Anybody who’s been in sales has probably been in a situation where you’ve been in a room with someone and you’re looking at them and you’re having a conversation with them. And they’re looking around the room. They’re looking at things. People are buzzing them on the phone. They’re like, “excuse me.” They’re taking the call and you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, “why am I here? Why am I doing this?” So other people’s focus or lack of focus will give you a really good idea of where you stand with them.
David: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. We are back once again. Jay McFarland, and I will be discussing, maintaining focus in your day. Welcome back, Jay.
Jay: It’s so good to be here, David. And I know that focus is something that everybody’s working on. One of the reasons I know this is all of the technology companies are building focus tools into their devices.
We must be wanting this because I can now tell my phone, no I’m focused on this and it gives me different screens for that particular time so that I can be focused in on this. So we must all want to be able to focus better. And the question is, how do we achieve that?
David: Yeah. Especially when there are other technology companies that are trying to get you to focus on them.
Right? You gave a great example. I noticed that too, on my phone, there’s the new focus button. And I like that idea, but in the meantime, nearly every social media platform is designed to steal your focus, to derail you from what it is that you wanted to do today in favor of what they would like to have you do today, which is to scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, and then scroll some more.
So we do have technology that is working for us, and we have technology that is working against us. But last time when we were talking about the idea of building proactively, I think these things tie together. As we’re building proactively, we recognize that it does require day-to-day focus.
And so in order to do that, we have to say, okay, how are we going to make it happen? Particularly with all sorts of forces, potentially conspiring against us.
Jay: Yeah. I love that point, that on the one hand tech is trying to help us focus, and then everything else in the world, I’m like, “squirrel!” You know, squirrel there’s something new and it’s not just social media who’s trying to distract you. It’s the employees who want your time, the customers who call up because they don’t know your schedule. They just know they have a question, right? So they’re calling you. So how do you go about building some semblance of focus throughout your day with all of these distractions that are coming in constantly?
David: Well, from my standpoint, I think we need to decide at the beginning of the day, as early as possible, what really needs to happen today? Because that’ll help us to determine where our focus needs to be. What is it that actually has to get done? What has to happen? What do you have to do versus what do other people in your organization have to do?
So if you own the organization, you’re going to have to determine what you’re doing and what they need to be focused on. And how are you going to avoid distraction? Lots of people have, or had, open door policies when people were working together. Do I have my door open? Do I have my door closed?
I liked the idea of having an open-door policy. So for many years in my business, I did. But unfortunately, that sometimes programs people to think, okay, door’s open! I’m constantly available. So you really need to balance that and make determinations as far as how much of your time during a given day is going to be dedicated to focus time. The work that you have to get done in a specific timeframe, in a specific way, without distraction. And then adapt or create an environment that allows you to do that.
Jay: Yeah. I have a funny story. I went to a company, it was a brand new company. They just built this beautiful building. And I went to the CEO and his desk was right out in the middle of everybody else’s.
Jay: No cubicle walls, nothing. There’s the CEO’s desk, right? And about six months later, I went back. And instead of that desk, there was an office. And I’m like, what happened? And he is like, well, I just realized, as much as I wanted the open door feeling and that people could come to me. I just couldn’t do the things that I needed to do, because it was like a line, where people were wanting to talk to me every few minutes.
David: Right. Yeah. And so everybody needs to determine how much they can take. How much they can actually get done, without completely distracting themselves. And you basically have to engineer your environment around that. But I think the idea of, professionals in particular, requiring the ability and the time to focus. It can’t be understated.
You really need to be able to do that. And a lot of times, because we’re so reactive, we don’t even think about it. And so simply by identifying the fact that you are going to require focus hours in at least some of your days. Probably most of them, if what you’re doing is important work. And because of that, you’re going to very likely have to change the way that things are done.
Jay: Yeah, I know people and I’ve tried to start doing this in my own life where they only check their email at a certain time of day. They have an email check time. And their point is that they never get an email that has to be responded to immediately.
