As ad folks, we often fail to remember we are not average consumers. A designer pays special attention to the layout of a menu when she’s out to eat. A writer will peruse the materials in his doctor’s waiting room. We can be the worst of critics or we can fall prey to a brand simply because we love its advertising.
But how does the general American population feel?
In an industry where late nights, working through the weekend, and being available 24/7 is often expected, I often worry we’re out of touch. (About two-thirds of advertising managers work more than 40 hours per week.) Many of us eat, sleep, and breathe advertising. Our shared passion makes for most of our friends to be those also working in our industry. We read Adweek, Ad Age, and other ad-focused subscriptions—and all the while we’re working on seven other tasks.
Not only does it hurt our understanding of the average consumer, but it also hurts our productivity and our sanity.
Here at Roberts, we recently took a three-part Infobesity webinar series on this epidemic. Former kirshenbaum bond + partners VP Julie Fotos discussed how actions like hyper multi-tasking are killing us. Our brains aren’t wired to rapidly switch from one task to another. When we do this, it actually takes us 20 minutes to return to the same level of performance on the previous task.
We’re left physically exhausted, not fully present, and making errors. Emotionally, we get overwhelmed, stressed, and feel guilty; we’re simply not our best selves. My advice? Get out of the office! Find some friends who you don’t work with. Enjoy your time with family. The best way to understand your target market is to not be at work, but rather to be interacting with the general public.
And I mean truly interacting—being engaged and present.
Resist the urge to check your email, Instagram, Facebook, etc. On average, we check our phones 150 times a day and our email 60 times. Research shows our brains surprisingly reward activities like these with a shot of dopamine, giving us a false sense of being productive. It really is an addiction requiring complete self-awareness to overcome.
The truth is, that email can wait, but the opportunity to spend more quality time with normal human beings cannot.
Plus, full focus and attention on an activity, such as a conversation, actually strengthens our brain. It helps develop our neural connections to stay flexible, sharp, and healthy. That’s why most hospitals have policies forbidding the contact of their surgeons when they’re not on call. This way, they can focus on friends, family, and other non-work related items, so when they’re in surgery—that’s all they’re thinking about.
So … what are you waiting for? If you want to be great at your job, get on out there.