Monday, 25 November 2013

Take Time to Make Time

If you Google time management techniques you get 99 Million results! Obviously a lot of people are searching for the Holy Grail and there are a lot of opinions on how to find it. Let’s make it 99 million and 1 by adding my 5 cents worth on “Time Management”.
Having sat in and even delivered my fair share of Time Management sessions I’ve often pondered why the penny drops for some however others go back to their messy desks and pending deadlines. You get 24 hours every day just like everyone else, so why is it that some people seem to have much more time even with the same workload?

It comes down to a lot of things but the first thing I am going to suggest is you forget the term ‘time management’ altogether and instead rephrase it to ‘Time Prioritisation Effectiveness’. You can’t manage time as it is a fixed commodity, you can’t save it up, trade it or buy more. You start each day with 24 hours, 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds which is the same amount of time as Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking and even that delivery guy that just brought you your pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

You wouldn’t set off on a journey across the country without knowing the route you are going to take or more importantly where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Before you get started, you would sit down and think about all the things you want to do along the way, like stopping to see the world’s largest ball of string or eating at the famous hamburger joint in the middle of Timbuktu. You would know why you are taking the trip and that would frame the time between your start and finish. Work is the same, each day you are on a journey; you know when you are starting and where you want to end up. Unfortunately, too many people are on the kind of trip that Chevy Chase would take on one of his National Lampoon vacations. They turn up for work, turn on their computer and let work happen. The phone rings, they get an email or a co-worker calls a meeting and the day unfolds as it happens, often very reactively and at the end of the day you are left thinking where did my day go and I feel like I have achieved nothing. 
The most effective thing I have personally implemented every day is to take time to make time.  It seems crazy when you are already out of control and struggling to get things done to add more to your schedule however this little technique will really help save you time and give you a strong sense of achievement daily.
Before starting each day spend 15 – 30 mins planning your time. Don’t turn on your computer; don’t look at your emails; just find a quiet space away from any distractions and map out your day. What has to be done, what to you need to prioritise and what do you want to achieve. You need to write this down and make sure you put it somewhere you can see throughout the day to make sure you stay on track. This may be in the form of a basic to-do list, a fancy electronic gadget or even by putting events into your calendar. It is also important not to plan more than 50% – 60% of your day. This will allow you to be reactive when you need to and still accomplish your daily goals.
You need to be selfish and protective of your time, something I personally struggle with. By knowing what you need to achieve and how long you have to do it, you will be better placed to tell a co-worker that you are going to have to miss a meeting or help them with their online shopping. It’s not being rude, it’s being effective and with time you will get better at this.
Possibly the worst distraction can be your mobile phone and emails. If you have a pressing deadline or an important task to accomplish, turn them off.  This is not something that comes easily to a lot of people as they fear that by being ‘cut off’ from the outside world they could miss that important opportunity or even worse a Facebook status update. There are plenty of tools like out of office messages and voicemail that can be utilised to relieve you of this concern. Once you get in the habit of turning off these devices for short periods throughout the day you will be amazed at how you ever survived before it.
Before you get started with your day, you should prime yourself for success by ensuring you are in a happy and positive mindset. Have you ever noticed when you roll out of bed in a bad mood and you say to yourself ‘today is going to be one of those days’ it often is? That’s because you are priming yourself to focus on the negative, your brain recognises this and screams out ‘found one’! Watch a funny video, talk to a loved one or write down your 3 gratitudes, as detailed in my blog ‘The Sky is Falling”, before you start your day and you will become more effective.
At the end of the day it is then important to take stock, go back and revisit your list to see what you have achieved and what you haven’t. Think about what worked and what didn’t, and write down anything that needs to be addressed the following day. By writing down this information and leaving it behind, you are able to mentally check out and leave any work related stress at the office. It should stop you from waking up at 2 in the morning thinking about that one thing you forgot to do.
There are literally thousands of tips out there for how to effectively manage your time. Find what works for you and stick with it. Give yourself sometime to get used to your new habits and before you know it you will be in control of your day.

