Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Wrapping Up 2015 With — and For — Your Customers

November 11, 2015

January is a month of new beginnings, but you should close down December satisfactorily before 2015 turns into 2016.

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Your personal and professional calendars may already be getting full for December. You have end-of-year reports and those last-minute sales appointments to try to meet your quota. Your department and/or company may have holiday gatherings, and you’ve probably arranged seasonal events with family and friends.

Have you put much thought, though, into how you’ll put a period at the end of the year with your customers and lay the groundwork for a new sentence in January?

Obviously, Remember Them

If you haven’t yet made plans for a holiday mailing, it’s time. These days, you have to be sensitive to the fact that people celebrate different types of winter holidays in the U.S. Card designers are well aware of this, and if you’re just going to send a card with your signature and a personal note, you can still order them. There are also countless websites and applications that let you design their own. Try to keep your message generic but celebratory, if that makes sense. Or you can just send traditional Christmas cards and assume everyone will understand that that’s the dominant December holiday.

If you have a little extra money to spend, do have at least your name and phone number printed on a promotional item that can be mass-produced. Calendars and nice pens are good because they’re more likely to be kept and seen, but you’d be amazed at the multitude of options you’ll have by browsing sites that sell tschotchkes. There’s still time.

More to the Point

Rather than just wishing them a happy or merry whatever, you could also make this a more professional “touch.” Here are some ideas:

Illustrate that you know who each customer is. This is only realistic, of course, if you don’t have a customer list that numbers in the hundreds.  Select a product or two that they’ve ordered during the year and tell them you hope they’re still enjoying it/them. If you’ve struck up personal conversations, pull a comment or two out of your CRM application and let them know that you remember them as individuals, not just names on an obligatory card list.

Thank them for their patronage. Obviously.

Extend a special invitation for an end-of-year discount, shipping upgrade, etc. Especially good if you sell,things that people might buy for gifts. If you can tie this in to their previous purchases, all the better.

Put all of this in a handwritten note. It’s such a pleasure to get one of those these days. If you have the time and nice handwriting, give your holiday greeting this personal touch.

Include a teaser for 2016.

  • Tell them to look for a special sale/new product/website upgrade in [month].
  • Hint at an upgrade/price drop for a product they’ve bought.
  • Give them a sneak preview of your early 2016 editorial calendar. What don’t they want to miss?
  • If it’s time, ask to get on their schedule now for coffee/lunch/a meeting in the dreary month of January.

You get the idea. Smart, thoughtful holiday mailings will most likely be remembered when it’s time to buy.

Stock image courtesy of

Stop Talking to Your Customers So Much. No, Really.

October 15, 2015

Customer relationship-building is a good thing. But are you giving your content creation short shrift?

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I know I’ve written about this theme before, but it bears repeating, since so many social media gurus continue to preach the gospel of social selling.

In theory, the tenets of social selling make some sense. They go something like this:

  • Find the social networks where your prospects and customers are likely to gather and learn about their interests.
  • Create posts that help your audience know who you are beyond just a name in an organization chart. Be human. Share your excitement about your own passions.
  • Interact with other individuals frequently. Share. Commiserate. Offer to assist with problems.
  • Try to position yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Find the “influencers” in your market and engage with them.
  • Don’t be pushy about selling. Rather, try to focus on the interpersonal communication that’s transpiring. Once people learn who you are, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.
  • At some point, you do need to reveal that you do indeed represent a company that sells products and/or services. Be subtle about this.

Is there anything wrong with any of these suggestions? No. They’re all part of the path to sales growth.

The problem is the amount of time that these actions take when you consider them an isolated set of activities. (And think about how easy it is to be distracted when you’re on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook.)

The process of building customer relationships should be organic. It’s not something you should schedule blocks of time for. Let it happen while you’re busy doing your other social media work. If a thread catches your eye while you’re posting a tweet, see if there’s an opportunity for involvement. Then go back to what you were doing so that you don’t look up and realize that an hour has gone by with nothing of substance accomplished.

