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How a Clean Desk and Notepad Will Save Your Sanity

In insurance, we love paper. I mean, like, really love killing trees to touch and feel paper. I’ve actually been in agencies when we speak to the need to reduce paper, people have such a reaction that they get lightheaded and we need to hold back. Don’t get me wrong – there are times when I love the feel of paper and it makes it easier for me to think. However, this is a strategy that is becoming obsolete and inefficient as we embrace new viewing strategies. The bottom line is that we hold on to paper as a method of control rather than embracing and adopting newer, more efficient strategies. 

As part of our AppX Time Management program, we explore the 2 major paper hoarding strategies. Firstly, the desk filled with paper; secondly, the notebook epidemic. 

Messy Desk Drama

As I have commented in the past, we don’t allow desk drawers at APP. Now, I have been called everything from a “micromanager” to the “devil in a dress” because of this. I ask, “What is the reason you need a drawer? Is it to hide a bunch of paper that really should be scanned and attached?” I should think so, since, in my experience, I’d helped countless agents clean out desks to find uncashed checks, unattached applications, notes on how to cross sell, etc. Now I ask, “If your notes on how to cross sell are shoved in a desk drawer, how is that helping?” We use drawers to hide mess! No drawers, no mess. 

On the other side, I have been in enough offices that have files of policies that need to be delivered to clients. For the love of Pete, how is it a great customer experience to finally deliver a policy 3 months after renewal?! It’s not – and please use the comments section to tell me differently. In addition, many more commercial clients prefer an electronic policy. This is a huge time management win for you – less postage, time, paper and you get proof you sent it. Yes, please sign me up. And for the 5 clients that want a paper file, feel free to accommodate them. 

The real problem with a messy desk is that it means each person has their own organizational strategy, rather than abiding by an agency-wide way of doing business. In banking, we had to have 2 weeks off consecutively for an audit – guess what? That wasn’t vacation! You were paranoid of what they might find that wasn’t kosher. The same is true when you have an emergency day off. 

When you are out suddenly, we train our team leaders that they need to be able to operate from your desk. That means they can handle all client requests AND promises without breaking a sweat, because it’s where it’s supposed to be in the management system. 

Imagine this: you are out tomorrow with the flu. Could anyone on the team jump in and handle all new calls and deliver on client expectations, simply by using the system? Or would it go like this:  the team that handles a call-in becomes frustrated with no notes in the system, and then they have to call the client back after thumbing through your notebook and desk. Explain again how that’s efficient and effective!

Now, this is where the push back of “They don’t do it like I do it” comes into play. The bottom line is that everyone should do it your “agency way, not the way they want to do it. 

Notepad Ninja

If you have seen my previous blogs, I’m not a notebook fan. This is where E&O breeds. You take down information and you have to either do the “Last In First Out Method (LIFO)” or “First in First Out Method (FIFO).” Break out the college accounting, because this may sound familiar. The problem is that this doesn’t show us a priority! The management system is where you can see a clear priority of what to hop on next. 

I have often stated, “Work like you are going to win the lottery at lunch.”What this means is that your work should be so good that, if you won the lottery at lunch and never returned, there would be zero lapse in service. But most of us work like we plan on being the only one that can help anyone ,and this is a dangerous mentality, because we will set up unrealistic expectations. 

Our philosophy on notepads is as follows:

  • You can have a notepad on your desk, but it can only have 1 page of notes. Before you turn to the next page, everything must be logged, activities and attached. If you can’t handle this…
  • You then have only a white board. When you have to erase it, it must go into the system. If you can’t handle this…
  • You get no paper on your desk and you do it the way we should all do it – direct, one-time entry into the management system. 

You can’t tell me that writing it on paper and then logging it into the system is efficient. Please use the comments to tell me why the digital notepad, where you can copy and paste, or direct-entry wouldn’t save time?

As you can see, we are passionate about time management and we think every agency should be too!


Kelly Donahue Piro

Kelly Donahue-Piro is a game changer in the insurance industry. As the Founder and President of Agency Performance Partners and Co-Founder of the sister marketing company, Agency Appeal, she’s an in-demand speaker at regional and national insurance conferences and a social media and digital marketing trailblazer. READ MORE

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