Contractor Sales Lesson 2 – Personal Effectiveness
Purpose – This lesson deals with ways to adjust your personal habits in such a way that you can increase your productivity and results without spending additional time doing so
The direction of this lesson is to increase the contractor sales professional’s effectiveness by attempting –
- To help the sales professional make prioritization decisions that lead to more overall effectiveness.
- To help the sales professional understand the difference between urgency and importance.
- To help the contractor sales professional develop a personal time management system
- To expose the salesperson to several prevailing time management ideas.
- To help the sales professional attain better results and more efficiency by effective organization.
- To help the contractor sales professional develop a system of follow through to make sure time management system he has set up remains part of his daily activities.
In essence, this lesson is a discussion of time management. However, it extends beyond time management, because time management is the management of time in such a way that you can get more tasks done in the same amount of time.
Personal Effectiveness is the prioritization of your most effective activities in such a way that the total amount of work that needs to be done is decreased allowing more time for more time spent on effective activities that will lead to increased sales and productivity.
If you double your efforts in time management, or rather if, through practicing time management techniques, you double your time available to get things done, you will double the amount of work you can get done. If you focus on personal effectiveness, and double your personal effectiveness, your results will increase by ten fold, not just double.
The definition of effectiveness or rather what defines an effective activity is one of the ideas that are most misunderstood by salespeople. The idea of what would characterize an effective day in the life of a sales person is possibly even more misunderstood than an effective activity.
Most people didn’t go to “Sales Trade School” and graduate from “Sales University.” Most salespeople in the profession started off working in some other type of industry or occupation. It’s because of these other jobs or occupations we have had that weren’t in sales, that our ideas of effective work may be a bit skewed. Many salespeople believe that if they are working hard, meaning if their phone rings a hundred times, and they ran 7 errands, organized their desk, visited a few jobsites, had 4 meetings and skipped lunch then they had an effective day.
If their boss (in another occupation) would say, “Dang, that boy sure is a hard worker” we feel that we have done a good job that day. After all in other jobs we’ve had or even doing work around the house, we’ve always been programmed that if you work hard, you’re doing a good job. Many people in sales believe that if they are working hard, they are doing their job.
However, this is the most common reason for failure in sales. Now, don’t get me wrong, sales shouldn’t be easy, according to Tom Hopkins, “Sales is the lowest paid easy work and the highest paid hard work.” But it is the definition of work that is the problem. In sales, work is only one thing. Please highlight, underline and make a big asterisk next to this next statement in your workbook.
In sales, work = time spent in front of a person qualified to make a purchase decision for your product. Anytime you are not in front of someone that meets the above definition, is not work; it‘s busy work, it is ancillary work, it is standing around the water cooler, it‘s shuffling papers, but it is not work.
So the question is, “How do we spend 100% of our time in front of people who are qualified to make a purchase decision for our product? Well it’s impossible. The key to success is to maximize the amount of time we spend in front of those people. If we are currently spending 24% of our time in front of those people, we need to find a way to increase it to 36% or 44%.
Discussion Point – Try to ponder and answer the following question. What three or four activities within the scope of your sales position, if you performed more regularly and completely would have a dramatic affect on your success as a sale’s professional? Write your answers down and continue with the text.
Hopefully you see that the discussion above is a bit limited. The arguments above show the most effective way to make sales. However, there is more to life, especially in our business than making sales. We need to find a better definition of effectiveness rather than just making sales.
A better way to define effective work is any task that will bring you closer to the realization of your personal mission statement. Any task can be analyzed as to what the result of the completion of the task will be. If the result of the completion of that task puts you in a position that is closer to the realization of your personal mission statement then that task is effective.
In order to simplify the definition we will define an effective activity as being important. Anything that is important is something that will bring you closer to your personal mission statement. If you look at the end result that will come about once the task is finished and find yourself closer to the realization of your personal mission statement, then the task/activity can be deemed important.
