I have been asked by clients and potential how we provide superior service as compared with other insurance agencies. My answer is that great service is not complicated. It takes a great deal of effort and work but the system itself is simple. The key to great service is to exceed expectations on every interaction by over-delivering on promises made. The Braun Agency accomplishes this objective with our clients by funneling every task into our task management system (dubbed the FUNNEL) and ensuring that we accomplish our commitments in a timely manner without ever letting a task fall through the cracks. We double up with a system of communication that keeps our clients in the loop through the entire process.
The result of successful execution of the funnel is getting everything done on time without dropping the ball on anything. You may do this, too.
Here’s how we do it:
The Funnel: The Ultimate Task Management System
An email inbox with over 100 emails in it. A voicemail with 5 new messages and 30 saved messages. Multiple files or stacks of paper on the desk. A “to do” list that keeps growing. The phone rings with more requests. Unreplied Facebook messages. Pending Linked In requests. And on and on and on.
Does any of this feel familiar? Does your system for managing urgent tasks take the form of yellow sticky notes? Do you constantly feel like you are reacting and putting out fires instead of performing proactively? Do you feel like you are regularly being interrupted from being able “to do your work”? Do you sometimes have trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel… or you are pretty sure it’s an oncoming train? Do important tasks sometimes fall through the cracks?… and you sometimes miss client expectations? Is your trigger for following up on things when somebody asks you for a status? Do you find yourself often overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated? If any of this resonates with you, I get it. I have been there.
The problem is that we have so many inputs coming at us very quickly AND everyone expects everything instantly! Our world is more complex and faster paced. Incoming information and time demands in today’s information age can easily overwhelm our available bandwidth to handle the information and demands. The extraordinary large amount of incoming information and requests increase the need for an effective time management system.
Let’s imagine a different world! What if all of your work and demands were prioritized, you knew exactly what you need to work on next, and you had only one source of work? What if your desktop was clear and your inboxes remained empty? Would you be more productive, more efficient, less stressed, and more successful?
All of this is totally possible! You only need two ingredients to make all of this happen and be more productive, less stressed, and significantly more happy. The two things that you need are a proven system and a commitment to change.
Frankly, recognizing that you have a problem and committing to fixing the problem is the most important ingredient. The best system in the world cannot fix a problem that you are not committed to fixing. And let’s face it, habits are hard to break. Have you ever gone to a seminar and been exposed to great ideas and then failed to implement them? We all have. Learning a great technique or being exposed to an effective system is not nearly enough. We have to take what we learn and apply it instantly and forcefully. Otherwise, we will continue doing what we have always done and getting the result we have always gotten.
Probably like you, my time demands are rather intense. I am involved with multiple businesses, have thousands of clients, dozens of employees, manage dozens of properties and have dozens of tenants. I have a wife and two kids who participate in an assortment of activities. My world, like that of many people, is spinning faster and faster. Yet, the last time I checked there are still only twenty-four hours in a day. In order for me to accomplish what I need to accomplish without dropping the ball or living with high blood pressure, I have created a system called THE FUNNEL of managing my time and work.
The crux of The Funnel is to reduce all inputs into one prioritized source of work.
STEP 1: Choose your electronic funnel
The first step to implement THE FUNNEL is to choose an electronic method of managing your FUNNEL. If the predominant source of your work is client-based and you can adapt your CRM to manage personal tasks then your Client Management System should be used to manage your funnel. If you do project/non-client type work, then you can utilize a system such as Microsoft Outlook tasks to manage your FUNNEL. If you do both types of work, as I do, then you may need to use two electronic systems. In that scenario, a recurring task will be to handle your client work which is managed in the CRM. However, you will still maintain only one FUNNEL. A couple of things you should look for when choosing your FUNNEL system. The system should be accessible on multiple platforms and so cloud based is ideal. The system needs to allow you to prioritize work. You should be able to sort and filter your tasks and set follow up or due dates. Much of what we do is repetitive such as reconciling bank statements monthly, mowing the grass weekly, or performing an employee review semi-annually. The system should have the ability to create recurring items so that when a task is completed a new task is automatically created. Choosing your system is critical. The system must be able to manage your tasks and you must be comfortable with the system.
STEP 2: Choose your document management system
The second step is to choose an electronic document management system. One of the important steps to the FUNNEL system is to eliminate all paper and be able to manage our FUNNEL from anywhere. In selecting a system to manage your documents, the document system should allow ease of uploading or saving documents, indexing and finding documents, and downloading and retrieving documents. If the document management system can be or is integrated with your FUNNEL system, then that’s a bonus.
STEP 3: Move everything into your funnel.
The third step is to move ALL pending work/tasks to your EFS and FUNNEL. Tasks in your FUNNEL with supporting documentation should have all supporting documents located in your EFS and the documents should be easily retrievable. This step will be the most difficult and time consuming in implementing the FUNNEL system, but is the most critical step. When this step is complete, you will have no paper on your desk, no voicemails or emails in your inbox, and no sticky notes anywhere. Everything you need to accomplish will be located on your electronic list. Everything means everything. If you need to pick up your shirts at the drycleaner, it needs to be in your FUNNEL. If you need to work on a bid proposal for a client, it’s on your list or in your CRM funnel. Everything should be in your FUNNEL.
Once you have accomplished all three steps and you have all of your pending tasks in your FUNNEL, you can apply the FUNNEL to new incoming communications, requests, and tasks. The FUNNEL system requires following five simple rules.
RULE 1: Processing incoming communications / tasks.
