We’ve all been there – the 6:30 am wakeups to prepare yourself and the household for work and school, a hundred things running through our minds as we rush off to the office. With so many distractions and more waiting to ambush us at the office, sometimes it’s just enough to grab coffee before sitting into the task deluge waiting at our desk. But there’s a better way to start our workday mornings.
Review the previous day’s work.
Instead of blindly jumping into emails and voicemails left by prospects and clients, as might be the natural tendency, take a few minutes at the start of your day to reflect on the previous day. Sort through your thoughts and priorities mentally before embarking on your routine tasks. This sets your mind in the proper frame of work mode. It’s also part of our previously championed importance of review with an eye towards critical analysis and self-improvement. If your memory isn’t the best, (the old “I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday” cliché is actually true for you), take notes or other documentation throughout the day. Self-review and reflection is also a good exercise for strengthening your memory overall if you make it a habit.
Frog for breakfast? Maybe. Maybe not.
Brian Tracy’s 2007 book, Eat That Frog!, recommends tackling your most hated project first thing, the theory being that you have the most energy in the morning, and more pleasant (or at least less odious) tasks await later in the day when your energy is lower. As with many ideas in the business world that suddenly go viral as Great New Wisdom, that’s not necessarily the case. Especially in the sales world, timing and priority of tasks may render this advice unfeasible, or at the very least, impractical. While it is true for many people, and can work in some sales situations, consider the case of Turkey and Nippers in “Bartleby the Scrivener”. Turkey is an excellent worker in the morning, but becomes quarrelsome and performs more poorly in the afternoon. Nippers is the complete opposite – his mornings are marked by stomach complaints and an obsessive-compulsive need to constantly adjust the height of his desk, but is highly productive in the afternoon. Obviously, Melville’s satirical, borderline absurdist short story is an exaggeration, but it highlights the fact that for some sales reps, the worst task is left for later in the day, when they paradoxically have more energy (this also ties into things like Circadian rhythms, which we won’t get into here).
Plot out your day.
Create a working timeline and schedule for the tasks you need to do that day. Whether it’s something as simple as an action items list, or as intricately plotted as a breakdown of segments by half-hour or hour, knowing what you need to be working on at any given point in the day provides focus and direction for what to do. It’s also a good idea to prioritize the list, however you arrange it. The schedule of your prospects and customers will dictate much of your own corresponding schedule, as well as your organization’s ranking of the most important in each category.
After a long day of work, it’s time to shift into the last 30 minutes of the day (no pun intended). Much like the beginning of the day is a period of transition from life to work, this is the transition phase from work to life.
Assess your day.
Yes, more review. The reason why a workday gets reviewed twice is because there’s the immediate reaction to a day’s events, and then there’s the delayed reaction after a night’s sleep. The two can often be surprisingly different, and offer different types of value. This is particularly true if you’re trying to figure out a difficult situation like a challenging sale, or a demanding client.
Preliminarily plan the next day.
This can be as simple as crossing off all the action items you got done that day and making note of what still needs to be finished. If you have previously arranged meetings or calls the next day, you can jot those down now to save time in the morning.
Respond to emails if you haven’t already.
Your job duties may well require you to answer email much earlier in the day, but for those emails that aren’t a priority or duty-related, the last 30 minutes is the optimal time to answer outstanding emails or bin the spam that snuck past the filters. There’s a refreshing feeling seeing the unread emails counter hit 0.
Debrief with your sales manager or sales leader.
A short check-in with your sales manager or leader to provide a brief summary of the day’s events and discuss any outstanding issues will help keep everyone in the hierarchy on the same page. This also might be a good time to head over to marketing and provide updates on any cross-departmental projects (such as coordinating the launch of a new product).
In the ongoing quest for the white whale of perfect time management, we as sales professionals can aid our cause by making the most of our bookend first and last half hour of the workday. Try the tips we’ve provided above, and see how they enhance your productivity and accomplishments on a day-to-day basis.