Mastering time management

A lot of people talk about there not being enough hours in the day. Or that they are too busy dealing with urgent issues to be able to sit down and focus on growing their business.

Dealing with time can even be an issue when you seemingly have too much of it! For example, at time of writing this, we are in national lock down. So, people have more time than ever to focus on the things that matter, and yet these tasks are still falling by the wayside.

Time management is something I’ve always focused on and you should too.

My sales roles have generally involved the full sales process, that is: Lead generation and prospecting, customer meetings, follow ups, closing the sale and on-going account management.

Without proper time management it is easy for some of these areas to take a back seat.

For example, if I do loads of lead generation and prospecting for 2 weeks straight, I’ll likely have lots of sales meetings set up for the following weeks.

I will then spend a week or two on the road seeing potential customers. Then a week or so doing second meetings and follow ups. Then hopefully closing the sales.

However, if I did this without solid time management and a sales plan, then I would get to the end of the process (closing the sale) and then realise that I’ve spent the last 4 weeks on the road going to meetings and doing follow ups.

What have I not done during those 4 weeks?

Prospecting and lead generation!

Now I’ve closed off all my sales, but I don’t have any other work lined up! No meetings. No follow ups. No potential deals!

Sound familiar? 

As a decorator, you might find that you do loads of advertising and work on social media. Get yourself several weeks’ worth of work lined up. Start working…and then forget to keep advertising and being active on social media.

Afterall, you’re busy working! You haven’t got time to be doing marketing. You have work to do!

You may find that you did this process when you first started your business, but then ended up with decent word of mouth referrals and managed to keep busy from then on.

The drawback of this, however, is that word of mouth referrals are very difficult to measure and even more tricky to predict.

It can also mean that you are being led down a path working for a certain demographic of client that you never actually set out to work for. A type of client that perhaps isn’t as profitable as you’d like and isn’t actually the sort of work you wanted to do.

For example, as a decorator, have you ever taken a job on a new build site? It started as a way to fill a gap in your calendar. It was steady work. You knew you could get a few months of work from there if you needed it.

However, before you knew it, you’d been there 6 months…or a year, and you’d been moaning about it for most of that time!

Why did this happen? You got too busy working IN the business when you should have been working ON the business.

Or as my Dad puts it:

‘’I’m too busy earning a living to make any money’’

So how can we combat this? Well, for me, a lot of it can be dealt with proper time management.

Here’s how I plan my day:

First things first. Your priorities. Family time.

Block this off straight away. We build a plan around our priorities. If 7pm – 10pm is dinner, putting the children to bed, time with your partner etc, then this gets blocked off.

Set up your plan

One of the last things I do each day is write out my list of tasks for the following day. Some will be recurring jobs; some will be specific to that day or week.

Write this list every day. Then go through that list and number them in order of importance.

Remember, importance does not necessarily equal urgency. Think about what is actually important to you and your business.

Now you have your order of importance. You should…

Take the most important task each day, start doing it, and do not stop until it is done.

If you do this everyday you will be surprised how much you can improve your business results. Afterall, be honest…is there something you’ve been meaning to do for a few days now but haven’t got around to it? Maybe it’s a few weeks?

Imagine if you’d done that on the first day, and you’d done something else equally important every day since. Your business could be miles ahead of where it is now!

Organise a timetable

I talked about ‘blocking off’ family time. Now you need to do that for other tasks. But before you do that, you need to establish what constitutes an urgent situation that you must be reactive to.

What I mean by this, is you need to decide that if you’re halfway through a task and your phone rings. Is that something worth you stopping?

Set these boundaries.

For me, if a customer or potential customer calls, then I will stop what I’m doing and answer. Always. However, if I get a whatsapp, or my twitter or facebook notifications light my phone up, this is not a reason to stop. They will get dealt with during the time I’m about to allocate to them.

Set your boundaries up. Be harsh. You’d be surprised how much more you can get done if you don’t pick up your phone every 30 seconds to look at social media!

Now you can start blocking off time to certain tasks, and don’t be afraid to allocate time to things like social media or reading. These all have their values and should be given time.

For example, because we are currently in lock down, you may be focused on personal development and building brand recognition for your company. So, your daily timetable may look like this:

08:00 – 09:00 Your most important task.

09:00 – 09:30 Facebook and Twitter. Search for useful connections and groups. Go through the last 24 hours of activity liking and commenting on relevant posts. Upload a photo or video of a project you worked on.

09:30 – 10:00 Instagram and Pinterest. Look for interior design articles to share with potential customers. Learn about latest trends and fashionable colours so you can speak more confidently to future customers and stay ahead of the game.

10:00 – 10:30 Accounts work. Make sure all paperwork is up to date and customer records are accurate and organised.

10:30 – 11:30 Learn or practice a new skill.

Bonus Tip: During April 2020, Plural sight are offering free courses on loads of topics. Dedicate an hour a day to something like web design or Photoshop. You could save yourself a fortune in the long run. As you won’t need to hire people to do these things for you. Here is a link: https://www.pluralsight.com/offer/2020/free-april-month

11:30 – 12:00 Respond to any messages on social media that you received from your earlier posts and comments

12:00 – 12:30 Customer calls and prospecting

12:30 – 13:00 Other tasks you have set for the day

And so on, and so on….

At first it may seem silly to dedicate time to social media, but trust me, by allocating a set time and by knowing you have that block of time coming up, you won’t feel the urge to pick up your phone every time it flashes. It will actually save you a lot of time because…

You are now managing your own time, rather than having it dictated to you!

To summarise. The 3 techniques that work best for me are:

  • Write a list of tasks and number them in order of importance. This means you are always focused on the most important tasks. Plus, just the fact everything is written down means you won’t get overwhelmed thinking you have a million things to do and you also won’t forget anything!
  • Whatever your most important task is each day. Start with that. Don’t do anything else until it is completed.
  • Block off time for everything. Be strict on the timings and make sure you decide upfront what (if anything) warrants you stopping what you are doing.

What techniques do you use to manage time? Let me know in the comments so we can help even more people.

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