Time management in sales and small business ownership seems impossible. There is always more you can do than in the time allotted in a day. It’s hard to prioritize, when everything seems urgent and important. But, without time management, you’re sure to break down and collapse and your hard work could come right down with it. We all love the freedom to manage ourselves, but we actually have to remember to manage ourselves!
In order to help you on your path to organizational righteousness, we at Quote Roller wanted to point out a few of those demons that you think are making your life easier, but really could be just snatching away your time of day.
Some companies have meetings just to plan other meetings, as others work only by group emailing to dead air. There has to be a balance. Meetings do have a purpose — not just the dissemination of necessary information, but, more importantly, the sharing of ideas. Weekly meetings hardly ever foster this creative atmosphere. It’d probably be better (and not-to-mention more fun) to just all go out for a beer each Thursday night. Most information can be sent out in an email or explained on a quick conference call. Better yet, with a small enough team, it’s probably a more efficient use of time to email info out before and then call individuals to deal with their specific questions.
Meetings are great when you want to debate an issue or make a policy change, but only if they’re brief and to the point. Creating a short outline of the meeting and emailing it the afternoon before gives everyone the points to consider ahead of time and the organization of when each idea is going to be discussed. Each meeting should have a goal set at the beginning and should only include the necessary people. The smaller the group, the more productive the meeting.
Location matters, too. Board rooms filled with slide after slide of PowerPoints just fosters lost concentration. It also turns into a lecture instead of group participation. Maybe next time, instead of another meeting, try taking colleagues out to one-on-one coffees or lunches. You’ll be amazed at what they’ve thought of to share in a more relaxed setting.
Technology and Time Management
If you’re in sales, whether self-employed or for a big company, you probably have a work smartphone. We could talk about the obvious trap that the “crackberries” lay down to keep you from disconnecting at work, but there are other, less obvious concerns, too. Someone recently told me that, as part of the Animal Kingdom, we are pre-wired to resist change, to subconsciously recognize change as danger. Technology is no exception. Even those who will wait in a five-hour line, obsessed with being the first to have the newest edition of iPhone, will be affected by that change. From laptops to apps to WiFi, we are so focused on what’s good about having the fastest, the shiniest, the newest, that we don’t think about how it affects our lives. Every time you introduce a new technology into your life, you need to consider how to re-organize your day and your life around it.
No matter how nifty your phone or tablet is, it leads you to be inundated with an impossible about of information to process. In nearly every interview with highly effective people, there’s one rule they all seem to follow: Do not open your email the first hour of the day. Whether directives from your boss or client needs, it’s a black hole that can suck you in until you break for lunch. The enticing sound of “You’ve Got Mail” has been replaced by that little flashing light on your smartphone, but it’s just as irresistible. Instead of clicking on that tiny envelope, take that hour to grab your first cup of coffee, organize your physical space, and review and revise your plan for the day.
As managers, you also must be careful. Don’t just give your salesforce a Blackberry, iPad or company laptop, Your fun present to them turns quickly into a vortex of time wasting. You can’t let the technological change just happen. You need a plan to lay out to your sales reps before you give them the gadgets. It’s just like in school where students are much more likely to listen to instructions, if they are told before the exam is handed out. The hot company Christmas bonus of 2011 was the iPad, but now, more than a year later, at least half of these companies haven’t implemented any tactical plan for how to use them. Just like planning your day, you need to plan how the technology can benefit your small business, before just assuming that it will.
Parkinson’s Law teaches us that “Work expands so as to fill the time for its completion.“
The average American has about eight vacation days a year, while the average European has a month. The German work day is from nine to five, while the Spanish one lasts from nine to nine. Who is the most productive? None and all. We really do use however much time is allotted to complete the same task. If done well, flexible timetables are a great way for companies to save money on expenses and for working parents to do their most important job better.
However, just because your boss doesn’t give you a set schedule doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give yourself one. Many of our jobs necessitate that we have flexibility to work with clients in different time zones and to sell whenever they’re available. First, remember, you being too available isn’t always attractive to your client. Try suggesting to him or her a specific two-hour opening in your schedule. It says you are both busy, but organized.
You may not be able to schedule your month or even your week in advance, but you can certainly try to schedule your day. Maybe even go a little old fashioned and write it out. You can never go wrong with PlannerPad’s organization, which gives you two full pages a week to integrate your business and personal life. Like a filter, you start with up to seven headlines of different groups of responsibilities up top — for example: Spouse, Kids, Bills/Finances/Household Chores, Administrative Work, Sales Cold Calls/New Business Development, Client Visits, and Customer Support/Client Relations & Follow Up.
Then, you funnel it down into the seven days of your week. Finally you whittle it down into the hours of the day, including every Friday at 5 o’clock, when you plan to make your next week’s plan. Now you might have a last minute change or two, but seeing your whole week laid out helps you feel more in control than just a screenshot on your smartphone. Plus, while Quote Roller loves integrating technology into making you better and more efficient at sales, we must admit, there’s something endlessly gratifying about physically checking things off of a to-do list.
And remember, one of the greatest benefits of flexible hours is our ability to save ourselves from ourselves. Sometimes you’ll have loads of energy and can work through lunch before realizing you’re hungry. Other times you are just tired or blocked. When you hit that wall, it’s important to completely stop what you’re doing. Just walk away. No, seriously, step away from that smartphone. No matter how important holding onto that client or job is, remember you’re not a surgeon or firefighter. Sometimes walking away and taking a break is the best way to ensure quality and productivity.
How do you scare away your time crunching demons?