By: Dan Fisher
For the past fifteen years I have worked in the staffing industry for large, global Fortune 500 organizations, start-up's and everything in between. The common challenge that I repeatedly see staffing professionals struggle with, regardless of company size, is time management.
I have coached and mentored countless sales and recruiting professionals on this topic. Nowhere is this truer than for staffing professionals, who tell me everyday how they feel "paralyzed" and "overwhelmed" with too much to do and frustrated with having to "wear many hats." What I have learned in the process is that it's really easy to discuss time management principles and tactics but the challenge lies in holding yourself accountable to actually managing yourself to do the things you know you're supposed to do.
In essence, the key to effective time management boils down to self discipline and how well you manage yourself. Here are some steps to help get you started.
Utilize Systems That Work For You
This could be something as simple as a to-do list or using sticky notes. After you create a list with your daily tasks, determine what tasks are going to have the quickest impact for generating revenue. Those should be the first tasks you complete. Chances are you have one or more calendaring systems and other applications for productivity. Take advantage of them. Productivity tools are there to help you.
For example, use your CRM system to document notes from all sales and recruiting calls, meetings and interviews. Be sure to use the built-in calendaring system to schedule your follow-up tasks. Every client and candidate interaction should have an action item associated with it. Scheduling the follow-up task (action item) is critical. By doing this your CRM system will create a list of tasks such as phone calls or emails that you have to complete every day.
Are You a Morning Person or a Night Owl?
Figure out what time of day you produce your best work product. Schedule your most challenging tasks during this time. For example, if you have a big presentation coming up for a prospect and you do your best work in the early morning, schedule it in the morning. Don't schedule it for late afternoon when you're tired. Furthermore, prepare for that presentation in the early morning.
For recruiters, you should build time into your weekly schedule to call candidates at night between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The best candidates are not able to talk at work. Contact them after hours. For sales professionals, decision makers often can often only be reached between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 am and between 5:00 pm and 7:00 p.m, They're in meetings the rest of the day. Do your pre-call planning and research around these times. Plan to start your day early and work late.
Measure Results, Not Activity
It's really easy to fall into the trap of keeping and feeling busy but producing nothing. I see this happen all the time. Don't confuse activity with results. Measure your results or outcomes, not your activity. For example, the most common measurement in our industry is number of phone calls for both sales and recruiting. At the end of the day it's really about how many new hiring managers (or candidates) you qualify and add to your CRM system or job orders you uncover. So measure that, not the number of phone calls.
Create a "Stop Doing" List
In his book, Good To Great. Jim Collins suggests that those who build good-to-great companies made as much use of "stop doing" lists as they did "to do" lists. Most people live busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding to-do lists where we try to do more and more but it rarely works. If it doesn't help grow your business, stop doing it. Try to adopt the self discipline of unplugging yourself from your "busy work."
Staffing professionals often place a higher priority on completing their "to-do's" (candidate applications and other related paperwork, entering candidate and client data into their database and responding to email) over revenue generating tasks, such as making sales calls, cold calling or visiting clients. All of these tasks need to be completed but if the revenue generating tasks never take priority your book of business will never grow. Reacting to every client request and email "on the spot" is often the biggest reason why staffing professionals fail to achieve their daily goals. The next time you have a "client emergency," take five minutes and really think through how quickly you need to respond and resolve the issue.
Death By Meeting
Put an end to "on the fly" meetings. I'm talking about the ones where someone stops by your office or cube and asks if you have a minute. You don't want to be rude so you go along with it. From now on, when people come to your office or cube, askthem, "What do you think is the best solution to the issue?" People typically know the answer and simply need validation from their peer or manager. This is an easy way to prevent a two-minute conversation from turning into a thirty-minute discussion.
Do a weekly meeting where you can discuss all of the issues. Just make sure that all of the decision makers are in the room and there is a clear purpose to the meeting with actionable items.
Let's face it -- we are dependent on email for communication. Unfortunately that means email is a killer when it comes to time management. When you are doing important tasks....i.e., those on your to-do list, turn off your email. Set up an auto responder to let people know you will call them back later. If you don't do this, I guarantee your email will always interrupt you. The big question is, do you have the self discipline to ‘turn off’ your email? Try it!
To-Do Lists and your 2010 Goals
Most people use lists as a way to manage themselves and the tasks they need to complete. It's easy to let the list get to 10+ items. When that happens we end up focusing on the wrong tasks. Keep the list to five items. The items on your daily to-do list should tie back into your annual goals for 2010. Whatever your personal goals are for the year, your list should be linked to those goals. Be consistent with the tasks you need to do top accomplish your tactical sales plan.
Plan for the Unexpected
One thing we know for sure about working in the staffing industry -- circumstances can change on a moment's notice. Always build time into your daily plan for the unexpected. By planning for this each day you will avoid feeling reactive. There are always times of the year (or quarter) when the unexpected is more likely to fill your time than others. Plan accordingly.
Take an End of Day Assessment
At the end of the day, take a tally of how the day went and how your time was allocated. Consider tracking this in your calendar. At month’s end, look for the themes that happen time and again and consider how you can make improvements. Ask yourself:
- How much of myday was spent on proactive items versus. reactive tasks?
- When did Iwork on the most challenging tasks of the day, morning, afternoon or evening? Did I complete it?
- What time of day did I do my reactive tasks?
- How much of my day was centered around proactive tasks?
Dan Fisher is a fourteen year sales veteran and thought leader in the IT staffing and consulting industry. Dan provides one-on-one sales coaching and mentoring and training workshops. In September 2008, he authored the IT Staffing Sales Plan, the only proprietary methodology dedicated exclusively to selling IT staffing services. That same year Dan founded the Menemsha Group, which is dedicated to helping IT staffing and recruiting industry professionals sell more effectively, differentiate from the competition and increase gross profit margins. Dan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.