Time management and productivity consultant Robyn Pearce on how to work fewer hours for more pay.

about work/life balance and the hours we work so I thought you might be interested in Kim's story.

I've just had the privilege of speaking at the national conference of TravelManagers Australia, a subsidiary of New Zealand's House of Travel. Kim Mason, one of their top agents, is a young mum in Sydney and yet she runs her travel business in about 20 hours a week. Given that travel is usually a very reactive business, I was very keen to find out Kim's secrets.

TravelManagers is a mobile service. Almost all are self-employed agents who work out of their homes. Work/life balance is a big challenge for many of them, but not Kim. When she was expecting her first baby (now 3 ½ years old) she told all her clients that she'd be available to them Monday - Thursday between the hours of 10 am - 3pm. When the next baby arrives in a few months she's going to cut that back another hour a day, starting at 11am.


Here are a few of her secrets:
1. When she's 'at work' she fully focuses. Her little one is in daycare on those 4 days. Fridays, however, are her family day - no work.

2. She only does email for about 10 minutes per hour. Then it's switched off so she can focus on the 'real' work.

3. She won't take calls outside of work hours unless it's a true crisis. She encourages her clients to email her with queries. They do have her mobile but they're educated to use it only for emergencies. Someone calling outside of Kim's working time is politely asked to call her back on the next working day - and she's done it even with very high profile people.

4. She has three goals for every day - what she calls her Recipe for Happiness:

30 - 60 minutes of exercise every day
Call a friend or family member
Learn something new, or meet someone new.
5. Two questions every day keep her work focus sharp. This results in great customer service:

What can I do to make money today?

What might potentially lose me money, now or in the future?

For example:

Inform clients already travelling of hazards up front such as floods in regions they're going to, or book tickets with wholesalers in a timely way to get the best price.

6. She has a few really simple systems that she checks every morning first thing - two of them travel-related, the other her diary (which she lives by).

7. When she takes a call she gets straight to the point. Not: 'How are you?' but 'How can I help you?'

And there was more, but that's enough for one article!

Two central themes underpin Kim's story.

1. She has a very clear sense of values, including where her family fits in the big picture.

2. She understands the value of her time and isn't afraid to educate her clients to value it too.

The interesting thing I've noticed in life is that people will take us at our own assessment of ourselves. If we let people tell us how to act, they will. If we're clear about our expectations, they respond accordingly.

Something in there about self-esteem too, don't you think? (And that is another topic for another day...)

Get your free copy of Robyn's report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds.' . You can reach her at robyn@gettingagrip.com