The 5-Minute Guide to Getting More Done as a Solopreneur
– SPECIAL REPORT –
A solopreneur is someone who runs an entire business on their own, usually online. That might mean that you run a blog and sell affiliate products (to make a commission). Alternatively, it might mean that you sell physical products via an ecommerce store: buying wholesale and keeping those products in your garage until it’s time to sell!
In the full book: The Productive Solopreneur, we discuss how this can place a huge strain on a person. While the potential rewards are HUGE, you are essentially asking your brain and body to per- form the work of an entire team. You are solely responsible for your business, and there are countless ideas and concerns you must juggle at once.
It’s a lot! And so, looking after your health and finding ways to avoid burning out are among the most important skills for those in this type of work.
This means learning to work with your brain. It means learning to recognize potential signs of burnout, and learning to avoid them by taking back control over your
That’s where things get really interesting: as your ability to man- age your focus, energy, and creativity are going to prove instru- mental in helping you to accomplish the huge amounts of work you need to tick off.
In this 5-minute guide, we’re going to look at one particularly val- uable aspect of this: tapping into the brain’s ability to focus for long periods of time. If you can stay focussed, then you will be able to work harder, for longer. You will be able to get more done, more quickly, and to a higher quality.
And ultimately, that is what’s going to make the difference be- tween your success and failure as an entrepreneur online.
Think of it this way: the average YouTuber with 150,000 subscrib- ers will tell you that they are broke. But ask a few people and you’ll find that they managed to leverage those views to earn large amounts of cash: some of them are already millionaires! What’s the difference?
The first group make one video a week and they rely on advertis- ing revenue from YouTube. They hire an editor to help them com- plete their videos, and they probably pay someone to make thumbnails.
The second YouTuber uploads two videos per week, which dou- bles their advertising revenue. They manage to do all the editing and make the thumbnails themselves (this is VERY achievable), so they don’t need to give away half of their salary. And they even have some time left in the week, so they use this time to:
• Createdigitalproductsthatsellfromthechannelfor$20-$60 • Provideanonlineconsultingservicethatchargespremium
prices (think hundreds of dollars per hour)
And there you have it: that’s how working faster and working harder makes you richer as a solopreneur. But how do you get to that point?
Understanding Focus in the Human Brain
When many of us think about mental performance and getting the most out of our brains, the thing we will be most interested in is increasing focus and attention. This is why the flow state is such a popular concept.
But beyond achieving ‘flow’, there is much more to motivation and focus and understanding what’s happening here and how to im- prove it can make a huge difference to your performance and your output.
And this is especially important considering the role of focus in working memory, visualization and internalization.
The Salience Network
In charge of your focus and attention is a network of brain regions that are collectively known as the salience network. These handle what is technically known as ‘executive control’ or ‘executive at- tention’.
One of the key structures in this network is a part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) which is linked to the prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus/brain stem. Damage to the ACC has been shown to completely remove motivation and drive and in extreme cases, this can leave a person without even the motivation to move. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that allows us to plan and reason, whereas the hypothala- mus is the part of the brain associated with emotional responses – it links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. The brain stem meanwhile is responsible for many of our autonomic functions such as breathing and digesting.
What we can gather from this, is that the attention network is ac- tually driven not by logical thought but rather by emotion. Emotion tells us what is important and more often than not, this of course relates to what is important to our survival.
And this tells us why it can be so hard to focus on a seemingly boring essay or why we put off housework: it has no emotional hook and no seeming survival value. It’s also why we can be ma- nipulated into buying things that we don’t logically need – when those items are portrayed as valuable, desirable or as raising out status (i.e. improving our chances of passing on our genetic mate- rial) then impulse drives us to act.
The key takeaway then? You need to find the emotional hook in what you are doing, if you’re going to make it interesting enough to stay focussed on.
The Dorsal and Ventral Streams
This can be further broken down into two other networks: the dor- sal attention stream and the ventral attention stream. The dorsal stream is responsible for our conscious direction of our attention. This is ‘top down’ attention, which is drive by a desire to focus on specific things to achieve given goals. The ventral attention stream meanwhile is our reactive stream, which is driven by loud noises, sudden movement, bright colors etc.
Dopamine and other excitatory neurotransmitters produced in these areas causes us to rapidly switch attention to that thing. This is why you get the ‘cocktail party effect’ where your ears prick up when someone says your name. It’s also why you might find it hard to concentrate when hungry, when uncomfortable, or when something is playing on your mind.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is known to play an important role and structures such as the ACC have a large number of dopa- mine receptors. The same is true across the ventral and dorsal structures. Thus, another reason for impaired attention may be low dopamine – in which case the world simply doesn’t seem in- teresting enough to hold our attention. This is one popular expla- nation for the biological basis of ADHD.
