All Together Now Travel — Poor time management is killing me

Posted on by in Travel Agent Diaries

The temptation when you agree to do a column such as this, is to choose topics that place you and your agency in a good light. However, I know that over the years I have personally learned much more when people have had the courage to share their challenges. It allowed me to relate and to brainstorm ways to overcome their obstacles for myself.

So in th spirit of service to others I will look straight into my imaginary reality TV camera – fall on my sword and proclaim…”Hi – my name is Barbara Oliver and I suck at time management!”

I don’t know about you, but I have some days where I sit at my computer from the very early morning till the evening – and at the end of the day, I look around and wonder what the heck I’ve accomplished. I felt busy all day. I answered emails, did research, I listened to a webinar – and, oh yeah, I checked Facebook a few times (or 10). But at the end of the day, did I actually book anything? After all – that is what pays the bills! Normally I would be mortified to admit that in an open forum – except that I spoke with two different colleagues today that lamented the same thing! All of us shared the same frustration of just not being able to find our “oomph” to get anything accomplished.

Let’s face it, working in the non-traditional setting of a home office is a blessing and a curse. For me, I like the idea of the flexibility; but I have also found that I am mentally in work mode for more hours than if I had sold my soul to the corporate world. While that flexibility is supposed to afford me the ability to have lunch with a friend and take vacations at will, I find I rarely do either guilt free. So with no physical breaks, I mentally escape into the readily accessible social networks a little too often, for a little too long, during the day.

Another point–technology has definitely changed the way we interact with our world. Many years ago I used to get up in the morning, grab the paper (remember them?) and a cup of coffee, and sit in the sunny window to catch up with the community news. I might get a few household chores done along with a shower before I fired up the computer for the day. Now I grab my coffee and go to my computer to check in with the world.  Once at the computer it’s way too easy to get sucked into the cyberspace of world events and “quickly checking email.” The next thing I know it’s 2pm and I realize that not only have I not eaten anything – I haven’t even showered or changed into real clothes yet!

Paradoxically, what I think I am finding is that the more time I spend in front of the computer, the more ineffective I become. I think it is simply burnout. There is no official start or end to my day and since I don’t really give myself any time “off” – I end up taking many more mental breaks that rob me of accomplishing any real goals for the day.

So instead of making grandiose proclamations about how I am going to turn over a new leaf, I think I am going to break this down into a series of doable steps that will hopefully build upon each other. My first step will be to do something just a little counterintuitive and actually limit my work hours. This will force me to work more effectively during the correct time of day. And secondly, instead of logging on at 6am, I will concentrate on my personal task list and be showered and dressed for the start of work at 8am. I do not want to open any emails prior to 8am as that just allows an opportunity for others to seize control of my day.

Two small, easy to accomplish steps for the next 30 days, which I hope will help me begin to take back control of my time. Anyone care to join me? Anyone have any tips?

Barbara Oliver is a 8 year veteran of the industry operating two independent travel companies All Together Now Travel and Romantic Journeys (both currently being redesigned) in the Los Angeles Area.  In addition to her agencies she is theLos Angeles director of NACTA as well as a regular attendee and frequent panelist at many trade shows. She has her CTA from The Travel Institute and her ECC from CLIA.

  17 thoughts on “All Together Now Travel — Poor time management is killing me

  1. 1Brenda says:

    Oh Barbara! I can completely relate, I’ll join you on the 30 day challenge, I know it means I’ll have to plan ahead in order to get off my social networks too! What have these computers done to us?

  2. 1Marie Eatman says:

    Barbara I am right there with you! Thank you for sharing, I thought I was the only one, lol!!!

  3. 1Terri Kusche says:

    Thank You- I know I would like to be better at accomplishing my goals. I think using a check list of the 5 most important things to do today might be helpful too. I’m in for 30 days!

  4. 1Patti says:

    Barbara, I’m right there with you. I find I take mental breaks when I can’t figure out my next step or am frustrated and need to step away. Instead of doing it physically, I turn to FB, travel forums, etc. When I have turned to the healthier alternative of walking away, it surprises me how much better I feel. I’m just stubborn and comfy in my big ‘ole office chair. I made the bold move of taking the night off last night after dinner…a rare move on my part. I was anxious…I gotta admit, but I got through it. What a dope I am sometimes. Anyways…thanks for shining the light on this dirty little secret.

