Working From Home – Is this the best use of my time?

We travel coast to coast with our virtual tour business so we have developed a finely tuned system for living on the road. There is a strange phenomenon that we have noticed — when we are on the road, we get more work done, have more balance in our lives and make as much if not more money. When we are living out of suitcases and our car, we are forced to be methodical with our stuff and our time.

The time constraints of traveling somehow help us to streamline our work flow. Think about it…there’s no laundry to do, no cleaning, no big cooking, no making the bed or taking out the trash. We have no DVR on the road so we are forced to watch what’s on TV or turn it off.  Is it any wonder that we are giving up our apartment in 4 months so that we can travel full time?

When we are at home, it’s a different story. We are night owls so we do much of our work late at night. We usually shut our computers off around 10 or 11 pm and watch a little TV (well either a little TV or four episodes of Law and Order Special Victims Unit from our DVR).   I will set up in the office and then run clean the kitchen real quick before I start making calls. Well that and throw in a load of laundry…and put dinner in the crock pot. I eventually get to the computer but before I open SalesForce and my work email, I check Facebook one more time…well that and research to see when the next triathlon is…and read a few articles about how to train for a marathon that I will probably never run. On and on it goes until it’s noon and everyone I want to talk to is at lunch.

The key question I have to ask myself every day is simple…Is what I am doing the best use of my time right now? Notice the question was not, is this important but is this the best use of this particular moment in time. In sales, not every moment in time has the same value.

Our apartment photography business is aimed at providing high quality 360º virtual tours for businesses. Business owners have a strange tendency to be available during business hours only so that means that my sweet spot for catching a decision maker is somewhere between 10:00 and 3:00. I may get a few people earlier but chances they are doing their morning running around just like me. I may get some people after 3:00 but I have found that late afternoons generally find people running around to finish before the end of the day. With a finite set of prime hours, I have to make sure that I am doing the activities during those hours that will yield the greatest results/income.

It would be awesome if our phones rang off the hook with people wanting to order virtual tours but for now anyway, I have to prospect for new business. As the sales and marketing person for a virtual tour company, those prime daytime hours are for two things…Phone Time and Face Time. I will blog later about maximizing face time but for now let’s look at phone time.

Phone Time

To maximize my phone time, I need to sit down the day before and create a checklist so that I can start immediately and stay on task during the day. I use SalesForce as my contact management system and wish I was better at putting everything in there ahead of time but I work better with an old fashioned checklist. I put my calls on a legal pad that I set by my desk and I check off the boxes as I complete the task. Whatever works for you is fine but having a to-do list is vital to getting things done for me.

To be most efficient, I put the business name, contact person, website and phone number of the person I am to call right on my checklist. Anytime I make a phone call to a business, I pull up their website so I can be looking at it while I talk to them. Creating the list the night before familiarizes me with their website and expedites the time it takes for me to navigate it the next day.  Again, working from Sales Force might be more efficient but I have to do what works best for me! 

There is so much that I can do outside of those prime hours so I keep a sticky note near my computer with the question, “Is what I’m doing right now the very best use of my time?” If I find myself really distracted, then I put a reminder in my computer to pop up every hour or two that asks that question. If I am really not seeing the results I want in my sales, then I will examine my time even deeper.

As with everything else, you can’t expect what you don’t inspect so I learned a great way to be accountable for my time. I print out a daily calendar with 30 minute intervals for my prime hours. I write down what I think I can and should accomplish during the day. I then set a timer to go off every 30 minutes and when it dings, I write down what I was doing during the previous 30 minute period. This really forces me to examine how I am using my time and identify the rabbit holes that distract me .

Instead of getting to the end of the day and wondering where the time went, a little planning and prioritizing the night before can really work wonders to your bottom line. Because after all, when you are a business owner, you aren’t paid for how much you do, you are paid for how much you sell.