It is the same with any business. (You should treat your sales position as your own personal sales business, we discussed this in the previous lesson and will be discussing it more in later chapters) Any task is important to the business if it brings the business closer to the realization of the business mission statement. When activities conflict, a business manager can prioritize business functions by whether or not they are important. If they are both important, then the one that is more important (brings the business closer to its mission) will take precedence.
Now that we have a definition of important, let us describe tasks in a different way as well. Let us define tasks in terms of urgency. Tasks can be ranked by how urgent they are in respect to how bad they need to be done in regards to time, pressure and stress. Urgent things are things that have to be done now and will create an immediate relief of pressure or stress.
A few examples could be a ringing phone, someone banging on the door, a screaming customer, a report that has to be turned in by 4:00 today and it’s now 3:30. Things that have to be done NOW! Many items will relieve stress in the long run, but an urgent item, will relieve immediate stress. If you take that call from an angry customer and resolve the situation, it relieves the pressure from the moment and solves the problem for the time being.
So, all tasks can be classified using these two descriptions. But they can be than just either or. Sure any task can be only one of the two, but they can also be neither or they can be both. So basically all tasks that you complete in your day to day in your contractor sales efforts can be classified into one of the following descriptions.
Urgent but Not Important
Important but Not Urgent
Urgent and Important
Not Urgent and Not Important
In order to help you visualize the subject better, I have included the graph below designed by Stephen Covey. It’s called the Time Management Matrix, and will be our focus of discussion for the next little while.
The Time Management Matrix – By Stephen Covey
Now any activity can be classified into one of four categories.
Urgent and Important – quadrant 1
Not Urgent but Important – quadrant 2
Urgent but Not Important – quadrant 3
Not Urgent and Not Important quadrant 4
To classify them this way first makes them easier to refer to, and also to prioritize your tasks in respect to their placement in the quadrant. A few examples might be helpful at this point.
Quadrant 1 examples – Crises, pressing problems, a screaming customer, a vendor calling about a payment or an RGA, deadline driven projects, returning a phone call, an absent employee, a company work truck breaking down on the freeway, some meetings, some preparations. A bid is due by 4:00 today and it’s now 3:30, it’s important because being awarded the project will get you closer to your mission and it’s urgent because it has to be done now!
Quadrant 2 examples – Some Preparations, prevention, follow-up, values clarification, planning, relationship building, most training, stewardship delegation. Inviting a general contractor to lunch next week is important, because building a relationship with him will get you closer to your mission but it doesn’t have to be done now, you can call him anytime.
Quadrant 3 examples – Interruptions, some phone calls, some mail, some reports, some meetings, many pressing, proximate matters, some busy work, many popular activities. The phone is ringing, you take the call and it’s a telemarketer selling timeshares. It’s urgent, the phone is ringing and distracting you, but it’s not important because listening to his pitch won’t get you any closer to your mission.
Quadrant 4 examples – Trivia, some busy work, some phone calls, time wasters, gossiping with other employees, escape activities, irrelevant mail, excessive TV watching, Solitaire. Calling the time share guy back, after he left you a message, just so you look busy would be a quadrant 4 activity.
Discussion Point – Where do you spend most of your time? Where do you think the most effective people spend most of their time?
If you take a look at most managers, most successful sales people, most CEO’s and business owners, most high volume contractor sales people, most high output employees and classify all of their daily activities in terms of the quadrants they spend most of their time in, that quadrant would be quadrant 1. They spend the majority of their time there but when the crisis, and pressing problems get to be too much, they retreat to the pain/mind numbing “un-importance” of quadrant 4.
For example, a data entry clerk who has a stack of punch cards that have to be entered today will sit and play solitaire for an hour after lunch, even though the cards have to be entered today by 5pm. They will stand by the water cooler until it’s so urgent that they enter those cards, that when his manager walks by, to discuss a problem he has, the worker screams, I can’t do this now, I have to get these cards punched in by 5.
