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Nov 13, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Do you feel like we have spent a lot of time speaking about technology lately? As I reflect on my career and some of what I have experienced I have tried to think about the habits that I have formed that have served me well.

I’ve also given thought to what habits I wish I had never developed or understand I need to change. I consider what I have seen as I have trained others in our profession. What were the things I passed on that were helpful and what did I see as the common traits of those who I look up to and who I have had the privilege of working with that have gone on to be successful.

As I reflected on these habits and principles around success, I realized that the things I wish I could have trained more recruiters and sourcers to do aren’t making them accomplished Boolean writers or AI experts. Most of what I would deem critical to pass on and highlight for success are troublingly mundane.

In this spirit, I give you lesson number one.

If I could give every talent acquisition professional one skill, trait or habit the first trait I would pass on is the trait of planning my day.

It took me a lot of time and reflection to come to that conclusion. I feel like I’ve written on some relevant and useful topics but the thing that has always kept me on course over the years is I have a plan about what I’m going to do. I do plan my day to day activities, but I also schedule time for my strategic objectives into my day as well. Yes, I block out time to source. But twice a week I also budget a little time to read. I plan time once a month to speak to someone in TA that is not on my team.

One of the things that have surprised me over the years is how long it can take for information about the tools of our trade to make it to the TA field at large. As recently as a few months ago I have introduced Chrome email finding extensions and aggregators to professionals who had been working in our area for years. They had never heard of such a thing. I think I know one reason why so many in our profession fail to keep up with even old developments are varied but the outcome is, unfortunately, the same.

Planning my day was the cornerstone of everything else that happened in my career that was positive. I blocked time to source, I planned on who to call, who to follow up with, who to submit. My system was not perfect, but it made me more efficient than my peers if even only that fewer things slipped between the cracks. One reason for the invention of writing is that our human minds are not capable of remembering everything.

Writing has been a way to store and organize our thoughts. One consequence of planning is that you are thinking about how to use your time the most effectively. One question you will arrive at is, can I do this better? Once you have the question, you will go looking for answers. It is in your DNA as a human to seek answers to questions. In this day in age, if you go looking for answers, you are going to find our organizations. I think the best habit that I could pass on to the next generation would be the habit of planning. Every positive thing that I encountered in my career came after planning some activity that was new to me. That forced me to seek out further information and to learn new things. This became a reinforcing cycle or habit of mine, and it has served me well over the last 13 years.  My system has evolved, but the basics are the same.

I keep myself organized in three ways. The first is my calendar. I have engaged an automated service for interview scheduling, so most of my candidate interviews are scheduled by the candidate. This has eliminated a lot of coordination effort for me and has allowed me to speak to more candidates on average that I have been able to in the past. I look at my schedule every morning when I come in and every night before I log off.

I also keep a spiral notebook and a bound notepad. In the notepad, I keep a checklist of my interviews, follow-ups, action items as well as a reminder to block out time on my schedule for specific tasks. I block time to source, I block time for projects, meetings, etc. and I keep a checklist. That way at the end of the day I can move the things forward from my list that I didn’t get to today. This is a defacto agile way of planning your day, but for me, the benefit has been that it helps me from letting things slip through the cracks.

The spiral notebook is where I take my notes from my phone interviews. I know it is old school but I have been taking notes during interviews since I started and it isn’t a bad habit I felt needed changing even if the method is a bit outdated. I like to write as I speak to someone as I find it helps me to remember what they said. My notes help me not only with my write up and submission but if I’ve done my work well they will also be a helpful reference for me when I go to close the candidate on my offer.

If I had to lay out my thinking about why I would deem planning so important it is this; planning leads to becoming organized. When you start to, organize you begin to ask questions when you ask questions you go looking for answers and when you find answers. Answers often lead to additional questions. This habit of planning has a cascade effect not only on a day but on a career.

If you are looking for something to learn that will impact your career I would like to suggest that you learn how to plan and then organize your day. If you do not plan your day, I will tell you that more of your days are going to be about putting out fires than they need to be.  When you fail to plan your day you give up control over strategic direction and you become almost entirely tactical. That is fine if you want a career as an order taker but if you aspire to be something more than the first step is to take back control of your time and plan your day.

I source in the morning for a few reasons. The first reason is that is what I was taught in an agency. 8 to 9 AM every morning was outbound calls and sourcing. Over the years I’ve kept my sourcing in the morning but not because I was told to. As I started planning my day I budgeted time to source every day. I thought if I am going to source every day then I am going to find the best time to do it. That started me looking for information about when was the best time to reach people.

I did get some sales articles, but eventually, I found places like ERE and the Fordyce Letter. It was my first exposure to the community and it only came about as a result of my trying to figure out when the best time for me to invest my time into sourcing was. From there I was introduced to RecruitDC and from that point on my career took a totally different path than I could have ever imagined when I was in that situation over 10 years ago. No matter what technology has evolved or will evolve planning will remain a critical element to your success.

There is a saying that goes fail to plan, plan to fail. I think the statement might be a bit oversimplified because the way I see it would be more less memorable but possibly more accurate. If you fail to plan you are denying yourself the time and failing to plan is not a plan to fail instead it is a failure to fully capitalize two of your most valuable assets. Those being your time and your mind.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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