A recurring challenge I hear from Research Rockstar students is that of time management. Too often, deadlines converge, fires erupt, or clients “need it yesterday.” So based on my 25 years of market research reality, I have put together 17 time management tips. You can download the full eBook here.
—by Kathryn Korostoff
Create a “When Time Permits” (WTP) Folder
Do you ever get distracted by information that is interesting, but not urgent? If I’m not careful, I can waste an hour in an already-overbooked day doing something as trivial as reading reviews of some cool new software tool! A “catch all” WTP folder solves this problem by capturing those less urgent items that can still be important. It also reduces stress by preventing that nagging feeling that you may have forgotten something that is worth remembering. The folder becomes a simple, handy productivity enhancer during commutes or while waiting for meetings to start. Personally, my WTP folder is filled with sticky notes and scraps of paper where I have quickly jotted down products, people or book titles I want to look-up when I have more time. Rather than get distracted every time a new idea, topic or article comes to my attention, I can put it on hold until it makes sense.
Plan Ahead to Mitigate Known Risk Factors
All market research projects have risk factors. There are no exceptions. And most are known.
It is always wise to document your risk factors at the start of every project:
- What are the top 3 risk factors for this project?
- How can we mitigate them?
Risk factor example: unknown quality of list to be used for recruiting In-depth Interview (IDI) participants. Possible mitigation steps? Build-in time for a soft launch, identify a fallback list, and document risk factors for client (advising of specific benchmarks that need to be met).
By being proactive about risk factors, you will be able to act swiftly if a fallback strategy needs to be activated—and you will be able to set realistic expectations about time with your clients.
Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Market researchers often have piles of data to work with, and it can be hard to judge when the analysis is “done.” The most practical approach is to give yourself limits. Start by focusing on any analysis needed for the project’s documented objectives. If you are spending more than X hours (your call as to what “X” is for you) on analysis that is not directly related to your primary objectives, stop. For example, in one recent project, I gave myself 5 hours for some additional analysis that was really beyond the scope—but that I knew would thrill my client.
Yes, we often get tempted by additional analysis that can be useful to our client. But remember, you can always do more later, when the client isn’t waiting impatiently for your report. You can always meet your deadline first, and deliver an additional memo later showing your “above-and-beyond” analysis.
[The Marketing Research Association (MRA) has approved many of Research Rockstar’s live classes for PRC credits. Are you currently certified and planning for renewal? You now have 15 new options for meeting the MRA’s education requirements!]