Use your social media time intelligently by spending the bulk of it creating great content. You will build relationships by doing so as people comment on your blog or retweet a post or share some of your carefully-written pieces. Keep these things in mind as you go:

  • Focus on quality. Google does. Good SEO is very important, but Google is putting emphasis on the quality of content these days, too.
  • Work on your relationships with your existing customers as you continue to court new ones. Acquiring new customers is expensive and time-consuming. Your best customer is the one you already have. Reward them for their loyalty with attention and special treatment.
  • Answer questions before they’re asked. Ask your customer support people what customers complain about. Write posts dealing with the kinds of difficulties people might encounter before they get frustrated and return your products.
  • As you formulate posts or work on your blog, focus on benefits. Solutions. How to help individuals have a better personal or professional life.

In all of the content you create, try to be worthy of being shared. It’s a high compliment to have your work passed along to others.

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Effective Training Improves Your Chances of CRM Success

October 1, 2015

How do you get your sales team to embrace your CRM solution? Training is the first and most critical step.

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The statistics are grim. The percentage of companies who have successfully implemented and continue to use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is rising, but there are still a lot of salespeople who are hiding their Rolodexes in a drawer, maintaining their customer contact records in overflowing file folders, and trying to use Microsoft Outlook to track their interaction with clients.

What are the barriers that separate salespeople from their CRM solutions? There are many, including:

The complexity of the application. CRM software and websites are — necessarily — deep, multi-function, complex solutions with a lot of moving parts. They contain in-depth customer information templates that can help salespeople build exceptionally thorough profiles of every contact. They track historical and current interaction, and, sometimes, real-time social network engagement. They document the sales pipeline. These are very different types of activity, yet they function as integrated elements of the same system. Quite the challenge for both developer and user.

The time required to keep the system updated. State-of-the-art CRM applications make use of existing data, letting you import contact and other information. Some support connections to social media sites, and most can have their functionality extended by integration with third-party add-ons like marketing solutions. Older software requires more data entry, and even the newer ones need attention every day. Salespeople would rather be chasing leads and closing sales than updating their CRM data.

Impatience, frustration, and unwillingess to wait for results, understanding, and insight. It can take months for a CRM solution to start providing the kind of feedback that can help salespeople paint detailed pictures of their prospects and customers — and see when and where they should be engaging with them. A great deal of data input is required first. Which is not to say that CRM applications can’t be of use from day one. They just grow “smarter” as they learn more.

Training can help your sales team overcome all of these obstacles. Here are some suggestions for you to consider as you take on this task.

  • Write and distrbute a problem/solution/benefits summary to get your salespeople thinking about this new tool in general terms — before you start getting into specifics.
  • Involve everyone.
  • Learn what you’ll be using. Don’t overload staff with training on features they won’t need.
  • Encourage the salespeople to develop their own daily routines. Make CRM engagement a habit. This is your golden opportunity to stress general CRM best practices.
  • If it’s feasible, break the training exercises into chunks. Cover one area, like creating profiles, and let the team start entering their own live data. When they’re confident at that, move on to the next feature.
  • Check in with everyone individually to see how they’re absorbing — and liking — the new application. This is a process you should continue even after everyone is off on their own with it. Consider refresher training courses.

Ideally, of course, training should start as soon as you’ve chosen a solution. But if you’re already using one without much success, it’s not too late to back up and get a fresh start.

A Whole Bunch of Sales Statistics That Will Startle You. They Did Me.

September 17, 2015

You’re never the only one, some people say. These sales statistics may surprise you, but they should also show you how common some of your sales experiences are.

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I try to keep this blog original. You probably spend some time each day browsing blogs and social media sites and other sales resources that can provide insight and inspiration, so I don’t report on what other people are saying very often. We probably read some of the same things.

But this being the last weekend of summer 2015, and Hubspot being one of the best sales and marketing resources around, I thought I’d share some sales statistics that the company just posted, courtesy of its email management solution, Sidekick (culled from various sources).They included 107; I’ll just re-post some of the ones that really struck me here.

