Working in the staffing industry presents some unique challenges when it comes to time management. Candidates and clients call in on a regular basis. Our inbox is continuously flooded with hundreds of emails. And there is inherently a high sense of urgency associated with almost everything we do. So how do you manage the constant interruptions and actually get stuff done?
I’ve found that there is one fundamental philosophy that, if followed consistently, results in greater control over your time than any other time management trick. And its really simple. It is the act of categorizing every task or activity into one of four categories based on the urgency (how quickly does it need my attention) and importance (how important is it that it gets done):
As you can see, the farther to the right, the more important. The higher up, the more urgent. While all of these quadrants are important to understand and manage, I want to focus on the quadrant that has the biggest impact on your time, and is the one that if mastered will allow you to be significantly more productive.
High Urgency/Low Importance
These are the time suckers, because they demand your time, and we’ve all been conditioned to drop whatever we are doing and respond. This is the number one productivity killer for staffing professionals. Office phones are ringing constantly, email notifications pop up every 5 seconds, and never-ending texts or instant messages are all demanding your attention. Now ask yourself a question; out of these hundreds, sometimes thousands, of daily interruptions, how many are really, truly of high importance? Two? Five? Maybe ten on a really busy day? The reality is that the overwhelming majority of these distractions are not important, or at least do not require the level of urgency we place on them. And they constantly distract us from accomplishing what is truly important.
So how do we manage these high urgency/low importance tasks better, and recapture all of this wasted time? By redirecting the activities so they are no longer high urgency. Start by analyzing what types of phone calls, emails, texts, and other distractions you get. Then figure out how to keep them from demanding your attention.
For example, in most commercial staffing offices, the number one reason the phone rings is because a candidate is calling in available. That’s great, but in many cases we already know that candidate is available because they’ve called in FIVE TIMES ALREADY! To combat this in my industrial offices, we created an “availability hotline” that all candidates were instructed to call into daily to let us know they were available. If they called the main number, we redirected them to the hotline and emphasized the benefit of being on that list. Within a couple of weeks, call volume had reduced by as much as 90% in some offices!
The same holds for email. Get rid of your pop-up notifications and sounds. And if you are working on something really important (like prospecting calls, a proposal, or a presentation), then – brace for it – close your email entirely.
“Gasp! I can’t do that! What if a client needs me to respond within seconds of sending me their email?”
Really? How often does that really happen, where if you don’t respond to them within a minute, you lose the account or order? In my experience, never. And if it does happen with your clients, then its probably because we’ve trained them that way. Let me ask another question – what do you do when you are in a meeting with another client or prospect and a client sends you an email? Do you check your email every minute while you are talking with them to make sure nothing critical has come in? Of course not. You probably check your email right after the meeting and respond to any important emails at that time.
My point is, we have conditioned ourselves to be ultra-responsive to the point of being completely unproductive. Eliminating these distractions is the number one way to significantly increase your productivity and results. So take some time to identify the urgent/unimportant activities that are distracting you and look for ways to redirect them. You’ll see an immediate improvement in your productivity, your results, and your paycheck.
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