By Jeff Fortney
As I write this, my son's wedding is rapidly approaching. It used to be that the father of the groom's full responsibility was to get a tux, pay for flowers and show up. My, how times have changed.
Since this will mark the third wedding in our family in 18 months, one would think we would have enough experience to make this one a cakewalk. Sadly, I have discovered that no two weddings are alike; each has different demands and needs.
Thus, one week before the wedding, I have a list of 12 items that (according to my wife) must be completed, or the wedding will be an "abject failure" (her words, not mine). My assignments range from printing maps to the reception (since the directions on the invitation were wrong) to arranging a final picture list for the photographer.
Since each task is equally important, it's hard to prioritize them. As I stared at the list, I started thinking about all the times when I, like most other folks, have had too much to do and not enough time. As I pondered this, I realized I already knew how to accomplish this herculean task.
We have all faced weeks when there appears to be too little time for all that needs to be done. However, by following three simple steps - prioritize, simplify and execute - we can knock the items off our to-do list in no time.
Oddly enough, the first step in prioritizing has nothing to do with the actual to-do list. To be successful, your first priority must be setting aside time for selling. This time must be reserved and properly used if you want to build your portfolio. This should be your top priority, no matter the tasks at hand.
Break down your sales time per day, but don't worry about carving out specific hours in those days. For example, you may have determined that you must sell for a minimum of 25 hours a week, which breaks down to five hours per day.
Once that time has been reserved, identify the time requirements for each item on your list. For example, if you need to make a call, estimate how long it will take. Also identify any task that has a specific time for completion, either a deadline or, as in the case of a call or meeting, a specific time that must be scheduled. Prioritize these latter tasks and calendar them accordingly.
Once you have recorded these tasks, calendar your required daily sales time. In other words, if you have a conference call at 10:00 a.m. that will last for one hour, your afternoon should be booked for selling. If you book the time before a morning call as sales time, you will often find that your time has to be cut short for meeting prep and other tasks at hand. Instead, use that time to work on other tasks.
After you have completed your schedule requirements, prioritize the remaining tasks by the time periods available and the deadline dates. Remember, some tasks are inter-related, so make sure you do them in the proper order.
There will be times when your task list will appear overwhelming. Consider this to be an opportunity to simplify your efforts.
Make sure the items listed are not general statements. A completed request for proposal (RFP) may require a time commitment of 11 hours. But if you break that task down into its components, you will end up with a longer list but less time needed for each task.
This allows you to complete the individual steps during smaller blocks of time without dedicating a day and a half to the entire project for completion. It will also prevent you from eating up your sales time with the project (and no, completing an RFP does not count as sales time).
If you have a complex requirement, separate it from your to-do list and create a separate list for this particular item. This list will then become your project plan for that task, and it will help you define stop and start times for the various components.
Next, identify the tasks that can be done in the shortest amount of time, and do them first. Cross off scheduled phone calls and meetings as they are completed. You will soon find that you have a manageable list.
Don't forget to stop working on the list when your scheduled sales time starts. You can do this by making sure your tasks are defined in such a way that allows you to stop at that point. This is critical, given the importance of your sales time. After all, your sales efforts are what truly pay your bills.
As I prioritized and simplified my to-do list for my son's wedding, I realized that the items I needed to complete weren't nearly as onerous as I thought. Indeed, it probably wouldn't take more than a few hours to complete. Now my question is, how do I keep that a secret so my list doesn't continue to grow?
Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years of experience in the payments industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.
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