IS DISTRACTION HOLDING YOUR AGENCY BACK?
Simplify, prioritize and focus
Even the very top producers will admit that distractions are their number one nemesis. Despite being extremely intelligent, capable and great at what they do, they could be even greater if they didn’t succumb to daily distractions.
By Brent Kelly
Most insurance professionals start their day and week with the best of intentions. “This is going to be the day/week I’m finally going to (fill in the blank).” But the minute they start their actual workday, they immediately go from intention to reaction.
First, there are the emails to read and/or answer, then there’s that cup of coffee you need to make, then you find yourself discussing what you did last night or a movie you watched, and then the phone rings and you take the call. Meanwhile, there are more incoming emails and a couple of voicemails. There’s always a distracting click, ding or ping that demands your attention. Before you know it, it’s time for lunch.
After that, surprise! There are more emails and other disruptions to occupy your time. By the end of the day, you know you were crazy busy, but you have no idea what you accomplished!
I think we’ve all been there. Unfortunately, we’re often in constant motion because we’re distracted by a million little things that hinder our productivity and keep us from reaching our goals. By mistaking activity for productivity, we have forgotten what we should be doing. That’s why it’s important to remember, “Activity is not an accomplishment and busy is not a badge of honor.”
Even the very top producers we work with in our sales mastery program will admit that distractions are their number one nemesis. Despite being extremely intelligent, capable and great at what they do, they could be even greater if they didn’t succumb to daily distractions. If this sounds like you, and distractions are something you’d like to eliminate, you must first understand exactly how you spend your time.
For example, you might have a to-do list with 25 items, but 20 of them may not be moving the needle very much. Is this where the bulk of your time and energy goes? Rather than waste your time on the 20 things that really don’t matter, spend time on the five things that do. Simplify. That way, you’ll be less apt to spend time on insignificant activities and better able to recognize and address your priorities.
Are your priorities in order? If you’re not sure how to prioritize or where to begin, here are some key points to consider.
Working smarter has a higher return
We’ve all heard about working smarter, not harder. But sometimes, we’re so focused on completing the task at hand, we fail to see the best way to accomplish it. For instance, have you ever watched a fly on a window screen trying to get outside? Repeatedly, it will bash itself against the screen trying to escape, even when there’s an open door right next to it. It just keeps doing the same thing over and over to no avail. Clearly, it believes it is trapped.
Similarly, our best efforts may seem to be an exercise in futility. No matter how hard we work, we feel trapped when we keep getting the same results. Much like the fly, we may be too close to the screen to see the big picture. That’s when we need to take a step back and view the task at hand from a different perspective-one that will yield a greater return.
Rather than waste your time on the 20 things that really don’t matter, spend time on the five things that do. Simplify.
Although I know we’ve talked at length about the concept of 80/20, it’s important to keep it in mind as you seek ways to work smarter. At its core, 80/20 is simply an awareness of what few things will make the greatest difference. What 20% of your clients, sales team or carriers generate 80% of your results? The same is true of strategies, ideas and behaviors. Which few provide the greatest return?
To illustrate this point, I turn to the late Sir Peter Blake, who was known globally for his winning strategies on the water. A celebrated yachtsman, Blake set numerous world sailing records, and won the America’s Cup twice. When asked to explain his team’s strategy for success, he said it hinged on a single question: Will it make the boat go faster? By focusing on doing only those things that would speed them toward their destination, the team usually finished first.
What are you doing to make your boat go faster? What are your agency’s goals and what, specifically, are you doing to achieve them?
At Sitkins, most of our strategies are basic and focused on creating Results, Relationships, Retention and Referrals. As simple as it sounds, how many of you have mastered these basics? Or do you get distracted by the latest gimmicks? If so, welcome to the Gimmick-of-the-Month Club! It’s always easier to try something new than to see something through but, ultimately, the basics always win.