Then the next day the manager is back, asking why the employee made so many mistakes on his data entry. Now the employee is re-doing cards that were supposed to be done yesterday. The Controller who has to take the data from the cards and create reports for the board of directors, now has to stay late because the report has to be ready first thing in the morning. An entire atmosphere of quadrant 1 is created because an employee didn’t enter his cards while it was still a quadrant 2 activity.
Most people who feel overwhelmed in the amount of work they have to do each day are quadrant 1 people. They spend the majority of their time in quadrant one. The problem with Quadrant 1 is that focus in this quadrant will cause it to grow and grow and grow until it totally consumes you.
Effective people however, spend the majority of their time in Quadrant 2. People who seem to get the most results from the least amount of stress and headache focus their time in quadrant 2. Top salespeople, in Fortune 500 companies seem to have double and triple the sales of others with half the stress of their counterparts. How can this be? How can someone do twice the sales of someone else with half the stress? The answer lies in the secrets of quadrant 2.
An intense focus in quadrant 2 automatically decreases the size of quadrants 1 and 3. The intense focus on quadrant 2 activities will actually decrease the amount of quadrant 1 and 3 activities that pop up. Quadrant 2 activities are planning, prevention and preparation activities. If you plan to complete your work tasks before they become urgent, you are focusing on what’s important.
Prevention activities prevent quadrant 1 crisises from happening. If the Controller in the example above had spent some time in prevention, the situation could’ve been avoided. If his report is due on Wednesday mornings at 7:00 am, he can restructure the data entry clerk’s work requirements. He can make the data entry due by Friday at lunch time. The manager then has to review the data entry reports before he leaves on Friday afternoon. Now everyone can go into the weekend with less stress and enjoy their weekend better. What if the data entry clerk calls in sick on Friday? Everyone can still enjoy their weekend because the report isn’t really due until Wednesday.
A shorter example might be that a company truck breaks down and you have several appointments for that service technician to complete. So you have to drop everything, call and rent another truck, get it out to the tech, call his appointments and tell them he is going to be late and on and on. Sound familiar?
A Quadrant 2 activity would be to set up a truck maintenance and prevention program whereby trucks are serviced and maintained and cared for in such a way to minimize break downs that throw you back into Quadrant 1.
Discussion Point – What percentage of your time is spent in each of the four quadrants? What can you do to spend more time in quadrant 2?
Earlier when you were asked to write down three or four activities within the scope of your sales position, if you performed more regularly and completely would have a dramatic affect on your success as a sales professional, what quadrant do they fall into?
GETTING TO QUADRANT TWO
The most common question asked when presented with the time management matrix, is “That sounds great but I only get 40 hours a week, and I can’t just drop everything in quadrant 1, where am I supposed to find the time to spend in quadrant 2?
The only honest, simple answer is quadrants 3 and 4. It may be difficult at first, but with honest evaluation, most people find time wasted in 3 and 4 and apply that time in quadrant 2. Very rare is the person that can operate in quadrant 1 for months and months on end, all day everyday and maintain their sanity while doing so. The very nature of quadrant 1 makes a retreat to quadrant 4 almost a necessity. The classification of your activities will usually lead to the awareness of time spent in 3 and 4 and then can be redirected to be spent in quadrant 2.
However there is a fine line to be drawn here. To not spend any time in Quadrant 2 until you have everything finished in Quadrant 1 and 3 would be the equivalent of someone trying to lose weight by not eating anything at all until they lose 20 pounds. You can’t work on Quadrant 1 and 3 to the exclusion of Quadrant 2.
The knowledge of the benefits of working in quadrant 2 should help you find time to spend there. If you don’t believe that spending time in quadrant 2 will decrease your quadrant 1 activities, you will find it hard to spend time there. If you don’t yet believe, spend some time with a manager or co-worker who does believe and discuss it until you are better convinced.
Deepening the deadline also helps when trying to find time for quadrant 2. To deepen the deadline is to give yourself more time for your contractor sales deadline driven projects. First make a list of your deadline driven projects, meaning any reports or requirements that are required to be turned in or completed by a certain day each week or month.