  5. Hi Barbara. I, too, thought it was just me. Sitting here at 8:30, still not dressed in real clothes, I finished reading and immediately went in to get that done. Yes, there are days (to many) when I look up and it’s 2pm and I am still dressed for bed. The problem I find is that, being in Los Angeles, if I don’t tackle certain emails vefore 8am, my partners in Europe and beyond are ending their days and then I lose a day waiting for a response. But, I pledge to look at emails, and only respond to urgent ones before getting myself ready for the day. I hope you will be posting throughout the next 30 days!

  6. Count me in. I need some time management intervention, for sure. Setting limits on how much I work would be challenging, but I am ready to try.

  7. 1Carolyn Waffle says:

    Hi Barbara, I am breathing a sigh of relief to know that someone has been able to put into words the pattern of my day! Thank you! I too will join you on this 30 day challenge. One thing that I will be doing for sure is turn off the technology I’m not using unless it is a task that I am performing. Especially Email and facebook. I too check my email first thing and not only does it control the flow of your day, it can also control the mood of your day. This weekend, I plan to take control of my FB and Twitter posts by scheduling them. Then I’ll have no need to look there except to reply to my replies and will schedule that as well. Ok.. so that’s the plan. I’ll check in on Monday and let you know if I succeeded, or was yet again distracted! :)

  8. 1Barbara Oliver says:

    Wow – guess I struck a chord this morning! I am happy to report that I actually am fully showered and dressed and have yet to open my email! Whew – one day down! :)

    Audrey I am right there with you on the balancing act being a west coast agent. It’s hard because if we don’t start until 9am it’s already 12 on the east coast and by 2pm our time many of their offices are closing for the day. We’ll have to brainstorm ways to address that!

    It’s funny – I thought about starting a Facebook Group for those of us to gather that wanted to tackle this issue together – but then thought that might be like trying to hold an AA meeting in a liquor store! I am open to suggestion!

  9. WOW – this is me! My colleague and I discuss this issue all the time together, complaining about not having enought time in the day.

    She mentioned something the other day that made me realize it’s not just MY time management… One issue with our industry is that we can have a to-do list and plan out our day, but that one phone call asking to cancel or change a last-minute reservation can alter our entire afternoon. Our tasks may be simple, but we are too often interrupted with new phone calls and emails and sort-of forced with ADD, even if we don’t really have it (attention deficit disorder). One little snag with the computer and now we are sitting on hold for an hour with Disney. So I think, “Well there goes me returning those two phone calls. Guess I will do some invoicing.”

    I do use self-control and limit time on social media unless I’m posting an update on my business page. Now, another thing I did to control reading the news online, which was my problem, is don’t set MSN or Yahoo as your homepage. I would often open a new tab to check a price with a vendor and 30 minutes later still reading news that I can watch at 5pm when I’m off work.

    Ok back to work. :)

  10. 1Lori Derauf says:

    Great article, Barb. I agree with Shelley that our best intentions of getting things done can change quickly. That happened to me today and the issue took 2.5 hours to work itself out. I moved my office out of my house last year. I always checked my email before going to bed and first thing in the a.m. I often sat at my computer on the weekend because the work was right in front of me. I was surprised after moving my office that my computer didn’t blow up and the world didn’t come crashing down. I still put in lots of hours but now when I’m home I’m home. One other trick I use is to look through the trade emails and sites for 30 minutes in the a.m. while enjoying my coffee or right before I leave for the day. After that its time to get focused and down to business. My office is tucked away in the back of a business park so I don’t get walk in traffic and I don’t have posted hours. Its the best of both worlds.

  11. Ok, I failed the first day. Here it is 9:51 PM and I am still here. Walk away from the computer, Audrey. We definitely should have a meeting for people like us.

  12. 1Pam Hallberg says:

    Amen, sister. After reflecting on the same issues last week, I too decided to limit my work hours and to set clear weekly goals for myself hoping to be more efficient.

  13. Hit again today with last minute changes and a visit from a supplier, as well as last minute emergency request from client leaving next week. On a happy note, I was showered and dressed by 9! Progress.
    Forward….

  14. 1Barbara Oliver says:

    Yeah Audrey! I too had my day start out properly for the second day in a row! (and don’t beat yourself for working later than you wanted – I did too!).

    We really do have many challenges in this job – glad I am not taking this journey alone!

  15. Huge news: I quit yesterday at 6:30 and went out to dinner with a friend. OK so a client called while I was out, but I answered her question briefly and then said I was out to dinner and would call her back!

    Dressed by 9:30 this morning. I’m excited!

  16. 1Barbara Oliver says:

    Anyone else feel like we could use a support group? :)

  17. 1Kim Vu says:

    It’s so true with me too!! I am so glad that you shared and feel so relief that I am not alone. My time management skill that I used to have had has deteriorated, for me I blame aging!

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