Increasing dopamine therefore can increase your focus. You could potentially do this with nootropics yes, but preferable would be to do it by again making what you’re doing seem more interest- ing in the way that your brain responds well to – by making it more emotionally interesting.
How to Hack Your Attention
With all that in mind, how do you go about hacking your attention and getting more from it?
1) First, try to block out the potentially distracting environmental factors. A method that WordPress CTO Matt Mullenweg us- es to accomplish this, is to listen to music he knows well on repeat. Eventually, excitation of the same neurons results in something called desensitization – which is why we tune out the sound of a ticking clock (it’s also why you start to halluci- nate when surrounded by a completely white snowscape – this is your brain making up for a lack of stimulation). Tuning out of the sound in your ears can provide a kind of sensory deprivation, allowing you to focus more effectively on writing or working. White noise actually works equally well.
2) Tim Ferriss is known to watch films he knows on silent while writing. This has a similar effect – it keeps the visual cortex busy and stimulated thus avoiding distraction and making other distracting thoughts, movements or sounds less invit- ing. You can also achieve this by working in a ‘richer’ envi- ronment with more to look at. This is a flow trigger as you may recall, meaning it can theoretically wake your brain up more and also avoid distraction. It’s why the old corporate idea of working in grey cubicles is so outmoded.
3) This is also why it’s so important to make sure you are in homeostasis – to avoid unuseful stress, tiredness or hunger that can tell your body you have more important things to consider. This is where the full book comes in – so make sure you read it!
4) Most important is making what you’re doing more interesting. Got writer’s block? Can’t force yourself to concentrate on what you’re writing? Chances are, it’s because what you’re writing doesn’t excite you. And if it doesn’t excite you, it probably won’t excite your readers either. So, try to change the scene or the approach to the topic and make it some- thing you feel passionate about. If it’s something you don’t have any say over, then try to find something about the task or subject you can relate to. Nearly every subject contains some element of artistry.
5) Use CBT to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Link the task at hand to the emotionally gratifying end goal. If you’re doing boring work now, it is probably because you are trying to get a promotion, launch a business… etc.
So, focus on that end vision and picture it in your mind’s eye. This will drive you toward achieving that end.
The opposite can also be true here, if you want to end a bad behavior then try to picture the negative outcomes that you associate with it and you can effectively rewire your brain. For instance, if you keep snacking, then you should focus on your growing belly each time you go to – and even try to conjure the feeling of being overly full. Remember the last time you ate desert and didn’t really need it and how that made you feel!
6) Make sure that you believe that the activity you’re engaged in really will yield that reward. This is important in order to be motivated by that activity. We motivate ourselves to go to work every day because we know we’ll get paid. We don’t motivate ourselves to workout consistently though, because there’s a chance that that effort won’t result in the body we want (most of us have tried and failed before!). Make sure you have a plan you believe in and you’re chances of stick- ing with it will greatly improve! This again requires CBT and cognitive restructuring. Challenge your thoughts and really break down what you actually believe. If you can identify the problems with your plan, then fix those. Keep it simple. Do- ing more press-ups will burn more calories. And write your goals appropriately: aim to simply get into better shape and start working out, rather than aiming to transform your phy- sique in weeks.
7) Dopamine is released in anticipation of reward. This is why activities such as programming are so inherently addictive and make it much easier to achieve flow – every time the coder hits compile they get a rush of dopamine waiting to see if the program works. They can then make one small fix and hit run again. Something similar happens when editing video.
This is also what makes computer games more rewarding – it’s the constant reward/failure and the sounds and the colors that signify each. Longer and more abstract tasks lack this reward loop and aren’t as immediately gratifying, meaning they lack the dopaminergic reward. Find ways to gamify what you’re doing and you can remedy this – for example, try keeping focussed on the word count while typing. Or try tidying your hoes in a set time frame. Go for ‘big wins’ first so that you can see the fruits of your labor. Even choosing the right data to show on a Sat Nav during a long drive can make a huge difference. It’s better to show how much further is left to go, rather than what time you’ll arrive. Why? Be- cause the former counts down thereby providing that stimu- lating reward loop.
Finally: practice your focus, your motivation and your attention. Like anything else, this can be trained. Many people say to start by making your bed every morning and if you can motivate your- self to do that every day, eventually you can motivate yourself to do anything!
So, if you aren’t a highly successful solopreneur from day one… just keep at it! You might procrastinate half the time for the first year, but you’ll get there eventually!
To Your Optimal Success
“Aspire To Inspire Today & Everyday”