Things were a bit different when Neil Sedaka recorded “Calendar Girl” in 1961. It was before my parents’ glory days: Woodstock, free love and Vietnam War protests. And I’m guessing at the time there were not many women doing what I do in procurement. I’m not even sure there was such thing as procurement. But I digress. Why am I a “calendar girl”? Read further.
My girlfriend Melissa looked at my Outlook calendar last week and said, “I’ve never seen a schedule look like this. How do you pack so much into a day? You probably accomplish more in a day than I do in a week. I could never be this disciplined. I like to have lots of unscheduled time.”
I didn’t break into song, but Melissa’s comment got me to thinking about my calendar habits. Am I crazy when it comes to my schedule? Absolutely. Is that a good thing? That’s debatable. I should probably schedule more bathroom breaks and sparkling water time. Is it good to schedule open blocks of time? If it helps me to be more creative and to come up with new solutions, yes. If it causes me to be unproductive and distracted from reaching my goals, no.
I believe managing time well is an important factor to success. Roger Blumberg is one of the most successful sales people I know. Why? One reason is that he blocks out time for his most important tasks every day. He doesn’t alter or make excuses. He does the work he needs in the allotted time. He’s what I might call a “calendar boy.” Like modern day calendar people, he is disciplined, goal-driven and manages his time well.
What is calendar time? I focus a lot of attention on maintaining and building my network. Leveraging my connections helps me get introductions to key supply chain decision makers who refer me business. My network is willing to make introductions for me because I add value and have established credibility. I block out 30 minutes in my schedule each day to stay in touch with my network by sending text messages, emails and handwritten notes. If I didn’t have time blocked in my calendar for this, it would fall to the bottom of my list because I would tell myself I have higher priorities.
After 12 Gregorian calendar years of honing my skills, I bestow the following wisdom:
- Be energetic but not crazy. I demo our print procurement software a lot, but I used to demo it a lot more, like eight to 10 demos per day. I think it was killing me. Find your peak performance time each day instead. Schedule your most important tasks during your peak performance time so you are at your best energy level. I perform best in the mornings, so I schedule my most intense work, thinking and meetings before noon.
- Avoid attending meetings whenever possible. In my mid-20s, I realized I was wasting time sitting in meeting after meeting. I stopped joining unless I had evidence that I could benefit from said meeting — secretive, highly classified, life-or-death stuff that could not be communicated in an email. Needless to say, I don’t attend too many meetings any more.
- Keep meetings and phone calls to 30 minutes. Buyers are busy. Asking for 60 minutes of someone’s time is an instant turn off. Half an hour is a much more manageable for someone to commit to.
- Leave 30 minutes between calls. I called a client at my scheduled time, expecting him to be alone. He wasn’t. He was currently engaged in a channel partner meeting with other clients. Suddenly, I was interrupting their meeting. The client was forced to apologize to the other party and to me, and I was asked to hang up and call later. This could have all been avoided if the client had left 30 minutes between meetings, leaving a grace period. Of course, we can’t control our clients’ meeting schedules, but you can make sure this does not happen on your end.
- Schedule time every day for prospecting. This is a pain but one of the most important parts of the sales process. I schedule one hour early in the morning to prospect during each weekday. I schedule two to four hours for prospecting on Sundays. I spend part of this time on LinkedIn. I think it’s a great way to find who’s connected to your prospects and to ask for introductions.
- Put everything on your calendar. Block out your day to stay on track. Use your calendar as your daily guide. Follow it closely and schedule your most important tasks first. It feels good to get them done. I feel relieved and less stressed once my key assignments for the day have been completed. I include my workouts, dinners at my parents’ house and time on social media.
- Send meeting reminders the night before. Before I close my computer for the day, I review my schedule for the next. I send an email or text reminder to each person with our meeting details. This prevents me from wasting time by showing up to a meeting that does not exist. I’ve had several buyers say, “Thank you for the reminder. I would have missed the meeting.” I think these people may need a calendar.
- Make time to write. I write for two publications, so I have articles due every month. I schedule time to research and write.
This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of PS Magazine.