Time. Don't spend it, invest it.

We have all heard the old saying, “Time is Money”.  Well, that could not be truer than in the sales profession.  While most professions require a great level of time management and focus to succeed, in sales it is a bit different.  In sales, it is more about doing the right things with your time.  Given the high level of flexibility that exists in sales, it is important that the rep practices strict time management to ensure they are focused on the right things at the right times.  Reading, writing, prospecting, networking, writing proposals, managing sales calls, prospects and existing customers are just a sampling of what an average sales rep has on their plate.

Successful reps are maniacally focused on time management.  Every minute counts.  One technique I have used successfully over the years is something I call Front Loading.  I like to start my day early.  My most productive days are those when I get an early start. I like to get up an hour earlier than I have to and get stuff done.  Ideally, I’ll get up at 5:30-6:00 and spend the first couple of hours getting work done that would otherwise get pushed off.  I read, write, reflect on my business and knock out an item or two from my todo list.  By 9 am most mornings I already have a good head start on the day.  Around 9, I’ll take my dogs for a run to clear my head and get a little exercise and then catch up on emails, return calls, touch base with my team etc. By noon on a good day, I have accomplished a ton, by three a full day's work.  Anything after that is gravy.

 I also use a tecnique I call front loading.  I apply it weekly, monthly and quarterly as well.  I plan for the week on Sunday and get out of the blocks strong on Monday, getting as many of my weekly tasks accomplished in the first few days of the week.  I always make sure to start out the first week of every month very strong and try to make the first month of the quarter a big one as well.  This approach has worked well for me throughout my career, when I was carrying a bag, I very often took the last week of the quarter off as I was already beyond my goal.  I used that time to rest and get set up for a strong start for the following quarter.  This approach takes a lot of discipline but does wonders for stress reduction and productivity.

That being said, I still have to work at this every day.  It’s so easy to get off track given the very busy lives we all lead.  Below are a few tools/techniques that I have learned over the years to help me stay productive, happy and stress-free.

  1. Start with the end in mind.  Start with your long-term (yearly) goal then work backward and write down your quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals/tasks necessary to get there.

  2. Determine what is truly important.  Prioritize those activities that will progress you toward your goals and do them first.  The other stuff can wait.

  3. Get an early start. If you get up and hour earlier than your competition every day and do something productive, you will have a 300-hour advantage over the course of a year.  Think about how much can be accomplished with 300 extra hours.

  4. Complete the most important tasks first.

  5. Don’t multi-task.  All studies (and there are a ton) show multitasking drive performance down and actually wastes time.

  6. Just get started.  I did this with this blog.  I was wrapping up my day yesterday waiting for a colleague to join me for dinner.  I did not have enough time to devote to completing it, so I just got started anyway.  Turns out I got my entire first draft done.  In the past, I would have waited until I thought I had enough time to finish. This has worked really well for me.  Just getting started on something for even a few minutes often results in finishing an important task.

Enjoy.  Have fun, rest and relax.  This is the most important one of all.  After all the reason we want to be efficient with our time and be productive and successful, what good is that if we are not enjoying our lives.  Take all that extra time you have saved and go have some fun!