Effective time management is like healthy eating habits - we've all heard tips on how to do both; yet it is so easy to fall into bad habits. Occasional reminders can help keep us on track. Last week in our message Got a Minute? we examined the nature of time as a precursor to better managing it. As promised, here are specific tips to support better time management:

  1. Schedule time to be unavailable. As sales professionals we need to be accessible to our customers, but we also need uninterrupted chunks of time for planning and other more thoughtful tasks. Pick a time when customers are not likely to contact you, and make internal team members aware of these "do not disturb" times. Even one hour a day of uninterrupted work time can greatly increase your productivity. During your unavailable/planning time, turn off your instant email notification - it's a huge distraction!
  2. Manage emails and phone calls - don't let them manage you. It is easy to spend the entire day intermittently checking and responding to emails and phone calls. Plan specific times to check voice and email and make your planned outbound calls for the day. Let customers and team members know times when it is easiest to reach you, and then make a point to be available during that time slot. Be disciplined and deliberate about whose phone calls you allow to interrupt your designated work time.
  3. Make a list. We make lists so we don't forget things, right? That's true, but list making also reduces stress because it relieves us of having to remember things and worrying about what we will forget. The act of making the list also requires us to prioritize relative to the order in which items are placed on the list and which do not make the list at all.
  4. Estimate time required for each item. This helps us realize the time commitment we are making relative to the sequence and timeframe we've assigned. This simple act will help prevent us from over committing. It will also cause us to reassess some activities relative to their time commitment.
  5. Prioritize each item relative to three considerations: time required, impact/benefit and urgency. We all love the sense of satisfaction that comes with knocking out multiple simple, easy tasks quickly. Check, check, check. Look how productive I am! Often this "productivity" is actually masking procrastination relative to more complex and important tasks.
  6. Address overwhelming chores in small increments. There are certain tasks (cleaning up voice and email messages, catching up on social media activity) that cannot be completed in one session. Designate a specific amount of time each day (15 or 30 minutes) for these activities. If addressed daily, these chores become much more manageable and much less stressful.
  7. Evaluate what got done and what did not relative to your plan, and then ask yourself WHY certain items were not completed. This process will shed light on weaknesses in your time management skills. Did you not allow enough time for unexpected events in your day? Do you chronically underestimate how long tasks will take? Do you need to chunk tasks down into smaller steps to facilitate timely completion?

Regardless of how we approach time, it is a force we must navigate throughout our lives. Perhaps Jim Morrison had it right when he famously sang,

"The future's uncertain, and the end is always near"--The Doors, "Roadhouse Blues", March 1970

As part of our ongoing commitment to professional development, Carew International publishes a regular blog to provide timely insights for optimal sales performance.  To learn more about Carew's incomparable sales training programs, sales leadership training and customer service training, visit our website at www.carew.com