have to go? All the meet-ups and conferences can get to be too much. Attending these events helps in the first three months of starting or wanting to start a business, but it’s crucial to put an end to that quickly for both sanity and financial reasons. Going to hear a speaker who inspires you is one thing, but most event registrations show who else is going so use that as your metric for whether it’s a good use of your time. In an era where connecting with others online is so easy, it’s critical to evaluate whether you can accomplish the same thing in a ten-minute phone or Skype chat. Time is money.
8. Stick to the plan. Marketing boils down to trial and error and while it’s worth taking different approaches, you can’t measure true results if you do more than one of those things at a time. Sixty days is a good time frame to put around any trial, pilot program to truly determine whether or not it resonates with customers.
9. Choose the right path. You will constantly be looking for answers and sorting through info. The biggest issue is that there will be multiples paths and you’ll need to hope you choose the best path. Anything that can help you suss out the best one for you, and quickly is a bonus. There’s a new service Courtesy of New Brunswick’s own Dan Martell that connects you with awesome entrepreneurs who’ve been in your shoes before called Get Clarity. This dial-a-mentor like service is my new go-to and it’s free to sign up: do it now!
10. Unplug. My solution was a dog who forces me to drop everything and go for walks. This tactic won’t work for everyone, but find a distraction at least once a day to recalibrate (and no, watching TV and sleeping doesn’t count!). Obviously you need to figure out what works for you; other entrepreneurial friends of mine run, meditate, paint, swim and take dance lessons.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Kelly Fallis is the founder and CEO of RemoteStylist.com, the online platform that is revolutionizing the furniture and design industries with free stylists, less-than-retail pricing and to-your-door delivery. Prior to that she helped 750 families jockey homes in six years with her home staging company Organized Outcomes, and held a variety of sales positions in Toronto-based finance companies. Follow her on Twitt er at @kellyfallis.