A number of HR studies have supported this observation. According to a 2007 study by Mercer Consulting, the average European gets 30+ of paid vacation and statutory holidays per year, whereas Americans and Canadians get barely 20.
Another study reported that Americans work an average 1,804 hours versus 1,436 hours in Germany – the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour workweeks per year. I’m sure these numbers didn’t improve with the recession, when many workers felt pressured not to take time off for fear of repercussions.
But experts maintain taking time off has important benefits including improved health, productivity and creativity. And when are many of us often most productive? Just before leaving on vacation! So maybe this is a new win-win formula for 2011? Get productive, take time off, come back rested and be even more productive?
As a business owner I’ve had great difficulty to make myself take time off (almost as difficult as keeping my weight down, but that’s another story…). After spending thousands on seminars, books, and coaches, here are my top 10 recommendations:
1. Time block: Colleen, my sales coach, advised me to do this. While it is one of the most difficult things to do, it is also the most effective. Use time blocking to make client follow-up calls. Shut your door, put your phone on do-not-disturb, and start calling. I never get to the 20 people I need to reach in a day, but I usually talk to 4-5. Hopefully my voice mail message will also help me stay top-of-mind with the other 15-16 clients. (See also tips on leaving voice mails).
2. Take a break: I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You’ve been in meetings, on the phone, sending emails between calls, and being interrupted by staff asking for input on something. After 2-3 hours of non-stop activity you reach a saturation point and can’t seem to be able to make one more move. You need a break! What works best for me is to step out for a walk. Getting fresh air is apparently a way to boost your brainpower!
3. Limit your social media time: OK, you may not be guilty of this, but I certainly fell into this trap a few times… Social media is a great way to connect with people, but it can also be a huge time waster. Now I limit my time on Twitter and LinkedIn to ½ hour each, twice per week.
4. Turn off emails: Many salespeople have ADHD. We find it hard to resist checking emails when doing paperwork. But that pesky little window won’t tempt you if you turn it off. You can finish that proposal quicker, and then get back online!
5. Automate your client contact: Salespeople will always have more people to talk to than they can ever manage to do in one day. But for those times when you really fall behind in your client contact, automating your client contact is a great way to increase productivity. E-newsletters are a great way to keep yourself in front of a client, without having to be involved personally. Make sure your message offers value, and that you make time for personal interaction with your most important clients. If you need help with this, see information about our Funnel Activator.
6. Hire a coach: Nothing will make you more productive than having to account to someone else for progress; that’s why professional athletes hire coaches and programs like Weight Watchers work! See our list of training & coaching resources).
7. Reward yourself: Remember when mom would say if you finish dinner then you can have ice cream? We’re all still kids at heart. Your reward doesn’t have to be full of calories either; the reward I’ve promised myself this month is another Pandora bead for a bracelet I got at Christmas… Be good to yourself!
8. Don’t keep it in your head: Do you find yourself remembering things to do, people to call and other ideas any day of the week, at all hours of the day (or night). Productivity expert David Allen advises to keep a book and write all those things down. Then go back to doing whatever you were doing. Try it; it works!
9. Make the most of no-service time: When I’m flying and can’t use my BlackBerry, I find it’s a great time to write personal notes or catching up on my business reading. I pack personal note cards and a few magazines for the trip. What do you do to take advantage of your time offline?
10. Outsource: Preaching for my parish here … If you’re too busy to get a list qualified, or a portion of your database updated, hire someone to do it. Whether you choose to call Greenfield, or hire a student, just do it! Having an updated contact list will make you a more productive (and hopefully successful) salesperson.
Want more ideas? Check out: