Persistent marketers wrecking your day? Here’s how to stop them » SMEInsider

Persistent marketers wrecking your day? Here’s how to stop them

It’s virtually impossible to get into a decent flow and do great work when pesky sales calls, spam emailers and marketing promotions are causing constant distractions. Here are eight ways to get rid of them.

1. Block nuisance calls.

Cold calls are a nightmare, so make use of the government’s new Telephone Preference Service to help rein them in. You can also buy phones with built-in “nuisance call” blocking features.

2. Turn off notifications.

Having social media notifications beeping at you is anathema to concentration. Even if you don’t look right away, you’re aware that a conversation is happening on Facebook or Twitter, or someone is trying to talk to you, and your mind will wander. Change your preferences so that you’re blissfully ignorant and then sign in at a few scheduled points during the day.

3. Stop the pesky marketing texts

Don’t just slam your phone down annoyed because your focus has been broken by a text that turned out to be advertising half price Domino’s or 20p off toilet paper at Morrison’s. You can usually cut off these texts altogether by replying with the word “STOP” (or similar).

4. Sort out your spam folders

Take twenty minutes to organise your inbox filters and folders, using rules and clear labelling so that your emails – including the ones that don’t need urgent attention – are properly filed. Take this opportunity to remove yourself from any email lists and mailshots that are clogging up your inbox. These twenty minutes will save you hundreds of hours of wading through rubbish you don’t want to read, or at least want to put off reading when you’re busy.

5. Delete your cookies

When so much of our work involves the internet, it can be hard to avoid advertising – and worse, avoid targeted advertising that creepily remembers that thing you were browsing last week and now won’t leave you alone. Deleting your cookies will help prevent them from tracking you, but even more importantly, NEVER click on these targeted adverts. If you do, they think they’ve got their claws in and they won’t give up. If you’re really vigilant and want to be mega-resistant to targeted advertising, you could do all of your non-work browsing privately, for example using Chrome’s “incognito” window feature.

6. Reply when you’re ready

Most of the time you don’t need to reply to every email that comes through the moment it arrives. Often, especially when you’re stressed, a more reflective and considered reply will be better than your first, panicked response anyway. Check your emails every couple of hours as breaks from your focussed work. If people need you any more urgently than that, they’ll call you.

7. Manage expectations.

If you really do think that your intermittent email responses are going to cause trouble, keep people in the loop. Set up an automated message that says you are out of contact for the morning, or are only checking emails every two days, or whatever system works best for you. Make sure that you do actually keep to any promises that you make, of course, but letting people know what to expect prevents them getting frustrated with you for apparently ignoring them.

8. Don’t underestimate the importance of a distraction-free environment

Every time you break your flow, it will take you far longer than the length of the interruption to refocus. You cannot work deeply and meaningfully on complex or involved tasks if you are constantly resurfacing for petty things. We’ve all had days when we feel like we’ve been busy (and stressed) the whole time but have barely achieved anything of value; we’ve all had days when we make more progress in the space of a few dedicated hours than we have in weeks. Remember that every one of these unnecessary interruptions represents a loss of time and money, while you pander to other people’s immediate goals over your own long-term ones. That’s no way to run a company. Knock it on the head.



  • Programify

    Oh dear, the Telephone Preference Service is broken and an utter waste of time. Those heinous PPI vultures will sequentially dial telephone numbers, so being ex-directory or TPS listed is of no use. I get four to eight of these calls every day – My home number is ex-directory and TPS listed – fat lot of good that does! (I had two 0845 calls while writing this message !!! – it’s out of control)

    • LindseyKennedy

      Sorry to hear that, Programify. If many of the calls are coming from the same number/company/subsidiaries of the same company, you could follow in the footsteps of Richard Herman, who successfully invoiced PPI Claimline for his time when they continued to call after he had contacted the Telephone Preference Service (see here:

      • Thanks for the reply Lindsey. I had heard of the Herman/PPI case, but I just can’t afford the time to identify and then chase offenders through the legal system. What would work is if I could report a phone number to an agency who would then do all the neccessary leg work and filing of lawsuits, £100 on each occassion I receive a phone call (even if I do not answer) in return for 50%. It would make my life so much better to know that there was a financial imperative for automated cold callers to get the message that their methods are unacceptable.

  • Soren Stenderup

    We have a different method persistent cold callers. We simply inform that they have cold called a service line and that a surcharge applies if they do not hang up right away. We never hear from them again. 🙂

    • LindseyKennedy

      Great idea Soren! Funnily enough, there was a man in Leeds who set up an actual premium rate line so that cold callers now find themselves paying 10p a minute to contact him (although apparently he’s on shaky ground, legally):