What does effective time management have to do with marketing? It is a well known syndrome that travel professionals, like other business people, often spend so much time involved in the day to day operations of their business that they spend far too little time actually thinking about their business. When schedules fill up, when there is no time left for planning and evaluation, business starts to flat line. Without effective time management skill, the travel agent has no time to think about their marketing plan or to evaluate the success of marketing efforts. Promotion of the business begins to take a back seat to running the business, marketing happens sporadically and in bursts rather than as part of a well-executed plan. Effective time management ensures that the time is available for marketing to get its appropriate allocation.
In our articles this week, we have looked at the importance of an activity journal and a to-do list. The next large consideration in time management is the concept of scheduling – how to block out time in every day/week/month to accomplish the items on the to-do list as well as the unexpected and the non-itemized demands on your time that are part of being a travel consultant. Here again, there are great tools available to assist you in your scheduling efforts – day planners, on-line calendars, PDAs and tools like Outlook. I’m a Mac user and I depend heavily on iCal and Reminders which sync between my desktop, laptop and iPhone. Find a tool that you are comfortable using, and discipline yourself to its use. Most of us tend to use such tools sporadically rather than fully and systematically. The more dedicated we are to whatever time management aids we adopt, the more successful our time management skills will be.
Begin by outlining the largest blocks of time – probably your work day. Next, identify those tasks that you do every day, but which are routine enough that you probably do not list them in your to-do list – returning phone calls, filing, reading and answering email, meeting with clients, travel research and planning itineraries, office meetings. Block out those times on your calendar and try to do the same things at the same time each day/week/month. In other words, set aside a time for reading and answering email, perhaps a couple of times a day. Then, focus on that one task during the scheduled time. Set aside your preferred time to meet with clients – then schedule all of your client meetings, to the extent possible, within the allotted time. While it will be necessary from time to time, even frequently, to adjust your schedule to accommodate a client or some other unexpected event, by blocking out times for specific tasks you can focus, bringing all of your attention to bear on the job at hand.
Be sure to block out time for the unexpected. Group your blocks of time with 10 to 15 minutes between tasks not only for contingencies, but also for a personal break – time to get up, stretch, walk – to refresh yourself. You will return to your desk in better shape to hit the next time allocation.
On a regular basis, work your to-do list into your schedule. Fit each item into its appropriate time allocation.
Finally, schedule 5 – 10 minutes at the end of each day to clear your desk and organize the next day. You will thank yourself the following morning.
Now…it’s time to get to work…