I have an industry friend who is forever running off to client or prospect meetings at times that are terribly inconvenient for her. One time she ran an event until 11:00pm and then had to leave at 6:00am for a client breakfast. Another time, she was cutting a vacation short to fly out the next morning for an out-of-town meeting.
Needless to say, she is typically stressed and carries an underlying resentment about these commitments. But I wonder how much of it is self-imposed.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about time management strategies, and how we as a society place too much value on hustling. This week is something of a companion piece, addressing another challenge of our current era of responsiveness: letting other people run your schedule.
I am in full agreement that those in client service need to be responsive, but I’ve realized that most of the time we are able to be responsive enough without completely sacrificing our own needs. I’ll give you a few examples.
- As I mentioned in the previous post, I have turned notifications off on my email. I still check email regularly on work days, but I do it at times when I want a break from whatever project I’m working on. I find this helps me be more productive. The reality is that I don’t cure cancer, so unless I’m working on something completely urgent, no one is hurt if I read an email 30 minutes after it arrives.
- If I am having a client call or meeting, I am pro-active in suggesting meeting dates and times that work well for me. This goes a long way towards ensuring that my schedule makes sense and I’m not short-booking or double-booking myself. Sometimes a client will come back with something that works better for them, which I will accommodate. However, most of the time they are happy to work within the timelines I suggest.
- Similarly, I will try to accommodate clients when they suggest a time for a meeting. However, if it’s really inconvenient for me, I’ll take the time to consider how urgent this meeting is. If it’s not as urgent as the other matter I’m working on, I’ll let the client know that I can make their suggested time, however, these windows of time (provided by me) would work better. This strategy worked well when a client asked to book a meeting on Tuesday for a project that was not starting until the following week. Since I had a Tuesday end of day deadline, I asked if we could speak later that week. He re-scheduled with no problem.
It’s likely that my client simply selected the first open window in his schedule and proposed that date and time. I don’t believe he had any issue with re-scheduling, and delaying the call by a day was really helpful to me.
The point I’m trying to make is that it is often easy, and most importantly, not disruptive to your clients, to take more control of your schedule. Some matters are truly urgent, but many others are simply scheduled at the next available time. Being pro-active with your schedule means shifting your mind-set from being at a client’s mercy to finding the time that works well for both parties.