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Anthony Iannarino is an international speaker, bestselling author, sales leader, and entrepreneur. He posts daily sales tips and insights to The Sales Blog.

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Deciding What Not to Do

text: do the right thing

Because we live in an age where the digital tools provide infinite distractions, it is easy to get drawn away from your work by visual, audio, and written content designed to amuse and entertain you. Even though the social channels can be used for work, more and more they are less and less business-oriented in the content they provide.

These entertaining distractions are not primarily to blame for pulling people away from their work. Instead, there are two other primary causes to blame. The first is things that look like real work but that don’t contribute to the result in a meaningful way. The second is work that belongs to someone else in some other department.

Something Isn’t Being Done

There is always something that needs to be done that isn’t being done. This idea, as simple as it is, is surprising to some. Because you are doing something, you tend not to think too much about what isn’t being done. It might also strike you as novel to think about choosing what isn’t getting done.

There are emails from people inside your company, from your clients, and from other business associates that require your attention, even if only to provide you with some small bit of information you need. Your inbox has an endless stream of requests for your time and attention to certain business-related matters. Not many are cat videos, although you no doubt have friends and family that send you things that you’ll enjoy

While you live in your inbox, something isn’t being done that has a greater impact on your results, and you are the one choosing to leave it undone. If you are in sales, putting email before prospecting is to trade opportunity creation for time spent on activities that have a low probability of resulting in you creating or winning a new opportunity. If you are in leadership, the inbox is no better, doing very little to move you and those in your charge toward the future you are building.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t answer your email, but to make the point that what is most important should be done before things that are necessary but in no way enough when it comes to producing the results you need.

If You Are Doing This, Who Is Doing That

A lot of tasks find their way to people who don’t – and shouldn’t – own those tasks. Salespeople do not belong to operations, customer service, or accounting, yet they take orders from clients, solve customer service challenges (like chasing down shipments) and retyping invoices and generating reports their clients request. While you are doing work for other people and other departments, there is no one doing your work (unless you can ask the accounting department to make your cold calls while you retype invoices).

Is what you are doing the most important thing you could be doing now, and is it going to do more than anything else to produce the result for which you are responsible?

Are you intentional about what you are doing—and equally intentional about what you are not doing?

If you feel like there is never enough time to do everything you need to do, it might serve you to first decide whether you should be doing something at all.

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