Notes on Six Steps to Impact-Driven Time Management

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NOTES FROM THE ULTIMATE SALES MACHINE

Following, are six steps to great time management. The key message being that we must condition our concentration muscles in order to get what matters done. This is about equipping yourself and your team to make the most of the work day.

I. IF YOU TOUCH IT, DEAL WITH IT
If you open that email on your computer, that letter on your desk, or that folder on your chair then take action on it. In other words DO NOT open the email, letter, or folder until you are ready to deal with it.

Have files for Work in Progress and a to-do-list that refers you to the appropriate file.

When you get a task, place the task in the appropriate folder, write the action to be taken and the name of the file on your to-do list.

Emails can be the death of good time management. This is where you can strengthen your concentration muscles. Don't let every email notification distract you from what you are doing.  Concentration is like a muscle and it strengthens as you focus more. If you stop concentrating every time you are presented with a distraction, you actually lessen your ability to concentrate and you become less effective in any situation that requires you to focus.

Institute a company policy for descriptive subject lines for all emails. And, as the subject of the email changes, so should the subject line on the email. This way everyone can glance at an incoming email and make the decision, “Can I deal with this now if I open it now?” If not, then you file it in the appropriate folder and move the task(email) to your to-do list.

II. LISTS ARE LIFESAVERS
If you don’t keep a list, you are most likely a very reactive person. Lists help you stay focused on high priorities and highly productive matters.

The key to being productive with lists is to stick to the six most important things (SMIT) you need to get done that day. Otherwise, a long list becomes the management tool for your time and, mentally, long lists send the message that you will never finish your list.

Don't set yourself up for disappointment. Not finishing your list, equals a negative psychological impact. However, crossing off that sixth important item on your list, equals an enormous psychological boost.

Keep a master list of running items. Go to this long list every day and use it to build your list of the six most important things (SMIT) for that day. You will now have direction.
Exercise:
Write down the six most important things you need to get done tomorrow.

III. PLAN HOW MUCH TIME YOU WILL ALLOCATE TO EACH TASK
Another key to success – be realistic. Simply having grand expectations is not setting a standard for excellence. You are setting an environment of disappointments and frustrations.

Determine the amount of time you will realistically dedicate to each task. This is an important step to make sure that the six items on your list can actually be accomplished in a day.

If one or more of the items is too big to accomplish in one day, write down how much time you will dedicate to those items on that particular day. You will take care of bigger projects in manageable chunks of time.
Exercise:
Next to each item of your SMIT list, write how much time you will realistically spend on it tomorrow. A good guide to go by is that your six most important things should take about six hours.

IV. PLAN THE DAY
Now that you have determined how much time you will devote to your SMIT list, be specific and dedicate a time slot for each item + correspondences + reactive time. So your list may include:
1) Your six must do’s
2) Time to review emails and open mail
3) Dedicated time(s) to deal with miscellaneous tasks and “got-a-minute” meetings. Again, be realistic. Your day will be interrupted, so give yourself and your schedule some flexibility by allotting two half-hour slots of reactive time.

Follow through. Stick to that schedule no matter what. If you’re interrupted, deal with it and then go right back to your schedule.
Exercise:
Write a plan for your day tomorrow that would give you enough time to cross off all six items on your to-do list and stay on top of your email and other tasks.

V. PRIORITIZE
Put the most important task on your to-do list first. Otherwise, as the day progresses there is rarely time or energy to take on the harder chores. If you started spending 80% of your time on results-oriented work and only 20% on everything else, you could get a fourfold increase in productivity.

Naturally, we prefer to do the “fun” work first, just to get them out of the way. I know when I do this, I convince myself that I will then be able to devote the rest of the day to the “not so fun” enormous task. By the time I get to that arduous task I have less energy, achy muscles from sitting in front of my computer most of the day, and I’m getting ready for my second shift - mom and home. This is not productive.

Better to give that important huge task your fresh and focused energy. Better to face that project with limber muscles. Better to work on it at the beginning of the day so you are not anxious about nearing the end of the day.

You and your day will be more pleasant because you will know that you are moving things along on that urgent task. When the clock strikes five, you will have accomplished something that mattered.

For example, in Sales:
Every salesperson should devote at least 2.5 hours a day on brand-new prospecting. This includes salespeople with a full load of current clients.

Salespeople not managing a large list of current clients --> at least four hours per day of pure cold calling.

New salespeople --> their entire day should be spent prospecting.

For Staff in Reactive Positions:
Even people in reactive positions - like receptionists, customer service reps, salespeople who take inbound calls, etc. – should still plan realistically for some proactive tasks that can get done each day that move things forward or improve the company or your job (industry research on the Internet, making prospect lists for the sales team, doing mailings, etc.) Put reactive people to work on their down time or slow time.

Again, train and condition. If you want to get your team to be productive, you should examine how they’re prioritizing and planning their day every day. Instituting this kind of assessment on how employees are planning and prioritizing will show them that you mean serious business; it will increase their respect for time management, and increase their productivity.
Exercise:
Look at your plan (p.19)

VI. FREE YOUR MIND
Studies show that 80% of all filed or stored information is never referred to again. So why hold on to it? Throw it away, especially if you can get it again if you need it.

My mother taught me best. My mother hates clutter, so when we were kids we all went through our clothes and toys every few months to decide what would stay and what would be donated. My brother and I joke about the many times we couldn’t find a shirt or skirt or toy that we were thinking of wearing or wanted to play with, only to find that my mother had given it away because “I never see you wear it” or “You haven't seen you play with that in a very long time”. Now as an adult, I appreciate it more because I’ve been conditioned to think about what I need versus holding on to things just to have them there.

Too many files are burdensome. One, oftentimes filing is a big timewaster, especially if information is not being filed on a regular basis. Furthermore, you may never need that information again. Two, if you don’t have a consistent filing system, each time you or someone you’ve hired goes to file something a different logic may be at play from one day to the next.

Clean out your files and storage. If you don’t need it, recycle it. For the files that you do need to keep, create a clear and simple filing system and make sure that all your staff is trained to follow that system (including their own files).

CONCLUSION
Follow these six steps, implement them company-wide, and your productivity will skyrocket. The key is that when something interferes with your schedule, deal with it and then go back to your schedule - discipline and determination!

Carmen's Notes on The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

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