business blueprint | May 15, 2024 |
How putting down your phone can bring in a six-figure profit

From the moment we wake up, the urge to pick up our phones is almost unavoidable. Checking your messages or scrolling on social media activates dopamine in our brains, providing a mindless distraction and a tantalizing temptation that’s quite literally addictive. It’s also a habit that can have a profound impact on your business.

Lack of focus is one of the costliest mistakes we make as humans. And while your phone isn’t the only culprit, it’s certainly an ever-present one. But what if you could leave work by 3 p.m. to pick your kids up at school knowing that you had billed seven hours and your work was done for the day? What if you didn’t feel compelled to work at night after dinner, and you had quality time with your spouse? What if you could enjoy time with friends, hobbies or your kid’s extracurricular activities without work-related guilt? It’s entirely possible if you rethink how you focus on the tasks at hand.

Every time you’re distracted from what you’re working on, it can take 10 to 20 minutes to get back into flow and focus. That’s texts, phone calls and social media, but it’s also the “Do you have a minute?” questions that come up every day. Add in the time spent responding to the diversion, and your total time wasted could easily be more than two hours per day.

Let’s be conservative and assume you’re only distracted two hours a day by various interruptions. Let’s also be conservative and estimate that you work 220 days a year after deducting for vacations and holidays.

220 days x 2 hours x $200 per hour = $88,000

If you can focus and maintain your discipline, you can easily save 330 to 660 hours per year, increasing your income or profit by $66,000 to $132,000.

And the math isn’t just about you: It’s about your team, since firm owners can only bill about half of their time—as they’re busy running the business. So, if your team is not productive, that affects the bottom line.

A lot of clients come to us in the early stages of starting their firm, complaining that they are working too much. And it’s true—they’re working 50 to 80 hours a week—but a lot of it is time spent doing things they shouldn’t be doing, like filling samples, a nonbillable activity. As the owner of the company, it’s important to understand the greatest value for each individual on the team, including yourself.

Why is it so hard to break our distraction addiction?

We are wired to do what is easiest and most enjoyable in the moment. Most people don’t think about the long-term consequences of getting sidetracked. But once you realize you have a choice about how you manage your time—and see the cost of doing so ineffectively—your whole business shifts. We teach our clients how to block their time so that they’re scheduling the hours that they need to bill, a simple change that has a profound (and profitable) impact.

Before you can tackle your team’s time management practices, you have to train yourself first. Habits are everything, and once you learn better time-related habits, you can teach other people to follow your lead.

What if we were to break our distraction habits? I don’t know your age, but just consider that if you’re 25 and you work 40 years, you could save 26,400 hours or just over three years of time. And what if you had an extra $5,280,000 in your bank account? Would it be worth changing your habits?

Here are five quick tips to help you maintain focus throughout the workday:

  1. Leave your phone in the kitchen at night.
  2. Start your day with “you time.” That might include exercise, reading, getting the family out the door or working on a personal project.
  3. Wait to check your phone until at least 11 a.m., then check it just once more at 4 p.m.
  4. Schedule your day at the end of the previous workday.
  5. Track your time. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets improved.”

Being present and focused is a rare skill these days. Hopefully you’re now inspired to work less—and make more money while you’re at it.

For insights and analysis on how designers across the country run their firms, download the 2023 Interior Design Business Survey report, presented by Pearl Collective, Interior Talent and Business of Home.


Gail Doby is co-founder of Pearl Collective (formerly Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting), an interior design business consultancy that helps designers, architects and other creatives increase their profitability. Doby ran her own design firm in Denver for nearly 20 years and has a degree in finance and banking. Since 2008, she has been helping designers scale their businesses profitably and reach financial freedom. As a coach, mentor and business transformation specialist, she shares innovative ways to overcome the roadblocks, challenges and detours creative entrepreneurs face. She is also the bestselling author of Business Breakthrough: Your Creative Value Blueprint to Get Paid What You’re Worth. Her goal is to empower design industry clients to differentiate themselves, drive measurable results, achieve business projections, and create personal satisfaction through game-changing strategies and business practices.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.