Example – order deadlines, billing deadlines reports that are required to be turned in each Monday, etc.
Then shorten this list by only listing the projects that require others input. If you cannot complete an activity until you receive input from others, then list that activity. Then extend their deadline for turning their work into you.
Example: You are required to assemble the reports of 10 different area managers and turn it into the district manager on Friday afternoon. It only takes you 30 minutes to complete the report, so the area managers turn in their reports on Friday when they come to pick up their checks and supplies. To deepen the deadline would require the area managers to turn in their reports Thursday afternoon or Wednesday morning.
This tool will change much of your quadrant 1 tasks to quadrant 2 tasks. This first week where you receive extra time from deepening the deadline must be spent in quadrant 2 prevention and planning activities, otherwise your work load will adjust and increase until they all become quadrant 1 or 3 activities again. Another tool you can use is to commit each day one hour of Quadrant 2 activities. If you work until 5 o’clock, set aside the time from 4pm until 5pm to work single mindedly on Quadrant 2 activities. The last 5 to 10 minutes of each day should be spent planning the next day anyway, so it shouldn’t be too hard to add another 30 to 45 minutes to the process.
Another tool you can use it to sit down when you know you won’t be bothered and take out a sheet of paper, and at the top write, “What are 20 things I can do to increase my sales and effectiveness?” Then do not move until you write down 20 items. This could be extremely hard. The first 5-10 will be easy, 10-15 will be difficult and 15 to 20 will be extremely difficult. However, resolve to finish the list. It will surprise you but 95% of the things on the list are Quadrant 2 activities.
Once you have this list, if there are any items in the list that aren’t in Quadrant 2 remove them from this list. Then keep the list in your day timer or at your desk. Then each day resolve that you are not going to go home until you complete at least one item on that list. If some of the things are too big to complete in an hour or so, divide them up into “sub tasks” and resolve to complete at least one thing everyday. Doing this for 30 days straight will dramatically change your life.
However, the hard truth is that most times and in most situations the only way to find time for quadrant 2 is to go on a madman rush cycle and try to knock out as many quadrant 1 and 3 activities while working like a crazy madman and free up time for quadrant 2. Isn’t it funny how on the Friday before you go on vacation, you seem to be able to get everything done and finished and tied up in such a way that you can enjoy your vacation without leaving any loose ends behind? Try to apply the same effort just this time without going on vacation.
Because most people are never exposed to the principles listed above the following tends to happen. Most quadrant 2 activities are never completed. The nature of business, especially in construction, is urgency. Time is money and money is time, right? That being said, office managers, superintendents and even presidents focus on the urgent. Get the urgent done first, then if there’s time, then we will work in quadrant 2, but there is never time.
It seems the only time we ever get to quadrant 2 is when a crisis gets out of hand, then we are forced to do a quadrant 2 activity which by definition actually re-categorizes it and makes it a quadrant 1 activity. The Controller in the example above gets so tired of having to stay late; he eventually fires the data entry clerk.
Then after firing three more data entry clerks he determines that something has to change. So he spends some time in quadrant 2 and reorganizes the data entry clerks work requirements and makes his deadline for his report due on Wednesday. But because he’s a crisis manager he doesn’t spend enough time on the work, he throws a band-aid on it and goes back to his other pressing crises.
Then he is forced to continually go back to the problem and continue placing band-aids on it until the bleeding is finally stopped for good. However, the amount of stress and headache it placed on himself, the manager, the data entry clerk and co-workers could’ve been avoided. The system works now, why couldn’t it have worked 2 years ago?
Writing a personal mission statement and writing goals are quadrant 2 activities. Training classes and sales training are quadrant 2 activities.
The best way to get more and more time in quadrant 2 is the following. For a few days, use the time management matrix as a record of all things you have done. As you complete a task each day write the task down after you’ve finished it in the appropriate quadrant. After a few days, notice all of the things in quadrant 1 and 3. Then go back and try to find something you can do to get those items finished before they became urgent. Then put that action which will definitely be a quadrant 2 item and on your to-do list and get it done. As you complete more and more projects that change reoccurring tasks from Quadrant 1 to Quadrant 2, you will inherently be able to spend more time in Quadrant 2.
