Time is the only resource we cannot recreate, but how can you optimize being “in control of time” rather than being “controlled by it?”
People tend to number their days when they are dying. A woman named Wendy who worked for more than 20 years with hospice patients states that there are two main regrets people have when they are dying: “The No. 1 regret is they say, ‘I should have lived my life to follow my dreams, not what other people expected of me.’ The No. 2 regret [is] ‘I worked too much and wish I had spent more time with my children and my relationship.’”
Here are 10 tips to help everyone be time efficient so you don’t have any regrets about how you spent your time.
Determine Time Wasters
What are the biggest time wasters? Is it surfing the net? Email? Phone calls? Reading or sorting junk mail? Why is it that these things now seem essential when they did not exist for most of humanity? “Time wasters” need to be trimmed down or eliminated. People need to make time for truly important things – major work projects, family, personal time, etc. Allocate only an hour a day or less to the “time wasters.”
Prioritize and Delegate
Determine the key things to accomplish each day. Write them down on a white board or on a day planner. Create a task list of secondary items to do in between the scheduled primary items. If you get through the big items first, you will feel better because you will have completed the most important things each day. Delegate “large time-small gain” items such as yard work or house cleaning, which does not need a key person’s expertise. Train or hire someone to handle these tasks the way they should be done, so delegation continues.
Most people put too much on their “to do” lists. For some people it is difficult to say “no.” Others may 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 that did not get accomplished. It is better to do less and be grateful for the things that got done.
Handle Paper Once
One of the biggest “time killers” is how paper is mishandled. Someone a while back came up with a system for handling paper. There are only five options to handling each piece of paper when it is received: toss it, file it, read it, delegate it or act on it.
If possible, go paperless! Get rid of the clutter. Start fresh and remember OHIO – only handle it once!
Improve the Hit Ratio
Don’t practice quote. No one needs the practice, nor do underwriters. The firm should track the “quote-to-write” or hit ratio. The closer the ratio is to 1.0, the better.
The key is to prescreen each prospect to see if he or she fits the firm’s program or book of business. A few minutes should be spent pre-qualifying so that there is a high likelihood of the business being written. If there is not pain, the prospect won’t move to a new program or agency.
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 renewals. Time must be scheduled each day for producers to work on new business. Otherwise, they will not find the time to prospect and work on new accounts.
Streamline the Renewal Process
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, 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 accounts that need their expertise or relationship.
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. In addition, certain projects can be batched, such as faxing, scanning and 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.
Plan the Day
Daily or weekly calendars should be visible at all times. Calls and appointments need to be planned for ahead of time and in between those times secondary tasks need to be done. Remember to make “some time for time wasters” as well – unplanned phone calls, meetings, personal problems.
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 the scheduled day. Changes will waste time and can cause a lot of other problems.
Take Care of Oneself
Time for activities like going to the gym, reading, thinking or meditating need to be scheduled every day. You will feel better and be ready to take on the day. And don’t forget to eat right. Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it!
Creating “breathing room” in life has lots of health benefits and reduces stress. This is done by sitting down and making a quick list of key things that need to be added, subtracted, doing more of (exercise) or less of (doing for others) in life.
Invest some time for personal growth. Books that enrich life should be read, such as motivational tapes, biographies, history, etc. Use free time to open the mind. Sign up for a (non-insurance) seminar, preferably in resort locations. Personal growth is not only painless, but also a pleasure. Listen to audio books while driving for maximum use of time versus listening to depressing news and talk shows.
Discover how life can be enhanced and made much more enjoyable by making simple time management adjustments Start now to design your use of time, now and in the future.
Changing 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.
Time is finite for us humans. We don’t want to reach the end of our lives and have regrets about how we spent our time – make time today for what is important!