Distracted? It takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine.
Whilst I quite like interaction with my teams, and I’m guilty of checking my social too regularly, I have realised this isn’t me at my most productive.
When you have goals to reach and even targets to hit, you need to ensure you’re completing the right tasks to get there. But with so many distractions, and likely with other tasks interrupting your flow, how can we keep ‘in the zone’.
And why should we be ‘in the zone’? Is multitasking better? I used to think that keeping many plates spinning was a good thing, and its true there are many things I have to juggle, but by clearly defining what needs to get done, by when, and then (importantly) how, I have learnt that I need to focus on one task at a time as that is what gets me there.
Everyone works differently, but I have noticed that those I see working the most effectively focus on one task at a time, and prioritise their tasks well. If they cannot take on tasks that aren’t goal-focused, they say so, delegate or allocate time after goals have been reached. I thought I was happily spinning these plates and looking busy. I should have been productive – not busy. There’s a difference.
I’m an advocate of the Pomodoro Technique and have introduced it to many clients, but however you like to chunk your time is good.
In brief, the Pomodoro Technique gets you to list your tasks for the day, prioritise them and allocate time to them in chunks of 25 minutes. You use a kitchen timer (not your phone.. as it is distracting..) and set it for 25 minutes, complete one task, then take a 5 minute break (set the timer..). Then you complete another. You can, of course, complete a task in several turns of the timer.
After four ‘pomodoros’ you take a longer break. There are many blogs, articles and infographics out there on the Pomodoro Technique so I won’t labour the point here. There are also advocates of the 45 minute stretch with 15 minute breaks – I tried it and found 15 minutes made me restless and wanting to get back to my desk so I stick to the 25 minutes / 5 minutes.
So, working more productively and managing your time is something we all see the point of. When you’re busy, though, taking time to look at your time.. seems wrong! We are so busy getting stuff done we’re not looking at the how, when or why. It doesn’t have to take long. It is a work in progress, taking practice. You can take just one or two points away from this and still improve your day. And then you’ll feel like you achieved, made progress and therefore get that self satisfaction buzz. It will also help you identify what you spend your time on, if that’s heading you towards your goals, and what you could potentially delegate.
So I’m going to start with the ‘why’.
Let’s look at how purposeful your day is. When you have goals and targets, you need a plan to get you there. If you don’t know what your goals and targets are, find out. List what you’re doing currently (grouping tasks into general areas) and check in – is that the purpose of your role?
So, with goals (and targets if you’re in sales particularly) in hand, lets see if your day is heading in the right direction. For a bit of help we have a FREE No Fluff planner for our subscribers!
You’ll have other tasks to complete, often internal meetings, inbound enquiries and even operational duties. That’s ok.. you’ll just need to plan them in.
Overall my targets for this month might be like this in order to hit my revenue goals..
- contact 40 cool leads
- gain 8 new warm leads
- close 4 hot leads
- maintain all current clients’ work
- cross sell to 4 current clients on other services
Those are my main, revenue generating targets for the month.
For each week this month therefore this is what I need to do to hit those targets:
- contact 10 cool prospects (in order to gain 2 new warm leads)
- gain 2 new warm leads
- close 1 hot lead
- cross sell to 1 existing clientAnd I have these tasks I also need to complete (but aren’t ‘goals’)
- set up training plan
- get invoicing done
- check over the next newsletter
- personal items (dentist appointment, dog walk etc)
- catch up with an Associate
- check up on a past coachee
Looking at this list I know that certain chunks of my time this week are scheduled with clients, meetings etc so I’ll block these off. As each will involve note taking I’ll schedule time around them to complete that. Delivering on my promises to clients takes precedence.
Then I look at my goals and what actions I need to complete today to get there. For example, to close the 1 hot lead I need to make some phone calls (several, as it can take a few attempts to get through, and I’ll have a few hot leads ready to be closed so I’ll try all of them) so I’ll schedule time for that, likely 2 x ‘pomodoros’.
The training plan will take more time, perhaps an hour, so I schedule in 2 ‘pomodoros’ for that.
So I schedule in this order:
- delivering on client promises
- actions that will get me to target, now and in the coming months
- other actions
The other tasks I fit around the non-movable client and goal-oriented tasks. Eyes on the prize!
Also, some of them will only take a few minutes so I can group them together in one ‘pomodoro’. Usually this would be one slot for personal items, one slot for catching up with clients and Associates etc.
It’s important to focus on TYPE of task at a time. Brain tennis isn’t the most productive way to work.
I could write more on this, but if you group your tasks, group similar ones together. For example, I’m not a fan of accounting and administration. So I allocate specific time in the day to do all of those tasks, get them done, and then move on. If I know I have emails to get through, I’ll allocate time to do all of them (pretty much all of them can wait a half hour).
I also know that I am at my most productive and creative from early morning until about 2pm. So that is when most of my creative tasks (eg. copywriting, setting up training slides etc).
I also know that if I’m calling potential clients in Australia it is an early morning shift for me. In the same vein, if I’m calling US clients it’s done later in the evening. So I plan my calling time around what suits the client.
I am well aware that ‘stuff’ crops up too. When I started planning my days into chunks I planned every last minute. It left no time for ‘stuff’. The odd phone call I wasn’t expecting, or a prospective client wanting a complicated quote, or an Associate needing some input on some work. Allow flexibility in your schedule, but always keep your goals in mind – that comes first.
I know that unless you’re physically incapable for that day, you can always fit in a tiny weeny half hour of sales calling. Not emailing – you’ll get distracted. Call 5 people, just 5, even on your busy days. Ideally more than that if you’re to hit target, but keep it ticking over, don’t get out of the habit of selling or you’ll find it harder to get back in the zone.
In conclusion.. be clear on what your main objectives are. Plan what activity you need to do each month/week/day to get there. Allocate time to those activities. Everything else around them.
If you want to give it a try, we have a FREE No Fluff planner for you! If you’d like the free planner, just subscribe ASAP as it’ll be going out in the next newsletter! If you miss that, just subscribe and drop us a line and we’ll happily send you one.
Eyes on the prize, people!