Time Management for Managers
by John Manes, Pinnacle Storage Properties, LLC
Self storage may present some unique challenges from time to time, but the principles of time management remain the same as in any other industry and those principles are presented clearly in the late Stephen Covey’s ‘Four Quadrants of Time Management
Under Covey’s four quadrants, any activity is either urgent or not urgent, important or not important. We can never fully control the four quadrants for example, we never know when a crisis may arise but we can control where the majority of our focus, and our time, is spent. According to Covey and his theory has been proven accurate and successful if we focus the majority of our time and attention on quadrant II, we greatly reduce the amount of time we spend in crisis mode.
So the question becomes, “As a store manager, how do I focus the majority of my time on things that are Important but not Urgent?” The first step in the process would be to identify what daily activities in our business are Important, but not Urgent. Some examples of Important/Not Urgent would include: training and coaching, building rapport, regular lock checks, marketing, cleaning, stocking merchandise inventory, maintenance, collection calls and monitoring rates.
Let’s look at some examples of how focusing on how Important/Non Urgent reduces the time we might spend in crisis mode. A customer comes in the office to inform you that they have just vacated a 10 x 20, of which you had none available. It is Important, but not Urgent that you make that space ready to rent as soon as possible, but instead you spend the next couple of hours doing Trivia, talking on the phone on non-work related issues, listening to the radio and checking your social media. Now a customer comes in with a loaded moving truck ready to rent a 10 x 20 and when you go to show the space, you discover it’s going to take you an hour or more to get it ready. Now you’re in crisis mode. The customer is ready but you’re not. In fact, you may lose this rental. Here’s another example. You haven’t done maintenance on your golf cart in months, and now, while showing a space at the far end of the property in a pouring rain, your golf cart batteries go dead. Instant crisis and another lost rental. Here’s one more: While enjoying high occupancy for the past several years, you’ve totally neglected any efforts to market your property. Suddenly the local economy changes and you see your occupancy plunging. By ignoring the need for marketing, you now find yourself scrambling to try to drive traffic to your property, thus missing out on multiple rentals and revenue.
These are just a few examples of how neglecting to focus on what is Important but not Urgent will ultimately lead you to spending too much time in crisis mode. It should also go without saying that we need to spend a minimal amount of time focused on the unimportant Quadrant III and Quadrant IV items. Beyond these basic principles of time management, let’s look at a few things specific to our industry. We should get in the habit of making “to-do” lists, so we don’t forget something on the “Important” quadrants. Often there is more than one person performing tasks and having a list will reduce redundancy.
Learn to Prioritize
When I previously listed items that are Important/Not Urgent above, there was a reason why I listed "training and coaching” first. I believe this is the most important aspect of reducing time spent in crisis mode. Many times a crisis develops simply because a person is not equipped with the knowledge and training to make the proper decision. Often when that occurs, that person will either make the wrong decision, or no decision at all. Consistent training and coaching reduces mistakes and keeps you out of crisis mode. A simple way to prioritize would be to take your “to-do” list and rank items in priority from A, B, C. Once you have all of your A’s, B’s and C’s, you then rank each one within the category based on how many you have. Example: A1, A2, A3, B1, C1, C2, C3, C4. Create a monthly operational workload calendar for routine items such as overlocking spaces, sending out certified letters, auctions, and special projects. By having this available, you’ll be reminded of what is Important/Not Urgent, and you can utilize downtime to prepare. For example, you have a slow afternoon and by a quick glance at your operational workload calendar, you are reminded that tomorrow is the day to send out certified letters. You may spend that slow time making one last collection call or preparing envelopes, so that tomorrow when you get hit with a rush of customers, you’re not having to scramble in crisis mode to complete the task.
Communicate With Your Customers
Communication is always a key to success. Unless you are a sole proprietor managing your own property with no employees, then you are part of a team, and being part of a team makes communication essential. Create simple ways of organizing your communication, for example, use a communication binder. This will allow you to communicate with each other on different team member’s days off. Another example would be to hold weekly or monthly meetings with your team. Keep them to a half hour or an hour targeting items that will help improve Quadrant II.
If you know something will be happening at your property that may affect your tenants, communicate it to them and you may avoid having to deal with an angry customer later (Crisis). Every time you interact with a customer (unless it is routine such as taking a payment) you should note that interaction in the operating system so when the next team member is dealing with that customer, they have a history to use to make the right decision, thus preventing a crisis.
Communicate With Your Supervisor
Let your direct supervisor know what you need and what he or she can do to help you, as well as any issues at your property. It’s impossible for them to properly assist you in running your business if they are kept in the dark. By regular communication, your supervisor can then focus on things when they are Important/Not urgent, long before they become a crisis.
By paying attention to how you use your time, and by allowing adequate preparation, you’ll be headed in the right direction to master your time.
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