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It Feels Like Work, But It’s Not

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In the modern business world, there are countless distractions that prevent you from doing the work you should be doing to produce the results you want. There’s the chit-chat around the water cooler, there’s the news of the day and, of course, there is that weapon of mass distraction: the Internet. It’s blatantly not work; it doesn’t look or feel remotely like work.

But there are countless more distractions that aren’t so obvious. Some of them look and feel like work, but they’re not.

Legitimate distractions. When you wake up in the morning, how many emails are waiting for you in your inbox? How many of those emails are internal emails from your own company? How many of them are requests from within your own company that ask that you to do something, request a reply or request information? How many emails provide information of very little value to you, yet you are CC’d on them anyway?

The internal emails you received from your company are legitimate, right? They must be important, yes? This is the way your company has chosen to communicate and share information, so it’s work, right? Wrong.

Most of your email is not legitimate work. Even some email asking you for information or a reply isn’t really legitimate work. Most of it’s a distraction from the real work of sales and selling. Much of the email you receive are tasks assigned to you by other people without you ever agreeing to the task.

The email you receive and the tasks embedded in them feel like real work. It’s real communication from within your own company, and what they request of you feels important. And some of it surely is. But most of it will do nothing to improve your sales results.

This is why you should avoid checking your email until you have completed your most important tasks for the day.

There’s more. Email is a brutal taskmaster, nagging and reminding you about all the work others need from you. But wait, there’s more.

There are also meetings that are scheduled even though many have no agenda and no real outcome. Some meetings are requests for information that could be delivered faster and more effectively through a quick phone call, an email or a report. Meetings feel like legitimate work, but many produce no real outcomes at all (let alone sales outcomes).

Then there is reporting. Your company needs information from you. You have to provide it. It’s important that you provide reports and information, but your efforts and energies here do nothing to help you acquire a new client or to better serve your existing clients.

Some work from your clients isn’t right for you either. Let’s say your client needs help with a support issue. Have you trained them that you are the only one who can help them? Does that client call—which feels like real work—mean that you will need five additional calls to transfer information back and forth between your operations team and your client? Are you the best person to handle that work, or would your clients better served by talking to the folks who can really help them? What value are you adding to the process?

Your clients also need reports. I believe there are people within most organizations who are infinitely more qualified to generate reports, none of whom are responsible for selling. You dilute yourself and your effectiveness when you do the work that should be delegated to others. This allows you to focus on the one task where no one else can create the same value: selling.

I am not for a minute suggesting that you should never again open your email, nor am I suggesting that you stop making your required meetings or n longer turn in the reports that your company needs from you. But what are your real priorities? To make real progress, you must do the real work that produces the real results before you do anything else.

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Anthony Iannarino is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company, and an adjunct faculty member at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. For more information, so go


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