Block It Out

Distractions are a major issue every financial professional must battle.  Although technology is pigeon of distraction, it can also be used to help you regain focus.

Bombarded by interruption technology while trying to give clients individual attention and run a successful practice, many advisors feel overwhelmed.

Interruption technology comes in many forms such as e-mail, text messages, Tweets, and Facebook pokes.  While these tools have helped us gain effectiveness in some respects, it has diminished productivity by other measures.

 Think you are multitasking?  Think again.

As its name implies, multitasking involves completing different tasks simultaneously, with the end goal of increased productivity. If you can generate a proposal while on hold with a client, you have successfully multitasked. While we used to extol multitasking abilities, the term falls short in describing what most advisors are doing today.  They are not multitasking.

Most of us switch-task, not multitask.  Our attentions are pulled from one task and drawn, most frequently by interruption technology, in another direction.

If you are composing an e-mail explaining a complex financial strategy and you impulsively toggle over to ESPN.com for last night’s scores, you have switch-tasked.  It could take several minutes to regain your focus on the e-mail, hence a decrease in productivity.  If you are Tweeting while talking to your client on your cell phone, your client is probably aware that you are listening with only half an ear.  Eventually, your retention rates will suffer.

It’s easy for us to think we can seamlessly jump from one task to the next and give everything our full attention, but we cannot.  Our brains are not hard-wired for switch-tasking.

The University of Kent sought to establish the impact of switch-tasking.  They set up an eyeball-tracking camera to monitor eye movements of 100 people.  The participants read passages on computer screens and while reading, they were interrupted with one-minute tasks, such as phone calls or e-mails.   After the interruption, they went back to their reading.

Once interrupted, it took participants 17% more time to read the original passage than if they read it straight through.

Block Distractions

There are many ways you can shield yourself from distracting digital stimuli.

You can tend to e-mail only at certain times, turn-off your mobile device, and schedule your social networking engagements. You can download productivity software to block Internet distractions.  Programs such as Freedom, Isolator, LeechBlock, Menu Eclipse, Think and Turn Off the Lights, and Anti-Social serve much like parental controls.  For many of these programs, you set an amount of time that you want to work uninterrupted, and the software blocks unwanted content during that time period. Also, many word-processing packages like Ulysses, Scrivener, WriteRoom, Dark Room and Writespace, offer full-screen, no-distraction modes.

The rationale behind these is a clear computer helps clear the mind.  If you are shielded from interruption, you can tackle the task at hand.

The bottom line is this:  if left unchecked, technology can get the best of you.   Exert control over your technology so that it adds value, helps you improve the client experience, and makes you more productive.

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