Time management techniques for business developers
Realistic time management techniques to set you up for success. Drop mainstream tips and build your personal time management techniques.
Last week I had one of the busiest days in a while. I planned to meet a good old friend and I arrived 30 minutes late. The conversation was so nice that I was 5 minutes late for the next call. Just to end the day, I planned a tennis game with a new friend who waited for 40 minutes.
All that made me feel bad.
I analyzed the day, trying to figure out how I could possibly be so unorganized to have such a messy schedule. The conclusion was that I simply had poorly managed my time and that stressed me out. If I arrived at that point, I probably wasted a lot of time already in the previous days.
Something to be concerned about considering the number of things to do, so it became very urgent to do something about it. Of course, the first thing I did was to look for some time management techniques to help me get back on track.
I found some inspiration in one of our articles, but I’m too used to those techniques and they don’t work anymore with me.
I needed to get creative and look for some more realistic alternatives that could increase my focus and effectiveness. Something more tailored to my Personality, Habits, and Preferences. After all, a key skill in business development is precisely organization and time management.
It was time to revise my workflow and come up with a more sustainable solution to fix my time management problems. After some self-reflection, I created a simple process to build my own time management techniques.
I included some questions at the end of each section so you can create your personal time management techniques.
Personality: start with yourself
My problem with the most famous time management techniques is that they are too general and don’t take into account your personality. For example, some of them suggest to zone out and sort of “reclude” yourself to prevent distractions. But this really doesn’t work for me.
I’m way too sociable to just zone out and pretend the world outside doesn’t exist. On the contrary, I need to surround myself with people, to have a chat once in a while. You now, just get inspiration from the energy of those around me.
This surely does work for me!
After that day, I took some time to chill and reflect on my personality trying to figure out how I could adapt what I do, to who I am. This self-analysis highlighted many personality traits that somehow I didn’t embed in my work.
They just didn’t seem compatible.
Turn your personality into an asset
One thing that I realized is that a strong character or my personality is the feeling of responsibility. Every time I do something, especially it involves more people, I feel a strong sense of responsibility.
While sometimes it’s stressful, it’s actually a key driver for me because it makes me feel accountable. Besides, I feel terrible when my delays have an impact on other people. I decided to experiment a bit and came up with a small trick to trigger my responsibility feeling.
It’s a very simple thing, but that actually helped me progress on many projects that were just waiting for me. For the past 4 days, every time I write my to-do list, I include the name of the person that “depends” on my actions to move forward.
For example, instead of writing just “Finish webinar page” I now write “Finish webinar page for Andres”. Andres is the next guest in our webinar series and last Friday we came up with the idea and a date for it. The simple fact of seeing his name reminded me of the nice conversation we had. That boosted my enthusiasm and as a result, the event was live within just 2 days.
One small improvement, huge impact!
Habits: work with the ones you already have
One thing that for me is hard to follow with general time management techniques is that they require some change in your habits. Now, as a business developer, I love change, but only if it’s a sustainable one.
For me, sustainability means keeping up with the new things I want to achieve without getting tired or bored after one week…Which happened pretty much with all the previous time management techniques I tried.
So this time I was looking for something a bit more doable that wouldn’t make me feel guilty if I didn’t stick to the plan. But most importantly, something that would just come naturally.
Looking at my standard day, I spotted an opportunity in my day to day organization. Ever since I was a kid I loved waking up early – of course, there were cartoons at that time. That’s something that stayed with me while growing up and I still enjoy being up before everyone else.
During those first hours of the day, I have time to catch up with the news and see what’s going in the world. Usually, this habit prepares me for the day, however, I noticed that in the past weeks I abused it. Instead of starting working, I would just keep looking for more extra news that I absolutely had to read!
At some point, I remembered a saying that my elementary school teacher said all the time:
“Prima il dovere e poi il piacere”
Business before pleasure for the rest of you who don’t speak Italian and that kind of made sense to me. So I tried to play around with it and adapt it to my habits. In this case, I kept waking up early but I added a twist.
Instead of starting by reading the news I now start with one important work-related activity. There aren’t any distractions in the first hours of the day, so I’m generally more focused on my tasks. This new order of things makes me feel very productive and motivates me to keep going during the day.
Preferences: everyone likes different things
Last week I told a tennis mate that I would take classes on Tuesday mornings. Her reaction was a bit shocked: “Don’t you have to work?”, she said.
Of course I do, but I also prefer to be in control of my time.
It’s not about being your own boss, so you do whatever you want at whatever time. The whole idea of this exercise is to be aware of what we like and act consequently. Personally, I prefer to move the class in the morning so I have the entire day to focus on work.
When it comes to time management techniques, you will often read that you should, sit in a quiet place and reduce distractions. But what if you like to sit in a park, surrounded by noises, because that’s just how you work best?
In my case for example, sometimes I like to work from the couch after lunch. These past days I tried to be more mindful about my preferences and find a way to combine them with a more efficient way of working.
I’m testing a sort of categorization of the tasks based on how I will work in a given timeframe. To make it more practical, if I feel like working from the couch than I focus on writing content. I love writing. But I definitely need the inspiration to be able to do it and I tend to be more inspired when I’m relaxed.
So what I did was to make a list of my tasks, categorize them on different topics and attach a preference next to it. Now writing is in the “chill tasks” category and I’m allowed to sit on the couch after lunch only if I actually write something.
I will probably not only write content, but this exercise obliged me to be more aware of where I waste my time. And instead of fighting myself, I decided to embrace these preferences and restructure my workflow around them.
Create your own time management techniques
Working in business development can feel overwhelming at times and it doesn’t matter for how long you do it. It’s by nature an ever-changing field and we need to adapt quickly to new circumstances.
We often think that when things go wrong, it’s somehow external. But that couldn’t be more wrong. If you’re struggling to keep up with your work or, most likely the problem is you and you must take action.
After all, being a good business developer is not about being perfect. But being able to correct your behavior when you notice that it works against you.
So if you find yourself overwhelmed, take a step back and use this easy thought process to realign yourself with what you’re doing. To make it extra easy for you, this is how my spreadsheet looks like:
If you’re struggling with your business development tasks, just remember:
You’re not alone!
We are first and foremost a community of passionate business developers ready to support each other. So, feel free to join us and share your ideas, questions, or even just a rant once in a while. Sometimes it helps!
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