Productivity is key to sales. There will never be enough time in the day to finish absolutely everything you have to, so the only way to up your output is to make better use of your hours in the office.
That’s where the concept of “flow” comes in. In psychology, flow -- also known as “the zone” -- is the state of being at peak productivity. When you’re in flow, you perform at a level five times above your normal productivity, according to a 10-year McKinsey study.
Flow isn’t easy to achieve, especially on a crowded sales floor where you’re surrounded by other people’s conversations. But each of these five tactics will improve your focus and bring you closer to being in the zone.
1) Break up your day into “activity chunks.”
One reason multitasking is so ineffective is that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to productivity after a distraction. Distractions are inevitable (especially in a profession that involves so much interaction) but you can minimize them by focusing only on one thing at a time.
Divide your day into chunks of activity, and during each time period, work on only one type of task. It requires far less brainpower to jump from one call to another than it does to switch back and forth between calls, emails, and demos.
2) Establish routines for your common activities.
Within each activity chunk, make sure that when applicable, you’re following the same routine. For example, if you’re on the phones for two hours each morning, you can use the following sequence: make the call, take notes in your CRM, send a follow-up email afterwards, log the email in your CRM. Or maybe you prefer to send your emails in blasts and just go from call to call. Whatever it is, find the routine that works for you and stick to it.
Getting into the habit of following the same routine for each type of task means it will quickly become second nature, and you won’t have to spend time wondering whether you’ve missed a step or followed up with that customer.
3) Turn off all channels you’re not using.
According to venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers’ Internet Trends report, the average person checks their phone 150 times a day.
The implications of that number are staggering. If every interruption takes 25 minutes to recover from, it would take you a total of 62.5 hours each day to fully recover from all that phone-checking. Which, given that you only spend around eight hours in the office per day, means you literally never operate at full productivity.
Not to mention the time you spend distracted by your email, instant messages, Facebook, LinkedIn … you get the picture.
When you’re working, only give yourself access to the channels that you need to do your job. Block out everything else, and your productivity will skyrocket.
4) Set the expectation with colleagues that you’ll only be responsive during certain hours.
That being said, you can’t get work done if people are constantly stopping by your desk to chat. So block off time each day when you’re available to answer teammates’ questions, attend internal meetings, or simply hang out -- then communicate that to the rest of your team.
5) Schedule breaks into your day.
Of course, it’s unreasonable -- and unhealthy -- to work without stopping all day, every day. So make sure to schedule time when you’re not doing … anything.
Your brain is a muscle, and repeated stress (i.e. working without a break) decreases its effectiveness. After a spate of hard work, you need a break.
Research suggests that the optimal balance of work and relaxation is a 52-minute period of work followed by a 17-minute break. Your ideal balance will vary, but make sure during your breaks to get away from your computer and forget about work for a while. If you don’t take this time to recharge, you’ll be exhausted and stressed by the end of the day.
The bad news? Flow isn’t a mythical state of productivity you can reach just by closing your eyes and clicking your heels. And while that might be easier, the good news is that you can take real, concrete steps to becoming more productive and making the most of your time.
Originally published Nov 9, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017