Declare Your Personal War on Time Poverty

By | September 10, 2009

Insurance professionals suffer from a particularly virulent form of time poverty.

We are terrible at managing our time. We don’t set priorities well. We react to immediate issues that may not be very important. We waste time on the “thick of thin things.” We are terrible at delegating tasks.

Our industry’s collective failure to manage time costs us money and client respect. The waste of resources hurts us all. Our clients suffer too.

Many insurance people take on their day with the frantic style of a puppy in a d├ębutante’s closet; never knowing which way to turn or which shoe is more appetizing. “Oh, this one. No, that one! Oh look, glitter!” The only difference is that most insurance people don’t slobber.

Policy renewals are a great example of what results from our poor time-mastery skills. For 364 days we know a policy is expiring. Yet, we still can’t get most commercial renewals out on time. How can that be?

Build a System for Building Systems

The problem goes beyond procrastination. My observation is that insurance organizations don’t build effective work systems.

Consider the quote process as managed by almost any agency. The wheel gets reinvented every time. Mary does it her way. Jill prefers her way. Sam thinks his way is best. There are more ways of delivering proposals in most agencies than there are people in the agency.

Call LL Bean and place an order. Buy anything. Socks, underwear, anything. The service rep has a single way of doing everything. She has been trained in the LL Bean Way of answering the phone, asking for orders, and responding to questions. Every possible situation has a specific set of procedures that is the LL Bean Best Way.

You will see the same in any organization where you admire the service you get. Specific processes make life easier.

Set specific procedures for every part of the insurance transaction. You’ll see productivity skyrocket.

We Love Our Meetings!

We have a love affair with meetings. We even have meetings devoted to when to have meetings. There are management meetings, sales meetings, organizational meetings, staff meetings, and my favorite, planning meetings.

Most meetings go on twice as long as they need to. Half the meetings I encounter can be handled with a voice mail or an e-mail. Eliminate half the meetings and cut short those you have. Boom! You have just saved at least 50 percent of the time you were spending in meetings.

I hate meetings. In my insurance career I have spent 20 percent of my time in meetings. No more! Now I rarely meet with anyone — in person, at least. The phone and e-mail is my way of getting information in and out. Repeat after me, “Voice mail, e-mail, and conference calls!”

Here are some meeting busting strategies:

  • Meetings are for discussion and conversation. E-mails are for giving information.
  • A face-to-face meeting is a last resort.
  • Consider your return on investment. Without a 300 percent return on your time, don’t hold the meeting.
  • Start on time. Latecomers pay $10.
  • End on time. When a meeting runs long, walk out.
  • No food. No drinks. Meet now, eat later. No bathroom breaks. Meet standing up.
  • Require a prioritized agenda with a time allotment for each item.
  • Invite only those who will provide input.

Simple Strategies to Master Your Time

Here are some things you can do to gain better value from your time:

  • Keep a clean desk. Nothing on your desk but what you are working on right now.
  • Prioritize your work. Leave less important items for later. Never do something unimportant just because you can finish it quickly. Do “A” tasks before “B” tasks, and “B” tasks before “C” tasks.
  • Check your e-mail inbox no more than every 90 minutes. Take one of three actions with every new e-mail you get: read and delete, read and reply, read and file for later work. Your inbox should be emptied out every time you check e-mail. Always keep a clear e-mail inbox.
  • Connect two monitors to your computer. Duel monitors allows for work in two full windows at the same time. Your effectiveness goes up 50 percent when you can view an e-mail and your client account screen at the same time.
  • Do not allow others to dump their work on you. Learn to say no with a smile. Memorize the phrase, “I’m sorry. I am not able to do that for you.” When asked to pitch in remember that you can say no. Do so when appropriate.

Time is the only asset we cannot buy more of. Invest time. Don’t spend it.

Simmonds, CPCU, is a consultant and insurance career mentor. He can be found at Join Simmonds for a free time-mastery teleseminar. Visit:

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