How to Manage
Your Time Effectively
It has been said that "Time
is Money" -- but I disagree. When you think about it,
isn't Time really LIFE? At the end of your life, can you
even imagine saying to yourself, "I wish I'd made more
money?" It's more likely you'd be thinking "I wish I'd had
more TIME -- time to spend with my loved ones, time to
enjoy my life more, time to take that special vacation…".
Here are my favorite strategies for managing that most
precious of all resources -- TIME.
1. The first
step is being aware of where your time is going, now.
You can't find something
you've lost when you don't know where you might have lost
it in the first place. So the first strategy for managing
your time is to know where it's going, now. That means
actually tracking or logging your time daily, for at least
1 week (preferably 2). Track the exact time you begin and
end an activity, make a note of the duration in exact
minutes, and a few words to describe the activity. This
step requires you to be really honest with yourself and
track EVERYTHING you do in your work day so you can see
where your time is really going -- so if you spent 23
minutes chatting with coworkers at the coffee machine (no
cheating by logging all your time in nice, even 15, 30 or
60 minute intervals) -- write it down EXACTLY!
and summarize your time logs.
At the end of the week,
review your time logs and start to summarize the tasks
(and the amount of time spent on each) into categories.
You will create these categories yourself, and you should
have between 6 and 12 categories. They should be
meaningful to you, self-defining, mutually exclusive and
as concise as possible. Some examples might be:
Administration, Business Development, Sales & Marketing,
Computer, etc. You will then summarize, for each day, how
much time you spent doing tasks or activities for each
category, in the exact number of minutes. You might also
do a little math, to figure the percentage of time each
category takes out of each day. You make this step as
detailed as you like, but the key here is: AWARENESS.
3. Create a
New Daily Routine.
If you were honest and
diligent during steps 1 and 2, chances are you had a rude
awakening when you reviewed and analyzed your time logs.
You no doubt can see where the time drains are occurring
-- and now you're ready to make better choices and create
a new daily routine. This routine will maximize the time
you spend on productive work by conforming to the natural
flow of your day and with your natural rhythms, by taking
into consideration when you're at your best for certain
tasks, grouping similar tasks together for greater
efficiency, and by setting aside dedicated time for doing
uninterrupted work. How do you create your routine? Look
at where you've been spending your time and start making
some decisions about where the different tasks can best be
fit into your day… then actually write this routine down
and post it where you'll see it every day. Strategies 4
through 10 will give you some food for thought as you
develop and implement your new daily routine.
and stay focused.
Once you've done the
up-front work of tracking and analyzing your time, and
creating a new routine… how do you keep it on track? You
will also need to do some work on prioritizing what you
do. You can create your own easy tools to do this. On one
sheet of paper, create 5 sections: High Priorities,
Secondary Priorities, People to Contact, Telephone calls,
and Schedule. You can fill this out each day, first thing
in the morning (or better yet, at the end of your work day
so you are well prepared to start fresh tomorrow!) Each
day, ask yourself: "If nothing else gets done today, what
are the one or two items that absolutely MUST be done?".
Those are the items you will use to focus your day. You
should also periodically go back to the time logging
exercise, so you can determine if you are slipping back
into those old bad habits and take immediate steps to get
back on track.
interruptions by creating stronger boundaries.
It is true that
interruptions to your day can and will happen, and to some
degree they are out of your complete control. However, you
probably have more control than you think. Instead of
blaming other people and getting frustrated with them for
interrupting you, take responsibility for creating
stronger boundaries with your co-workers where
appropriate. Keep in mind, other people don't mean to be
inconsiderate by interrupting, they are just caught up in
their own "stuff" and probably don't realize. It is really
up to you to set up some guidelines for when you can and
cannot be interrupted, to communicate them to others, and
then to stick by them. For example: you might institute a
"quiet time" policy (mornings are usually best) where you
let everyone know that this is a time where you cannot be
interrupted -- and then set up another time later in the
day where you have an open-door policy. This strategy
creates a firm boundary but also provides time for you to
be accessible to others. At first, those around you might
try to cross your boundaries, and it's up to you to gently
remind them that they can come back and talk during your
"open door" time. After a while, they'll get used to it.
Change takes time, so stick with it!
your telephone time.
Set aside certain periods
of the day to accept, initiate and return calls. The best
time to accept incoming calls is just prior to lunch or at
the end of the work day (the other person will not want to
dawdle on the phone at those times either!) -- so whenever
possible, let others know this is your preference and set
that time aside so you are available. When initiating or
returning calls, the best time to contact those
difficult-to-reach folks is early in the morning, just
before or after lunch, or late in the day. Other tips for
making the best use of your phone time -- plan in advance
what you need to cover during the call; and at the
beginning of a call, you might say "I have about 10
minutes to spend with you now. If we don't finish, we can
always schedule another time."
Procrastination is probably
one of the biggest "time hogs" we have… not only are we
NOT doing the thing we're procrastinating about, but we
also end up wasting even more time worrying about how much
we're procrastinating. So, if you have an unpleasant task
to do, simply make up your mind to take care of it
immediately and just get it done!
Under-promise and over-deliver.
You may have heard this one
before, but a little reinforcement never hurts. Many of us
have too many demands on our time because we take on more
than we should... we don't like to say No, don't want to
hurt someone else's feelings. When we over-commit
ourselves, we are not only creating unnecessary stress in
our lives, but we are also creating potential situations
where we cannot deliver what we've promised. We also don't
realize that when we can't deliver what we've promised, we
can inadvertently cause more pain and hurt feelings than
if we'd been willing to say No in the first place.
