Batching. Blasting. Replying. Cold calling. That’s what your sales reps are doing each and every day. The problem? They’ve got very little to show for all their hard work.

It’s not because you hired a subpar sales team. A majority of sales reps are in the same situation. In fact, Salesforce reported that 57 percent of sales reps were expected to miss their quotas.

Economic factors and changing customer needs are definitely factors, but the main culprit is that sales reps are falling short of customer expectations. In particular, customers are demanding a more personalized experience.

Sales reps are so overwhelmed by a variety of other tasks that, in my experience, they only spend about one-third of their time selling and interacting with customers. That’s not a lot of time to get to know their customers and create a customized experience.

One solution may be something called timeboxing.

Timeboxing as a Secret Weapon

Agile Alliance defines timeboxing as “a previously agreed period of time during which a person or a team works steadily towards completion of some goal.” However, instead of continuously working “until the goal is reached, and evaluating the time taken, the timebox approach consists of stopping work when the time limit is reached and evaluating what was accomplished.”

In short, timeboxing is opening your calendar and blocking off time dedicated to a specific task. As a result, you create a fixed schedule.

One example is the Pomodoro technique, a popular productivity hack. This entails working in 25-minute timeboxes and then taking a short break. Another example is “speed dating,” where couples go on a series of dates. Each date consists of a three- to eight-minute timebox.

“The critical rule of timeboxed work is that work should stop at the end of the timebox, and review progress: has the goal been met, or partially met if it included multiple tasks?” explains Agile Alliance.

How Timeboxing Can Boost Productivity

For personal performance, timeboxing eliminates procrastination because it forces you to start a task. You set time limits on the tasks you’re working on, which means you won’t be spending more time on a task than you should.

What’s more, because the brain needs breaks to recharge and refocus, you could create timeboxes in which you work for 52 minutes straight and then take a 17-minute break.

Timeboxing can boost focus and productivity because it encourages you to set aside blocks of time for your most important work. During this time, distractions and interruptions are avoided by turning off notifications or closing your door.

Timeboxing can also prevent perfectionism — there isn’t time to overthink and redo tasks.

How Sales Reps Can Use Timeboxing

As for your sales reps, the main advantage of timeboxing is that it helps them take back their schedules. They can set goals and objectives and incorporate them into their calendars.

For example, if you want to improve the customer experience, you may want your reps to call your high-profile clients. Instead of reps doing this whenever they have downtime, advise them to block out time in their calendars to call 10 clients.

Timeboxing can also be used for sales meetings so they’re not a waste of time. Timeboxing ensures meetings have defined start and end times. This guarantees reps aren’t spending hours in a meeting that should have only taken 30 minutes.

Bryan Gonzalez suggests on the TOPO blog that sales reps should start the day with phone calls to hard-to-reach individuals. This is also a good time to follow up with hot leads.

Then, they can use batching techniques to crank out time-consuming work when they’re most productive, like mid-morning. This prevents distractions during their most productive periods.

Salespeople should schedule meetings in the afternoon because this is “shallow work” that doesn’t require reps to be in peak mental shape.

The last hour of the day should be spent preparing for the next.

I like this approach. However, sales reps could also implement something called a “bookends approach.” This is where Mondays and Fridays are spent researching, responding to emails, reaching out to clients and attending meetings. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are spent prospecting and making calls.

The formula for timeboxing is simple. By spending X time, dedicated to Y activities, a rep should achieve Z this quarter. If you need to develop a more personalized customer experience, your sales rep could spend 30 minutes each day getting to know customers. This could be added to the calendar as phone calls, social media engagement or survey feedback reviews.

Because timeboxing organizes calendars, reps now have the time to spend on administrative tasks while doing deep work.