Six Daily Habits to Set You Apart From the Pack

Practical, doable, and sustainable guidelines to achieve your management goals.

December 23, 2015 Photo

Whether you are a high-level claims executive, a midlevel manager, or a field claims professional, finding a way to distinguish yourself from your peers can be a difficult task. There are many articles suggesting ways to accomplish this goal, but they often are unrealistic.

It is critical that suggestions are practical, doable, and sustainable over the long term. If they do not meet these criteria, you will not succeed in implementing them. Here we’ll look at six practices that you can adopt as daily habits to set yourself apart and excel.

Daily Habit #1: The first daily habit is to use time efficiently. In the claims resolution world, time management is a key to success. To make the most of your workday, have a plan and put it in writing. Prioritize your day to improve your end results. However, planning your day means more than noting, “Today, I will work on project A, B, and C or files X, Y, and Z.” It means specifically planning and writing down essential elements, such as “I will do task A, B, and C on the Smith file,” or “I will prepare for the 11 a.m. meeting by reviewing the large-loss report.” Preparation and planning are keys to a more efficient use of work time.

We all know that you can have a great plan for the day but one phone call can destroy it for that day—or maybe the next few days. But once the crisis is over, go back to the plan. Think about how much easier it will be to return to the written plan and pick up where you left off. If needed, modify the plan to reflect changes in priorities.

In your plan, prioritize your day to maximize personal work habits. If you are sharpest in the morning, allocate those hours to coverage issues and writing reports. Save the afternoons for phone calls and meetings. If you know that one day of the week is usually pretty calm, pull and review your diary that day. If you find that you are having trouble managing time effectively, check out CLM Fellow Kevin Quinley’s book Time Management for Claims Professionals or Alan Lakein’s How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.

Daily Habit #2. Mastering time management will go a long way in alleviating ancillary stress. Keeping ancillary stress at a manageable level is the second daily habit to incorporate into your routine. Stress in claims is a given, but there are many ways to minimize ancillary stress. It is okay to be stressed about a major loss, but you do not need the additional stress of going to a meeting unprepared. This is where planning your day can help. Planning ahead also can minimize surprises, which typically cause stress. Act calmly, even when under stress. A calm, confident demeanor often can defuse a stressful situation.

Daily Habit #3. The third habit to develop is the ability to listen effectively and ask follow-up questions that help draw out information. Listening doesn’t mean thinking about what you want to ask next. It means not only hearing what is said, but also asking appropriate questions to learn about the person speaking—things like what they value, where they need help, and their concerns. Too often in claims, the discussion is about our needs and what we need from the person with whom we are speaking. Listening first and asking follow-up questions will engender an environment of trust, making it easier for you to get what you need.

In order to listen effectively, you will need to minimize distractions. Turn off the phone and the computer, if possible. Concentrate on what the person in front of you is saying. This is not an easy thing to do, but once you implement it, both you and the person with whom you are talking will find the discussion more productive.

Daily Habit #4. Increasing your understanding of the insurance business environment is the fourth daily habit. Every day, take time to improve your knowledge of the current business environment. Know what your company is doing, and keep an eye on emerging issues that can impact the claims process. Also, read articles on what other insurers are doing to improve their claims and underwriting products.

Daily Habit #5. Incorporating continuing education into your routine is the fifth daily habit. Learning something new every day in actuality is pretty easy because there is so much information shared on a daily basis. Find opportunities to improve your skills and knowledge, and do not be content with your current abilities. Improvement will bring new opportunities for advancement.

Daily Habit #6. Finally, you must instill in yourself a sense of urgency. Treat every claim, every project, and every meeting individually as if it were the only thing on which you must focus. A sense of urgency does not mean rushing to get to the next thing on the to-do list; it means having an understanding that what you do impacts many other people. Those people will appreciate the feeling of importance that your sense of urgency conveys.

Creating new habits is not easy. It takes a long time, and there can be roadblocks and setbacks. Begin the process by focusing on a small change that will facilitate a bigger change. Sometimes it can help to set a goal to reinforce the commitment. Your goal could be to read one industry publication a day as part of your continuing education habit and as part of the habit of understanding the insurance business environment. Pick a point in your daily schedule to insert the new habit. Instead of saying, “I will plan out my entire day first thing every morning,” aim for a smaller, more specific goal such as “At 8 a.m., I will list my work priorities until lunch time.”

If the process of creating a new habit seems overwhelming or you want to quit after a slip-up, examine the reasons behind the struggle. Abandon the all-or-nothing mentality. Consider what things are likely to get in your way and devise a plan to deal with them. For a habit to stick, you need to be consistent and persistent.   

About The Authors
Donna J. Popow

Donna J. Popow, JD, CPCU, AIC, is president of Donna J. Popow LLC, and has more than 25 years of experience in the property and casualty insurance industry. She has been a CLM Fellow since 2007 and can be reached at (215) 630-0829.

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