The overworked rookie

July 1, 2000
Jane Y. Chin
Jane Y. Chin

Jane Y. Chin has a doctorate in biochemistry and experience in sales and medical affairs. She coaches reps to be more scientifically confident in communicating with physicians. For more information on how Chin can help sales teams improve their effectiveness, contact her at jane@pharmrepclinic.com or through her Web site, www.pharmrepclinic.com.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Advice for those new to pharmaceutical sales.

When I accepted a position as a rookie in pharmaceutical sales, I expected the learning curve to be steep and the hours to be long while I figured my way around my territory. What I did not anticipate was how quickly work consumed my personal time, inching into my life until I felt as if I never left work even after I came home. Everything around the house reminded me of work: new mailings and large envelopes arrived daily, boxes piled up, appointments flooded my planner. I had prided myself on being organized, but I began to struggle to keep up with my expanding workload.

The day came when my husband jokingly asked me whether I could pen an appointment in my planner to spend time with him. I knew it was time to set priorities and help free up my mental energy after work to focus on personal responsibilities. Here are some tips I have found helpful for me to stop working after work:

Create physical barriers: Rent a storage space for your samples and promotional materials unless you have a lockable garage. If you have a spare room, close the door after you get samples you needed for that working day. The key is to confine your working space away from your personal space so there is not a temptation to work at home.

Ritualistic shedding: Try a ritualistic "shedding of the work day" to prevent carrying it into personal life. Some rituals may include working out at the gym, taking a relaxing shower or even visualizing the events of the day shedding off your person. Refresh your mind from the events of the workday (especially when you've had challenging calls) so you can enjoy your evening at home. One of my colleagues strives to end her day with a great call so she will be in a good mood when she gets home. Once you know which offices are receptive to you, you may plan your day to end it with "sure-fire" positivism.

Time yourself: Use an egg timer to limit at-home work time. When you believe you have unlimited time, you may not focus on efficiency and later be shocked when you discover it's well past midnight. When you are forced to work within a time constraint, you have to really concentrate to meet that deadline. Of course, have realistic expectations: you probably cannot complete a business plan within one hour. However, you can do business or market research within an hour. Split big projects into hour-limited tasks over a week's period. Make an agreement with yourself and family members when family time begins.

Use a planner: Using a planner may seem obvious, but I often found myself forgetting what I reminded myself to do during the day because I did not write it down immediately. If you don't yet have a working relationship with your planner, make a conscious effort to let it relieve the mental burden of trying to remember everything your mind encounters daily. Particularly when your schedule becomes spotted with lunches and appointments and dinner programs, having everything written out in the planner helps give you a sense of order.

Don't check voicemail right before bed: There's nothing much you can do right before bed (other than getting ready to sleep), and you may end up stressing about something that demands attention the next day. Instead, check voicemail first thing in the morning to set your tasks for the day. I used to save messages when checking voicemail because I thought I might need the information later. I flooded the voicemail archive and needed extra time re-listening to messages to clean out my mailbox. Now I have pen and paper ready whenever I check messages to jot down required action or important information. Then I either delete it or forward it.

If you're a rookie and you are beginning to feel run-down, chances are you are still in work mode after work. Redefining priorities allows you to focus precious energy to maximize your effort. More importantly, you continue being productive long-term and enjoy your career. PR

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