Gaining more time: Seven steps in helping your business become organizedDr. Kerry Johnsontips, time management, motivation, performance
John needed to process the paperwork on five more sales by noon
and had another 10 issues to iron out before he could send the
agreements. He was falling behind in his client calls and couldn't
even get the standard paperwork done. His wife was getting ticked
at him, facetiously suggesting he should just get a cot at the
office and live there. He hadn't spent more than 10 minutes with
his kids in the last week. All this and he couldn't even claim he
was making more money.
It didn't make sense. He should be able to coast a little after
all these years. But his business was more demanding than ever, and
he was enjoying it less. He rationalized that he would eventually
make more moneyas if money made up for the stress. If you are like
many producers, your company probably isn't considering hiring
staff to support you. In fact, they are likely thinking of who they
can fire to increase return. Can they get another two percent
output and get more revenue? There are two ways to cope. Take a
course on stress management or get smarter about getting things
done. We all have the same amount of time. We just choose to
prioritize it differently. You make time to get the things done
that matter. Saying you don't have enough time is an excuse.
Australians have a quaint expression: "I've got time for you." This
means that you are important enough to give time to.
The Chinese first demonstrated the idea of time to students in
Buddhist Temples. As inventors of the first clocks, monks would
dangle a rope from the rafters with knots representing hours. They
would then light a flame at the bottom which would burn evenly,
indicating the duration of time. This representation would also
show children that once time was gone, it could never be
recaptured. They burned a lot of temples back in those days. So the
elders changed to measuring time using water buckets. Monks would
punch holes in buckets to allow water to pass. But then the temples
got water logged. So the early Chinese finally created the
We no longer have the sense of time escaping from a water bucket
or being burned on a rope. But we feel the pressure of time as if
we were being burned by it. But there are things you can do to get
more organized and maximize the time you have. Here are seven
techniques you can use today:
1. Stop fighting self-created fires
If you are spending more than 25 percent of your day fixing
problems, you may be causing your own. A few years ago, a broker
called me to complain that his business was hurting because he
couldn't spend enough time on gaining new clients. I analyzed his
day, hour by hour, and determined that he indeed spent a lot of
time fixing things. He fixed computers, fought overdue notices and
generally rectified mistakes by his own staff. Surprised, I worked
backwards and learned that he hired good people, but only gave
minimal training, and then sent the new hires to the wolves.
Training was only after a mistake was made. And it nearly always
came back to bite. Poor training creates poor motivation. Poor
motivation creates black holes of wasted money. When you hire, take
25 percent more time to train than you think is needed. Practice
•Tell your staff what to do.
•Show your staff what to do.
•Watch them do it.
•Wait a day and watch them do it again.
Only then can you possess the ability to trust someone's
competence to get things done. Also, fight fires only in the
afternoons. This may not work for real emergencies, but it will
train your staff to bring an issue to you only during the less
hectic hours of the afternoon and evening. The alternative is to
fight fires all day long. If you let problems derail you, they
will. I believe in O'Toole's law. O'Toole thought Murphy was an
2. Work toward your goals, not someone
Keep your monthly, as well as your one- and three-year goals, on
your desk in plain view. It is so easy to fall into the trap of
just maintaining your business instead of growing it. But I
guarantee that if you are distracted from your goals today, you
will be frustrated tomorrow. If this sounds trite and obvious,
you've been jaded. The producers in your business who are regularly
in the top five percent stick to their daily goals like glue. They
review goals in the morning before the day starts and plan out the
next day before the current one is done. Start each day with your
goal in mind. Top producers also hold planning sessions monthly,
trying constantly to stay on track. This doesn't mean they never
derail. But when they do take a detour, it's only a short distance
back to the main track.
It is often easy to avoid unappealing activities. Helen Gurley
Brown, founder of Cosmopolitan magazine, said she always did the
most unpleasant tasks on her list first to get them out of the way.
Give the most undesirable jobs the highest priority.
3. Sharpen your axe
This is an era of constant improvement in both your sales and
systems. I spoke at a large mortgage convention a few years ago.
