A recurring theme on my blog will be surrounding time management and action planning. Why? I’ve learned the hard way that when you don’t have a plan in place you are going to wind up with a)too much on your plate b)going in the wrong direction and c) out of time.
Unfortunately we do not have a Delorean to drive between past and future at 88 miles per hour like Marty and Doc in Back to the Future. Even then moving the time and space continuum is rarely productive. It leads to disaster and problem solving.
Time management is essential in all areas of our lives. It sets us up for professional success and life enjoyment. Time management ensures that we prioritize the tasks that matter at work without sacrificing our work life balance.
As sales professionals there is often a muddy line of time at work and time outside of work. For me, I’ve always been driven to exceed my goals at work and often found myself working long hours and cutting into my personal time to dig into work tasks. While this was effective in the short term, long term it led to burnout, fatigue and loss of balance. COVID has exacerbated this as many struggle to handle the daily demands of work with personal responsibilities that surround our home life (parenting, health and wellness…). I cannot speak for you, but time management in the pandemic was a bigger blur than ever.
While I consider myself an organized individual, I’m also not good at saying ‘no’ and setting boundaries with work life balance. I’m willing to take a meeting at eight p.m. if it means a sale and helping a customer. I pride myself on being available but a wise mentor reminded me the importance of setting boundaries with time and being more thoughtful with our time.
Time management doesn’t have a set formula because we all work differently, but when we integrate time management into our lives it maximizes the time we have so we are productive and free to really enjoy the time we do have.
I’ve included some helpful tips on implementing a time management strategy below. I’d love to hear what works in your day to day. We need to knowledge share – to save ‘time’ if you will.
The key for me is to block off time ‘must do’ activities at work and also build in enough flexibility that I don’t feel controlled by the schedule…
- Prioritization with time:
- Starting with your personal motivations – ‘the why’ for work and your personal life goals, I recommend making lists of what you want to accomplish with your time.
- Prioritize this list with ‘must do’ ‘want to do’ and ‘extra goals’ – or a similar format
- Ex: Work: I must block off one hour for prospecting on Tuesday and then I have 3 meetings scheduled. That leaves me an additional 3-4 hours at work and I can leave that open for flexibility, but within that window I want to accomplish: listening to training webinar, read a blog, update LinkedIn
- Break down what you need to do – especially the hard tasks (the frogs) and get them done.
- Make sure to block off time for your personal schedule too. I have started to block off 15-20 minutes at lunch so I can practice piano. Sometimes blocking off even 10 minutes for personal time and holding yourself accountable is critical
2. Aim for the Big Picture Goals, but focus on the day to day: Always have the big picture in front of you – but when you are setting your action plan/time management for the week – don’t get in over your head. Focus on small, impactful actions you can take right now (today, tomorrow, this week) to drive that big picture goal forward. In sales this is often tied to quota – you aren’t going to likely hit quota on day one, so focus on managing your calendar to ensure ample time for prospecting, meetings and sales development. Each day ask yourself – what revenue generating activities did I do and how did that move me forward. What did I learn? What did I fail to do.
Same goes for personal goals. Be flexible but disciplined. I stopped writing for several years because I felt my hobbies didn’t matter – I needed to give everything to work. But that left me unbalanced and leads to burnout. Instead I know designate time (on my calendar or when I have a few extra minutes free) to write or play music or focus on painting. I am more productive by having the work-life balance. In order to do that I have to hold myself accountable with my time.
3. It is okay to say ‘No’ – always be willing to help and give your time, but also recognize that it is okay to set Boundaries with time. I love the book ‘Boundaries’ by Cloud and Townsend – because it helps you to recognize the value of time and how time management can help you best serve God, others and yourself.
I struggle with ‘No’ but remember your time is valuable. A former manager reminded me that twenty-minutes of my time with a client was worth x amount of dollars and I should only give my time if they were genuinely interested in moving the discussion forward. This was a situation where we had over six meetings with the client going over similar questions and concerns – and it was not worth our time at that point to keep the discussion going. We were missing opportunities to connect with other accounts that really needed our time and help.
4. Take Ten Minutes
Take Ten minutes at the end of each day to
- Reflect on your workday/personal day – figure out any gaps and take note of what worked
- Look at tomorrow’s calendar and do a quick prep and make any adjustments
- While Sunday is a ‘Day of Rest,’ it helps me to block off 20-30 minutes on Sunday evening to thoughtfully look at the upcoming week and focus on weekly goal setting and plotting out the calendar for the week.
I’ll continue to focus on time management throughout the year.