By Lindy Earl
We’re all busy. We can make ourselves busy. We make ourselves look busy. But busyness does not always equate with business. Your time is your number one resource, so be sure to use it wisely.
I have been an eyewitness to some of the laziest employees. I worked at one company where we had a girl come in the afternoon to help with computer work. She always had a pile of papers on her desk and if asked to help with any project, she would riffle through them, showing she had too much work to do. But, I never saw the girl work. She would come in, chat with friends, look up and down the hall if anybody came near, but rarely completed any job. She completely understood job security. So while she did a great job of looking busy, if we had been dependent on her for the company’s welfare, we would have all been unemployed quickly.
Let’s discuss three key points: what is useful time, what is un-useful time, and what you should be doing.
Useful time is time and energy spent making sales, generating leads, producing your product or service, and following up with continuing clients. It is time spent learning new products your company is rolling out. It is time spent e-mailing and setting up client meetings. It is productive time that leads to income – the company’s and yours.
Now, I realize that every minute of every day is not and cannot and honestly should not be spent at a high rate of productivity. Down time is necessary. But, once you truly understand what useful time is, you can dedicate your days to being more useful, efficient, and effective.
The list above is offered in order of importance, not in order of completeness or where most of your time will be spent. In fact, emails and phone calls to set up client meetings can easily take the majority of your time, especially when new to an industry or even a company. You need to decide, preferably the night before, how you will spend your time, so you don’t waste time trying to figure out where to start. Please contact me about time management if you have questions.
Coffee meetings, lunches, and even social events where you are entertaining clients who buy from you are a useful use of your time. In sales, whether personal or professional, a relationship needs to be established. This will take time.
In addition to clients, you may spend this time with colleagues and even competitors, all in the name of finding leads who will work with you.
Another good use of time is the administrative work that has to be done. I hate taking half a day to work on budgets and track expenses and write reports, but I love it when it’s done and I know the information is at my fingertips. But, even this comes with a warning, if all your time is spent doing administrative tasks, you may need to consider finding an assistant, virtual, accounting, clerical, whatever you need, because what is busy work for you will be their real work, freeing you up to perform more significant tasks.
One of the challenges of busyness is that it often happens around other peoples’ schedules. If your clients is a morning person and wants to meet for breakfast at 6:30, you’ll be there, even if another client is a night owl who had you up until 10:30 the night before. The goal is to work your non-client hours—researching, keeping up with current events, and learning about new products in your industry—around this schedule. It helps to know if you’re a morning person or night person and use that to your advantage.
Unuseful time is time spent chatting with people who are never going to buy from you and have no leads to offer. I know this can be enjoyable time, but it’s to be done on your social time off, not during work hours. Unuseful time is going to networks that haven’t netted you a client since you started attending. Again, fun to go and see colleagues and friends, but this is busyness, not business. Unuseful time is computer games. Fun to do, but just a huge time-pit.
So, how do we make busyness into business? Here’s your to-do list.
- Make a list of everything you do. Don’t just look at your calendar. Make the list. For instance, write down: networking; meetings; lunch; reading; writing reports; administrative work; follow up.
- Highlight in green those things from which you make income. Highlight in pink those things that cost you money. Highlight in blue those things which may generate income. Highlight in yellow those times that are administrative and have to be done.
- Do some math and see how much of your time is costing you money, is administrative, or generates an income.
- Delete time-taking or income-taking activities. If the books are good to read, but you’re not really gleaning any new insights or business tips, use that time better. If your administrative work is taking 50% of your time, mainstream it or hire someone else to do it for you.
- Depending on your position, generating income should be at least 50% of your time. Adding the green and yellow together should equal 80%.
- Make the tough decisions. For instance, if you have a monthly luncheon that you enjoy, but it costs you time and money, and you have to admit it hasn’t really provided any leads, let alone clients, drop it.
- Don’t spend so much time planning/networking/organizing that you don’t work.
- Live better, because you’re in the world of business, not busyness.
Lindy is a Speaker, Consultant, and Business Author, currently living in Atlanta, GA, and available to answer your questions anywhere in the world. She is The Business Coach to companies with 50 – 100 employees, Entrepreneurs, and Start ups. Focusing on Communication, Leadership, and Corporate Culture, you can be more successful with Lindy.