As a sales person or recruiter (or pretty much anything else for that matter!), the most precious resource you have in your quest to compete and win is time.

It never ceases to amaze me how we all squander time and then complain about how “busy” we are.  Even folks that are strong at time management fall into the trap of distraction. By nature, much of what happens during the day is interrupt driven.  The phone rings.  An urgent email arrives. We get a joke via email from a co-worker.  Accounting says that the invoice is incorrect.  And so on.

While we would all like to live in a world where we can plan our day, I have yet to find a profession or lifestyle that fully enables this, short of entering a monastery. Not that I have personal experience.  Even there, I am sure there are issues.  I have, however, found a few simple rules of thumb that helps guide activity.

  • Identify high value and low value activities.  There are things we do that directly contribute to our business and financial success, such as meeting with prospects and candidates.  There are low value activities such as filling out our expense reports.  Make a list of all regualr tasks activities, and identify the ones that lead directly to success, the ones that contribute to success, and the ones that don’t impact success.
  • Plan your days.  Every day, plan the day.  This is beyond keeping a calendar for appointments and meetings.  This is setting aside blocks of time to accomplish high value tasks. For example, if you are a sales person building a territory, you need to have dedicated call time every day.  Block out hours to do so.
  • Schedule high  value tasks when you have the highest energy and productivity.  Direct revenue producing activities need to be done when you are at your best.  For some, it is 8a – 10a every morning.  For others, it is end of day.  Low value tasks like web research or administration can be done during  hours when clients and candidates aren’t available.
  • Delegate, offload, or ignore  everything that doesn’t help you generate and close deals.   Activities that take us away from client and candidate facing work take us out of our game.  Recognize these items and interruptions, and dispatch with them quickly. Put a “door closed” sign on your cube to keep out your nosy neighbor.  Get an administrative person to do your expense report.  Move unimportant emails to a “Read Later” folder.  UNSUBSCRIBE from as many mailing lists as you can or autoforward them to the “Read Later” folder.  As a matter of fact, autoforward messages from people who can’t help you close deals to folders with their name on it so you can read it later.  And, by all means turn off that little preview pane that pops up every time you get a new email!

I print out my calendar for the current and next week, then schedule time to accomplish my high value activities.  I also keep post-its on my desk, monitor, and portfolio with sayings on them like “If it doesn’t pay, it goes away” and “SCTTM” (or “Stay Close To The Money”) to help me stay focused on the high value activities.

Simple, yet effective.  If you are struggling with getting things done and finding your day gone before you’ve had a chance to get done what you should, then give it a try.  A simple 10% improvement in time management is like getting another 1/2 day a week!