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Time is your inventory: manage it well

Bill Boyce's picture

Manage It Well to Reach Your Goals. "Time is inventory," is a business truism for lawyers and other professionals who bill by the hour. When I was a young lawyer at a big firm in Tampa, the more experienced lawyers taught me how to manage my "inventory." These more senior lawyers taught me how to account for each six minute block in my day. One partner advised me not to go home each day until I had billed at least eight hours. He taught me that if I did not bill at least eight hours each day, it would be impossible for me to reach my goals at the end of the year. And if I fell behind, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to catch up.
Manage It Well to Get Noticed. As a young lawyer I maintained a manual timesheet on my desk. As I completed each phone call, letter, research project, court appearance, or meeting, I recorded the item and the length of time I spent. At the end of the week, I would give my timesheets to a clerk to enter into the firm's billing system. The system would then generate reports accessed by my superiors to monitor my time management. Each Wednesday at the department meeting, the managing partner would review the weekly, monthly, and annual progress of each of his associates. The better that I utilized my time/inventory, the more I got noticed with positive feedback from management in front of my peers.
Manage It Well to Win the Day, Week, Month, and Year. It was out of this background that I started to analogize my work days to sporting events. For example, in each work day I've got four quarters, two halves, and a halftime. Each day, my initial goal is to win the first quarter. My next goal is to win the second quarter. Then I want to win the first half. If I win the first half, I'm confident I will win the day. You can apply the same logic to a week, month, or year.
Manage It Well to Survive and Thrive. Like lawyers and other professionals, time is also the inventory of salespeople and sales managers. The difference is lawyers bill for their time and salespeople don't. However, there is a direct correlation between how well salespeople manage time and how much revenue they generate. The bottom line: leveraging time/inventory isn't optional, it is mandatory to survive.

How can your salespeople increase the probability for managing their time well?

The "Manage It Well" List

1. Decide to be successful and accept responsibility for your outcome: “If it is meant to be, it is up to me.” Be disciplined and determined.

2. Work smart and hard: Earn the reputation for being efficient, productive, and the person who will not be outworked. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra no one else does.

3. Write out goals and objectives and review them twice a day: Decide exactly what you want. Clarity is essential. Visualize your success.

4. Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything: Twenty percent of your activities will account for eighty percent of your results. Always concentrate your efforts on that top twenty percent. Since you can’t do everything, you must learn to deliberately put off activities that are of low value so that you have enough time to do the few things that really count.

5. Plan every week and day in advance: Every minute you spend in planning now can save you five or ten minutes in execution. Organize your weeks and days around large blocks of time where you can concentrate for extended periods on your most important tasks.

6. Keep your daily and weekly schedule and a list of daily and weekly goals/activities in front of you at all times. Debrief at the end of the day and week and compare planned versus actual.

7. Do the most difficult task first: Begin each day with your most difficult task, the one task that can make the greatest contribution to yourself and your work, and resolve to stay at it until it is complete.

8. Slice and dice the task: Break large, complex tasks down into bite sized pieces and then just do one small part of the task to get started.

9. Manage interruptions: Go public, relocate, create visual reminders, return calls and reply to emails at a scheduled time, and insist on 3 Bs: Be Brief, Be Bright, Be Gone.

10. Develop a sense of urgency: Make a habit of moving fast on your key tasks. Become known as a person who does things quickly and well.

11. Put the pressure on yourself: Imagine that you have to leave town for a month and work as if you had to get all your major tasks completed before you left.

12. Motivate yourself into action: Be your own cheerleader. Look for the good in every situation. Focus on the solution rather than the problem. Always be optimistic and constructive.

13. Maximize your personal powers: Identify your periods of highest mental and physical energy each day and structure your most important and demanding tasks around these times. Get lots of rest so you can perform at your best.

14. Delegate and have a systematic approach for following up on work that you have delegated. Establish a “Designated Hitter” who is trained to handle matters in your absence.

Since none of us are perfect at all of these every day, a good way to start is to just pick the one you need to do the most. It takes 30 days to make or break a habit. So, start with the highest need as your focus for the next four weeks and then come back and start with the next.

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