You can’t have it all
- Remember when grocery stores carried a somewhat limited selection of brand-name cereals? You had Special K, Rice Krispies, Cheerios and a handful of others. Now when I shop for a box of corn flakes, I’m confronted with a head-spinning number of choices: original, cinnamon, low-fat, extra crunchy, fruit-flavored, with or without nuts/raisins/marshmallows-it’s mind-boggling! Before I know it, I’m so distracted by the different varieties, I forget what I came to buy.
While it’s nice to have choices, having an overabundance of them poses problems. As Barry Schwartz explains in Paradox of Choice, having too many choices is counterproductive when it:
- Slows us down.
- Confuses us or causes us to overthink, which often leads to poor decisions.
- Scatters our attention and thwarts our mission (we choose the wrong cereal or we forget the milk to go with it).
Even with limited choices, making “either/or” decisions can be complicated. After all, when you say yes to something-even if it’s the “right” yes-you are saying no to something else. As an example, if you say yes to reviewing emails for an hour first thing in the morning, you’re saying no to client development. Which is more important? What should you be doing in that time slot that will serve you at the highest level-checking social media or checking in with your most important client?
While saying “yes” is easy, saying “no” is difficult. What do you need to say no to first? It all depends on your priorities. Stephen Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” If your priorities include getting in shape and spending time with your family, where are they on your calendar? Are they first or last? What are the top three things you need to do this week? Are they on your calendar?
You probably give a lot of thought to what you’d like to accomplish during your workday, but do you commit to getting it done? If it’s not on your calendar, how likely is it that you’ll spontaneously “pursue prospects” or “meet with clients?” It’s doubtful at best. These things don’t just happen on a whim; they must be scheduled.
- Proactive beats reactive
Once you’ve identified your priorities, what will you do with them? Will you take steps to make them happen or will you wait for opportunity to come knocking? Will you initiate or react? It all comes down to choosing between preparing and repairing.
American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohm once said, “If you don’t design your life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Initiators know this and leave nothing to chance. They’re proactive.
They make plans. Beyond just thinking about what they’ll do, initiators also act on it. When time is of the essence and they have only a brief time to converse and connect with a client, initiators are thoroughly prepared to make the most of every minute. They’ve done their research, so they know the right questions to ask. Above all, they’re excellent listeners.
They anticipate problems and recognize opportunities. For instance, after a significant storm or natural disaster, the initiator will reach out to clients to see how they fared or ask how they may help. They always seek out ways to remind clients that they care.
When in doubt, they find out. Rather than wonder if there’s a problem with an account, initiators will call them directly and ask. Besides nipping potential problems in the bud, personal contact makes the client feel special, which in turn enhances your credibility and their loyalty.
Initiators schedule their priorities. As I’ve said before, if it’s not on their calendar, it won’t get done. Initiators commit, schedule and act.
They invest time in relationships. The greatest gift you can give another person is your time and attention. That’s why it’s critical that you take the initiative to meet one-on-one with those who are essential to your success, be it a carrier, future ideal client (FIC) or existing client. This allows you to ask questions that you really want the answers to and gives you the opportunity to listen.
Yes, it takes time to prepare, but not nearly as much time as it does to fix things that go wrong.
The bottom line
When I speak with agency leaders about working with Sitkins, sometimes I get the impression that they think of it as one more task to complete-one more project to add to their overflowing calendars.
However, we’re not asking them to do more things. We’re asking them to do the right things better. This begins by analyzing how they spend their time, followed by simplifying, prioritizing, and focusing.
Ultimately, you must decide whether your agency is a flamethrower or a blue tip torch. Both produce incredible heat but in vastly different ways. While the flamethrower can scorch a wide swath with a single blast, a blue tip torch can cut through steel because its energy is so highly focused.
Similarly, every agency has energy. How you use yours is simply a matter of focus.
Brent Kelly, president of Sitkins Group, Inc., is a motivating influencer, coach and speaker who has a passion for helping insurance agencies maximize their performance. He spent 15 years in the insurance industry as a successful commercial lines producer and was named one of the top 12 young agents in the country in 2012. To help your agency gain clarity, build confidence, and improve culture, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Sitkins.com