One of my clients recently told me that he feels like he’s drifting. “It’s like the wind pushes me through the whole day. I’m not in control. It is. And most of the time, when I get to the end of the day, I don’t like where I’ve been. I want to stop that.”
“I’m not sure it’s really possible to stop it completely,” I replied, “but I do think you can minimize it. And that all starts by being proactive rather than reactive.” Let’s consider this. When your business is predicated on customers and customer service, there will always be times when reactive issues are your top priorities. For example, if a machine goes down when you’re running a rush job for your most important customer, reacting to that situation probably goes right to the top of the list. But that’s not always a drifting situation.
Let’s consider Printer A, who starts off the day with a plan – an hour’s worth of organization from 8 am to 9 am, including the daily production meeting, then the rest of the day divided into 2-hour blocks. From 9 am to 11 am, his plan is to work on estimates. From 11 am to 1 pm, the plan is to cover the front counter and the phones while his CSRs cycle out to lunch. From 1 pm to 3 pm, the plan is to make sales calls, and from 3 pm to 5 pm, to review the day’s activities, make sure everything’s in place for the next day, and deal with any other issues that have come up during the day.
Printer B, on the other hand, starts the day off with no particular plan in mind. He has a vague sense of the work that’s on his desk – estimates, orders, things he needs to order, etc. – but beyond that, his “plan” is to deal with whatever issues come up during the day. He sees himself more as a fireman than a manager, and he never seems to run out of fires that need to be put out.
I think it’s obvious that Printer B is a drifter, and that Printer A is going to get more accomplished in a typical day. The bigger question, though, is whether you are Printer A or Printer B – or more likely, whether your approach to your business falls somewhere in between those two extremes. I know a few (though not many) printers who are as proactive and well-organized as Printer A. Sadly, I know quite a few printers who are as reactive – and disorganized – as Printer B.
Blocks and Hats
If you’re somewhere in between those extremes, I would suggest that a combination of “block” and “hat” strategies might be your best approach to avoid drifting. This starts with the understanding that you do wear a number of hats: the General Manager hat, the Strategic Planner hat, the CFO hat and possibly the Accounting Clerk hat too, just to name a few.
My recommendation is to set up specific times to wear each hat. For example, you might set up your day in blocks like Printer A. From 9 am to 10 am could be your Estimator block, and from 10 am to 11 am could be your CFO/Accounting Clerk block. From 11 am to 1 pm could be your Counter & Phones block, and from 1 pm to 3 pm could be your Sales Block. From 3 pm to 5 pm could be your General Manager block, and every Wednesday, you could put on your Strategic Planning hat for an hour as part of that block.
The basic idea here is that you put on each hat during specified times each day, and while you’re wearing that hat, you only do work that’s connected to that function of your business. In other words, if a General Manager issue comes up 30 minutes into your Sales Block, you don’t automatically put that sales work aside to deal with the new issue. Instead, you evaluate the urgency of the new issue, and unless it’s something urgent and important, you set it aside and deal with it next time you’re scheduled to put on your General Manager hat.
To summarize all of this, it’s probably not possible to keep yourself from drifting at least a little bit from all that you could and should be doing when managing your business. Although, it is possible to take more control of your day. I hope you’ll find my “block” and “hat” strategies will be effective ways to accomplish that.