The vast majority of you who are blue collar salespeople in the services industry are in the midst of your busiest season of the year, working like one-armed wallpaper hangers! No one can possibly accuse you of not working hard, as you “swarm” around your sales territory trying to beat the clock and check every box on your schedule. But, as you erratically bounce from one task to the next, are you keeping the main thing the main thing?
Do important things get overshadowed by small “fires” you need to put out? If so, now is the time to revisit prioritizing. At a glance, it may appear as if all the tasks on your list are equally urgent and important, but with a bit of analysis, the differences quickly become clear. It requires you identifying priorities, and then organizing and executing.
Deciding what is most important is a skill you must develop and there is no one formula that works for everybody. To prioritize effectively, you must filter things according to your personal goals and the role you play in your company, along with policies and procedures imposed on you by your superiors. What do you want and need to accomplish and how are you progressing in those pursuits? When these determinations are made it will be easier to ensure you make better use of your time.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey says that every task falls into one of four categories or “quadrants.” An urgent matter is usually visible; a ringing phone, your manager standing next to your station in the sales room, or a posted deadline. Urgent matters create pressure on you but may not be important to your big picture. But since importance relates to results, by contributing to your mission, values, and goals, it’s easier to identify.
Covey’s position is that 90% of most people’s time is spent in Quadrant 1, the Urgent and Important, while the remaining 10 percent is spent “hanging out” in Not Urgent and Not Important Quadrant 4. Some people spend all their time in Quadrant 3 under the illusion that they are dealing with important Quadrant 1 matters, but they’re really just wasting time. Quadrants 3 and 4 may contain either entertaining or seemingly important tasks, but Dr. Covey says, “Effective people stay out of Quadrants 3 and 4 because, urgent or not, they aren’t important.” If you have problems prioritizing, it’s a good bet that you will find most of your daily activities can be put into these quadrants.
The secret to good time management and effective prioritization is simple: make sure you spend most of your time in Quadrant 2. This quadrant deals with things that are important but not urgent, such as relationship-building and investing time in planning for the future. You not only get all your tasks completed, but you also build a strong foundation for the future by focusing on big picture issues and concepts, rather than meaningless tasks. Dr. Covey says that if you live in Quadrant 2, “Your effectiveness would increase dramatically. Your crises and problems would shrink to manageable proportions because you would be thinking ahead, working on the roots.”
To immediately become more productive try spending a few moments every morning evaluating your priorities while glancing at a copy of the simple chart above. Jot down each of your daily tasks on sticky notes and post them on the quadrant where they belong. If you want a clear picture of what’s most important to you look where the sticky notes are posted, which is also where you are spending the most time (which may surprise you). So just like learning to make better eating choices for meals, if given the choice of spending time on a wasteful Quadrant 4 activity, why not choose something from Quadrant 2? If someone asks you to continually solve their Quadrant 3 problems, why not decline and move on to a task in Quadrant 1?
Prioritizing is all about choosing what to do and what not to do. No matter what your goals and pressures are, remember that you are in control of your time. Once you get comfortable evaluating the usefulness of your tasks, you will see an immediate increase in your energy, your productivity, and your success in all areas of your life.
————Another Client Weighs In————
“I had been looking for some inexpensive common-sense sales training material to use with my blue collar sales team for a long time. I didn’t think what I wanted even existed until I found Doug’s DIY materials. I am very pleased with how it is working for us and the simplicity of Doug’s concepts.” Joe W., Raleigh, N.C.
©2017 Robinson Training Solutions, LLC