Bad habits can get in the way of what we want for ourselves. It's why they're often the basis for our New Years' resolutions.
But, I'm not talking about habits like overspending, smoking or biting your nails.
When you think about your own bad habits, do you think about your habits at work? All of us have habits that keep us from being efficient in our jobs. These habits may even cause more stress.
The more aware you are of what is keeping you from being more effective... The more proactive you can be at changing the behavior and being more successful.
Here are 10 bad habits that can hurt your efficiency. Are you guilty of any of them? If so, it might be time to stop.
1. Feeding the need for instant gratification
If you feel the pull of instant gratification, you're not alone.
The world around us has conditioned us to crave instant stimulation. As a result, we often can't stay focused for more than a few minutes.
Social media and our phone notifications feed this need. It's not easy to break this habit. It takes discipline.
Try turning off notifications for an hour. Or, stick your phone in a drawer. See how much you can get done in that hour without your phone sitting next to you.
2. Not taking breaks
Plowing through our to-do lists may seem like we're being productive. But, if you don't ever take a break, you're more likely to burn out and lose focus. You're not being as efficient as you might otherwise be.
Your brain is a muscle. It needs a break from constant exertion so it can recharge. Get away from your desk for 10 minutes. Take a walk. Have a chat with someone in the office. You could even try meditation.
Find something that will take your mind off work for a bit. Then you can come back feeling refreshed and ready to get back to it.
3. Manually quoting a prospect
It's a long process to manually quote a policy. Going to each carrier's website is time consuming.
Even only going to the few you think are the best fit for the prospect, it's still going to take more time than it could. And, you'll never know how the carriers you didn't rate would look in comparison. Plus, you are more at risk to make an error when repeatedly entering the information.
Comparative rating systems make this process easy and can save you so much time. It reduces the risk of errors and can give you the same accurate rates you get directly from the carrier.
Agencies run more efficiently when they use a comparative rating system. Not to mention the best raters do more than rating, which can improve your efficiency even more.
4. Saying yes to everything
For some of us, it can be difficult to say no to a request. Whether it's for a task or a meeting, we can't bring ourselves to disappoint someone. But, saying yes to someone else means you're saying no to your priorities.
Take a moment to consider the request. If it's a meeting, is your presence necessary? Could you resolve the issue in a few emails instead?
If someone needs help, is it an urgent or one-time situation? If it's an ongoing occurrence, you might consider teaching that person how to handle the task on his or her own.
5. Being constantly in your email
This is one of my favorite tips. Productivity experts say that email can hurt your productivity if managed incorrectly.
I used to open and answer every email as it arrived in my inbox. But these days that's inefficient. If your inbox is like mine, you could spend an entire day just responding to email.
What works best for me is only opening my email at certain times of the day. If I can respond quickly, I do. If I can delegate the request, I will.
Otherwise, I file the email to reply to later when I get more time or if there's something I need to do before I can reply.
6. Using paper files
Paper is inefficient. It takes more time to dig through a file cabinet to find a client's record. It is much faster to search in an agency management system for the client's information.
What if the file isn't there because someone forgot to put it back? You'd have to spend more time tracking it down.
An agency management system gives you instant access to a client's file. Then there's the reporting, commission reconciliation, accounting features, notes, and more. You don't get those features with paper files.
7. Not actively listening
If you're not actively listening to someone, you're going to miss vital information. Not listening, really listening, to someone can result in mistakes and a damaged relationship.
At best, you're going to have to spend more time trying to figure out what you're missing. At worst, you may have lost a sale or a client because of a miscommunication.
In a conversation are you hearing what the other person is saying? Or, are you thinking about the next thing you're going to say? Are you trying to do something else during a conversation?
Stop everything, and focus on what you're hearing. Listen for information and for what the other person is not saying. Ask questions if you're unsure what the person meant.
Studies have shown that multitasking hurts efficiency. Switching mid-task can increase the time to finish both tasks by 25 percent.
We like to think multitasking makes us more efficient, but it doesn't. It actually slows us down and increases the chance for mistakes.
If you need to focus, turn off all distractions. Focus on one task at a time.
9. Not organizing your to-do list
It's hard to stay focused on what you need to do if you don't have an organized list.
You need to organize your tasks by what you need to get done today, this week and this month. Doing so will help you remember what you mean to do. It's also easier to know what you need to do next.
There are many ways to organize a to-do list. You can write it down on paper. Use your calendar and tasks in your email client.
Also, there are numerous apps available. If you're looking for ideas, browse through some of the profiles we've done in the last year. There are some good tips from other people in the industry.
10. Not having a defined sales process
A defined sales process means clear, consistent messaging and steps to follow.
When you have a set process, you maximize your close ratio. Otherwise, you and your team are reacting to things as they happen, which is not as effective.
Prospects can fall through the cracks that way. The added benefit of a defined sales process is the training. When you have a new employee, you walk them through your process. They'll know exactly what to do and what your expectations are.
There are many ways to improve your efficiency. Insurance agency software, organization and discipline are all critical if you want to be more efficient.
How do you stay efficient? Let us know in the comments below.
The Modern Agency is a monthly blog series in which we discuss various topics related to the success and growth of independent insurance agencies in the modern market.
About the Author
As vice president of marketing, Becky Schroeder oversees ITC’s growth through marketing and drives the overall marketing strategy for the company and its products. Her specialties include advertising, social media, email marketing, content marketing and public relations. Becky has a master’s degree in integrated marketing communication from Emerson College in Boston and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. Becky is a big Texas A&M football fan and enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with her husband and their two daughters.Follow on Twitter More Content by Becky Schroeder