Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2010   by Laurie Izgerean, Curriculum Designer, Durham College

Time Management Skills

Knowledge Building:

Former Chrysler CEO and business guru Lee Iococca once said, “If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important, and then give it all you’ve got.”

Nothing can accurately sum up the essence of time management better than that statement. Various management experts suggest that a business can transform itself from mediocre to highly efficient when the principles of priority, organization, and commitment are followed by each employee.

We all know we can’t manufacture more time. There are only so many minutes in an hour, so many hours in a day, and so many days in a week. If you want an entire business to become more efficient, then each person within that business also has to become more efficient. The whole will only be as great as the sum of its parts.

Long ago an Italian economist created Pareto’s Law, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. Your parts department probably earns 80% of its profits from 20% of its customers. Your parts driver may spend 80% of his time delivering only 20% of the possible parts of an automobile.

What do you do 80% of the time on the job?

The answer should be, “I spend 80% of my time on what benefits the department the most.” If you’re in outside sales, 80% of your time should be spent selling. If you’re a parts counterperson, 80% of your time should be spent communicating with customers. If you’re a parts driver, 80% of your time should be spent on deliveries. Break it down further and that’s six hours out of an eight-hour shift that should be focused on the main tasks associated with your job title.

The first step in successful time management is the ability to prioritize. Consider your day’s tasks and separate them into three categories: important, urgent, and complex. Creating a to-do list at the beginning of every day can help you be accountable to yourself. For example, if paperwork is an important part of your day but not your main responsibility, make sure you’re not spending 80% of your day on it.

Organization is another necessary component of effective time management, but beware of the perfectionist mindset. If you spend 80% of your time organizing your tasks and only 20% actually working on them, that’s not effective either.

Once you’ve separated your tasks into the categories of important, urgent, and complex, you can then organize the most effective way to accomplish them. This may include delegating another employee to handle something if someone isn’t qualified or available, or it may mean assembling a team to conquer a complex issue together. When you work within a team environment like a parts department, your goal is interdependence between employees. When people learn to work together according to their strengths, not weaknesses, tasks not only get done on time, they get done well.

Commitment is the third step related to time management, and perhaps it’s the most crucial–without it, the possibility of procrastination can set in. Procrastination is when you put off a required task in favour of doing something more enjoyable. Remember the 80/20 rule? Procrastination means you spend 80% of your time working on the things that only produce 20% of what you should be doing, and it is one of the biggest time-wasters out there.

Fear can be a huge factor in both lack of commitment towards tasks and the procrastination of them. We often put off what we’re afraid of.

It could be that a difficult customer needs to be called because a special-order part has been discontinued and even though you said it would be here by Friday, it’s not going to be.

You begin your day with the call on your important to-do list. The day comes and goes and you’ve found every reason to place other tasks in front of that phone call. An important thing to do has now become an urgent thing to do as Friday draws near. The result? Stress, lack of focus, and wasted time when the call could have been taken care of in a few minutes.

Learning how to say no is an important factor of time management that falls within the commitment step. If you have committed to complete a task within a specified time frame and something comes up that prevents you from honouring that commitment, learn to say no wherever and whenever possible.

You can do this in a variety of ways: say no directly; say no and offer an alternative person to handle it; offer a trade (if you help me with this I’ll have enough time to help you with that). Additionally, if it’s a request that has come from your boss and you don’t have time to take on any more for the day, ask which task is most important to him and enlist his assistance in readjusting the day’s priorities together. Do you know who originally said the famous phrase, Time is Money? It was Benjamin Franklin back in the 1700s. So as much as things have changed in a few hundred years, certain things related to business have remained the same.

When you manage your time with priority, organization, and commitment, you become more effective, efficient, and less stressed. It is when every employee is working most efficiently that a business can become most profitable.

For more information on inside sales training, visit CARS OnDemand training at contact CARS at 1-888-224-3834

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