Remember, you're not doing yourself or anyone else any
favors by taking on more than you can reasonably deliver.
Commit yourself to making this strategy a high priority in
your life, and watch what happens!
your work from your personal life.
Whether you work in or out
of your home, it is critical for your well-being that you
find a way to separate your work from your personal life.
If you work out of the home, don't take work home at all
unless you are certain you can get to it -- it's better to
stay a little longer at the office (but be sure and set
time limits for yourself!) to get it done, then enjoy your
leisure time without the stress of having to do that work
at home. If you work at home, you will need to be even
more diligent in setting aside separate times in your day
for work and for your personal time and family. Post your
schedule where your family can see it, and make it clear
when you can and cannot be interrupted (when you work at
home, you have to create better habits for the whole
family to ensure your success!)
you're only human.
We all have only 24 hours
in the day -- and sometimes that just doesn't feel like
enough, does it? There will always be days where things
happen that are unplanned and which can throw even the
most organized day into a tail-spin. When that happens,
take a deep breath or two, and accept that you are doing
the very best you can, right now. Tomorrow is a new day
and a chance to start fresh. Let go of the need to be a
perfectionist and remember, you're only human!
Etiquette Tips for Service Providers
A warm, helpful,
professional and friendly voice on the phone can build
customer loyalty, or if missing, drive them to your
competitor. Extend the common courtesies to your callers
and create a reputation of legendary service to keep
your customers coming back!
1. GREET -
A warm, friendly,
professional greeting including company name, dept name
(if appropriate) and the person's name who answered the
call. It is suggested that the greeting end with a
helpful statement that assures the caller you are
willing to help. Ex: ABC Shutter Company, this is John,
how may I assist you?
2. LISTEN -
One of the most important
techniques in telephone etiquette is to actively listen
to the customer. Listen for both the content as well as
the intent.Usually the customer tells you both in her
opening statement. By listening actively to the
customer's opening comments, you can then RESPOND with a
statement that assures the customer you HEARD. Example:
Customer: This is Mary Smith and I'd like to speak with
someone to arrange for an estimate on hurricane
shutters.I just moved into my home here in Florida.
Service Provider:Yes,we can arrange for an estimate for
you. I will be connecting you with Bob Jones in our
Sales Dept.Will you please stay on the line,while I
connect your call?
In other words, walk a
mile in your customer's shoes. If the customer states: I
don't want to wait for Bob Jones, I'm on my lunch hour
and very busy, besides, this is my 2nd call and no one
answered in the sales dept. Don't you want my business?
Pause for a moment to be empathetic and respond: Yes, we
do want to service you, Ms Smith and I apologize for the
inconvenience. Since you are on a lunch hour, I will
find someone to speak with you immediately, or I will be
happy to have your call returned this evening to your
home.Which works best for you?
Although probing isn't a
technique that may come naturally to everyone, it is a
required skill for anyone servicing customers over the
phone. Keep it simple and remember the basic open
questions ....Who - What - When - Where - How. I have
found the phrase, Tell me more about...... works
miracles when trying to discover information.
Ask permission to place a
caller on hold and get the caller's attention when you
return. Most of us can remember all too clearly a time
when we were placed on eternal hold and wondered if we
had been forgotten. A simple rule to remember: call the
customer by name when you return to the line and wait
for her to respond, then continue. EX.May I put your
call on hold while I pull a copy of the invoice? To gain
the customer's attention when you return to the line,
call the customer by name and wait for her response.
EX.Mrs,Smith? (pause for her to respond) ..thank you for
waiting, I do have the invoice information for you. TIP:
If you know the wait time will be a few minutes, tell
the customer before you leave the line. You will save on
customer irritation and possible repeat calls.To the
bottom line of a business, you could lose revenue and
COMPANY JARGON & RULES -
All companies have their
own set of rules and terminology. These can sometimes be
defined as hot buttons for some customers as most of us
do not want to hear quotes about what you can and can
not do from the company manual. Nor do customers want to
hear you refer to a simple order as FORM 1979-M. Keep It
If you know you can't do
what the customer is asking,just tell her what you CAN
do. There are usually alternatives that a customer will
be willing to accept, IF you just take time to offer!
Ex.If the customer is unwilling to wait any longer, then
offer to have the sales rep return the call at a time
that is most convenient for the CUSTOMER. Make the
commitment and follow up with the Sales Rep to insure
the commitment was met. If not, your company just lost
Credibility and possible additional referrals!
8. TONE -
Since you are not
face-to-face, the most important measurements of good
communication in this case are voice quality and
tone.Keep it positive and enthusiastic. Remember, the
image the customer has of the person who is answering
your company's phone is the image the customer has of
YOUR COMPANY. Is it flat, monotone or upbeat and perky?
Is it abrupt, indifferent or polite and empathetic? You
want to hire NICE people to answer your phone who will
be NICE to your customers.
Before the caller hangs
up, make sure your customer service associate has
expressed sincere gratitude for the customer's
patronage. EX:, Thank you for choosing ABC, we
appreciate your business, Ms. Smith.
10. GO THE
Run an extra mile for
every customer - every time! Take time to extend
yourself in some way to make a positive, lasting
impression on the customer. Maybe when you pull the
invoice, you notice that she has been a loyal customer
for 6 years....or perhaps she just moved to a new
location. Offer to send address change cards, or send a
thank you card in the mail for her loyalty. Be your
company's ambassador and watch your company flourish!
Providing exceptional telephone service is nothing more
than following "the Golden Rule" that we all learned as