In summary, quadrant 2 is where effective people spend the majority of their time. Focus in quadrant 2 will cause quadrant 3 and 1 to diminish to manageable, non stress inducing levels. Completing activities before they become urgent, will free up time on your schedule. Remember that doing things in Quadrant 2 puts you in the driver’s seat, and you will put things into motion that will work for you. When you’re working hard and can’t seem to find the time to put any effort into Quadrant 2 remember the famous words of Austin Powers, “Who does Number 2 work for?” It works for you.
The remainder of the lesson will consist of popular time management techniques for discussion and possible implementation. All time management techniques do not work for everyone, because of personality differences, and work requirements. Try a few of the techniques listed below, and try to employ of few of them in planning your time.
- 1. Weekly planning is more important than daily planning. Weekly planning is quadrant 2, daily planning is quadrant 1. A daily evening planning session usually consists of making a to-do list of quadrant 1 items that have to get done tomorrow. Weekly planning is goal and mission oriented. Daily planning is usually a quick 5-minute session taken at the end of the day, so you can go home and relax knowing you’ve planned your next day so you can forget about it and take it up the next day.
Weekly planning is an hour or so on a Sunday night or early Monday morning, planning quadrant 2 activities. It takes into account your mission and goals and plans activities that help you get closer to your mission statement. Spend an hour planning your weeks and a few minutes planning your day. In the same arena, spend 2 to 3 days planning your year. Usually the time between Christmas and New Years is a good time to take 2 to 3 days to plan your year. It should take you a month of working on it everyday to plan your 5 year plan.
- Use some type of planning resource. A notepad works just as well for one guy as does a palm pilot for another person. It has to be something that you will use! Do not choose a medium for planning that you are not going to use. The easiest way to get through the day without stress and headaches is to WRITE IT DOWN! Do not keep anything in your head. Why would anyone just keep it in their head and them let themselves worry all day about making sure they don’t forget about it. Write it down somewhere where you will keep checking back with it often. No matter where you are you should always have your planning resource available you so can write things down whether you’re driving, golfing, eating or anything.
- Do not write things in your calendar that aren’t fixed appointments, or things that absolutely do not have to be done that day. Your calendar should not look like this.
8:00 Office – Make 15 calls.
9:00 Work on Project A.
10:00 Meet super at jobsite.
12:00 Stop by Customer A, brochure.
12:30 Drug Store, pick up floss.
1:30 Office – finish project B
3:30 Return phone calls from day’s messages.
This type of scheduling is usually counterproductive. It causes too many items to clash, and opportunities to slip away, spontaneity is limited and therefore daily enrichment and enjoyment is stifled. The sheer nature of this type of planning makes most people feel too restrained, too constricted and causes most people to completely discard the day planner system, and thereby throwing out the baby with the bath water. Also, emergencies happen, so things don’t get done and you have to constantly re-enter things on your calendar over and over. This causes stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Rather your calendar should look like this. Instead of managing time, we should manage ourselves. To do this our schedule should look like this:
8:00 – Office
10:00 – Meet super at jobsite
11:00 – In car
2:00 – Office
If during your 15 phone calls during the morning you schedule a lunch with a client, it may be on the complete opposite side of town as customer A. Now you are forced to decide, is it efficient to drive to the other side of town to drop off a brochure to customer A or would it be better tomorrow when you’re closer? Now if you don’t complete the activity you are forced to write it down again on your calendar and once again it may or may not be efficient. It’s better to have a series of task lists, based on your work structure. This way if you do schedule a lunch on side of town B, you can look in your task lists for anything that needs to be done on that side of town and get those things done while you’re over there instead of A. forcing yourself to drive across town because “its on the schedule” (inefficient) or B. Re-Write the errand on your schedule for another day, which will probably have to get rescheduled and rewritten again (inefficient and bothersome).