  • 80 percent of sales require 5 follow-up phone calls after the meeting.
  • If you follow up with web leads within 5 minutes, you’re 9 times more likely to convert them.
  • Only 25 percent of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales.
  • At any given time, only 3 percent of your market is actively buying. 56 percent are not ready, 40 percent are poised to begin.
  • Companies that automate lead management see a 10 percent or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months.
  • Lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate compared to standalone email blasts.
  • Visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text. (Lesson: Use visuals in presentations).
  • 70 percent of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems. 30 percent make decisions to gain something.
  • 95 percent of buyers chose a solution provider that “Provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.”
  • The best times to email prospects are 8am and 3pm.
  • Tuesday emails have the highest open rate compared to other weekdays.
  • Personalized emails including the recipient’s first name in the subject line have higher open rates.
  • An average buyer gets 100+ emails a day, opens just 23 percent, and clicks on just 2 percent of them.
  • 40 percent of emails are opened on mobile first – where the average mobile screen can only fit 4-7 words max.
  • 33 percent of email recipients open emails based on subject line alone.
  • For B2B companies, subject lines that contained the words “alert” and “breaking” perform well.
  •  Subject lines with more than 3 words experience a drop in open rate by over 60 percent.
  • Only 2 percent of cold calls result in an appointment.
  • In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts.
  • On the phone, tone is 86 percent of our communication. Words we actually use are only 14 percent of our communication.
  • Email marketing has 2X higher ROI than cold calling, networking or trade shows.
  • The worst days to call are Mondays from 6 a.m. to noon and Fridays in the afternoon.
  • 91 percent of customers say they’d give referrals. Only 11 percent of salespeople ask for referrals.
  • Customers are 4x more likely to buy when referred by a friend.
  • Sales reps using social selling are 50 percent more likely to meet or exceed their sales quota.
  • 57 percent of the buyer’s journey is completed before the buyer talks to sales.

Hope you found a few statistics of interest here. Enjoy the last weekend of summer!

Customer Retention: Repeat Business Is Good Business

September 10, 2015

Your best new customer is the customer you already have.

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Attracting new customers to your business is tough. Creating brand new business requires strong efforts in SEO, confidence-building and conversion on your website, blog or other social media venues. Convincing first-timers to buy your products or use your services is an important goal, but it shouldn’t take up all of your marketing time or expenditures.

Paying attention to existing customers and enticing them to return will pay off in higher revenues. Here are some strategies you can use to profit from your current customer list:

  • Mine for gold in customer data – The information you’ve collected on your current customers and clients has extraordinary value. Those customers already know you, have confidence in you, and will respond to your marketing efforts with a much higher frequency than random visitors to your website. If you’re already using CRM software, mining that data is easy. If not, you should be.
  • Stay in touch with relevant offers – Remind your existing customer base of new products and services. Call yourself to their attention from time to time. Don’t overdo email and other contacts, but let existing customers know you’re keeping them in mind and give them your latest news. Imbed links in emails to guide them to specific web pages of interest or to social media efforts. Give them a reason to visit you again.
  • Offer incentives for repeat business – Show your current customers that you appreciate their loyalty. Offer special discounts from time to time. If you use a shopping cart system, send customers a discount code they can use. If you have a brick and mortar location, send them a discount coupon. Send seasonal special offers to your customer base well ahead of time and ask them to visit you for their needs.
  • Share important information – If you already have a blog, share blog posts via email with current customers. Information is valuable to everyone, and odds are that most of your existing customers aren’t regularly visiting the blog. If you don’t blog, create brief informational emails to alert customers of news, promotions, sales and any other information that will be genuinely useful. A CRM application makes this easy.
  • Get specific for best results – The more you know about a customer’s history, the better able you’ll be to attract them back for more. Refer to previous purchases or services and suggest related products or services. Remind existing customers about upcoming needs they may have that relate to your business. The more relevant and specific your message is, the more likely you’ll capture their repeat business.

Regular Contact with Your Customer Base Is a Sure-Fire Revenue Enhancer
As important as attracting new business is for growth, it’s much easier to convince existing customers and clients to do business with you again. By focusing some of your marketing time and budget on your current customers, you’ll see a higher response rate and better profitability. Don’t overlook this treasure trove of business opportunity.

Your Customer Has a Problem. Are You Ready to Help?

