Time Management 101

There is no doubt that time is a business person’s most precious resource. In fact, time is everyone’s most precious resource. We never realize how precious time is until we run out of it. George Burns had 100 years, yet he never had time for his final performance.

We all waste too much of this precious resource. Many years ago when we began teaching methods of improving time management skills, we introduced the concept of 1435 in order to prove a major point. What is 1435? It is the number of minutes left in the day after we waste five minutes. For the average person, we waste over one-third of our workday, either procrastinating or working on tasks that will not help us achieve our long-term objectives.

The key to getting more done? Developing a sense of urgency with regard to what needs to be accomplished. A simple exercise will demonstrate the different state of mind that we must achieve.

Imagine your last vacation. The serenity of knowing that you didn’t have to check messages or get up at a certain time. Perhaps you had no special agenda. After a few days of unwinding, work was the furthest from your mind (hopefully).

Now think of the day before you left on that vacation. Do you now have a different memory? Was that day a little more stressful? We would venture to say that the day before you left was your most effective time management day of the year. That day you accomplished more than any other. You quickly determined priorities and went about achieving those priorities. If you failed, you would not get out of town on time. The day before vacation you had an urgency about what needed to get done. The key to better time management is to develop this sense of urgency every day of your life. How do you do that? Perhaps we should take more vacations!

On a more serious note, the first step in getting more done is realizing what you need to accomplish. Once you have a clear mission, you will realize that many of the tasks that now occupy your time are actually keeping you from achieving your goals.

Let’s take a look at an example of linking your mission to your actions. Think of a customer you could not move off the fence for weeks or months. Perhaps they purchased. Perhaps they did not. Either way, the process was a waste of your time. Even if there was a sale hanging in the balance, think in terms of the opportunity costs of lost time. Calculate how many hours you spent on this transaction. The perpetual shopper can consume hundreds of hours of your time. The more time you spend with the customer, the more likely you will feel obligated to keep going to receive a return upon your investment. But what a cost! Hundreds of hours to achieve a paycheck of _____?

More significantly, how much could you have earned had you spent these hundreds of hours marketing and working with more productive customers? In reality, the hours that you are spending with shoppers are actually preventing you from marketing and developing relationships that would be much more productive.

So what do you do with the shopper? First, you might accomplish a more thorough job of assessing their goals and needs up front. Perhaps you are encouraging unprofitable relationships by forcing action when the potential customers are not psychologically ready. Simple questions regarding their goals might give you a clue to their intentions. Ask about their last purchasing experience, how long have they thought about purchasing, have they searched before and not purchased and if so, what has changed at this juncture?

Should you fire these people? Of course not. Nurture the relationship by giving them goals to meet before you become actively involved. If they insist upon monopolizing your time without a reasonable chance of return benefits, refer them to someone else who would appreciate such a referral–perhaps a neophyte. Chances are those who are less experienced have much more time on their hands and can use the experience to learn. What better way to learn customer service and negotiation skills than on live customers. Perhaps you may be entitled to a referral fee if they get lucky.

We’ve said this over and over, but can’t stress it enough, time is our greatest resource. Every day we waste our time in a variety of ways. If you ask every business person for a self-assessment, almost all of them would reply: I need to manage my time better. In the next segmentwe will become more specific by adding pointers that may help you conserve your most precious resource. If we have more time, we can make more money–with less stress! Certainly that is not a bad goal!

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