Finding Flow, Parkinson’s Law And The Harsh Reality About Focus

ROI is a term banded around a fair bit.

‘We need to increase our ROI?’

‘What’s your ROI?’

What’s our ROI’?

‘If there’s no ROI it’s not worth doing!’

‘What the hell does ROI mean?’

Ok, so I’m laboring the point but it’s fair enough. We hear that phrase a lot but if you’re in sales, what does it actually mean? And what can you do about it?

Return on investment (ROI) is a measure of efficiency. In others words, it considers the relative gain or loss associated with an activity versus the overall cost to complete it.

So, if you run a marketing campaign, it considers whether you generate more sales from the campaign that the cost of actually doing the thing.

If you’re in sales and you see a customer, it considers whether spending time with that customer will create more profit than what it costs you to see/service them?

It’s one thing to consider ROI for activity that can be assessed or measured at a macro level, when you have data and analytics to assist. But when you’re out there, in the field what could improving this metric actually look like and what can you do about it?

Here are three key tactics.

Finding Flow

Take on a task that is too challenging and it leads to uncertainty, stress and anxiety. Conversely, take on a task that is too easy and it leads to apathy, fatigue and boredom.

The key therefore is finding that balance between something – an activity or task – which is difficult enough to stretch us but not so difficult that it surpasses our ability to complete it.

In finding that balance – in hunting out the challenging project or difficult customers, in working to convert a competitive account or failing business – then we allow ourselves to work in the mental state known as ‘flow’, during which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

This leads to much higher output and to greater gains. Therefore as we look at how we increase our personal ROI, finding flow is a key technique.

So go and pick your most challenging assignment and make that a focus of your attention.

Parkinson’s Law

First articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in the first sentence of an essay published in 1955, Parkinson’s Law is the adage that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’.

Put it another way:

If I give you ten minutes to complete a ten-minute task, you’ll be able to deliver it in ten minutes.

If I give you three weeks to complete the same task, you’ll probably take the three weeks.

Conversely, if I give you all the time in the world to complete it, chances are it won’t get done. Not any time soon at least.

And we do this by over complicating, over bureaucratising and procrastinating.

Of course, the antidote to all of this is doing work that’s important, doing work that matters, which makes a difference, and delivering it to the market.


For whilst we’re all busy and point to the fact that there’s not enough time, and not enough hours in the day, we can all take more time to do more of what matters, with less complexity, less bureaucracy and less procrastination. And in doing do we improve our own person ROI.

Define your key goals at the start of the day and get them done as early as possible.

The Harsh Reality About Focus

In our modern world, we’ve probably been convinced that multi-tasking is the norm. That by doing two things at once, we increase our productivity.

Having a conversation whilst reading an email; scrolling through facebook whilst watching the television; reading a text whilst checking an email whilst having a face-to-face meeting.

Yes, we’ve been duped into thinking that more is better.

But multi-tasking (whilst an almost irrevocable truth of modern life) is accepted as the norm, it should’t be confused as leading to an increase in productivity or an increase in efficiency.

Because in truth, we can’t do two things at the same time.

I can’t concerate on listening to you when I’m reading an email; I won’t pick up on the subtleties of the television interview if I’m reading through social media comments, and I can’t reply to a text whilst reading an email and talking to you.

All of these things – all of the above – require us to switch our focus.

So in reality, whist we may be able to multi-task, we can’t multi-focus.

The solution therefore isn’t to try and change culture – that’s unlikely. More so just acknowledge that we can’t multi-focus and so take the time to focus on what’s important and nothing else. By doing so we’re more likely to increase our personal ROI.



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