August 27, 2015

Customer service is an essential part of every company. If you’re not prepared, you may pay a high price in lost business.

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Whether you’re a one-person shop or a company with 500 employees, you’re in the people business. Whatever products or services you offer, you’re going to hear from customers or clients with problems. What you do when that happens affects your relationship with that individual and your reputation. An unhappy customer may well take to the internet and post a scathing review.

Getting a solid handle on handling complaints and problems is essential. Here are some ways to evaluate your current customer service and plan for improvements.

Make It Easy for Customers and Clients to Get in Touch
Right or wrong, your customers and clients want solutions. They want you to fix their problems. Now. The first test is whether they can get in touch easily. Your website needs accessible contact information that’s easy for them and OK for you.

If you’re a small company, you may not have a customer service employee sitting by the phone. That’s OK, but access to help is still important. Email links, social media contact points, and other messaging options work fine, but they must be monitored and lead to timely responses. If you do have a customer service phone line, someone must be available to provide real assistance. Operating hours should be displayed prominently.

Get Proactive with Self-Service Problem Solving
Todd Martin 082715 image 2Make your website a help solution for clients and customers. Use FAQ pages, troubleshooting guides, instructional materials and other content to help people find their own solutions. Host PDF files of product manuals, parts lists, etc. on your site. Include prominent navigational links to resources in your site’s CSS template. Don’t skimp on these features and add new information whenever you discover it’s needed.

For hands-on fixes, consider videos on your site so customers can take care of problems for themselves. Host these on YouTube with clear titles that help people find them. Every problem customers solve themselves is a problem resolved.

Always Work Toward A Real Resolution for Every Problem
Whether complaints or issues arrive in person, by telephone, in your email or on social media, resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction whenever that’s possible. Listen and ask questions until you understand the issue. Then, ask what the customer or client expects.

Try to meet those expectations. If that’s impossible, suggest a compromise that works both for you and your customer. Have an escalation plan available for referring complaints to someone who can find a solution or make necessary decisions. The goal is to reach an effective agreement. Each situation is unique, of course, and creative thinking may be needed.

Customers Aren’t Always Right, But Always Think They Are
Effective customer service requires planning and ready solutions for problems. It also demands dedication to prompt, effective solutions and a consistent positive, responsive attitude. Businesses that put customers first succeed best.

Dealing with customer problems and working toward successfully resolving them isn’t always easy, but always deserves the best effort that can be mustered. Your reputation is at stake.

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Responsive Mobile-Friendly Design? It’s No Longer a Choice

August 20, 2015

If your website doesn’t look terrific on smart phones, better get busy.

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Ready for some shocking news? Google says that as of 2015, more searches are made on mobile devices than on desktop PCs.

The speed of this growth in mobile searches has caught many web developers by surprise. If you’ve been napping, too, the alarm just went off. Putting off getting your website or blog updated for mobile users is no longer an option. You may already be missing out on web traffic and leads.

But wait…there’s more:

Google’s Ranking Algorithms Have Changed to Adapt to Mobile Users
Never slow to adapt, the wizards at Google have taken notice of this increase in mobile users searching for your website. Now, when a user searches in a mobile browser, the latest Google ranking algorithm update looks whether sites are mobile-friendly. If not, they get lower rankings. That’s enough to dump your website or blog off the first page of search results. It could be potentially fatal to your marketing. There’s no time to waste.

If Your Site Is Already Mobile-Friendly, You’re Fine with Google
If you’ve been keeping up with web design issues, there’s a fair chance that you can skate through this change in user behavior. Most updated WordPress releases and templates are mobile responsive by design. Other web development systems, too, include responsive features in their recent versions and newer templates. Find out fast by entering your URL into the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. If it passes, your results page rankings won’t slip.

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Google Is Just One Factor. Is Your Site Mobile User-Friendly?
Google’s handy test is just for Google. It doesn’t measure visitor response to your pages. That’s a different matter. Grab your iPhone, Android phone or tablet and go to your website. Pretend you never saw it before. Does what you see make sense? Can you navigate easily? Is everything readable? Would you take action? Plenty of sites that pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test don’t deliver a good experience for visitors.

