Today's blog is by Christine Harrington, The Savvy Sales Lady. She is a facilitator for Peak Performance Mindset Workshop and a personal sales coach. Christine helps sales professionals develop their beliefs to improve their sales performance.
According to my client’s shaky recollection, the last time he found himself in deep concentration, without interruption, was…uh...college. He’s now 42 and a senior account executive for a large corporation – and suffering from insomnia and failing sales.
Another client answered my question with much hesitation: “When was the last time you concentrated in complete silence on just one task?” “I…I…can’t remember,” she stammered. Sally is 31 years old and a sales manager for a midsize regional insurance company – suffering from migraines and an underperforming sales team.
Here are just two examples out of many I coach on a weekly basis, and the story is always the same: suffering sales along with physical ailments such as migraines, insomnia, eating disorders, addictions, depression, obsessive behaviors, anxiousness, and panic attacks.. A coincidence? A concentration problem?
Now, I’m not a doctor or psychologist, but I can’t ignore the concentration crisis I see happening with my clients – and, perhaps, the correlation to some of their physical symptoms.
Here’s the Science
According to ScienceNordic.com this is called “The Pinball Effect.” “The pinball effect…is exactly the psychological repercussions, which stem from frequent shifts in information structure. In other words, the attempt to divide attention to different sets or chambers of information simultaneously.”
To simplify it: multi-tasking. When trying to read and respond to emails while scrolling through your Twitter feed and listening to Adele on your AirPods at the same time, it’s impossible for your mind to focus and catch up. The shifts in information are incompatible with your brain structure; thus, you become ineffective. But, more importantly, it harms your cognitive abilities – even with a simple activity like talking on a cell phone while driving.
I’ve always said it’s hard for me to chew gum and drive...apparently, that’s a thing.
Strayer, Drews, and Crouch concluded in their 2006 research: “The impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.”
The pinball effect can be described as the doubling of space; that is, an attempted splitting of attention.
“Doubling induces an exhausted awareness, thus creating the pinball effect, leading to impaired concentration. Studies show that it can take...15 to 25 minutes for the brain ‘to get back where it was after stopping to check an email.’ This is easily seen in the cellphone-using driver, but also in the Facebook-checking office worker or student and in the coffee-drinking café guests whose tables are often occupied by a couple of ‘attention-seeking’ smart phones.”
“More instructively, the pinball effect is harmful to tasks that must be performed with sufficient attention. Therefore, the pinball effect should be reduced as much as possible in spaces of learning, education, and where even minimal concentration is required.”
- More isn’t better. Is social media working for you? Or are you addicted to the feel-good it gives you? Be honest. Set aside three times per day to concentrate solely on social media. Give it only 15-20 minutes of your precious time and mental energy. Turn off all social media notifications so you’re not tempted to look every time you hear a “ding.”
- For one week, turn off all noise. Work in silence – complete silence, with no background noise. Learn to tune into your mental thoughts and creativity. Focus only on what’s in front of you. If a thought invades, reminding you to pick up the dry cleaning or whatever, have a sticky note handy and write the thought on the note. Then, get back to the task at hand.
- One hour before bedtime, turn off all items that stimulate your senses. If you’re reading on a tablet, switch to a book. Turn off the TV, your smartphone, laptop, and iPad. Play soothing music or ambient music to evoke relaxation of the mind. If you have problems drifting to sleep, try Hemi-Sync music. It uses audio guidance technology to influence brain-wave activity. You’ll sleep like a baby!
- Structure your day. Chunking time slots during your day will free you from the feeling of being overwhelmed. It also keeps you on track and gives you the strength to ignore all the distractions that can interrupt your concentration.
- Turn your office phone on do-not-disturb mode. Close your office door and attach a do-not-disturb sign. Put your smartphone on silence. Mute the computer. Then get to work on the most important task of your day. Realistically, you can’t mute your entire day, so pick and choose those critical tasks you can go dark.
How to Improve Concentration
According to Psychology Today, “Pay attention. You cannot take in information unless you are paying attention, and you cannot memorize information unless you are taking it in. Get enough food and sleep, and avoid distractions such as a background radio or television.”
- Writing notes with pen and paper is much more effective cognitively than typing on a tablet.
- Review information: If you have an important sales presentation coming up, practice the material. Sleep on it and practice again and again. Or, if you’re unsure about an email you need to send, write it out, save as a draft, then review it again in 24 hours.
- Exercise your body and mind. It’s a scientific fact that mental challenges create new connections in the brain, encouraging the formation of a neurotransmitter (a chemical brain cells use to communicate between each other) called dopamine. Dopamine provides your “get up and go.” If you have trouble concentrating, you may have a dopamine deficiency. Physical exercise also boosts dopamine production.You don’t need strenuous exercise to get brain-boosting benefits: taking walks or doing gentle, no-impact exercises provides powerful mind-body benefits.
If you find yourself having difficult bouts in lack of concentration, try these suggestions and tips. More isn’t always better for your mental and physical health. Get off the multi-tasking hamster wheel and take control of the distractions. You can control your environment…inside your head and outside.
Please share your thoughts on “A Crisis of Concentration in Selling.” What are the worst distractions you have in your life right now? I’d love to help you solve it! Just tap those fingers on the keyboard and leave a comment.