Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

FORT LAUDERDALE -- It might not be possible to add an extra hour to the day, but addressing ways we waste time can help us all create more efficient work practices and get more done.

Guida Botelho, director of training at the Travel Institute, says that "time management" is a misnomer, and that if travel agents want to make better use of their time, they should instead focus on "self management."

Botelho and Lisa Owers, content and development manager at the Travel Institute, offered agents tips on how to self-manage and get back lost time during a workshop at CruiseWorld here, called "Turning Time Wasters into Time Savers."

"The goal here is to really take a look inward," Botelho said, encouraging agents to think about their behaviors with regard to time management.

To assist in doing that, Owers suggested agents create a time log: Writing "date," "task," and "time" across a notebook and filling in their daily tasks as they do them.

"It's best if you get into the habit of looking at the clock before and after you do things," she said, encouraging agents to fill out their tasks in real time for accuracy's sake.

The time log should be kept every day for two to three weeks, then studied to identify  areas of weakness.

"When you're analyzing those things, certain things will jump out at you" and create patterns, Owers said. Those are areas that agents should figure out to address - for instance, learning more about their email program to more efficiently search for emails and perform other functions.

Botelho also advised agents to organize their email inbox using a system of folders for air, cruises, tours, ground and insurance. Under each, create subfolders of preferred vendors. Then, when emails come in from those vendors, sort them into the folders and out of the inbox, keeping the inbox clear.

Color coding is also a useful tool to sort emails, she said. When Botelho was working as an agent, she sorted emails based on which email address the sender used. For instance, emails sent to her personal address, meaning they were from a direct client, would be highlighted in red in her inbox.

Identifying personal energy levels can also help maximize productivity, Owers said. For instance, Botelho is a morning person, while Owers is a night owl - but they can collaborate well from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

When agents are at their highest energy levels, they should address high-priority, high-intensity tasks, she said. Low energy times are useful for more menial tasks like filing.

Botelho and Owers' presentation at CruiseWorld was an abbreviated version of a time management module in the Travel Institute's Certified Travel Associate program.

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