If somebody has an immediate concern, they’ll call. They’ll do something else. And so they literally do not look at their email. I have my email up all the time. I’m going to be totally honest. And when one pops up, I will leave whatever else I’m doing. And I will respond to that email. And I know that this is an issue for me because then afterwards I’m like “now, what was I working on?”
Because if I was typing something up, now I’ve lost my train of thought. And so I know that I’m hurting my productivity, David. But I still do it anyway, because I’m such a creature of habit. And I also have FOMO the fear of missing out. I have FOMO so bad that I’m not sure how to overcome it.
David: It sounds a little like a shared malady. Entrepreneurial A.D.D.
Jay: Yes. Yeah.
David: Where, it’s always the next thing. What’s the next thing? What’s the next thing? I certainly have a tendency to share that as well. But one of the things that I do when something is actually a real focus project –and actually you and I through this before we jumped on the call.
I literally turned off my phone, not just silenced it, not just turned it upside down on the table. Literally turned it off. Closed out the email, shut everything down, got rid of all the other apps so that we can have this conversation. And for something like this, it makes perfect sense to do that. But if there are other projects that I feel like I need to get done, I just do the same thing.
And if it’s available to you, you’re going to do it, right? If you can access that email right away. And if it is in front of you, you are going to be a lot more likely to respond to it. I do tend to check email a couple times a day. There are some times where I’ll grab my phone and I’ll do it in between. But for the most part, I’m not a complete servant to my email for the exact reason that we discussed.
Email is a list of other people’s priorities. And so if you’ve got priorities of your own, that are important enough to you, then you’ll start to do that. At least for me, that’s what I did. You know, another thing that helps me a lot with focus, or let’s start with this. One of the things that really distracts me from focus is input.
So things like whatever, email, videos, social media, all of that is input. Most of us get paid, not for our input, but for our output. What is it that we’re doing? What are we actually putting out into the world? If you recognize that input is generally not dollar work and output is dollar work.
It becomes easier to say, okay, no more input for now. I’m going to focus the next two hours on output. And that means shutting down social media, maybe turning off the phone or silencing it. Shutting down the email and then just focusing on the output. If you just think in terms of input and output, you can really start to make a big difference in terms of the focus hours you’re able to put in during any given day.
Jay: I really like that. Kind of maybe having a balance scale in your mind. Am I spending more time with the input or the output? How much more could I accomplish in my job? How much more proficient could I be if I focus on that output?
I have to tell you, while we’ve been talking, a text has come in and it’s up in the top left corner of all my screens. I haven’t looked at it. But It’s there. And I know it’s there. And it is so hard for me, David, to not look over at that while we’re… And so I forgot to put my computer in do not disturb mode. And so now it’s sitting there and I’m like, you know, “what if I just peek over?” But there’s no way that any text that I have coming over is going to be more important than what we’re talking about right now. So I’m going to exercise self-control and I’m…
David: You’re doing great.
Jay: …going to keep the discussion. Yeah.
David: You’re doing great. I think if something popped up in the corner of my screen, I think my eye would automatically go to it. So you’re doing very well.
So I mean, to nutshell it really, I think a good question for all of us to ask ourselves is how much time each day can we actually focus? It doesn’t have to be eight hours a day. I mean, you can probably accomplish more in one and a half to two hours of focus than you can accomplish in a full eight-hour day, if you’ve got distractions all over the place.
As humans, we don’t multitask as well as machines do. You know? Like if you’ve got windows open, you’ve got 10 different things it’s cycling through as well. It’s doing the same thing that our brains do. It’s just that the computers are able to do it a lot more efficiently.
Whenever we have to change channels, we have to switch from this mode to that mode, this idea to that idea, project to project, it takes a little while to get things back in gear. And that just adds to your day. It detracts from your focus and it adds hours to your day. Whereas if you can focus on one thing, at least long enough to get through enough of it to have accomplished something for the day, you’re going to be way ahead of if you don’t do that.
Jay: Yeah, and it can be exhausting too, if you’re trying to constantly output, there may be a point of degradation of your work product. I don’t know what that point is. It’s probably different for each individual. So it may be wise to put your scheduling in blocks and say, “I am going to take 10 minutes and go on TikTok. Or get up and take a walk and talk to some coworkers or things like that.” Just to refresh your brain and get the blood flowing. I don’t think we want to send the message to somebody that no, you have to, for eight hours a day, be…
Jay: …working constantly on output. That’s probably too much for most people.
