I know you're not really reading this.

I have a secret: I’m not a terribly ambitious person. This may come as a surprise to those who know me, but in truth I’ve never had big goals for myself as far as my career went. Those “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” questions are painful (and ultimately not that illuminating). In fact my major career goal was to get to a place where I could listen to music as I worked and where I didn’t have to do my own photocopying.

That's a pipe-dream; for most of us the days of having a secretary, an assistant, a travel agent, a tailor and a range of helpful salespeople to help you get organised and take the pain out of decision making are long gone, and in effect we’re all left waiting by the photocopier with a to-do list a mile long.

So what do we do? We multitask. We jump from fire to fire. We rely on technology to give us convenience, the sort of convenience where you’re always on, always contactable, and almost never, completely, there.  The downside to this, that trips us all up, is that it’s actually really hard to focus on one thing when you’re half thinking about something else.


There's science behind why we lose focus

Earl Miller, who runs the Miller Lab, a global leader in cognition research, says that our brains are just not designed to multitask well.

“When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

Cognitive cost is a nice way of saying we get slower and dumber in that moment. And it’s unfortunate that your customer may be in that moment just at the the point that you want them to be paying attention and getting ready to pull out the credit card.

It gets worse. Other studies suggest that multitasking also raise stress-related hormone levels, which increase our confusion and reduces decision-making ability. Many of us are wandering around in a confused and stressed fog, just looking for a way out.

This makes me think that I’m not really paying attention either at times. Perhaps I need to accept that doing my own photocopying is best, since because when I don’t multitask, I’m a photocopying machine…or something like that. (Definitely time to switch off that Soundcloud playlist).


How do you get the attention of multitasking customers, to get the most from your emails, website, blogs and other marketing?

Know: People aren’t really paying attention.

Do: Put 90% of your effort into the headline. Make it compelling and attention grabbing. Give them a reason to switch on to what you are saying.

compelling headline



Know: If they do read your content, at best they are scanning.

Do: Layout is important. Include sub-heads to break up content and allow people to navigate quickly to what interests them. Use pull-quotes. Colour to direct their attention is your friend (just don't use the whole Crayola box).

Colour CTA



Know: They find it harder to make decisions

Do: Don’t drown them in options. Give them a maximum of 3, and make a recommendations (you see good examples of this in pricing):

pricing choice



Know: Multitaskers can get distracted easily

Do: Don’t give them unrelated content to look at. Set up landing pages on your site to improve conversion (more relevant content will help you win the Google battle too.) 

salesforce landing page


And if you got this far down without getting distracted yourself - thank you!


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Image via Flickr CC/Celeste RC