Thanks to all of our time-saving devices, today’s businessperson has less free time than ever. Still, there are times when your To-Do list is up to date – or at least under some degree of control – or you’ve got a few free minutes before your next activity. To be as productive as possible, I’ve created a quick life hack that I rapidly run through to fill those few minutes with tasks that make my life better. I think they’ll work for you, too.
1. Call your clients and ask, “How’s business?”
Most client calls are organized affairs with agendas and intentions. But now and again it’s good to pick up the phone and ask how things are going. Sure, you don’t always get an answer on the first ring, but when you do these unprompted conversations sometimes provide insight, occasionally provide new business opportunities, and always improve relationships.
2. Check your online status.
A few free minutes is the perfect time to zip through your various online personas and make sure everything’s working. Create a quick road map where you look yourself up on Google, log into your Facebook and LinkedIn pages, check up on Twitter and Pinterest, scroll through your website’s pages, and even take a quick look at your YouTube videos. This run-through is not the time to respond to queries or read all the collected LOLs — it’s just an opportunity to look for broken links, spam postings or disabled clips that you can repair quickly.
3. Reduce your piles and stacks.
After just a few days of work, my desk, wallet, briefcase, and pockets are littered with little stacks of little papers. Business cards, receipts, notes to myself, and articles I’ve clipped out of magazines to read or send to someone. All I need is a few free minutes to process these, so I don’t lose the information and can reduce the clutter around me.
Business cards get scanned into my contact database on Outlook and added to my blog distribution list on LinkedIn. To make this as easy as possible, I use CardMunch, an iPhone app that gathers the information from the card and imports information about each person from LinkedIn.
Receipts get scanned into Expensify, an easy to use cloud-based program that makes simple work of managing my various expense accounts.
Notes, scraps of paper, and articles go into Evernote, a cross-platform program that allows me to save, track, and recall all my memos and brainstorms on my phone, tablet, and laptop. And if I add relevant tags to my notes they become easily retrievable even when I can’t remember specifically what I wrote.
4. Send Thank You Notes
In his 1985 classic, Service America, Dr. Karl Albrecht wrote about his “high-tech/high-touch” approach, suggesting that as businesses use more and more technology, it became more important to personally interact with their customers. For example, I’m happy to use my bank’s ATM and online bill pay to take care of most of my banking needs, but when I have a problem I want to talk to a real person who knows my name and can help me.
Thanks to Dr. Albrecht’s book, I’ve become a believer in hand-written notes. Sure my clients and contacts can access our work on our website and web-enabled management system, read about our doings on this blog, and of course we keep in touch via emails and SMS messages. But every now and then it’s good to pull out a pen and write on a piece of real paper, stick on a real stamp and drop it in the mail. If nothing else, you know it’ll pop out on the recipient’s desk.
My good friend, Terry Bell, often responds to my Facebook posts with a single word, “Breathe.” It’s good advice and something I try to remember as often as possible. I suggest you try it when you have some spare time, too.
Or maybe when you don’t have the time.