Time Management, Blocking Your Day, Part 3
As The Clinic Coach, 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. 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.
“Block Your Time Around Certain Jobs” The Clinic Coach
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.
“Switch Off Distractions Completely, Don’t Even Let Them Buzz” The Clinic Coach
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:
1. Outsource incoming telephone calls and message-taking
2. Avoid small talk
3. Be assertive – remember it’s okay to say no
4. Prioritise the interruption – how important is it really?
5. 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?
“Should You Really Be Doing That Job” The Clinic Coach
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.
“Meeting, The Practical Alternative to Work” The Clinic Coach
Meetings have often been considered ‘the practical alternative to work’, and managing your meetings effectively is crucial in allowing you to take back control of your day. Meetings can be just the biggest waste of time when attendees get stuck on the smallest detail and can’t or won’t move forward. One tip I picked up is to focus on the minutes from the last meeting at the end, as you often find that many of the points have already been covered and you can whizz through them. Consider these tips when planning and taking part in meetings in the future:
1. Think about the meeting format. Does it need to be face-to-face or can it be done via some other medium like Skype or Zoom?
2. They should all have a set purpose and objective, and all attendees should be clear on what this is so make sure to share it
3. Set an appropriate time to start and to finish the meeting and agree it. Then stick to it
4. Set, prioritise, and circulate an agenda before the meeting
5. Make sure that you cover important items first, that way if you run out of time the core topics have been covered even if you don’t discuss everything.
The Clinic Coach “Make Sure You Look After Yourself”
With your time management and allocation do also remember that it’s not all about work, you have to look after yourself and your team’s emotional well-being too. All too often people can feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what there is to do, and that’s not just within the workplace, these principles work for home life too. A lot of people struggle with work-life balance, feeling guilty when they’re at work because they’re not with their family, then feeling guilty when they’re with the family because there’s some pressing work matters that they feel they really need to get sorted. Wherever they are they’re never really present, so no wonder they feel stressed! “Just be present” The Clinic Coach.
By Alan Adams The Clinic Coach