Sally Ride, the first female astronaut in space, was the keynote
speaker. My presentation was in the afternoon, and I arrived an
hour before Rides speech that morning to a get a good seat in the
auditorium set for 1,500-plusonly 150 showed up out of the 3,000
registered for the conference. What did Ride have to do to get an
audience? Catch a bullet in her teeth? Compare that to the life
insurance industry's Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) annual
meeting. I spoke at their June meeting of 6,000. There were exactly
6,000 seats in an auditorium. If you weren't there by 8:00 a.m.,
you didnt get in. No one was late, none were in the foyer chatting.
No one slept in or enjoyed a late breakfast. People came to get an
edge, to get better and to sharpen their axe. Incidentally, to be
invited to the MDRT, your income level had to be at least $75,000
in first-year commissions. Obviously, most attendees made far
Two lumberjacks started work one day with a bet. Each wagered
they could cut the most timber. Both started out well, but one
clearly cut more wood at the end of the day. The losing lumberjack
accused the winner of cheating. He saw the victor take a two-hour
lunch and loaf for much of the rest of the day. The winner said,
"You didn't notice during my break periods that I sharpened my
axe." Most sales producers and business owners work extremely hard
with dull axes that haven't been sharpened for years.
4. A messy desk is a sign of a messy mind
If you were to clean your desk and find Jimmy Hoffa's body, your
messiness may be creating wasted time. Psychological research has
shown that we strive to be organized, no matter how bad the mess.
Has anyone ever tried to straighten your desk and you became upset
because your piles got messed up? The problem is that you are
sacrificing time to look for things that should be at your
fingertips. Only handle messages once. Read an e-mail and file it,
forward it or discard it. Take a sheet of paper and do the same. If
you want to keep a paper, jot a post it note and stick it on the
sheet, then file it. That way, you won't have to read it again.
5. Stop sitting at your sit downs
Have you ever noticed how much time is wasted in meetings you
didn't want to attend in the first place? Start holding them
standing up. Your meetings will stay on topic and end quickly when
you don't let people relax so much. Your meetings will end 50
percent more quickly if you keep those involved literally on their
Another good idea is to schedule appointments and meetings at
odd times. If you schedule a meeting for 10:00 a.m., most people
expect it to last until 11:00 a.m., unless otherwise stated. But if
the appointment is 10:20 a.m. or 10:17 a.m., you will seem very
busy, and I guarantee attendees to the meeting will be on time.
Also, always arrive early. If you aren't early, you're late. If
your mind isn't prepared to start when your body is present, you
are wasting time that could be spent doing more important
6. Make time to sell every day
If you aren't spending 25 percent of every day marketing, your
business is probably not growing. It is so easy to come up with
excuses to avoid marketing. The sad fact is that the landscape is
littered with producers who think they are in the administration
business instead of the sales business. There is a problem with an
issue, so you avoid making phone calls that day. There is a staff
dilemma and you procrastinate, setting an appointment with a
referral source. Do that for few months and your business looks
like Oprah Winfrey's weight loss plan. Do you sell when you are
desperate and procrastinate making calls when business is good? A
wise and wealthy pro once told me he loved to see his competitors
get too much business. This was a sure sign of a future downturn.
This was his cue to sell harder to gain market share. This meant
referral sources giving him business he didn't have to pay
advertising dollars for.
7. Don't get trapped into "hurry sickness" Do
you rush around even when you don't have to? Do you become
impatient in lines even on Sundays? Do your thoughts turn to work
even on your time off? You are suffering from hurry sickness. A
short time ago, Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" featured a
prominent psychologist who spoke about a compulsion so intense that
even down time becomes time on. This is Type A behavior gone wild.
Sam Walton of Wal-Mart stated on his death bed that he blew it.
Quoted in a magazine article, the employee listening to his last
statements mentioned Walton blew it with his family. Walton said
the only thing that is important in the final hours of ones life
isn't the money or the conquests, it's the people. Walton said he
barely knew his youngest son. His wife stayed with him out of
commitment. He even neglected his grandchildren. No one in the last
stages of life ever looked back and wished they had made more
money. It is always the relationships they missed the most.
You don't need to learn more about your products and services.
You need to become more effective at doing the things you already
know. This means discipline, focus and, most importantly, making
the time for the most important staff support group in your life,
your family. You can do that and still earn a decent living.
Utilizing these seven steps will help you cope with time pressure,
instead of letting it control you. Dr. Kerry Johnson is an
author, frequent speaker at conventions around the world and head
of Peak Performance Coaching. He may be reached through his Web