If Your Site or Blog Fails Either Test – Don’t Panic, But Don’t Delay
Start by making yourself mobile-friendly. Use Google’s Mobile Design Overview to learn how to proceed and to brief yourself on best-practice goals. If you do your own web design, you’ll find technical tips for updating. If you hired a web designer, get in touch and set up a meeting. You’ll find valuable tips at the link above to help you with that discussion, too.

Let Google educate you on mobile design issues and what mobile users expect. Prepare to invest some time and spend some money. Then, look for a solid ROI from giving your mobile visitors a great user experience.


5 Ways To Keep Your Audience From Checking Facebook During Your Presentation

August 12, 2015

It isn’t easy: There’s too much vying for our attention these days, and our attention spans are shorter. But you can keep them listening.

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It used to be harder to tell when an audience wasn’t listening to your presentation. There were always some clues, like that glassy-eyed look, or the more blatant round-the-room glances and stifled yawns.

These days, a downward look doesn’t necessarily indicate deep concentration and thought. Instead, it means that your audience is checking email or Instagram.

You probably have many of your own ideas about how to do a good presentation, based on all of the bad presentations you’ve attended. We’ve all tried to follow the messages delivered by a speaker who droned on so long that those messages were lost. Or the one who wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone – or worse, focused his or her attention solely on one poor individual in the front row.

Here are a few of the things that I try to do (or not do). Sometimes they work.

  • Know who your audience is, and speak their language. Your presentation to a bunch of 30-year-olds is going to be different than the one you’d give at a gathering of seasoned sales VPs. Don’t tell jokes or anecdotes that the younger crowd won’t get, and don’t use cultural references that only millennials will understand when you address a crowd whose average age is 50.
  • Don’t try to dazzle your audience by maxing out PowerPoint’s features. It’s a good idea to have graphics and Todd Martin 081215 image 2text running on a device during your presentation, but keep your screens really, really simple. Use easily-readable fonts and bullet points. You’re using visual aids to reinforce the messages you’re trying to get across. The audience
    shouldn’t be distracted by a lot of words or flashing pictures.
  • See how few words you can use to sum up your primary message(s). You probably know a whole lot about the topic you’re going to present. Your audience probably doesn’t. Don’t try to impart your entire body of knowledge on them in 60 minutes. There’s only so much they can absorb. It’s better to expand on a few main points than to give short shrift to many.
  • Time your presentation prior to show time. This is tricky. People speak an average of 75-100 words/minute, but know your own speed before you decide how much you can say. Write a 200-word paragraph and read it aloud as if you had an audience besides the cat. But don’t time a presentation to completely fill your allotted slot. You’ll have interruptions and – hopefully – questions and comments at the end. You may speak slower or faster if you’re nervous, so be aware of that.
  • Have contingency plans. It probably won’t happen, but you could run short on your allotted time. Maybe you left time for questions and there weren’t any, for example. Have some FAQs or additional slides loaded and ready to go, and have everything backed up to a USB drive.

If you don’t like to give presentations but you must, or if the prospect of standing in front of a crowd just plain makes you nervous, some smart preparation will make it easier. You might even start to enjoy it.

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Profile of a Profile: How the Best CRM Solutions Track Customers

August 4, 2015

Your CRM software or website should tell you everything you want to know.

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It’s hard for me to believe sometimes how far we’ve come with information management since I started working in sales. In my early days, I used a combination of paper and  software. PC-based CRM solutions were starting to mature, but I was still apprehensive occasionally. Even though I backed up my database regularly, what would I do if I lost all of that carefully-recorded data about my customers?

I used a lot of printer paper during those first years making paper copies of client lists and sales reports. Eventually, as data security and software – and my confidence level –improved, I stopped doing that. I still maintain a rolodex because I like printed business cards and quick access to phone numbers, but I have confidence that the critical information that resides in my CRM solution is preserved.

The Core Expands

Business cards and file folders have been replaced by CRM solution profiles. These are your all-important customer records, and they contain more information about individual contacts and companies than most of us envisioned 20 years ago.

At least they should. How do your customer profile data capabilities stack up to best-of-breed software and websites? Here’s what they offer:

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You should be able to store — and easily retrieve — an enormous amount of static and real-time information about your contacts in your CRM solution.

