As payment professionals, many of us are entrepreneurs with businesses of our own. Our enterprises range in size from merchant level salespeople (MLSs) working alone from home offices, to ISOs with in-house staff working helping to support several independent MLSs, to ISOs with multiple U.S. locations that are now expanding internationally.
No matter how large or small the company, however, business owners shoulder multiple responsibilities and often have several matters vying for their attention most of the time. Also, given the power of today’s mobile technology, it is becoming increasingly uncommon for entrepreneurs to leave business matters at the office.
Emails pour into our inboxes at all hours no matter where we are located, and text messages hit our mobile phones and tablets, often with a beep. I just received a text, and stopped writing this to look at it. It had nothing to do with the thoughts I want to convey here. It was a distraction. And research has shown that people who are interrupted while at work on a specific task take about 25 percent longer to complete it than those who are not.
So, my first bit of advice to you is: don't do what I just did. If a text message comes in while you are engaged in an important activity, ignore it until you are ready to give it your sole attention. Here are some other tips to help you become more focused, and thereby more productive, while fulfilling the significant demands of helping your payment venture thrive.
Assess what is on your work plate and consider whether certain tasks can be delegated to someone else or handled via powerful new technology. For example, if you're fielding numerous calls from MLSs who ask many of the same questions, have someone prepare a FAQ page for your website and spread the word to your sales team that it is available. Also, many online training modules for payment professionals are now available. Test some of them to see if you can use this technology to cover the basics so you are freed up to give your sales partners the kind of mentoring only you can provide.
Once you’ve delegated appropriately, prioritize your work. Pick the top three tasks you want to complete or move forward significantly, and schedule them in separate time slots for early in the day. Make sure each task has its own dedicated time, and while you are working on a specific thing, do not allow any interruptions or distractions. In short, do only one thing at a time, and with full attention. It helps tremendously to have a time limit set for each task, because even if something that seems urgent is pulling at your attention, you can usually put it out of your mind for a brief period while you focus on what you have deemed is most important.
The amount of time you devote to each task can vary, depending on the work itself and your own inclinations. However, research has indicated that shorter periods from 20 to 30 minutes are ideal. Then, after each allotted period, take a break. Leave your desk, Stretch. Get outside if possible. Do this a little longer than you’re comfortable with; it will refresh you and make you better able to concentrate when you begin work on your next project.
If something must be completed by a certain deadline, and will take a number of hours to complete, split the project into segments. Devote short periods of time to each, and schedule a break after each one.
My last bit of advice is to take vacations from your business several times a year. They don’t all have to be lengthy. Some can just be a few days. The important thing is that while you are on vacation, disconnect. Turn off the computer and cell phone. Delegate the handling of issues that arise in your absence to one of your colleagues and trust that it will work out. You will return to work with renewed vigor and better able to focus on one thing at a time.
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