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TIME TO LOOK AFTER YOURSELF SOME TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE TIME WORK FOR YOU

RECENTLY I STOOD IN A HOTEL LIFT with mirrored walls. Just as in the hall of mirrors at a funfair, I realised that I looked awful. The bald spot I couldn’t do anything about – but my grey skin, my badly shaven and red face, the illfitting trousers and unpolished shoes, I could. Like you, I travel a lot and spend too much time in hotels, on aeroplanes and driving. However, I am usually conscious of my appearance – so what had caused this slip-up?

Too much to do, too little time to do it in! I have been studying, teaching and practising time management, stress and life balance for many years, but still old habits die hard. A new contract, family commitments, community duties, repairs to the house, visiting friends… all of these demands on your time can pull you apart, leaving you with little time to plan, think and look after yourself.

Life in the fast lane
Think back to the start of one of your recent working days . . .
After five hours’ sleep, you got up at 5am to start the journey towards your 9am appointment – 260 miles away from your home. You didn’t have time to eat breakfast or waste precious minutes showering, shaving and making yourself look beautiful. You had a mega-quick shower, no time to wash your hair; then had a quick shave, missing bits; then brushed your teeth in a manner at which any dentist would be appalled. No time even to collect a bottle of water for the journey.
After a few miles, you started to feel hungry and wished you’d got to bed earlier. You stopped after 100 miles to reward yourself with a coffee and some ‘breakfast’. Few service stations provide healthy options (I’ve yet to find one), so it was a bacon roll, a large coffee and a chocolate bar for ‘energy’. Does any of this sound familiar?
Of course, you may look at the title of this article and think I do look after myself: I’ve been on the Atkins Diet for months. But dieting is a reaction to the effects of too much of the wrong food and too little exercise in the past. What you really need to do is to manage your intake and exercise routine.

Keep the customer satisfied
Let’s consider who you are: a sales professional, an ambassador for your company, the frontline in sales. As you know, first impressions set the scene for the future. Ask yourself: Do I project an image of good health? Even if you look good, are you well internally: is your cholesterol in check, do your heart and lungs get the exercise they deserve each week?
Are your evenings stressful (stress full), finished off with a few units of alcohol to recover from the day and a late night in front of the TV? Or do you regularly run, go to the gym, read a book, interact with your family? Do you sleep well or are you someone who can ‘manage’ on less sleep?
The best anyone can be is well-prepared. The best sales professional is someone who has developed excellent time management skills. The demands on you are high: you cannot afford to let a customer down and meetings are hard to set up, so you will endure long hours behind the wheel in order to fit in with the customer’s plans. Which may be sensible – but with a different attitude, could you achieve more in less time?
Do you consider your sales meetings a chore or a pleasure? If you have a confident attitude and can make friends with your customers, you can certainly achieve more. Perhaps they also commute long distances and have family commitments and so can empathise with you, and will be willing to delay a meeting for a few hours or days. Perhaps they feel that your job is important to them – I know many suppliers whom I simply couldn’t do without.
In the modern world, we rush along the M4 as fast as an e-mail message in order to keep our customers satisfied; but will you really lose that order if you don’t?

A design for life
There are three key things that you need to do. First, take some time out to think about things. Think about your life, your work, your family and your customers. Second, write down some notes and start to form a plan: what would you do with your time if you were really in charge of it? Third, take some positive action.
Separate the sections of your life and plan each one. Start with long-term goals for each; then refine them into shorter-term goals for months, weeks and days. In each plan, allocate some more time for thinking and planning. List the things you should do, and make sure that each day you cross some things off the list. Don’t worry about how long the list is: after a while, with new time management skills, it will get shorter.
Planning is the key to effective time management. Spend Friday afternoon or Monday morning (or both) arranging your week and making appointments. Using a map, make sure the appointments are shorter distances apart than they used to be. Plan an overnight stay close to the appointment. Set up the longest journey for Friday morning, so you have Friday afternoon to travel back home. When planning your appointment and overnight stay, find out what leisure facilities there are locally – the hotel reception will know. Then after you have booked into your hotel, you can go to a gym – as an added bonus, it might even have a swimming pool. Keep your swimming gear or an exercise outfit (jogging pants, T-shirt and trainers) in your overnight bag.
Eating is a major problem on the road, but it can be healthy. Take fruit for your journey, and bottles of fruit juice or mineral water – put them in the car the night before, so you don’t forget them. If you do eat at service stations, think healthy and search for a salad, a baked potato or breakfast cereal. Breaking old habits is hard, however: the more you deny yourself the chocolate, the more you will want it. Set yourself a target of a week without chocolate and then the reward of a bar at the end. Extend the challenge to two weeks without, then reward yourself. As you lose weight you will stop wanting the rewards, because the really positive reward is a slimmer, healthier you.
Weekends are an excellent time to catch up with friends and family, and to enjoy leisure activities. When was the last time you had eight hours of continuous sleep? If you continue not to get enough sleep, you will increase your stress level and be susceptible to nervous exhaustion and cumulative sleep deprivation – a serious danger behind the wheel.

Time is on your side
There’s not space here to list all the things you ought to do, but with common sense and some valuable time you can work it out for yourself – in fact, researching stress, time management and health will ensure that the knowledge becomes embedded in your mind and good attitudes become a habit. Don’t become too obsessed with health: balance your life on your terms.
One last recommendation is to laugh a lot. Listen to your favourite radio programmes or CDs in your car, try to remember some old jokes, lighten up. Your customer is going to like you more if you have a genuine smile on your face.
Finally, if you don’t take time to start looking after yourself you will be visiting the doctor as a patient, not as a sales professional!

Kevin Keable is a Stress Management Consultant and Trainer with an
international client list. A member of ISMA, the International Stress
Management Association, Kevin has written many articles for
newspapers and magazines.

Contact: www.millstonesandmilestones.com

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