To be successful, companies have to plan ahead. Time management courses may be the key for some, but Tony Baker says a yearly planner from the poundshop will do the trick too....

Just one pound sorted my business out for a whole year. As a business expense I will get tax relief. Wow, what a bargain! How clever I was to invest the money!

You too can do the same if you act now.

It all started with a shopping trip. I went to buy a new Windows 98 keyboard because I was having problems with my capitals. Very frustrating it is when you can touch-type fast with four fingers and the capital key is on the blink. You have to keep stopping and going back to press the capital key hard so it correctly delivers.

Well, what a bargain I got. The shop was going out of business and everything was reduced to "cost" price. Less than £9 for a new keyboard that will last out the computer. That was not my real bargain, though. It came from an adjoining shop.

I ventured into "Poundland" interested in the garden tools in the window for just £1. I bought two excellent tools but then my eyes then fell on the ultimate bargain – an A5 publication.

The front proudly set out three promises: "2001: A Year to Remember, Organise & Smile and Time Management System".

A check inside revealed it was true to its word, and all for just £1! My business will now thrive next year. The front of the book has a year planner, personal memoranda, holiday details, telephone dialling, world currencies, metric conversion and much more. Even better, I have space for my dream list, my 2001 new year resolutions and my 2001 plan of action.

There is a complete page for every single day of the year and each month space for goals, a plan of action and previous month self-assessment and review. The potential for adding value to your business operations is vast.

Just think how efficient the industry would be if everyone was supplied with an "Organise and Smile". The cost would be £230,000 for all directly employed in the industry, with a further £140,000 for people working auxiliary to insurance. A drop in the ocean for a trade body or the Chartered Insurance Insitute (CII). Perhaps a grant from the Department of Trade & Industry or European Union might apply.

To be successful, we all need to plan ahead and such a planner must help. I will use it and feel guilty if I do not fill in the key parts. What are your goals and targets for the new year? Have you considered your likely flow of work for the year and started to plan accordingly? Are you going to react to events or set your own agenda?

All this for just £1. A time management course would cost hundreds of pounds and may not equip you much better, if you have the motivation to use your "Time management System".

It also includes one other great benefit. The "smile" element. This takes the form of an individual and unique remark and cartoon at the bottom of each diary day. I admit some are really bad but others have some truth:

  • March 21: "You're making good progress as a trainee – your memos are getting more and more ambiguous!"
  • June 26: "The management has acknowledged the success of your discount sales scheme and has decided to give you a discount – on your annual raise!"
  • August 8: "We're in people business. You should develop the knack of fooling people all the time without them ever realising it!"

    My one criticism comes from reading the comment for January 1: "His words speak louder than his work – he's a management consultant, you know!"

  • Tony Baker was deputy director-general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and now runs his own independent consultancy. He can be contacted on 01920 465 000 or email: .

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