Time and the Ability to Make Things Happen

Late one night several years ago, in an attempt to unwind after a particularly grueling day of travel, I turned on the TV in my hotel room and found myself watching an old episode of The Rockford Files. Almost asleep, I heard one of the characters on the show make the following statement:

“I only have two things going for me. My time and my ability to make things happen.”

The first thought that crossed my mind was, this man must be a recruiter. Although he wasn’t a recruiter and only played a supporting role on the show, his words have stayed with me for all these years. After all, as recruiters, we have the same two things going for us, with the addition of a few extra ingredients:

Our time and the ability, willingness, and discipline to use that time to achieve results for all those we serve.

It all starts with time. Notice that I didn’t say “time management” because you cannot manage time. You can only man-age yourself and your activities. Around those activities, time is relative. Therefore, when recruiters ask me about “time management,” I generally respond in the following manner.

The concept of “time management” essentially encompasses two primary factors:

1. Establishing the proper priorities

2. Having the ability, willing-ness, and discipline to function in accordance with those priorities (making it happen)

All the time-management tools in the world will not help if you do not have your priorities properly set and if you lack the ability, willingness, and discipline to act on those priorities.

Examples of misplaced priori-ties abound in our business and include:

1. Working on poorly qualified job orders/searches (the low-hanging fruit).

2. Trying to place candidates/ recruits who do not possess the motivation to make a job change or the willingness to work within your process.

3. Allowing yourself to be pulled off plan by every conceivable interruption, including email, unnecessary incoming calls, your coworkers, and even your boss. Many times this is nothing more than avoidance behavior designed to justify not picking up the phone.

4. Concentrating too heavily
on closing a sale at the expense of keeping your “pipeline” full in order to ensure a continued flow of business.


Literally spending days trying to close a low-odds deal. During most of this time, the recruiter is in a state of suspended animation, doing nothing while waiting for something to happen.

5. Relying too heavily on voice and email messages to get business or to make the sale.

6. Not working from a written plan (either on paper or on the computer).

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This is by no means a complete list of potentially misplaced priorities. However, the list does bring us to one inescapable conclusion:

Most recruiters tend to waste time in the same manner every day, and in almost all cases, they are either unaware or unwilling to admit it.

Therefore, the first step toward utilizing time to “make things happen” is to understand how you currently spend your time each day. Any or all of the following will help you in this regard.

1. Use call-accounting software, which produces daily reports on the various dynamics of your call activity. Using the combined statistics from many of those firms that use this software, it has been determined that average producers spend from 1.5 to 2 hours per day on the phone, while top producers average between 3.5 and 4 hours on the phone each day.

2. Complete a time-utilization audit on yourself. To increase its reliability, this audit should cover at least five successive business days. Audits are generally designed to analyze your business day in 15-minute increments from the time you arrive at your office until you leave at the end of the day. Once the audit form is properly designed, all you have to do is place a hash mark in the appropriate activity column that corresponds to the time of the day in which you engage in that activity. The results of an audit will show that you tend to waste time in the same way every day, and it will also show that during an average business day, you experience certain activity peaks – times when you are most productive. Knowing both of these facts about how you spend your time will serve as a foundation for improving your daily productivity.

3. Interruptions are part of the business. The key is to respond only to the high-value interruptions during your most productive hours (See TFL – 06/06 – “The Sacred Six”) and then to make certain you don’t lose time in transitioning back to your primary activities. As a time-utilization audit will demonstrate, most recruiters lose the most time when they transition from one activity to another. That’s because they can be most easily distracted during times of transition. However, having in place a well-written daily plan will guide you through these transitions and allow you to quickly refocus on primary activities.

4. Block in periods of time each day to work exclusively on primary activities such as marketing and recruiting. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish when you have a single-mindedness of purpose and a commitment to task. Two-hour increments seem to work best for most practitioners. During these two-hour blocks of time, they concentrate on a singular activity. In preparation for their concentrated time period, they provide the receptionist and/or coworkers with a short list of calls (must be an emergency or activity in progress that has reached a critical point) they will accept at the exclusion of all other interruptions, including email. A two-hour block of time in the morning with a corresponding two-hour block of time during the afternoon is a strategy employed by many top producers.

5. Overplan your day. Under close scrutiny, many recruiters fall prey to “Parkinson’s Law,” which states essentially that “work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.” To compensate for this “law,” build your daily plan to the point where you believe it could be accomplished only if there were no interruptions (good or bad) and if you were able to maintain a high level of energy throughout the day. Fact be known, most recruiters underestimate what they can accomplish in a given day. Therefore, by overplanning and committing to fully execute the plan, you challenge yourself to stay on task, to limit interruptions and distractions, and to be as productive as possible. The overall results may astound you. As the old Army slogan stated, “Be all that you can be.” By overplanning your day, you are one step closer to accomplishing this goal.

6. Always, always make certain that your priorities are in proper order. Whether they are prospects, clients, prospective recruits, or candidates, evaluate everything you do and everyone with whom you work against a clearly understood set of qualifying criteria. This is not a business that breeds success with an approach that is little more than “we will work with anyone at any time.” The very nature of our industry requires us to be selective with whom we work. Since you cannot be all things to everyone, concentrate your efforts on being something very special to the qualified few.

Remember, just like the character on The Rockford Files, you only have two things going for you: your time and your ability to make things happen. Therefore, how you choose to use your time will ultimately determine what you make happen. And what you make happen determines the level of success you will achieve in this business.

As always, if you have questions or comments, just let me know. It’s always good to hear from you.

Recipient of the 2006 Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry’s leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, and temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including “PETRA ON CALL,” visit his website at www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or email him at Terry@tpetra.com.

Recipient of the Harold B. Nelson Award, Terry Petra is one of our industry's leading trainers and consultants. He has successfully conducted in-house programs for hundreds of search, placement, temporary staffing firms and industry groups across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, England, and South Africa. To learn more about his training products and services, including PETRA ON CALL, and BUSINESS VALUATION, visit www.tpetra.com. Terry can be reached at (651) 738-8561 or click to email him.


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