Dealing with the day to day

Donna M. Gray, CRM, is the owner of Total Awards & Promotions/, Madison.

Every now and then, I have a day when I am amazed that I get anything done. In our digital world, we now have countless distractions from “life in the fast lane,” like email, voicemail, and other things that demand our quick attention. Some days, there are so many interruptions that it’s difficult to stay focused on what has to be done before the workday is over.

A friend of mine, who juggles a career as a professor while finding time to write novels and still pursue some great hobbies, also seems to be able to find plenty of time to play. Some others, I know, have been working on simplifying their day-to-day routine.
They’ve developed work habits that keep them focused on completing the things on their “A-list,” before the day gets away from them. Since I’ve always been pretty good at time management, I had to find out what these folks are doing that keeps them on top of their game at work and yet gives them time to have a life.

We live and work in an age when we can do so much, with great speed, and yet with the constant stream of emails, phone calls, instant messages, etc., some days we can’t find the time to open our “snail mail.” I like having control of my workday, so I’m determined to find the secret to making this happen.

In his book The Power of Less, Leo Babauta says, right in the introduction, “Simplicity boils down to two steps: 1. Identify the essential 2. Eliminate the rest.” He claims it will make us “much happier, less stressed, and perhaps surprisingly, more productive.”

That’s exactly what I’m looking for – along with being able to make and stick to a schedule. So, it’s time to make a list of the essential things that I have to do, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, so that I can go home without the feeling that I haven’t accomplished a thing. Getting everything that I, personally, am responsible for onto paper looks like this:

  • Greet every team member enthusiastically as he or she comes into work.
  • Listen to overnight voicemails. Classify what messages have to be responded to immediately and what can wait, or be dealt with differently.
  • Read and classify overnight emails. What has to be answered immediately? What can wait? What requires help from other team members? What requires pulling a customer’s file? What requires further research?
  • Check to see if there’s any quality control work left to be done from the previous day. If so, get it done and call the client.
  • Begin work on daily routine, which includes entering daily receipts in the bookkeeping program; writing checks; attending customer meetings (in office or out of office); making customer phone calls; writing thank-you notes; sending greeting cards for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.; doing marketing planning; attending networking meetings and events; and looking for new ways to “touch” our clients. (Wow, just getting these things on paper tells me that I have to begin simplifying.)
  • Team meetings on certain days. Marketing meetings on certain days.
  • Daily meeting with key team members.
  • Web research on companies we’re cultivating, on special pieces of equipment we’d like to have, and on industry trends.
  • And last but certainly not least, working at the front counter and answering customer phone calls.

Add to all of the above the parade of emails (wanted and unwanted) that creep into the day, as well as the phone calls from “tire kickers” (all of us have prospective customers who call around to see who has the lowest price on a product, or on a service) and the sales reps you’ve never seen before, who are “just passing by and thought you might have a few minutes to see their whole new line.”

Because so many management gurus suggest that we need to get, and to stay, in completion mode, I’m working on identifying and eliminating the things that keep me from getting tasks finished. Jack Canfield says in his book The Success Principles, “The truth is that twenty things completed have more power than fifty things half completed.” He goes on to say, “Rather than starting fifteen projects that end up incomplete and take up space in the house (or office), you’d be better off if you had started just three and completed them.”

Experts tell us that adequate management systems are needed to keep projects rolling along to successful completion. Canfield’s book also asks the question, “How many things do you need to complete, dump, or delegate, before you can move on, and bring new activity, abundance, relationships, and excitement into your life?” Whoa, that’s a challenging question. He offers 25 suggested answers, and some really made me think. I know I need to:

  • Clean out and purge my own office file drawers. I’m pretty organized, but I think I still have some of last year’s papers mixed in, and we’re getting close to the second quarter.
  • Clean out my desk in my home office. Purge the junk drawers. (I might find a winning lottery ticket.)
  • Get my personal closet in order. It’s almost summer and I still haven’t gotten rid of my sweaters. Oh well, this is Wisconsin, after all.
  • Organize my library of business books, so I can find the one I’m looking for when I need it. I keep waiting for a rainy day to do this.
  • Start scrapbooking. I have inherited the family pictures … that go way, way back. It’s time to get them in order and duplicated for others.
  • Walk through our store with an eye toward updating samples, making sure catalogs are ready and available at the front counter, and looking for anything that doesn’t belong in customer view.

Well it looks like I have my work cut out for me. I guess I’d better get started. Hope you all find new ways to deal with the day to day, and eliminate the barriers to getting things done.

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