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editorial
It's About Time


I suggest we allocate time to take stock of our tasks, consider our methods, and seek more efficient processes.
Many years ago, I worked as a process development analyst for Best Buy Co. Inc.'s corporate headquarters. My job was to identify inefficiencies and implement solutions that would save time, money, and resources. It's a skill set that I've taken with me as I migrated from the corporate world into the publishing and face-to-face marketing industries, always hunting for the shortest path from point A to point B. Lately, however, I've fallen into a bit of an executioncentric rut, in which the items on my to-do list outnumber the hours in the day, and time has become my most precious resource.

The problem with this myopic focus on just getting things done is that it leaves little time for long-term planning and evaluation – two things that are essential to identifying pain points and implementing more efficient methods. After all, if you are constantly moving from one project to another, you're never allowed the opportunity to take a step back, conduct an after-action review, discuss inefficiencies, and explore other paths to completion.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. A recent study from the Families and Work Institute found that more than half of U.S. employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, or both. In the face-to-face marketing industry, a full one-quarter of exhibit and event pros are working 50 or more hours per week, according to EXHIBITOR Magazine's 2016 Salary Survey, and nearly half spend at least six weeks per year on the road. Furthermore, our recently released 2016 Meetings and Events Survey found that nine out of 10 readers are now tasked with planning their organizations' meetings and events in addition to overseeing trade show exhibits.

Unfortunately, that sense of being overextended – of needing to keep checking things off the list rather than really examining the list to begin with – is often counterproductive. In fact, it's times like this when intense evaluation is essential to optimize our efforts and enhance efficiency.

So as we embark on yet another new year, I suggest we allocate a little time to take stock of our tasks, consider our methods, identify the time-sucking items on our to-do lists, and seek better, easier, more efficient processes. Granted, many of your professional chores may be unavoidable. But others are likely outdated, unnecessary steps that you can unilaterally purge. And regardless of how much control you have over your professional projects, you can absolutely streamline things in your personal life.

For example, like most exhibit and event pros, I spend a considerable amount of time on the road. And anyone who has ever traveled with me knows I detest packing and unpacking. It's my least favorite thing in the world. But over the course of a year, I spend an estimated 120 hours shoving things into suitcases, taking them out, and putting them back in again. That's three 40-hour workweeks!

So for 2017, I'm testing out a service called DUFL that packs my suitcase for me, ships my clothes directly to my hotel, and cleans them after I'm done covering the trade show floor. The fee is comparable with the price of checking two bags round trip, and is but a pittance considering the sanity this service will likely restore to my life.

In all honesty, this kind of evaluation isn't rocket science. But it does take time to step away from the daily grind and honestly assess what we do, how much time it takes us, and why we do it in the first place. Being more mindful of what makes us feel so overworked and overwhelmed will likely yield a list of things we should consider doing differently, outsourcing to others, or simply not doing anymore. And maybe, just maybe, by eliminating, sidestepping, or farming out some of the tasks that drain us of our energy and rob us of precious time, 2017 might just prove to be a happy new year after all. E


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