Answer your emails twice a day, you may be thinking ‘I can’t do that, my clients expect to be able to get hold of me’ but just consider for a moment that unless you’re a member of the emergency services or urgent response, it’s highly unlikely that it’s a genuine life or death situation. Plus, if your customers expect instant feedback, stop for a moment and ask yourself who’s trained them to think that way…
Has anyone ever emailed you to say ‘the building’s on fire’? And how many issues need you to instantly respond on the phone? As long as you revert back to the client on the same day, or even within a few hours, it shouldn’t be a problem. If it is, then set up an emergency email or have a dedicated line or mobile to deal with pressing issues (and if you can charge a premium rate for providing this, then make sure you do as it will make people think twice about using it).
And, with every email you receive, make sure that you deal with it as you read it the first time. Ask yourself the following questions and take these actions:
- Does it concern you? If not, pass it on
- Do you need to keep it? If not, bin it
- Is it useful? Yes, file or read it, no, bin it
- Does it need action? Yes, do it, and no, file it or pass it on.
Create a routine, set up files and systems for easy retrieval, and learn to scan and speed read emails and messages.
I don’t often advocate using an answering machine to field and screen calls, as you risk potential customers hanging up without leaving a message, so why not consider using a professional telephone answering service? These are normally relatively low-cost, the staff are trained to answer the phone as you wish and take core information, then they email you details of the enquiry so that you can pick it up when it suits you better. And again, if it does require an immediate response, the call-handler can email an ‘emergency’ address where you can see and respond to it, or get them to call a specific number that you will be able to pick up. Imagine as an clinic, if you had your calls on divert every morning and spent that morning focusing on getting stuff done without any interruptions, how that would impact on your productivity…
Another great way to seize control of your day is to decide on, and put into action, bookends for your day. You can’t often control every element of the main portion of your day, but you can control what happens immediately after you wake up and before you go to bed. You may decide to read a few pages of a positive book, to meditate or focus on your goals, or to spend a short period of time exercising. Perhaps you decide to listen to an audio book on your commute to work too. Activity first thing in your day is all about getting your brain into the right frame of mind and turning unproductive time into something positive.
Then, when you get into work, block off the first 90 minutes of your day to work on your clinic or an important project. Nigel Botterill Entrepreneurs Circle put a lot of his success down to doing this every day and as he’s built 8 million pound plus businesses so he’s well worth listening too.
Then and only then open your emails, answer the phone, return calls, or brief your team. If you have an office, put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door when you’re working on one of your blocks of time. If you’re in an open plan office, use some headphones and make sure that everyone knows not to disturb you. Hey, hang a sign on your desk so people know that you’re working on stuff and don’t want to be disturbed. You’ll quite often find that one particular time of the day is when you’re most productive, so use that time to do whatever activity you get the highest return on investment from.
At the end of your day you may decide to look back at what you’ve accomplished, perhaps note a few things down in a gratitude or acknowledgment list, and one thing I highly recommend is to write your To Do list for the next day so that you can hit the ground running. The choice is absolutely yours, but these bookends need to become a core part of your day and your teams’ that are non-negotiable, and completed regardless of whatever else is going on.
If the first thing you do in the morning is open your emails, you’re instantly allowing your day to be hijacked by other people – you’re immediately marching to the beat of someone else’s drum – and you may never seize back control. Do your bookends and you can rest assured that you’re regularly doing something that is moving you forward towards your goals, no matter what else happens during the day.
Now, it’s no good starting and ending your day well, and blocking out parts of your day for core activities, if you then have distractions popping up constantly. So, switch off your email alert, you know, that little box that pops up telling you an email has just arrived. No email should ever be so urgent that it has to be dealt with immediately.
Then, switch your phone on to silent and remove the vibrate function (and this includes alerts for emails, messages, calls, and all of your social media channels). You can check for messages every 90 minutes if you have to, and can schedule a call-back or response at the time you’ve allocated. To help you manage these interruptions, remember that they’re taking you away from what you need to do, and so taking time away from what you want to do. Follow my five points below and start to free yourself:
- Outsource incoming telephone calls and message-taking
- Avoid small talk
- Be assertive – remember it’s okay to say no
- Prioritise the interruption – how important is it really?
- Develop effective telephone skills.
Also, look to delegate or outsource as many tasks as possible from your to-do list and schedule of tasks. It’s likely that your time and your team’s, admittedly depending on their role, is worth a minimum of £50 per hour, so why would you do a job that you could get someone else to do for less?
If – like many people – you struggle to let go of certain jobs because you believe that no one else can do it as well as you, ask yourself ‘if my business was turning over £10,000,000, would I be doing this job?’ Or, if you struggle with that one, ask ‘if Richard Branson was running my business, would he be doing this?’ If the answer is ‘no’, find a way to delegate it to someone else, outsource it, or create a system to take care of it.
Think about the skills that you need to run your clinic efficiently and think about your function and role. What action or activity gets left and becomes urgent and important? What are routine tasks, and what falls under the banner of administration? Then coach and train your team so that you can let go, and outsource whatever else you can.
Claim back your day
By Alan S Adams