Pay attention. Pay attention to how you spend your time. The number of distractions you field every day is at an all time high. Never in our society have there been so many demands for your time and your gaze (yes, including this post. But it’s all good, keep reading). Everyone wants your attention, now. Everyone wants you to buy from them, now. Everyone wants something from you at all times of the day, and you have to learn how to say “no.”
So how do you do this? By paying attention to how you spend your time and by creating boundaries. You accomplish this by creating and following a daily plan. A daily plan is nothing more than a budget for your day. It’s a schedule for how you will spend your day. In my opinion, only eight to ten percent of recruiters who work for search firms or staffing agencies create a daily plan the day or night before, and I would also bet that these are the ones who are the top producers.
Here are four ideas:
1. First, create a budget for your day by using a daily plan. It’s not that hard to create one and won’t take a lot of time. Create a budget for your day on your daily calendar, such as your google or outlook calendar. Schedule batches of time by grouping similar activities with each other. For example, start your day with high priority calls. Schedule 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM on your daily calendar and write down those calls by name with candidates or clients with whom you have discussions leading to closed deals, such as interview preps, debriefs, deal-closing issues, and offers. Then segment out big blocks of time, like from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM to recruit for Acme Corp. Block out 1:30 – 3:00 PM to recruit for XYZ Corp. And then fill out the rest of your day in a similar manner, giving color codes to each activity. I use blue for candidate-related calls, green for client-related calls, gray for admin activities, and yellow for other items like coaching calls for my training business. Come up with a color code that works for you.
2. Print this document out. Now track your actions. Every time you do something that is not scheduled on that block of time, take a red felt pen and put a red dot in that box. So if you make a personal call when you are scheduled to make recruiting calls, put a red dot in it. If you check your email, put another dot. (you can schedule time for emailing and other admin items). If you get up from your desk to get a cup of coffee, put another dot. If you talk with your colleague about something, put another dot. (you can schedule time for breaks and in-office meetings). Some have asked me if this is extreme, and I would say yes it is. Success is extreme and requires extreme focus. “Good grief, do I really have to plan everything?” No, you don’t. You don’t have to do this if it is too uncomfortable and inconvenient for you. Stay average. I’m not in the business of convincing people to become successful. You either want it or you don’t. But if you want to truly reach your full potential, then try it and test it for two weeks and at that point decide if you are seeing performance improvement. The tighter the plan, the better your performance. This is why most recruiters won’t reach their full potential until they start paying attention to how they work.
The good news is that you don’t have to do this forever.Just change your habits a little, and get back on track and then use a skeleton outline for your day, such as high priority activities and calls. Once you see improvement in your focus and habits, then you can just stick to using the daily plan and not tracking everything. If you notice over time that your performance gets sloppy, then tighten it up a little bit by tracking everything for a few days. Just by doing this, there is an immediate improvement because you are paying attention to the management of your two greatest resources: your time and your energy.
Whenever firms bring me in for even just a few hours to spend time training their top producers, we talk about these issues and other performance issues. Once you know the business pretty well, then your training focus should shift to building resilience muscles, expanding your achievement beliefs, and developing success habits. The first time I did this exercise was when Winter Wyman, the largest search firm in Boston, invited me to train their search firm and their leadership team on time management. This was way back, probably in 2004 or 2005. I did some research on ‘time management’ and realized that no such thing exists. Time happens whether we like it or not. It’s ‘self management’ that needs to improve. The first time I did this exercise personally, I ended up with 18 red dots in the first hour of my calendar. Yeah, big wake up call. I do this from time to time once I start feeling like I am getting soft and sloppy in my own performance. I feel like I become a better person every day when I recruit. I am forced to reach my full potential and stretch my limits every day by working a desk.
By doing this exercise, there is another byproduct. Your self esteem increases. You accomplish little victories, and these build over time. It is how you become disciplined, by claiming success in one small area and transferring it to other areas. That’s why every page on my training site has my signature quote on it: “Recruiting is a personal development opportunity disguised as a business”. If you grow in your character, such as performance and work habits, you increase your billings.
3. Ask good questions. Ask questions to yourself such as, “What is the best use of my time, right now?” I first learned that from Brian Tracy (www.briantracy.com) in the mid 90’s when I got in the business. This question helps you to focus on where you should spend your time. Your hourly focus is a strategy issue and this is the second most important aspect of success in recruiting, based on my system. You need to spend time in the right areas with the right people, but you also need to make sure that you are spending your hours wisely. Your entire year is made up of a series of well-executed hours. Another good question is this: “Will this action take me closer to or further away from my goals?” If something is not taking you to your goal, it is taking you away from it. Got a great idea? Ask yourself that question to make sure you are on track with it.
4. Remove distractions. News flash: Unless you work in a niche where immediacy of response leads to same-day placements, such as some contract staffing and placement niches, then you are allowed to shut down email. When you block out a 90-minute period of focus time to reach people via phone, then only thing you should be doing is reaching people via phone. You can email them later. In fact, schedule your candidate emailing time in your calendar. Don’t call, write an email, proof the email, send the email, check for new messages on your email, read them, respond to them, and then finally make another call. You should call, call, call, call, call (and quickly document that call in your database) and then work on your email routines. This is also why you should automate email functions and delegate as much as you can to technology.
If you follow these four steps, I promise that you will see at least a twenty percent increase in your billings.
Copyright © 2015 Scott Love
Scott Love is a leading authority in the field of executive search and high level selling. In addition to working as a high-stakes headhunter for Washington law firms, he is a popular keynote speaker at sales meetings for all types of recruiting and sales organizations. Companies that want more influence with prospects hire him to speak at their sales meetings and conventions. To learn more how you can gain more influence with high-level clients, visit his website at www.scottlove.com.