Recruitment Clinic: How to Manage Distractions

Welcome back to the Recruitment Clinic. This week I’m talking about socks.

I used to wear odd socks every day.

Why? Because I’d pull out the first two clean socks, stick them on, and get on with my life.

For anyone that asked, I’d explain away this little eccentricity with a bit of simple maths: If you’re posh like me and wash your socks after each use, you would have at least 7 pairs of socks to sort each week.

Let’s say you’re like some kind of Laundry Ninja, and you can successfully marry these couples in only 10 seconds per pair. That’s 70 seconds per week. Which is just over 3 days in an average lifetime.

Worth it?

And, yes, I know I could have just bought identical socks and solved my ‘problem’, but I’m somewhat of a peacock when it comes to socks.

Anyway, this article isn’t about socks, it’s about distraction. And time. But mostly distraction.

As a Recruiter, I find it’s incredibly valuable to put myself in the middle of as many feedback loops as possible. The more concurrent conversations I can maintain, the more efficient and effective I become. But it doesn’t come without problems.

Distractions Are Everywhere
And that situation is amplified now that I work remotely. There’s the obvious stuff. Facebook, WhatsApp, Ed Hunter etc… then there’s the less obvious stuff. Emails, colleagues, habits…

I like to use something called the Eisenhower Matrix to help make appropriate decisions, and also to try not to get unwittingly pulled away from the most important tasks.

Eisenhower Matrix

When I’m planning my day, I’m thinking almost exclusively of the B tasks.And then as the day unfolds, there are inevitably going to be some A tasks arise that need an immediate reaction.

The key to managing distractions is being able to recognise if something is a C Task or a ‘task for the dustbin’. When you’re working across e-mail, LinkedIn, phone, your CRM, and maybe a couple of other media too, you’ll get large volumes of urgent but not important input.

There are plenty of these tasks that don’t need to be done at all, and plenty that can be done later.

For a moment, perhaps I can give you an insight into how this applies to an In-House Recruiter, or Talent Acquisition specialist. Every time an external Recruiter contacts them looking for feedback on a candidate, it’s a C-task.

In the time taken to give the Recruiter ‘no news yet’, they could be chasing to get you the feedback. If you try and appraise every task you ask of someone (from their perspective) it will massively help you assess timescales of reply.

Don’t send someone a dustbin task and expect a reply instantly.

Self Analysis
Back at your own desk. Try to get into the habit of not reacting immediately to everything that comes to you.

E-mails don’t always need a response straight away. Flag it and come back. You don’t need to look at that profile on LinkedIn right now. And that Whatsapp message from your mate doesn’t need a witty response this second.

You have to recognise what you’re likely to gain from each thing you do, and at the same time understand if that gain is diminished by a delay.

By constantly making considered decisions about what needs doing, and when, you’ll be able to minimise your distractions. That can make a huge difference in a win-or-bust job like recruitment. Being the first Recruiter to call that perfect candidate. Getting an extra CV out every week. Making the time to build a relationship with a potential client.

Saying that, your own mental health is pretty important too. So you should make time for some ‘dustbin stuff’. You’ll do your job better with a smile on your face from the latest Ed Hunter.

Just make it a conscious decision.

Like the conscious decision I made to actually pair my socks again.

I don’t have any regrets. Sure, it might cost me 3 days of my life. But that’s nothing compared to the amount of time it took to keep explaining sock maths to people.

Martin Jones is a Recruiter. From 1999 onwards, he’s worked across multiple sectors and geographies, generating revenue and leading teams. He is a Partner at KnownFour, building a pioneering recruitment business.