In a day and age where technology is at our finger tips, the negative side effect is continuous interruption. If you work as a web design, web developer, or lead a team of designers and developers, the last thing you want is interruption.
We all know the exact circumstance. You’re full speed into a project. Creativity and momentum are high. Then out of left field, you receive a series of emails. Or a phone call. Or someone stops by your desk and unloads a laundry list of non-value add questions. Really? Now? Come on!
We’ve all been there and it simply slows down productivity. One may argue, what if it’s a prospect or a customer? Shouldn’t you place a high priority on the customer and answer their email or take their call?
My answer to that is no.
In this article, I’m going to provide you with THREE time management hacks that will help you get more done, in less time. You’ll be able to dedicate longer periods of uninterrupted time to projects as well as dedicate specific time to communicating with prospects and clients. You’ll also be able to bill more hours in every given day.
Overall, these time management hacks are going to require some self-discipline. They are not impossible to adopt but they may take a little getting used to. Without further delay, let’s get to it!
1) Email Management
Email can be a major problem and if you don’t control it, it will end up controlling you. Web Designers, Web Developers, Creative Directors, Account Managers and really every player in the creative “space” can spend countless hours per day, checking email. The question is, how do you solve this problem?
I recommend checking email twice a day: one hour when you first enter the office and one hour before you leave the office. If you can check email for 30 minutes or less, great. I commend you for doing so.
By dedicating specific time slots for checking emails, you will actually be able to cruise through more emails in less time. By removing email checking from the core part of your day, you will be able to dedicate your time to higher priority, uninterrupted, billable tasks. For example, let’s say you start work at 8:00am and check email between 8:00am and 8:30am. Then at the end of the day you check email between 4:30pm and 5:00pm. If you take an hour lunch break, this means you will have a total of 7 uninterrupted hours of productivity. It will be tempting to open your inbox, but I strongly advise not to. Leave it aside. If a client has an emergency, that is what a phone is for.
Now keep in mind, when you check email, dedicate your time to email alone. No multi-tasking. When you reply to email, keep the response concise and to-the-point. Don’t ramble. Use short sentences and bullet points. Remove emotion and only state facts. Email is not in place to journal or set the stage for a 500 page novel. If someone you know, constantly composes long-winded emails, don’t follow their lead. Keep your answers short and move onto the next email.
2) Phone Call Management
If you are in a position where you’re interacting with the client, meaning you’re a freelancer, small business owner, creative director, account manager, or leader at some level, you will need dedicated phone time with clients. Similar to email management, I recommend carving out specific times of the day to make phone calls. Around the time of the day I check email, is when I’ll make phone calls.
The hardest part of making phone calls, is always making the first call. Once you make the first call, your mind will shift into a communication driven thought process as opposed to an analytical or creative thought process. After making the first call, the following calls will be quicker and easier.
Phone calls should always be short and to-the-point. Your phone calls with have three components. Questions, milestones, and action items. Naturally, every phone call may start with small talk, but keep in brief. Be respectful but lead into the three components.
You want to first lead with your questions. If you need something from the client, ask up front. This is the number one priority, as we all know, some clients drag their feet, which holds up the entire project.
Next, you want to address milestones you have achieved. Let them know what has been completed. This positive reporting technique keeps the client in good spirits, which is exactly where you want them.
Finally, let them know the action items you’re focusing on next. This assures the client that you’re staying focused on the timeline. Clients always like a service provider who drives the project with a purpose.
After each phone call, collect and organize your notes, and continue onward. Make as many back to back phone calls as possible. You’ll be able to reach out to more prospects and clients, in less time.
3) Scheduling Meetings
If you are in a position where you need to meet with clients, I have found it very effective to schedule meetings back to back and in nearby geographic locations. Here is how this is accomplished.
When I book meetings, I’ll open my calendar on “weekly” view. This allows me to see all the meetings on one computer screen. I will label my meetings with the Company Name and their Location. An example would look like: Company ABC – Brookfield. This way I know WHO I’m meeting with and WHERE they are located.
When a prospect or client wants to meet, and you’re offering to head to their location, I will first look at my calendar for locations that are close by. If I find any, I will propose to the prospect or client a time that is either right before or right after another meeting that is geographically nearby.
The last thing you want to do is schedule a day full of meetings where you’re making 30 minute, one hour, or two hour trips between locations. If you can keep the travel time down to 15 minutes or less, you’ll be able to schedule more meetings, in significantly less time.
If you can take control of email, phone calls, and meetings, you will save a substantial amount of time. Stay focused and use some self-discipline. It will pay in the form of more productivity and more freedom.