In order to succeed in a sales role, you must have priorities, otherwise how do you know what to focus on? As the ancient philosopher Seneca once said: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”
In a world full of distraction, it’s necessary to have the discipline to step away and think: What am I doing? What are my priorities? What is the most significant contribution I make to my work, my family, my hobbies and pastimes, and the world at large? The activities that support these priorities represent traction; everything else is a distraction. In a world full of distractions, focus is a superpower.
Identify your destination before you set off
The secret to planning and executing against our priorities is to identify our key success activities. These are the ones that, if planned and executed well, will enable success. The best possible chance of this happening is if they’re a natural output of our work. Execute these tasks in dedicated blocks of uninterrupted time utilising the Pomodoro technique.
And yet, how many people organise their days, weeks, or lives to make this possible? Precious few! And we then wonder why we are frazzled, unproductive, and overwhelmed.
The level of required focus is sporadic; people have every intention of being focused but then…
- our phone pings from a text/WhatsApp/email/insert social media platform of choice
- we get distracted
- we get tired
- we try to multitask (which the brain can’t do, BTW!)
- we don’t have the self-discipline to truly lock into something
An antidote to the malaise of constant distraction is to take time each week to reflect, identify the key success activities and plan to execute them effectively. In The Thriving Sales Professional Framework we call this Plan-do-Review. The Plan-do-Review process is:
- 30 min with yourself each week (Friday morning before 9 am is recommended)
- Take the meeting offsite to a local coffee shop
- Reflect on the week just gone and note to yourself: What worked well? What didn’t work so well? What should I stop or do less of? What should I start or do more of? This reflection allows you to make marginal gains week after week
- Break your work and life into sub-roles
- Work examples: New Business Developer, Deal Manager, Team player, Communications Manager
- Home examples: Spouse, Mother or Father, hobbyist
- Identify your key success activities for the roles most relevant to the following week
- Plan these into your schedule, being very specific about the details of the task
- Include email management as a task you book 2-3 times a day (so you don’t answer every email as and when it comes in; a ubiquitous source of distraction)
When it comes to the execution of tasks in the week, use the Pomodoro Technique (see below).
Dealing with distractions – ask yourself, is this urgent and important and aligned to my key success activities? If so, do it; if not, it’s called procrastination!
In essence, don’t let the important be a victim of the urgent and keep the main thing, the main thing!
The original technique has six steps:
1. Decide on the task to be done
2. Set a timer (typically for 25 minutes – this is called a pomodoro)
3. Work on the task
4. End work when the timer rings and take a short break (typically 5–10 minutes)
5. If you have finished fewer than three pomodoros, go back to Step 2 and repeat until you go through all three pomodoros
6. After three successful pomodoros, do a fourth pomodoro and then have a longer break (typically 20 to 30 minutes). Once the long break is finished, return to step 2.
Discipline is Destiny, Ryan Holiday, 2022
Get Things Done, David Allen, 2015
The Pomodoro Technique, Francesco Cirillo, 2018