Let’s be honest. This nation was built on multitasking. Our founding fathers simultaneously built cities and towns, overcame British rule, penned The Constitution, and even spruced up their wigs at night. How did they do it all? By juggling many things at once.
Multitasking is all about juggling, and it turns out, juggling is actually terrible for your sales productivity. Sure, multitasking feels right. Switching from task to task makes us feel like we’re accomplishing many things at once. We even used to put it on our resumes (“Adept at multitasking”).
The hard reality, though, is that multitasking is devastating to our success at sales and business. What’s especially bad is switching from device to device throughout the day. One study found that switching from your lead list on your laptop to your mobile phone to scroll on LinkedIn, and back and forth, actually changes the gray matter in your brain. Long-term studies are still ongoing, but it doesn’t look good from early findings.
So – before we go any further, does any of this sound familiar? Are you an SDR or an AE and constantly juggling tasks throughout your day? Calling down a lead list, replying to social posts, Twitter, doom-scrolling, back to cold calling, organizing the CRM, follow-ups, sales reports, emails, and on and on. And all in a single morning!
If that’s you, you have to have better self control. Today I’m going to (hopefully) help open your eyes to the detriments of multitasking, and then I’m going to offer you a better alternative.
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5 Ways Multitasking is Hurting Sales Productivity
1. Kills Peak-State Potential
You know what it feels like to be “in the zone.” Everything just flows and three hours feels like three minutes. Well multitasking kills your groove on contact. Sales is all about momentum. It takes time to get the ball rolling, so to speak, and once it’s rolling it shouldn’t be stopped. This prolonged focus has been coined “deep work.” The benefit of deep work is that your brain has time to settle into a project and perform at peak state. Make your target four deep work sessions in a day, each 1-2 hours, where you focus on only one task at a time. And be sure to take 5-10 minute breaks in-between each deep work session.
2. Reduces Focus
Multitasking in sales also decimates your focus. Constantly switching tasks — many of which are completely mind-numbing to begin with — results in cognitive waste. The brain takes several minutes on average to adapt to a new project. Think of your brain like a telescope and your tasks like planets. You can’t just point a telescope in the sky and immediately be looking at a planet. You have to dial it in, turn some nobs, adjust the angles, etc. In the same way, your mind needs time to recalibrate every time it lands on a new task. So… it’s far better to explore a single planet in-depth before moving on to the next planet. After all, you’re already there. You get it?
3. Increases Stress
Everytime we switch from our Outlook inbox to our CRM to our LinkedIn profile to our prospect’s website, we’re adding another rubber band to our ball of stress. And at some point, the whole thing will start to snap. Look – it might not seem stressful to multitask and indulge in distractions, but I promise it takes its toll. Experts say that hormonal stressors caused by multitasking can increase your stress levels in a significant way. You might even experience memory loss when multitasking; and on a long enough timeline, you might completely lose the ability to focus on one thing at a time. Sales can be stressful enough, so there’s no need to compound the stress effect.
4. Hurts Your Creativity / Causes Brain Fog
So much of sales is about thinking on your feet and using your creative energies to explore your prospect’s pain points, position your product or service as the solution, thoughtfully overcome objections, negotiate, and engage with people in an authentic way. Well, you can kiss those skills goodbye if you’re a multitasker. Multitasking hurts your ability to think sharp and be the gregarious salesperson you know you are. Divide and conquer just doesn’t work in sales. The distracted salesperson is the guy that’s falling short of his sales numbers. I see it all the time.
5. Produces Low-quality Work
You simply cannot produce high-quality work if you’re juggling ten tasks at once. Some of the tasks are bound to drop, it’s only a matter of time. So you have to decide: Would you rather do 5-10 different tasks at 40%, or one task at 100%? I recommend aiming for one task at 100%. And when that task is finished, switch to dominate the next task with your full focus, and so on throughout the day. To revisit the juggling analogy, it’s much easier to keep one ball in the air than ten balls in the air.
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I understand that it’s not always possible to focus on one task at a time. In the digital age, we’re pulled in multiple directions at once. So I’m not saying you can never multitask again. You WILL multitask again, even today. That’s fine. But… I am recommending that you be mindful of how much you multitask in a given day or week. Maybe cut it down by 25%-50% to start, and build up from there. Or try out a no-multitasking rule in the mornings, before you take lunch. Imagine the benefits that would follow.
By being intentional to focus on one task only, you’d start making more cold calls, have more meaningful conversations with prospects, and get into those incredibly beneficial “deep work” states. You owe it to yourself and your career. Remember, the benefits are far-reaching. You’ll be more likely to enter peak-performance state, you’ll have better focus, less stress, more creativity, and you’ll be producing higher-quality work.
You’ve got this.
Until next time…