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Raise your hand if you were excited when your alarm went off this morning.
For most of us, the prospect of another day of work can feel… daunting. There’s a lot to do, a lot of people to please, a lot of expectations to be met. It’s hard to sort out what matters, what doesn’t, and what’s going to propel us towards our larger goals—both for the present and the future.
And if any of that strikes a chord with you as much as it does for us, may we be so bold as to introduce you to our good friend Routine.
Let’s start with the cold, hard truth: if there were a one-size-fits-all routine for all salespeople, you wouldn’t be reading this post right now. You’d have read about this one great routine in some business publication we won’t mention here years ago, and no further discussion on the topic would be necessary.
But with some eight billion people in the world—and at least a few varying personalities among them—there’s going to be room for customization. What works for your friend three cubicles down may very well not work for you.
And that’s okay! It just means you need to do some research.
And in our experience, the best research starts with the people around you. Open up a line of communication with your manager, schedule a few one-on-ones with some of the top performers in your department, or just have a chat around the water cooler.
What you’ll quickly find is that most of the most successful people you know keep some sort of routine. Take from them what works for you, and then begin to refine it.
The easiest way to track what’s working for you and what isn’t is to keep a log of it. Most often, that looks like keeping a journal of your day.
Now, of course, we don’t expect you to be filling it with paragraphs of beautiful prose (although who doesn’t appreciate some good writing!). The idea is more that you’re tracking what you need to do at the beginning of the day, and then what you actually did by the end of it.
It can be as simple as a timestamp – “Talked to boss at 1:00p, reminded her of need for deadline extension.” Or as complex as detailed notes from one of those meetings that definitely could have just been an email.
As the Muse’s Jenna Apak puts it, “consider it the easiest (and cheapest) form of professional development you can find!”
If you’re having a hard time finding a place to start with your routine, take out that to-do list you’ve been working on (ahem), and let’s begin by prioritizing your activities for the day.
As Falon Fatemi tells us in an article for Forbes, just 28% of salespeople of salespeople actually follow some sort of structured time-management routine.
She goes on to divide the majority of work that salespeople do into three main categories: creative, monotonous, and analytical. And she suggests that we should structure our day around the optimal times to perform each. For example, analytical work should be done when our brain is at its most alert—for early birds that first thing in the morning, but for night owls, that might be much later on.
“Regardless of whether you are an early bird, a night owl, or a third bird,” Fatemi says, “it’s best to schedule your monotonous work during your midday troughs when you’re experiencing your low point in terms of alertness and focus.” Neuroscientific studies aside, the advice is really quite simple: take note of the times in the day when you’re the most “on,” and use them to your advantage. Likewise, don’t let that afternoon slump be a day-ruiner—instead, make it a chance to clear off the work that doesn’t take so much brain power.
Speaking of brain power, don’t rely on your own memory to be the source of your success. As sharp as any one of us may be, there are always going to be little things that slip through the cracks if we rely solely on “power of will.”
Here at Hoopla, we subscribe to the idea of putting everything in the calendar. The concept is about as straightforward as it gets: if it needs to get done, it goes on the calendar. From prospecting to texting someone “happy birthday,” give yourself the freedom of a calendar driven life.
It allows you to concretely outline everything that matters to you, and also give it the space to actually get done. If you find yourself constantly kicking proverbial cans down the road, this practice is an absolute must.
Another philosophy that we subscribe to pretty religiously around here is the concept of ditching your email at every chance you can.
Remember earlier when we mentioned all those meetings that could have been emails? Well how about all those emails that could have been anything else—if anything at all?
Email has this insidious way of taking up way more of our space than it deserves. We let the constant flood of notifications be an excuse to prioritize things that don’t matter. Get in the habit of making email what it should be: one part of your day. Schedule time to answer and read emails. But if it’s not on the calendar, just let it be.
Here in the U.S., we’re not so great at knowing when to call it quits.
As CNBC reported earlier this year, not even one third of Americans plan to max out their vacation days—and more startling, 13% of the U.S. workforce plans to take just a quarter or less of their allotted time off.
Reminding us of the eminent wisdom of Basecamp’s CTO, David Heinemeier Hansson, Hubspot’s Aja Frost reminds us that “some of the highest-achieving people in history — like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Charles Dickens, and Charles Darwin — prioritized sleep and a balanced schedule.” And what’s more, she goes on to say, “Breaks are scientifically proven to boost memory, focus, and the quality of your ideas.”
The last bit of advice we can offer for creating an effective routine is simply having that wisdom to say, “That’s enough for today.” Don’t feel guilty about—just take satisfaction in a calendar full of completed tasks, and routine that really is working for you.
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