Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
William Penn, philosopher and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania
Ah, teenagers. Just like hearing It looks like typhoid or 60 Minutes is calling, the mere mention of the word teenager strikes trepidation into even the most stalwart individuals. How could that happy, bubbly bundle of joy have turned so quickly into someone who thinks I'm an idiot and my primary function is to act as an ATM? I hate to think I might have been such a thorn in the sides of my loving parents.
Of everything Im attempting to teach my 17-year-old before hes unleashed onto an unsuspecting world, establishing time-management skills is proving to be one of the most difficult. An otherwise very intelligent young man simply cannot grasp the idea that there are only so many hours per day, and how you manage that time says a lot about your abilities, commitment and work ethic. No matter ... Hes is an effective practitioner of procrastination, inefficiency and laziness.
These characteristics remind me of some self-storage managers Ive encountered over the years. The learned skills my teenager can use to improve his time management are the same ones a facility manager can use to improve his productivity. Following are tips to help you become the most efficient manager possible.
Document Daily Tasks
As American author H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, Dont say you dont have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein. I conduct a good deal of manager training throughout the year, and one key area of focus is time management. I start by asking managers how many units they rented in the previous month as well as vacates, truck rentals, locks sales, etc. I then ask how long it takes to complete each task.
Whatever the consensus is, I add more time. For example, if the managers say it takes 15 to 20 minutes to lease a unit, I increase that time to 30 minutes. As we add up how long it takes to conduct all these tasks during any given month, we always have the same outcome: There are about two to three hours per day for which we cannot account.
Once I demonstrate to my students that they have plenty of time to do their job well and on time, I give them some homework, asking them to document their work activities every 30 minutes over the next 30 days. For example, they need to write down what they do from 9-9:30, 9:30-10, 10-10:30, etc. While I have no way to ensure who completes the exercise, I've had enough feedback from managers and their supervisors to know it works. One manager told me the exercise changed her life, as it transformed how much she now enjoys her job. Knowing how to do your job and do it well really does make a difference in ones attitude.
Having worked with hundreds of self-storage managers over the years, Ive watched and learned from the very worst to the very best. Invariably, there are skills and practices the best managers use to manage their time. How do they complete their work and "get it all done" the right way? Lets explore.
Be Productive During Down Time
For starters, effective managers make better use of their down time. Just about every self-storage manager can easily handle the busy days. They can rent six or eight units, handle a few truck rentals and sell some merchandise like theyre in "a zone." The day goes by quickly, and after work, they have a real sense of accomplishment. But the key to time management isnt being efficient during busy days, its making good use of down time.
Highly effective self-storage managers make sure there are always plenty of lease packets ready. They prepare the truck-rental paperwork throughout the week instead of waiting until Saturday morning. They keep up with their e-mail marketing efforts and conduct regular lock checks to quickly address any discrepancies. Highly effective managers make sure they have two or three rent-ready units of each size always available to show. They check voicemail and print their vacant-space list before the first customer comes in each day.
Effective managers perform their tasks right the first time. As basketball coaching great John Wooden said, If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
Great managers dont focus on how to best handle customer complaints, they work to prevent complaints and customer-service issues altogether. They keep their promises and look for solutions to potential challenges before they become problems. For example, they call tenants about possible leaks in their units instead of waiting for customers to complain.
Great managers take the time to clearly explain leases and head off potential misunderstandings about expectations, and they make a big deal out of the no late-fee guarantee auto-billing option. If you want to improve job efficiency and performance with more effective time management, work smarter to reduce problems instead of spending inefficient time fixing them.
Pull Your Weight
Effective managers also learn to do their part. Im amused when I hear of managersoften assistant managerswhose tasks dont include vacating units or making collections calls. Why not? Typically, theres a training or trust issue.
Everyone who works at a self-storage facility must be able to conduct all day-to-day aspects of the job, or they should not be there. If everyone does their part on their day, work will never get backed up.
Be a Schedule-Maker
The most critical skill to master when improving time management is to learn to make time for important tasks. A common trait among the most productive managers is they formally schedule tasks, such as making past-due calls, conducting lock checks, going to the bank and following up on rental leads. This may seem almost magical, but its a simple proposition: If you schedule tasks, you will get more done.
One of the best aspects the self-storage manager position is you can do a great job, get it all done in eight hours and go home. Anyone who tells you they eat and sleep storage really needs to get out more. You can actually have a life outside of your self-storage career, but to do that, you must have effective time-management skills. If you practice the techniques discussed above, they really will make a difference in how well you do your job and how much you enjoy it.
Bob Copper is partner in charge at Self Storage 101, an industry consulting firm that assists facility owner/operators and managers in developing more effective and profitable operational systems. It also aids in conducting performance reviews and providing the necessary tools to perform at higher levels in a competitive industry. To reach him, call 866.269.1311; e-mail [email protected] .