Here is a sample of task lists that may apply.
At the office – At home – In the car
Each task list can have sub tasks.
Task List – At the office.
During your time at the office, you can be creative and spontaneous, and can therefore get more work done. If you don’t follow this system certain tasks may become more important/urgent during the course of the day but you might schedule them for a later date because you made that to-do list and By God, you’re going to cross those things off that list if it kills you. Well that just doesn’t work nowadays.
This type of thinking worked years ago when a person’s job description was less diverse, and projects were completed one at a time and most of our time was spent at the office. In today’s changing business environment, job descriptions mesh, and most people have several simultaneous projects, and we spend as much time away from the office as in the office. We need to evolve as well. We need to be able to make changes and rework items faster and with more fluidity than we did even just 20 years ago. To stay productive and efficient we have to group tasks together but we also need to stay flexible and creative so we can do what’s most important when it needs done. This is especially true when your main focus is relationship building. You have to have a scheduling system that isn’t as restricted as they used to be.
- Schedule Prospecting. I know we just got done saying not to write anything in your calendar, unless it was a firm appointment or a day specific activity, something that can only be done on that day, but this is the exception. In fact many Quadrant 2 activities need to be scheduled. If you don’t have a system in place to make sure you are prospecting every week, then you need to put a system in place. Prospecting is Quadrant 2. Developing a system whereby prospecting occurs every week whether you like it or not is effective Quadrant 2 planning. If you do not plan prospecting you will never have steady sales success. Your sales career will be a series of ups and down, highs and lows. If you are experiencing a contractor sales slump, it is because you were not prospecting a few months ago.
- Work in such a way to avoid Time Vampires. Time Vampires are those people, whether they are clients, co-workers, subordinates or bosses, who suck the time right out of you. If every time you get to the office to make calls, someone says, “Hey can you help me with this for a minute?” make your calls at home or in the car. Evaluate your week and find out where vampires attack you and stay away from those places.
- Link all of your activities to your goals. Oftentimes you may have several Quadrant 2 activities that need to be done, and they have to be prioritized. If you have for example, 4 business goals, then every time you write down a task that needs to be completed, add a number, 1, 2, 3 or 4 to the end of the sentence. This will always keep your goals in front of you, and will help you prioritize items that fall into the same quadrant.
The whole purpose of this lesson is to increase productivity. According to Dan Kennedy, the definition of productivity is the deliberate, strategic investment of your time, talent, intelligence, energy, resources and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to meaningful goals. So why not link all tasks to you goals? It will make you much more efficient.
- If you have to swallow a frog, you might not want to stare at it for too long. Do the things you least like to do first. First thing in the morning knock out the things that you least want to do. It will make sure you have a much better day. It’s easier to smile when all the things you hate to do were done hours ago. It will make the rest of your efforts more effective. You’ll do them better and faster. If you have a lot of frogs to swallow, swallow the biggest one first. At night when you are planning your next day, circle the two or three items that could be considered frogs (big daunting tasks that you aren’t looking forward to doing). Then, each day when you come into the office, before you get your coffee, before you chit chat with anyone, before you check your e-mail, before you do anything, resolve to swallow your biggest frog for the day. This one idea will have dramatic results for you.
- Sales training is a Quadrant 2 activity! Isn’t “sales training” the last thing we do as salespeople? Schedule your sales training in odd lot moments. Never go anywhere without a book! Stuck at the DMV, in line at a bank, is your sales presentation appointment keeping you waiting, read your book. Listen to audio sales training programs in your car. Listen to music if you need to relax or you’re steaming mad, but otherwise use that time to learn some sales techniques. Most salespeople spend 500-1000 hours driving in their car. A 4 year college degree requires less than 500 hours of classroom instruction. You can technically earn an equivalent of a 4 year college degree in one year driving in your car. There is no reason to not have effective sales training going on in your life everyday.
