Being more efficient pays dividends not only in that you can get more done, but also because I believe gains in efficiency can actually make you happier. It’s like clearing out the clutter in life, the exhileration of tidy places, clear spaces, the value of having a sort out at home from time to time, getting back on top of eveything, stuff filed, and rubbish that gathers thrown away or reviewed. Marvellous. That is the way I like to feel at the end of every working day. Not necessarily clearing my whole to-do list, but knowing what profitable order I need to tackle the next day in, and how to milk it for all it is worth.
I’m not talking just about making lists here; rather about the cumulative effect of relentless discipline and continual small gains, with a game-like, triumphant (sometimes laughable) basis where I very rarely do one task at a time.
If I can be more efficient with my time, in whatever way possible, I achieve more and feel better about my achievement and the personal momentum I build. Over years of practice in always looking for the next short cut I have gained an ability to be organised and systematic. I am never the one looking for my phone or keys when we leave the house! This keeps me ahead of – or at the very least, keeping up with – everyone else.
At the moment I am falling down at the ever-growing hurdle of digital competency so I must do something about this. The plan is that, using grey time (deliberate down time booked into my calendar) I will prioritise the shortfall in my knowledge and abilities. Often I simply buy the best book I can and work my way through it, solving my own problems and sharing with my team anything I feel they could find useful. I want to ensure I have digital embedded throughout my companies, always aiming to serve my customers, my team and myself to the best of our abilities.
I learned quickly that employing great people is not enough. Having a team of A-grade players is a really big part of time effectiveness, but so is building a highly trusting culture that encourages individuals to deliver. This involves reading the type of support individuals require from me, and constantly being aware of the tempo of individual team members, the company and the communication streams. The time this intuition saves me is vast – not to mention the genuine care and thoughtfulness of individuals connecting on a genuine level and caring for each other’s needs. Effort like this brings immeasurable results and returns. Be assured it is worth every penny.
Talking of which, it is always important to do the maths on these things. Do you know what your hourly earning rate is, in whatever capacity? If you know how much income you are able to generate per hour of work, and the overhead costs of your business, can you honestly say that you create a great return for your company?
A salesperson might have a low basic salary; let’s say they earn £20 per hour, but with a good commission structure they can easily double this rate. Therefore a supportive business should be helping them with any service and administrative tasks in order to enable the salesperson to make higher returns. There is no reason a good salesperson should not take home at least three times their salary.
Keep a record of how much actual sales time you have to make calls, and always make one new prospect call per day. Ensure you have the right resources to maintain efficiency and the ability to scale your workload. You can easily create a template letter or email which is tweaked and amended slightly each time you send it – though it is important to remember that your must always amend the basic email before sending it.
Think about all of the things you do slowly and/or repeatedly, and question whether there is a real need for them. People who wear makeup genuinely mystify me. For the overall impact you can make by wearing make up, applying it is not time well spent – except I am sure for a few cases. If I calculated the time I have saved over the course of my life by not wearing makeup, I wonder how many life enhancing hours I have saved by avoiding this pointless task – and yet, not wearing makeup does not seem to have inhibited my ability to earn money and be successful.
I save money and time continually by actively looking for appropriate shortcuts and “double-whammy” outcomes in everything I do. Any speaking gig is also a sales opportunity to me, and there is always – always – a networking opportunity to be had. By total luck in conversation I have found people via friends with whom I would love to do business.
I always get up early; it really counts and helps to build the best kind of infectious momentum for the day ahead. I get my hair done when I have time and I plan meticulously call times and priorities, always aiming to keep up with management of any deals I’m working on. Not enough people actually talk to each other these days, it seems – no, you cannot sell as much on email alone; you must actually get out there and engage with people.
Ignore convention. Leave your car at the station and work on the train; anything that optimises your time for key tasks. Driving is a time killer but perhaps you can have a shadow on all of your sales trips so that your team are always learning and growing. I have interviewed individuals and helped people who are willing to adapt to my jam-packed lifestyle; these are the people that will go far.
Focus on your end goal and constantly check that what you are doing is helping to move you towards that end. Prioritise your to-do list mostly by profitable outcomes and influences for the bigger wins. Sometimes the early organised sequence of communication can get you ahead of the game to the point that you win business on your service and availability alone. I really believe that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
Don’t forget to communicate your joined-up vision looking backwards. I’ve always wanted to move fast but of course it’s easy to make the mistake of not getting those behind me excited to look ahead to the next stage of ambitious growth and vision. We can’t take on the whole world, but we can at least take on a fair chunk of it!
Risk is simply the act of calculating opportunity, weighing and considering it in terms of which boundaries you’re able to push the most. Things tend to come together as long as you plan in advance and speculate on preferred outcomes with a positive mindset.
The best advice I can give you is to learn to live with the discomfort of having a to-do list that is almost never ending. Accept that the B-grade, lesser profit items may be things you never get to, and be comfortable with a relentless focus on profitability and costings. This will protect you in making the right decisions. It is important to work tirelessly to keep your pipelines and funnels filled, and to continually expect yourself and your team to look for continuous improvement to scale up your potential.
Learn also to live with failure. I never even think of it as failure, to be honest. Any progression in a direction where we have learned a lesson and have made an effort is always progress, and always a better outcome than standing still and wasting time. I am endlessly frustrated by people who make poor and slow activation decisions when realistically, a few days after the action you will be able to tell whether you are right or not. Stop standing about having the conversation about whether to do it, and just get on with it!
Think and plan for what could be the worst thing to happen – but take action! Standing still means you are losing the race against the competition, who you can bet are always moving while you’re pondering. More and more I will back good decision makers, brave delegators and those that trust their teams and motivate with great cultural flexibility. All of these things will allow the stars to align and everyone to get more done effectively.
It is essential to think beyond the near term and to have a genuine goal in mind. Suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to dream big – it does work! indeed, if I was to reconsider any action it is always that I should have been bolder, braver and bigger by investing much, much more in sales.
Laughable things I do to save time:
- I rarely put any one thing away at the same time; I always have hands full of stuff as I tidy, get organised and get stuff done, I celbrate my own progress… yes, I talk to myself.
- I never have the problem of my petrol getting too low; I generally fill up on a Sunday when I have time and I am not in a race to get somewhere
- I leave stuff on the floor of my room to give reminders to get stuff done; I continually scribble notes and messages to get my family sorted and organsied.
- We have a list system for stuff that runs out; I am stubborn that if it is not on the list, I will not get it replaced in the weekly shop. Systems work.
- I am religious about where I put my keys down, charging my phone and laptop as soon as I get to my flat or home, I am also relentless about an expenses order process for record keeping and I have found huge time saved value in logging the numbers and names straight into my phone but at the late time in the day when my brain goes to fudge so I do simpler stuff
- I text relentlessly reminders and outreach to keep projects moving
- I take pictures that of all sorts of things as reminders, prospects to share with my sales team and to consider in new product development
- I diarise and record when I see my accountant. And what time I need as a self appointment to review company performance, the finances and the bank manager relationship.
- I send cards hand written when I feel I have not done enough to tell people how well they are doing or simply to lend encouragement and congratulations – I always have blank cards in my bag and stamps in my wallet.
This list alone took seconds to write…but when I can shortcut any process by typing direct on my laptop at meetings I do so, and at events.
I am also deeply disciplined about respecting the time my team work and the time that I contact them – never calling them on a weekend regarding working matters. I even try not to email until Sunday evenings so they are not being distracted by me but instead they are really having a break and recharging for the week ahead.