Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Single Best Time Management Tip Ever

time mgmntMost of us spend our lives at war with time–and time usually wins.  We’ve all read books and some of us have taken several courses on the subject as well, and, for the most part the books and courses seem to rehash the same common sense. But still, the feeling of being overwhelmed and under-productive is constant.

The big breakthrough came after I had read an article written by a teacher whose student had severe dyslexia and had asked for help.  Not knowing what to do, the teacher turned to an expert on learning disorders, and was advised to let the student take the exam in the teachers office, giving him short breaks every 20 minutes.  The student did very well, and surprised and intrigued by this the teacher went on to develop a technique known as the Multiple Put down Technique.

Having read his article, I’ve used this technique myself on any project I’ve worked on and it works!

How does it work?

The most important thing to remember about this technique is that the gold is in the details, so follow the instructions exactly.  No matter what project or task you decide to work on, make sure to work the  task in 20-minute increments, with absolute focus, and then put it down, over and over, until you’re done, in order to do this properly make sure to:

  • Alert your brain that a task is coming that will require its recall, creativity, and brilliance (yes, your brain is brilliant).  Then let some time pass–maybe, a day.
  • When you’re ready to start, set a timer for 20 minutes, such as the stopwatch feature on a smart phone.  Set your mobile phone to airplane mode, turn off your email, and silence all other distractions.  Then hit start on the timer.
  • During the 20 minutes, you must focus on that task without interruption. And unless the building burns down, do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes off.  You may hit the wall, but keep going.  The vast majority of people find they can work on that task “in the zone” until the timer goes off.
  • After 20 minutes, you have a choice: keep working or take a break.  If you keep working, reset the timer to 20 minutes and go through the process again without interruption until the next 20 minutes are up.  If you decide to take a break, it can be short (such as refilling your coffee cup), medium (returning a phone call) or long (going into a meeting, or working out).

That’s it.  You pick it up and put down over and over, hence the name “Multiple Put Down.”  Reports show from the thousands of people who have learned the technique is that you are much more efficient–often finishing a task in 30-50% of the time it would take if you worked on it in one sitting.

Even better, the quality of the work is far superior than if you followed your mother’s advice of “start early and just get it done.”  There are other benefits, too: less stress, reduced frustration, and a general feeling of being brilliant!

There are several advantages to the Multiple Put Down technique.  The first is that your brain is brilliant at running processes in the background, but is awful at multitasking.  While you’re driving to work, in the shower or answering email, your brain will be working in the background on the task, so that when you’re ready, it’ll drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad, for about 20 minutes.  The break allows your brain to restock the supply of brilliance.  Each time you go through the process is a “productivity unit.”

Here are some tasks that are perfectly suited for Multiple Put Down: writing a report, preparing a pitch for a client or boss, figuring out how to solve a tough problem.

Here’s my challenge to you: right now, take a task that’s nagging at you and use Multiple Put Down on it.  I hope you’ll share how it goes by posting a comment below.

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Customer Service Is Not a Marketing Strategy

cus. serv.A few weeks ago as I sat down to put my marketing plan into place for my business for 2013 I started to look at the services I was offering and what it meant to my customers.  I was looking for that angle that would help me differentiate my business from my competitors.  I thought about my existing customers and what they have wrote about my business in the past or just what many of them said to me in the course of our conversations and decided they all said the same thing,

 

their customers were getting excellent service and they had peace of mind, so when I put my marketing campaign together I had many different campaigns all ready to go, and all had the same message, we give excellent customer service.

Then I started looking at some of my competitor’s and guess what? They all had the same thing!  I subsequently ended up spending some time doing  research and I came up with a startling revelation!  Many different businesses out there are sending the same message!  So I thought to myself are we all lacking in that creativity to come up with something unique to sell our business, and as such is the phrase or variations of the phrase “we offer great customer service”  a point to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.  Well guess what?  It’s not.

These kinds of statements are so overused; they are the marketing equivalent of wallpaper, i.e. they are designed to be ignored.  Everybody claims to serve customers well, but not all companies actually do.  So not only do you have an identical point of difference, with your competitors, well….nobody believes you!

Great service is defined by the person receiving the service, not the server. Two people may experience the same service, and one will walk away totally captivated while the other is completely underwhelmed.  So what one person considers being pushy another person might consider attentive.

In fact, the business is the only entity that should never claim to offer great customer service; this can only work if others put that label on you. The moment you claim it yourself, you come off sounding desperate — or just boring.

 So what do we do about it?

Find something that meets two criteria: (1) it makes you unique, and (2) customers care about it.

It’s true that customers care about the service they get, but because everyone claims great service and there is no universal agreement on what it looks like, it’s not differentiating. To find a point of differentiation, you need to go a level deeper. Ask yourself what you do in tangible, concrete terms that make your service better than your competitors’. For example:

Enterprise Rent-A-Car does not claim to provide “great customer service;” it offers to “come and pick you up,” which is a concrete and tangible way it differentiates its service level from that of Hertz.

In a crowded hyper-competitive market, it may be something very small and subtle that makes you unique. That’s OK, as long as it is truly yours and your customers care. For example, if you ask a staff member at a Ritz-Carlton Hotel for directions, he will not point toward your destination; he will accompany you there. Guests — often late and lost in a new city — tell friends about the Ritz because of the experience they receive, not because the hotel talks about great service.

So stop saying you offer great customer service. It’s not doing you any favors. Figure out what it is about your service — in concrete, tangible terms — that customers value and start talking about that.