- Live off peak. Don’t drive in rush hour and don’t go to the bank on Friday afternoon. The rest should be self explanatory.
- Develop a system for information management. Any piece of information that you need on a semi-regular basis must be available to you within 7-8 seconds. If a client calls and needs some information you need to be able to produce it within 7-8 seconds. If you agree to mail a client some information, you should be able to produce the information within 7-8 seconds.
Any time spent searching for information, looking for brochures, shuffling through papers and digging through files is wasted time and there is no reason for it. Spend some Quadrant 2 time developing a system for managing the information you need to do your job. Product specs, brochures, pictures, contracts, any type of information you use needs to be organized and ready to use. If you don’t organize information, you cannot profit from it.
- Organization is a Quadrant 2 activity. Spend time every week getting organized. Call a time out and regroup. When a basketball team is on run the opposing team will usually call a time out. It was reported that 94 percent of the time, the run stops after the time out. If you take a time out and regroup, chances are you are going to score next.
Information isn’t the only thing that needs to be organized. All aspects of your sales career needs to be organized. Organize your planning system, restructure your task lists, organize the projects your working on, and organize your desk. A clean desk is not the sign of a sick mind; it’s the sign of a Quadrant 2 focused person.
- Similar Grouping – Group all of your tasks into similar piles. Then complete tasks that are similar all at the same time. You shouldn’t prepare a quote for someone, then walk to the fax machine, then call a prospect, then drive to an appointment, then come back to the office and do another quote. You should do 6 quotes all at once, then walk to the fax machine and fax all six quotes at the same time. Then spend time returning all of your calls while you are organizing your information.
An A/P clerk doesn’t enter one invoice, then cut a check, then walk it over to the signer and have it signed, then get a stamp and put it in the mailbox. He enters all of the invoices, then he cuts all the checks, then the signer signs all of the checks. One step better, the A/P clerk enters all of the invoices from one vendor all together. Then they move on to the next vendor and so on.
- Single Handling – Try as hard as you can to only handle each item once. Serious amounts of time are lost continuously shuffling through the same piles over and over while you are looking for the most pressing item to get finished. If something comes across your desk and you can finish it in 2 minutes or less, DO IT NOW. And move on. If not put it where it belongs and resolve not to touch it again until you are going to complete it.
When you start a task, stay with it until it is complete. Do not stop and start working on something else because that person is screaming louder. The time it takes you to ramp up again to work on it you have lost serious amounts of time and momentum and it can take twice as long to finish every time you stop and start again. The only exception would be the next item.
13.5 Inbox – Everything that comes to in whatever format, needs to first be put into some type of inbox. An inbox can be an actual plastic “Inbox” on your desk for collecting papers and such that are turned in to you. Your inbox can be your e-mail, voicemail, or any other things whereby information or requests for action are distributed to you.
Then twice a day, you should go through your inbox, I recommend after lunch and right before you leave for the day. As you go through your inbox, anything that can be done in two minutes or less should be done right away. Otherwise it should be moved onto a task list of similar actions.
For example, if you get an envelope in your inbox and it is a report that needs to be turned in to accounting, finish it right then if you can do it in two minutes or less. If not, put it into the correct actions list, such as “At Computer” or “Accounting” possibly “Operations.”
I recommend going through all of your inbox’s all together. Once you clean out your inbox, check all e-mails in your inbox and then all of your voicemails. E-mails and voicemails may need to be checked more that twice a day depending on your responsibilities and industry. Regardless you need to make a system that works for you and follow it.
- Salami Slicing – There’s an old saying that goes, “How do you eat an elephant? – One bite at time.” When you have a huge project there’s no way you can finish it all at once. You need to Salami slice it into smaller manageable tasks. However, if you had to eat an elephant, and you only at ate it one bite at a time it would take too long to finish it. The meat would go bad!
Make sure you separate huge projects into substantially sized sub tasks so that you are making significant progress on it. Make a plan, resolve to follow it and give yourself a deadline! If you have a list of 500 people to call, you don’t call one person a day. You call 25 people per day. Get the idea?
