Written By: Scott Koepf MCC, CTC- V.P. of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
There are so many skills that need to be mastered by Travel Advisors from Marketing to Sales to Product knowledge to Operations. However, as I noted in my last column, the most important skill of all may be Time Management. It is not having extraordinary skills that will lead to maximum success, but instead the ability to manage how and when to use those skills. As noted before here are the five aspects to address to become more efficient through time management:
Time Management Solutions (The Five P’s)
Before we look at the first P I want to provide another reason to tackle time management before you try to improve any other aspect of your business and life. I have heard it said that the real goal to using our time wisely is to:
Maximize the Margins
I think this is a great visual picture of what we gain when we start to organize our days in a systematic way. Imagine a document that had no margins. The words would mush up against the edges of the paper with a few letters bound to not make it on the page. It would be hard to read and easy to get lost as you try to progress through the page. So it is with our lives. The goal of Time Management is not what many people think – to cram as much as I can into each day! Instead it is to give you the control to increase your efficiency and well, maximize your margins.
If your day looked like a document with wide margins you would gain the following:
- Your day will be easier to plan for and to evaluate as you will be able to ‘read’ it without getting overwhelmed or stressed.
- It automatically sets your ‘boundaries’ so you know what you can fit in and what needs to go on to another page (day).
- You have the ability to take notes in the margins themselves and not lose the ‘ahh ha!’ moments as you go through the day.
Travel celebrity Samantha Brown may have said it best. While she may have been referencing travel itself, it certainly applies to our everyday lives.
“If we search only for the exclamation points, we may miss the comas.”
To find that ‘space’ in the margins we need to look at the five P’s of Time Management. The first P is to Prioritize so we need to know what the most important thing is to be doing at any given time. Therefore, before we go on to the next of the five P’s, we need to determine our priorities.
I will slightly digress here as it is important to understand the connection between our personal lives and our work lives. Most of us made a choice to go into the travel industry because of a desire to mix business and pleasure. So maybe more than any other industry, the lines can be blurred especially if we love what we are doing. However, as I noted before, the goal is not to figure out how to just fit more into a day but to provide the time to enjoy our lives. In the future I will offer some thoughts on life planning but for now it is important to know that no one can truly separate their business self from their personal self.
I will reference and focus the suggestions in these articles on the business side of your day but any and all of the suggestions can and should be integrated into your personal life as well. For example, I do not suggest having two calendars or separate schedules for your work and personal life. You have each day to craft and schedule and no aspect of your life should be put in a silo. No doubt if you implement the suggestions provided here for your business, your personal life will benefit. However, if you use these ideas for your entire life the benefits will be exponentially more impactful.
In fact, determining your life priorities before you determine your work priorities will give you a better and holistic view of what is really important to you. As I noted, I will come back and address life planning in the future but for now I will focus on business suggestions and examples.
So, in the time you allocate to your business, what is your highest priority? You should try to come up with at least ten different things you could be focused on at any given time and then put them in order. Stay away from anything esoteric or that you actually can’t ‘do’. For example, you may say that your highest priority is ‘Exceptional Customer Service’. That sounds wonderful but if you now use your priority list to design your daily schedule, what will you do when the two-hour time slots says “Provide Exceptional Customer Service?” You need to break down how you provide that level of service and implement it. You may have on your priority list:
- Call Clients who returned this week – Welcome Home
- Call Clients who are departing this week – Bon Voyage
- Send Destination Details to clients who depart in three weeks
- Make movie suggestions to clients who leave in four weeks
- Make Music Suggestions for clients who leave in 2 months
- Send Pizza to Clients who get home next week
- Find Special Add-ons for Itineraries that finalized this week
You get the point – each of the above are specific functions that lead to Exceptional Customer Service. As I have noted, customer service is not going to be judged based on if you are a nice person but on the specific things you do to make the experience of working with you magical. The above list should be long, exhaustive and most importantly, unique. But that list is worthless unless you know the priority of all of those items and then calendar them accordingly.
While you may strive for your customers to rave about your customer service that may not actually be the true priority. Why do you want these raving fans? It could be because you want life time customers or that you want referrals or both. That then is your true priority. Or as you would expect from the sales guy – is your ultimate priority to hit some annual sales figure or income level? Indeed, if that is the case, once again you can’t schedule an hour on your daily planner that says ‘Sell $1,000,000 in cruises and tours’. That is a worthwhile goal and this whole process will be easier if you have set some goals to reach for. However, a priority is different than a goal as it establishes what is most important for you to accomplish today to meet that goal.
For example, in our business there is really only one way to make more money – talking to customers. What are your priorities to make that happen? How many calls are you going to schedule today? What marketing efforts are you going to spend time on today to be able to talk to even more people? Those will be the most important priorities to keep in mind as you continue to the next Time Management P.