Few things give rise to the idea that you can do a job better, faster and make more money on your own than a bad day at the corporate office. We’re talking about a three-strikes-you’re-out, should-have-stayed-in-bed kind of bad day. Sometimes the day never gets on track, or one delayed project, missed meeting or ugly email derails everything. The key to managing the messes and repairing the damage is focus: the ability to look through, above and around the noise and concentrate on the required task. Focus requires creativity, concentration, confidence and cooperation, and how much you accomplish depends on how you develop and use these skills.

Creativity

Make a to-do list every day: The list confirms your day’s activities, provides purpose, organization, and structure and establishes daily, weekly and monthly rituals, reminding your brain regularly of those tasks needing your attention.

Allocate your time around your tasks, not the other way around: Be deliberate in your time management skills. A slapdash list of chores and eight hours to do them translates to all of them squeezed into the last two hours. Instead, each job receives a specified amount of time for completion, with some flexibility allowed.

Incorporate fun time: Mental downtime is necessary for brain training. When you train your body, your muscles require rest time to heal injury, soreness and rebuild tissue. It’s the same for your brain. Keep fun brain training games (such as crossword puzzles, word search games) close by or on your phone or tablet, and enjoy them as a break and brain builder.

Exercise is essential: Regular workouts lower weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and stress levels, and also release a chemical in the brain aiding in memory function and mental sharpness. Exercising once or twice a week is not enough to help; you need to break a moderate sweat five times a week to gain this advantage.

Concentration

Know where you do your best work: Some people thrive in chaos, while others require quiet. Provide yourself with the environment that works for you.

Keep multitasking to a minimum: It’s rewarding to do many things at once, thinking we get a lot accomplished. But it’s also a distraction from critical tasks when our attention fluctuates from one activity to another.

What happens at work stays at work: Keep work and personal life separate. We’re tempted to bring work home and proudly lay claim to working too hard. But spreading work over so many hours invites distraction, exhaustion and decreases concentration.

Practice the art of the focused mind: Treat your brain like the rest of your muscles, and train it every day by doing one task for five minutes, then increasing the time every day.

Confidence

Believe you can do at least one difficult thing daily: Have a tough conversation with a loved one, take care of your will, pay off an old credit card debt or reconnect with a former friend or colleague you dislike. These are uncomfortable situations that breed confidence with successful contact and conclusion.

Know where you are going: Have a written six month, one year and five-year plan of action. Dreaming is the first part of your decision process; definitive results require decisive steps.

Adopt a mantra and repeat it every day: Post it on a wall or the bathroom mirror. Listen to your favorite motivational speaker’s most inspiring speech. Remind yourself first thing in the morning and last thing at night: I have a goal. I will only find it if I keep looking and moving forward.

Look and dress the part before you get the part: In business, you always dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Potential clients want to meet and give business to someone who is dressed and groomed properly.

Cooperation

Have trusted friends, teachers, and mentors: It’s not weak or wrong to ask questions; it’s foolish thinking you can truly enter the entrepreneur’s world alone. Join business clubs, attend chamber of commerce meetings, sign up for conventions and enroll in classes.

Be honest with friends and family: Tell them about your decision to become a business, instead of working for one. Some will support you, others will walk away. Avoid judgments and arguments, accept their opinions and show gratitude to those who promise to stand with you.

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