Projects don’t necessarily have to be huge to be salami sliced. If you have a project that has 4 or 5 steps and the first step is to “Call Alice at XYZ Supply for a price quote” put that action step on your “Calls” list so that next time you are making calls you remember to call her. As you are finishing up, write the next action step in the appropriate place. You might simply jot down the next action step and throw it in your inbox while you continue making calls. Or, if you know the next step is to draw up a proposal, in your “At Computer” task list write, “Draw up proposal for ABC Customer.” Any action completed that doesn’t bring the entire project to completion should not be crossed off as complete until you have entered the next action somewhere in your system.
- Consistently ask yourself these all important questions everyday.
- Why am I on the payroll? When it comes right down to it what was I actually hired to do? Did I do that today?
- What are the 2 or 3 things that I can do, that if done well and regularly would have a dramatic positive effect on my sales results? Did I do them today?
- What it the most valuable use of my time right now?
Make sure when you are planning your days, or when you are at a crossroads in the middle of the day and are wondering what should I do next? Make sure you ask these 3 questions.
- Be extremely action oriented. Walk around and complete your work with a sense of urgency! Hurry up! Quit beating around the bush and get something done. If you have time to sit around and gossip and chat at the water cooler, ask people’s opinions about your new watch, you’re doing something wrong, you should be BUSY! Remember the following. Write it down somewhere you can see it often until it is engrained in your mind.
ONLY ACTION IS ACTION
ONLY EXECUTION IS EXECUTION
ONLY RESULTS ARE RESULTS
ONLY GETTING IT DONE IS GETTING IT DONE
You can talk and analyze and wonder all day long, but when it comes right down to it you get paid for results. You get paid for getting it done. You don’t get paid for what you know, what you almost did, or what you tried to do; you only get paid for getting it done. So make sure you are extremely action oriented. Toby Keith put it best when he said “a little less talk and a lot more action.”
In closing let me refer to the remarks of Dan Kennedy regarding sales success. In more words or less he said the following,
“There is no secret to success. Many people want it to be complicated or there to be some great secret that only the ultra successful know. I hate to break it to you but it’s very simple. In fact I can see the future when it comes to bank accounts. I can easily tell the bank account balance of any sales person in the world. That’s right, give me any salesperson, and I will tell you exactly what that persons bank account looks like right now. I only need 4 pieces of information.
- The bank account balance one year ago.
- A list of the tapes they listened to and the books they read over the last 12 months.
- A list and description of the 5 people they spend the most time with.
- A brief description and analysis of how that person spends his time during an average week.
Step 4 is what this section is about. Focus your day on performing the most effective activities each day. We all have no excuse because there is no secret. We all know how to be successful in sales, all we have to do is apply what we know.
___ 1. Go through the last week or couple of days and write down as many specific tasks that you completed during the week that you can remember, and write them down in the appropriate quadrant. Assign a time value to the activities. Try to create a percentage number that shows what percentage of your time is spent in each quadrant.
___ 2. Examine your entire quadrant 1 and 3 activities and try to come up with quadrant 2 activities that will help diminish those activities.
___ 3. Schedule your time so that all required tasks are completed before they become urgent. Assign new deadlines that keep your weekly/daily requirements in quadrant 2.
___ 4. Use the TM Matrix for a few days when writing down your to-do list. After a few weeks you will develop a knack for recognizing which activities fall into which quadrant, but for a few days, write them down until most of the activities you perform can be easily classified into one of the 4 quadrants.
___ 5. Develop a calendar/time management tool. If needed, try a few different types and decide what works best for you. Begin immediately to write everything down in that medium. Develop a system whereby you are constantly reminded to refer to your TM medium.
___ 6. Choose three or four of the Time Management ideas listed in the second section of this chapter and begin to apply them to your daily routines. List below what the activities are and what steps you’re taking to implement them.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
No BS Time Management, Dan Kennedy