David: Right. Yeah, but switching… and there’s I believe it’s called the Pomodoro technique. You’re probably familiar with this one, where you work for 50 minutes and then you take 10 minutes and you distract yourself. Or you take a walk, you stand up, move around. If you were to do that during any given workday, it just sort of gives your brain a break.
But getting back to the idea of doing many things at a time versus focusing on one thing at a time. That by itself, I think is going to give you a lot of traction. If you can just discipline yourself as much as possible. And I’m speaking to myself as well. If we can discipline ourselves as much as possible to focus on one thing, we can spend an enormous amount of time thinking about something.
I mean, sometimes days or weeks, “oh, I have to do this. Oh, I have to do this. Oh, I have to do this,” thinking about this one project. And when you sit down to do it, it takes an hour or two, you know, like, wow. I probably spent three hours over the course of the last three weeks, thinking about this thing that only took an hour to do.
Jay: Yeah, I forget who said it, but they said that time will fill whatever space you allot to it. And so if you give it three hours, it’s going to take three hours. If you give it one hour, you’ll probably get it done in one hour. And that’s just kind of the way that our mind works.
David: Yeah, exactly.
Jay: Yeah. And one other thing, one other thing, not to interrupt you, about focus. One of the things that really, really bothers me is when I’m working with somebody, whether it’s my boss or a customer or I’m the customer. and I feel like they’re not giving me their focus. Like they’re…
Jay: …checking their email. Or they’re checking their text. Or people keep coming up and interrupting them.
Jay: When I don’t feel like I have somebody’s focus, it completely ruins my respect for them and it makes me feel like they don’t care about me. And so I think it’s very important to understand how our focus is influencing the people around us.
David: Yes. And for salespeople in particular, anybody who’s been in sales has probably been in a situation where you’ve been in a room with someone and you’re looking at them and you’re having a conversation with them.
And they’re looking around the room. They’re looking at things. People are buzzing them on the phone. They’re like, “excuse me.” They’re taking the call and you’re sitting there and you’re thinking, “why am I here? Why am I doing this?” So other people’s focus or lack of focus will give you a really good idea of where you stand with them and…
David: …there are probably some married people who , who struggle with this as well. I need to allocate more time and more focus to my spouse, my kids, whatever it is.
This goes to the whole idea of being present, which is probably the subject of another podcast, but just being in the moment and trying to focus on what it is that we need to do. Just long enough to get it done and then identify the next thing and start on that.
Jay: Yeah, and then go back. But if you’re going into a sales call, turn your phone off before you go into a sales call so that you’re not tempted to do those kind of things. Knowing what you’re about to do and what level of focus you’re going to need to do it, I think is something that I haven’t given a lot of thought, David, that’s why I’m glad we’re having the discussion right now.
David: That’s great. Well, we’re going to be continuing this discussion inside the Inner Circle this week. If it’s something you’d like to ask a question about, if you got a comment about, log into our Inner Circle membership site, if you’re not already a member, go to TopSecrets.com/ic and we’ll see you inside.
Jay: Yeah. And when you’re inside stay focused.
David: Yeah, stay focused!
Jay: That’s right.
David: Thanks Jay.
Are You Ready to Improve Results by Maintaining Focus?
If so, check out the five primary ways we help promotional product distributors grow:
- Just Getting Started? If you (or someone on your team) is just getting started in promotional products sales, learn how we can help.
- Need Clients Now? If you’re already grounded in the essentials of promotional product sales and just need to get clients now, click here.
- Want EQP/Preferential Pricing? Are you an established industry veteran doing a significant volume of sales? If so, click here to get End Quantity Pricing from many of the top supplier lines in the promo industry.
- Time to Hire Salespeople? If you want to hire others to grow your promo sales, click here.
- Ready to Dominate Your Market? If you’re serious about creating top-of-mind-awareness with the very best prospects in your market, schedule a one-on-one Strategy Session here.