Time Management

By Bill Schoeffler and Catherine Oak | February 8, 2009

10 Tricks of the Trade


Time is the only resource we cannot recreate and we all have the same amount. How can you optimize your life by being “in control of time” rather than being “controlled by it?” Here are 10 tips to help you be time efficient.

1. Determine Your Time Wasters

What are your biggest time wasters? Is it surfing the net? E-mail? Phone calls (on your cell phone of course)? Reading or sorting junk mail? Why is it we find these things essential when they did not exist for most of humanity? Trim down or eliminate the “time wasters” in your life. Make time for the truly important things — the big rocks — in your life (major work projects, family, personal time, etc.). Allocate only an hour a day on the “time wasters.”

2. Prioritize and Delegate

Determine the key things to accomplish each day. Write them on a white board or in your day planner. Create a task list of secondary important items to do in between the scheduled primary important items. If possible, get through your big items first and you will feel better because you have finished the most important things each day. Delegate “large time — small gain” items. For example, yard work, which does not need your expertise, train or hire someone else to handle it.

3. Limit Tasks

Most people put too much on their “to do” lists. For some people it is hard to say no, or they just want to be a “superhero.” Be realistic. Only schedule what is possible to accomplish on a given day and “double buffer” the time allocated. If you take on too much, you will feel let down at the end of the day because of all the things you did not accomplish. It is better to do less and be grateful for the things you actually did get done.

4. Paper – Only Handle it Once

One of the biggest “time killers” is how paper is mishandled. Someone a while back came up with a system for handling each piece of paper. There are only five options to handling each piece of paper when received. Decide to: 1) Toss it; 2) File it; 3) Read it; 4) Delegate it; or 5) Act on it.

If possible, go paperless and get rid of the clutter. Start fresh and get rid of the old paper. Remember: O.H.I.O. — Only Handle it Once!

5. Improve the Hit Ratio

Don’t practice quote. We don’t need the practice, nor do the underwriters. Track your “quote-to-write” or hit ratio. The closer the ratio is to 1.0 the better.

The key is to pre-screen each prospect to see if they fit your program or book of business. Spend a few minutes pre-qualifying them so that there is a high likelihood of you writing the business.

6. Schedule Time for New Business

Most salespersons don’t have much time to write new business because of daily pressures from existing accounts, such as service issues or account renewals. Time must be scheduled each day for producers to work on new business. Otherwise, they will not take the time to prospect and handle new accounts.

7. Streamline the Renewal Process

In order for producers to focus on new sales, the renewal process needs to be streamlined and handled mostly by the service staff. Producers and CSRs should go over the list of renewals at least 90 to 120 days in advance to discuss the strategy for each account. From there, the CSRs or account executives should gather renewal information, submit for renewal or re-market the account and deliver the renewals to the client or to the producer for final review. Producers should work only on those accounts that need their expertise or relationship.

8. Staff Stratification

Whenever possible, all persons in the agency should delegate tasks to the least costly, qualified employee who can handle that work. With automation, however, most service staff are doing it all themselves, including claims. But certain projects can be batched up, such as faxing, scanning, filing, all of which can be handled by a clerical person. Consider outsourcing work, such as certificates, which can be handled online or outsourced to third parties.

9. Plan Your Day

Set up daily or weekly calendars on your desk that can be visible to you at all times. Plan when to make calls and appointments and fill the time in between the secondary tasks. Remember to make some time for your “time waster” as well.

When out of the office optimize the time by scheduling more than one client or prospect in the same area. Plan the order of the visits based on the proximity to each other and the office. Try not to let new prospects or even existing clients, change your scheduled day. Changes will waste time and can cause you a lot of other problems.

10. Take Care of Yourself

If you are one of those people that never get to the gym, or take the time to read, think or meditate, you need to make sure it is scheduled every day. The best thing for the body and the mind is sleep. A good night’s sleep will leave you refreshed and feeling like you are ready to take on the day. And don’t forget to eat right, as well.

Invest some time for personal growth. Read books that enrich one’s life, such as motivational tapes, biographies, history, etc. Utilize open time to open your mind. Sign up for a (non-insurance) seminar, preferably in resort locations. Personal growth cannot only be painless, but also a pleasure. Listen to audio books (CDs, tapes or iPods), while driving for maximum use of your time.

Summary

Discover how your life can be enhanced and made much more enjoyable by making the simple adjustments outlined in this article. Don’t worry about the past because it’s gone. Start now to design your use of time, now and in the future.

Change to one’s habit or behavior is often difficult because people tend to do too much, too fast. Change is accomplished by taking one step at a time. Just like building muscles, it can be challenging at first, but with small incremental changes over time it gets easier.

Choose one thing you want to change and make one small adjustment, today. Add one more step each day. As small as these changes may seem, you will see big results. Soon, when you look back, the change will be notably drastic.

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