Perfect harmony

August 1, 2003
Kimberly A. Farrell
Kimberly A. Farrell

Kimberly A. Farrell is the CEO of Los Angeles based Unlimited Performance Training(R) Inc. UPT(R) is an educational services corporation specializing in integrated and blended instructor-led and virtual learning and development programs for executives in healthcare. For more information send requests to: or call (800) 877-5755.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical Representative-08-01-2003,

Creating work-life balance.

Cara leaves her last physician presentation with a key cardiologist at 5:30 p.m. She is driving in traffic and hoping she will get to the day care center by 6:00 p.m. to pick up her son. She is multitasking by checking her voice mail messages on both her cell phone and her company mailbox during the drive to the center. Cara's husband is traveling with his job this week, and that makes juggling the job and motherhood a little bit more challenging.

She marvels at how single mothers do this all the time. She arrives 10 minutes late at the day care center, pays the $10.00 late fee to the caregiver and picks up her 3-year-old son. Danny is tired and hungry. She heads for the fast food restaurant down the street from her home, orders dinner, drives home and pulls into the garage at 6:45 p.m. Cara gives her son dinner and a bath, reads him a story, and by 8:00 p.m. she too feels ready for bed.

Cara turns on her computer, enters the day's eight calls, fills out the future call plan section for each office, reads through the seven pieces of company mail waiting for her in her mailbox, completes the one-page outline for her district manager for the territory management session she is presenting at the upcoming plan of action meeting in Santa Monica, prepares her call plan for the next day, electronically sends all call information, downloads 12 new e-mail messages and then gets ready for bed.

Cara's husband calls from Texas to talk with her. He is experiencing difficult work challenges, and he wants her advice on how she would manage the situations he faces. It is 11:00 p.m. when she hangs up the phone. Cara estimates how much time it will take her to reload her samples at the storage locker in the morning. She calculates breakfast, dressing and tantrum time for her son, day care drop-off time, drive time, a storage locker stop, restocking of her trunk, and arriving at Baker's Square in time for her 8:00 a.m. meeting with her district manager. She sets her alarm for 5:30 a.m. and tries to fall asleep but cannot stop asking herself - will I ever have work-life balance with this job?

Get real about balance

Work-life balance is a key phrase often spoken by human resource professionals, read about in articles or heard at the local Subway lunch spot where pharmaceutical representatives have lunch together.

Thinking that work and life should always have a 50% balance is the first paradigm every sales professional should change. Work-life balance should be measured on a 12-month continuum. Sometimes there is great harmony in everything. Sometimes work accelerates: new product launches, national meetings, reorganization, etc. Sometimes personal life gets more demanding: a new relationship, a child, a sick parent, an MBA program at night, volunteering in the community, etc. Just like there are times when it is all personal (vacation time, maternity leave, illness, weekends and holidays), there are also times when it might need to be all work. The challenge is to know where you have control to tip the scales and where you do not.

Professional balance options

E-mail, voice mail, mail and cell phone call volume are at an all-time high for pharmaceutical and biotech representatives. Streamlining the process during the day will make balance over the long haul more probable.

E-mail. Download nightly, and print out any attachments or anything longer than a page. Place the printouts in a "To Read" folder and put them in your detail bag. They're great for reading in offices while waiting for an appointment.

Voice mail. Save detailed calls that require note taking for downtime between calls when you're parked. Ask co-workers to call either your cell phone or your company voice mail to leave urgent messages so they don't leave the same message twice. This will simplify message retrieval during the day.

Mail. Get a post office box in your territory to keep personal and professional mail separate. Stop daily to open your mail, sort it and determine action to be taken. If you prefer to have mail come to your home or P.O. box, bringing the mail with you in your detail bag will allow you to read company and product updates while waiting for appointments.

Cell phones. Enter the names and numbers of the most important people in your life, both personally and professionally. Choose the calls that are urgent or important based on caller ID and answer appropriately. Save the others in your voice mailbox to listen to at a later time.

Best practices. Asking veteran representatives how they streamline administrative work, communication demands, new product information and inventory management will also provide you with additional solutions to the challenges of professional balance and organizational mastery.

Personal balance options

Look at what is important for you to do yourself compared with what your salary allows you to outsource (and what you don't care about doing yourself) to another person or company.

Dry cleaning. Is it that important to drive twice a week to the dry cleaners? Outsource dry cleaning to a facility that does drop-off and pick-up at no extra charge.

Dog walking. Do you enjoy a relaxing walk with your dog twice a day, seven days a week, or would you prefer to only do it twice a day three days a week? Get a dog walker to walk the dog while you are away to allow your spouse to focus on your child or children.

Meal planning. How important or enjoyable is cooking at home to you? Preplan some meals the week before and freeze them, so as to limit the time spent in the kitchen cooking dinner during the week. Use the time you save doing something else you enjoy, like being with your friends or children, or working out.

Carpooling. Do you always prefer to be the driver to pick up and drop off your child at day care or school, or could you arrange a car pool with other parents to allow you two or three mornings a week to get to work or work out a little earlier or later?

Eating on the run. Do you prefer to sit down in a restaurant to eat your lunch leisurely every day, or would you prefer to eat at a quick place for lunch and spend the extra time on your lunch hour running a couple of personal errands, paying bills or writing letters to a few friends?

Understanding where there is flexibility in your day and how to organize your time to maximize natural downtime will help you to fulfill the responsibilities of managing your business while keeping a good balance in your life.

Getting balance is a process

Getting balance should be looked at as a process. Sometimes work is streamlined so well that you feel you are getting the family time and personal time you desire. Other times, family demands keep you from volunteering for additional projects for your career development. Understanding that balance is a process – not a one-time goal – will help you maintain a positive outlook on the demands you face both personally and professionally. PR

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