Automatic information retrieval. Remember typing in all of those names and addresses and phone numbers when you first started using a contact manager or CRM solution? I do. Seems like I spent more time entering related information than I did on the actual sales calls.

Not anymore. Your contact may have a common name, but email addresses are unique. You should be able to enter an email address, then sit back and wait while your software searches the web and grabs contact information, social network feeds, pictures, etc.

Event-tracking. By “event,” I mean any action that occurs or information that’s made available related to that individual and/or company. Is there an easy way to add opportunities? Documents? Send a message or schedule a meeting and log interaction?

Most recent “touch.” Can you quickly see when you last had contact?

A visual view of pipelines. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. I don’t want to go back to the labor-intensive days of CRM. I want to be able to see what stages my customers are in at a glance. And I’d like a nudge from the system when action is required to move a sale along.

Email notifications. I’m not going to live in my CRM solution. So I want to be notified of specific events that occur related to my pipelines and customers — instantly.Todd Martin 080415 image 3

Visuals of targets, goals, deadlines, etc. What’s happening with my sales now, and how are things looking for a month from now?

None of these features are unrealistic. There are solutions that support such detailed, informative customer profiles. Does yours?

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Proud of Your Ability to Multitask? Maybe You Shouldn’t Be

July 19, 2015

It’s called task-switching, and it’s eating away at your workday.

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I started to write this blog post first thing this morning, hoping to post it by noon. Here are some of the reasons why I didn’t finish it until 5 p.m.:

  • Multiple documents needed to be signed by multiple people, who took my open door as a sign that I was available.
  • Seems like every email I read required some kind of action.
  • One of my salespeople wanted to talk about a meeting scheduled for next week.
  • Some new promotional items came in, and I wanted to check them out so the team could start giving them out.
  • Another department head dropped in with some survey results she wanted to share.
  • I was doing research for my post, and came across some links related to another project I was working on, so I followed them.

I’m sure you can relate.

When I have a task that requires a couple of hours of concentrated work, I usually shut my door. Sometimes I put a sign onTodd Martin 071715 image 2 it asking not to be disturbed unless the building has caught fire. I block out that time on my shared calendar to indicate that I’m busy. If someone gets through my force field, I politely ask them if it can wait.

But I wanted to test out a statistic I’d recently read. According to the American Psychological Association, “task-switching” – dealing with everything that comes your way even if you should be concentrating on one project – can reduce your productive time by up to 40 percent.

40 percent. That got my attention. I’d always thought it was kind of a badge of honor to be able to juggle multiple activities in the same time period, jumping back and forth as I checked things off of my to-do list.

People have been studying task-switching for decades. It’s nothing new. We started calling it “multitasking” when graphical user interfaces made it possible to move rapidly between screens, often dealing with absolutely unrelated tasks. We’re told by psychologists that different types of thinking uses different parts of our brains, as well as wildly varied concentration levels and problem-solving skills.

My to-do list is so different every day. Some days, I can just take on work as it comes. But when I need to harness my inner resources and devote concentrated time to one project, I do the things I mentioned a few paragraphs up.

Your job may require that you be interrupted frequently. But there are still things you can do to minimize distractions when you need to, like:

  • Turning off unnecessary alarms and alerts, like that little “ping” that sounds when you have an email. Some email clients let you set up a way to know or be alerted when message come in from specific people. If you simply must check your email during a work session, use these tools so you can do a quick scan and get back to work.Todd Martin 071715 image 3
  • Consolidate trips out of the office. If you have to go to HR to get a form, do all of your other out-of-the-office errands at the same time.
  • If you are interrupted, take the time to jot a note about what you were doing and thinking, so you can get back on track quickly.
  • Having trouble concentrating? Organize a desk drawer or straighten up your desk. Doing a task that you can see the results of gives you a boost, and may help straighten your brain out, too.

It’s not just the time that you spend on the tasks you’re switching out. If you allow an interruption during a productive, focused period, it can take more time than you realize to get back in the grove.

Time-management tutorials may or may not tell you about the dangers of task-switching. But now you know.

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