What works for you? Please comment and share your thoughts on how you get the most out of your day.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Putting the Zing back in your Thing

Life as a recruiter  has its ups and downs from the joyous highs of making that big placement in that unfillable role to the demoralising lows when a candidate takes a counter offer, or worse still the client pulls a job when you are so close to making a placement you can almost taste the Champaign.  It really can be an emotional roller coaster and I have certainly seen my share of good recruiters’ burn out throughout my career.  Knowing this how can you avoid the rollercoaster or more importantly how can you use this knowledge to make you even more successful?
It is important to remember that stuff happens; sometimes things are completely beyond our control and no matter what you do or don’t do it’s still going to happen.  Its part of being a recruiter, and life for that matter, and accepting that it does happen helps reduce the size of the emotional effect when things do go wrong. 
One thing you can do to lessen the impact is to make sure you are always prepared.  Always have a plan B and in some cases a C and D.  Make sure you stay close to your candidates and clients, and trial close them throughout the process.
I personally believe the more you communicate with your client and candidates throughout the placement process the more likely you are going to be able eliminate the unknowns like internal candidates, hiring freezes, change of manager, promotion, other job interviews  etc.
It is really important to always keep the end goal in mind, which is the successful placement of a candidate.  Everybody loves a happy candidate and a happy client.  I hear a lot of recruiters complain about doing reference checks or writing candidate reports and other administrative tasks.  This attitude is counterproductive and can affect your overall job satisfaction and happiness.  By focusing on why you are doing these tasks and relating it to the bigger picture your motivation and focus will improve.   You will look forward to doing these tasks as you will feel like you are getting closer to your end goal.
It’s important to know what your motivation is; why do you recruit?  Are you purely doing it to make money, do you just love working with people or is it something more intrinsic like the feeling you get from making real positive change in someone’s life?  Whatever it is you need to focus on this daily and align it to everything you do. 
Personally there is nothing better than knowing you have done everything possible to find the best possible person for your client and the perfect opportunity for your candidate.  The most enjoyable part of the job is visiting a candidate a year into their new role and hearing about all the success they have had and knowing that you were the one that made this happen.
One of my favourite quotes is ‘Where your Focus goes, Energy flows’.  Focus on your end goal and not only will your energy flow but you will put the zing back in your thing.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Sky Is Falling

If you’ve read a newspaper or watched the news lately you have no doubt been bombarded with bad news stories about how poorly the economy is doing and how tough things currently are.  Sure, the economy is certainly not booming but the oversaturation of negative news items would have you believe that the sky is falling!  A story about a global company moving 200 jobs offshore will almost certainly always lead a story about another company employing 200 people.   
With all this negativity being thrust in front of us daily, it is hard not to get caught up in it or to let your personal outlook become slightly more pessimistic.  I often bump into people in the street and the conversation usually leads to the standard ‘so how’s business doing’ small talk which is more often than not responded to with an ‘it’s really tough out there’ reply.  You can see their body language change and hear the appearance of a depressed tone in their voice.  I am sure many of you have been guilty of uttering these words sometime in the past few months.
When you utter these words, subconsciously you are telling yourself on a cognitive level that your results or lack thereof is because it’s a tough market.  In a way you are telling yourself that it doesn’t matter what you do, you are going to fail and that’s because that’s the environment you are currently working in.
So how do we respond to this?  A lot of companies and individuals believe that the only way to beat this is to increase their KPIs; make more calls, see more clients, work, work, work.  Whilst this approach can and will occasionally work, you are still subconsciously carrying around the cognitive belief that ‘it’s tough out there’ so ‘I will fail’.  It’s easier to make excuses and ultimately leave you downtrodden, in some cases quite depressed.
So what’s the secret?  How do you increase results?  Happiness – yes happiness.  A lot of us have been trained to believe that happiness comes when you are successful, the truth is and it has been scientifically proven, that happiness leads to success and not the other way around.  Shawn Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage gives countless evidence around the science of Positive Psychology and I strongly suggest grabbing yourself a copy or at the very least take a look at his TED talk on YouTube. 
One effective tool is to start everyday by writing down 3 things you are grateful for and why.  It can be difficult at first but over time it will get easier as you program your brain to look out for all the positives in your life. This will make an amazing difference and prime you every day to be more successful.  It will help you be more optimistic and see the opportunities rather than the negatives and road blocks.
Everybody sees the world differently and your map of the world is unique, it’s been shaped by events in your life, the people around you and how you have reacted or responded to different experiences.  The great news is by changing your perspective and understanding your filters, you really can change the way you see the world.  One study shows that doctors who have been primed for happiness (put in a happy mood) before making a diagnosis not only made the right diagnosis faster (nearly twice as fast) but that they were also more creative.

Are you setting yourself up for failure or success?