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5 Anti-Productivity Habits for Successful Reps in 2015

Sometimes the best way to accomplish something is to do the exact opposite. Before you're tempted to push your sales reps to work harder or scheduling more meetings into their days for the new year, check out these anti-productivity tactics. Encouraging your reps to take on these habits will help them be more productive - and probably happier, too.

Habit #1: Go to bed

Sleep deprivation leads to a reduction of glucose that reaches the brain. (That's why you crave donuts, cookies and other sweet treats when you're exhausted.) The parts of the brain that are impacted most with this glucose shortage are the ones your reps need most for their work. These areas help come up with great ideas, manage social control in client meetings, think creatively to solve problems and decipher between what's good and what's not. So without sleep, your reps aren't going to achieve optimal productivity - they may even be counterproductive.

Plus, consider this argument for getting more sleep from Margaret Heffernan, author of A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better Than the Competition: "Lose just one night's sleep and your cognitive capacity is roughly the same as being over the alcohol limit. Yet we regularly hail as heroes the executives who take the red eye, jump into a rental car, and zoom down the highway to the next meeting. Would we, I wonder, be so impressed if they arrived drunk?"

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Habit #2: Ignore your inbox

The average corporate employee will spend 13 hours - that's 28 percent of the workweek - on email. That's right, according to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, more than one quarter of our time at work is spent reading, deleting, sorting and sending emails.

Help your sales reps take back that time and dedicate it to selling instead. How? By encouraging them to ignore their inboxes least a little bit. Many of the emails we all receive each day are either junk or they can wait a couple of hours to be addressed.

Tell them to turn off email alerts so that they are not constantly distracted by notifications about new messages. Encourage them to schedule a couple of intentional times throughout the day to check emails. Then, help them spend the rest of their day focused on their customers, free from the interruption of email.

Habit #3: Limit meetings to 18 minutes

Most meetings are longer than they really need to be. Yes, some discussions may require more time. But most of the time, they are drawn out to fill the amount time you schedule for them. For this reason, consider capping meetings at 18 minutes whenever possible.

Why 18 minutes? Scientific research on attention spans has found that most people are able to pay attention for 10 to 18 minutes before they begin to check out. So schedule 15 minutes to catch up and strategize with your reps and remember you can always schedule subsequent meetings if necessary. It will save time and increase productivity.

Habit #4: Just say no

Lysa TerKeurst recently released the book The Best Yes, which reminds us of the importance of saying no a little more often. She says, "We have to slow the rhythm of rush in our lives so the best of who we are can emerge."

Everyone wants to be a team player at work and sales reps tend to have a desire to "do it all". But sometimes giving them the freedom to say no is the best option for optimized productivity. Help them stay focused on their top priorities and avoid being sidetracked by other tasks. If you have a shared view of objectives, you'll be able to keep your reps focused and effective.

Think about Apple. One of the things that makes them so successful is that they know how to say 'no'. They turn down hundreds - maybe thousands - of possible designs, features and concepts that they could apply to their products. They are masters of saying no. The end result is a successful brand known around the world for carefully crafted innovation and simplicity.

Sometimes encouraging reps to say "no" is the best way to improve their productivity.

Habit #5: Don't try to get it right the first time

Perfectionism can cripple productivity. Trying to get every single detail of a pitch or a deal perfect before finalizing it can end up dragging it on indefinitely or even kill it altogether. So instead of treating perfection like an achievable goal, think of it as a process.

At Maestro, we love agile. We have adopted it in our software development process, but also in other areas of our business and our culture. Like 87 percent of other agile users, we have seen our productivity increase by committing to releasing quality iterations faster and more often instead of trying to produce perfection right out of the gate.

So ditch the perfectionism. Instead, encourage your reps to do their best to produce great work and commit to continuously seek out ways to improve.

There you have it - five seemingly counter-productive habits to encourage your reps to adopt this year. Give them a try. They're sure to help make 2015 a success.

Maestro knows productivity

Get more insights about how to power up your productivity in our Resources section.

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