Rule number 1 is that when you receive an incoming communication or task, you must take one of four actions. The first choice is to complete it and delete it. If the incoming message requires a simple response and no additional action, complete it and delete it. The second choice is to eliminate it. If the incoming communication requires no action or permanent reference, eliminate it. A good example would be spam email or junk mail. Don’t save it! Purge it instantly. The third option is to file it. If a communication does not require any action but you may need to refer to it in the future, file it. In the case of an email, simply drag the communication out of your inbox into an organized file folder. In the case of written correspondence, scan it and save it in your electronic filing system. Whatever the communication is, save it in your system for future reference and get it out of your inbox or off your desk. The fourth choice is to FUNNEL it. Anything that isn’t completed, deleted, or filed should be inserted into your funnel. In this scenario, the task or communication comes out of your inbox/voicemail/desk and is created in your funnel with a reference to any documentation needed to complete in the future. You should be able to view your entire FUNNEL at any time and the pertinent info that you need to prioritize your asks such as:
WHO – is the work for
WHAT- the main topic or heading
WHEN- is the due date or next follow up date
CATEGORY – personal, work, client, project
RULE 2: Clear all inboxes each day.
Rule number two is that before you finish your day, all “inboxes” should be clear. Inboxes include the inbox or stack of stuff on your desk, your voicemail, your email inbox, your instant messager, etc. An inbox includes every source of input to you.
RULE 3: Keep your FUNNEL up to date each day.
Rule number three is that before you finish your day, all FUNNEL items that had a due date or follow up date for the day are either completed or you may consciously change the due/follow-up date. The point here is that while you might run out of time for the day, nothing falls through the cracks that should have been completed. If you get to as task you aimed to complete for the day and you run out of time, you can make a note on the task and change the due date. Of course, if the date is a drop-dead date, then the item will most likely receive a higher priority and be one of your completed tasks for the day.
RULE 4: Document progress.
Rule number four is to document everything in your funnel. When you delay completion of a task, notate why. When you complete a task, document the outcome. Most importantly, when you work on a task without completing the task, document what you accomplished and what needs to be done next. Tis documentation prevents the need to rethink the task when you pick it back up. In the case of client-based work in a CRM, this documentation also allows other people to easily follow up and help you.
RULE 5: Reboot as needed.
Rule number five is that when you find that you have accumulated work outside your FUNNEL such as a new stack of paper, files on your desk, a large email inbox, or multiple voicemails then reboot. Go back to step three and take the time to clear all of your inboxes and get your work back in the funnel. Often, I have found that I need to reboot after regular business hours when there is not “new” stuff coming at me at the same rate of speed. Ideally, you never need to reboot because you do such a great job of managing your inboxes and funnel. Realistically, reboots are required periodically,especially after a vacation or illness.
In a nutshell, that is the entire FUNNEL system. If you follow this system, I guarantee that you will be more productive, less stressed and a lot happier. However, there are a few principles that can enhance your success.
PRINCIPLE 1: Don’t procrastinate.
Even a great system of managing tasks cannot overcome the human tendency to put off today what can be accomplished tomorrow. Take your due dates/follow up dates seriously. Even if you can push it out, don’t. Tackle it, get it done, and move on! It’ll be one less item in your funnel. If you find yourself rescheduling the same task over and over again, consider Principle 2.
PRINCIPLE 2: Eliminate the stuff you’re really not going to do.
Not infrequently, I come up with an idea that I love and I put it in my funnel to accomplish. And then, for a multitude of reasons… mostly that it’s not as important or a high enough priority, I find myself rescheduling the task. At some point I come to the realization it’s just not going to happen. When that happens to you, kill the idea and eliminate the project or task out of your funnel.
PRINCIPLE 3: Delegate.
We all cannot do everything! Consider who might be able to accomplish tasks in your FUNNEL other than you and if it makes more sense for somebody else to tackle the item, delegate it. Depending on the task, you can “delegate” to employees, your spouse, your kids, a friend, a coworker, a company, etc. For example, if mowing the lawn is a task you have scheduled to complete on Saturday, perhaps you can delegate that to your kid or a landscape company. In some cases, once delegated, you may remove the item from your FUNNEL altogether. In other cases, such as delegating tasks for a client to an employee, you might keep the item in your FUNNEL so that you can follow up and make sure it is done to your satisfaction in the time allotted. After all, not everyone utilizes the FUNNEL system to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks!
PRINCIPLE 4: Shield yourself.
Tim Ferris, author of the Four-Hour Work Week encourages the elimination of all extraneous, un-actionable information. I have found that reducing information inputs, as he recommends, is an effective way to improve my time management. For example, I have removed the Facebook app from my phone. While I find Facebook entertaining and interesting from time to time, being assaulted with frequent updates is a distraction I can live without. While I like to be “up to date” with what is going on, I have stopped subscribing to the paper and significantly reduced by consumption of TV news. I will certainly learn the important stuff that’s going on around me even without these inputs and eliminating/reducing consumption of un-actionable information allows me to focus on tasks that require my action.
I wish you much success in creating and implementing your FUNNEL and figuring out the nuances that make the FUNNEL most effective for you. Higher productivity, lower stress, and more control of your life are yours for the taking.
The Braun Agency’s mission is to help you get from where you are to where you want to be financially by planning, achieving your plan and protecting your plan from unexpected events. In the process, our goal is to deliver insurance services in a manner that exceeds your expectations. See what The Braun Agency can do for you today. Give us a call at 757-452-4563 to speak with one of the licensed, professional members of our team or request a contact here. The Braun Agency. We’re on YOUR side. 757-INSURANCE.