When it comes to new business Ad Agencies are ADHD

Photo Credit ADHD CENTER

ADHD is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination – It also is descriptive of most advertising agencies when it comes to new business.

For a large number of ad agencies, the atmosphere is chaotic. It is an environment that is in a perpetual state of distraction. Working in this kind of climate is stressful. You’re constantly shifting from one task to the next. There are numerous interruptions and urgent requests throughout each day.

The digital revolution has created additional challenges – how do we stay focused and productive with so many intriguing distractions only a click away. That’s exacerbated with laptops, smartphones, tablets and the popularity of social media.

New business directors must continually refocus their attention, creating fatigue and decreased productivity. That’s bad for agency new business.

Office and internet distractions lessen productivity:

  • Every time we become distracted, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain complete focus.
  • Gloria Mark, a UC-Irvine professor has found that the average employee switches tasks every three minutes, is interrupted every two minutes and has a maximum focus stretch of 12 minutes.
  • study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs, the equivalent of losing a nights sleep.
  • An American study reported in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology found our productivity goes down by as much as 40% when we attempt to do several things at once.
  • Studies by Gloria Mark, an ‘interruption scientist’ at the University of California, show that when people are frequently diverted from one task to another, they work faster, produce less, report significantly higher stress levels, frustration, workload, effort and pressure.

I have been working in ad agency new business almost my entire advertising career and have completed two post-graduate degrees. I’m   organized and focused but far from perfect. I’m constantly learning new techniques that lessen distraction and increase my productivity. 

One solution that has been the most helpful for me is to dedicate blocks of time to similar tasks. The result – it increases your productivity, creativity, and mental sharpness, while decreasing fatigue, procrastination, and stress. You simply group similar tasks that require similar resources in order to streamline their completion.

Set aside a specific amount of time for specific tasks and make a specific effort to not allow the distractions or disruptions of others break your focus. After that block of time is up, take a brief break, then begin to focus on the next block of time.

Here are some tips to help get you started:

  1. Write it down. Write down 4 to 5 of the most important tasks that need to be accomplished as you begin your day.
  2. Keep time. Use a wristwatch, timer, alarm, PDA or computer—anything that keeps accurate time and is within your sight at all times. When you start a task, say the time out loud or write it down. Allot yourself limited amounts of time for each task.
  3. Check off. After completing a task, manually mark it off your list.
  4. Take a break. A 5 minute break after the completion of each task.
  5. Begin again. Refocus, reset the timer and begin working on the next task.
  6. Take an extended break. After completing your top 4 to 5 task for the day, take a 20 minute break.

I’m a fan of a technique invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, a professional in the fields of productivity and process improvement, called The Pomodoro Technique. This easy to use, simple system, used by professional teams and individuals in a range of fields has become a popular tool. It is easy to use and, most of all, it works.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that can help prioritize and accomplish important agency new business tasks.

Here are some Pomodoro resources to help get you started:

  • Download the Pomodoro Technique® book for free or order it on the Internet or from your bookshop.
  • Cheat Sheet. Download a one-page overview of the Pomodoro Technique® .
  • The Pomodoro Technique To-Do Checklist
  • The Pomodoro Pro app is a timer tailored for people using the Pomodoro Technique and designed specifically for the iPhone or iPad.

Whatever plan you use, be committed to improve your focus and time management. Practice makes perfect.

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Hi Michael, this is a very interesting and useful post. Adding the “Pomodoro” to my daily vocabulary, basically necessary. Vicky.

  2. Thanks Vicky. I’ve taken the Pomodoro concept and created my own using online tools. It’s still a very relevant concept and easy to update to online practices.

  3. Really accurate Michael, ADHD is a huge issue in new biz and I lived it out first hand. Good advice to follow for keeping focused, now more important and harder to do than ever. EH @ericadman

  4. Thanks Eric. Very much appreciated.


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