ADJUSTERS, YOU'RE WEARING YOURSELVES THIN
AMay 9, 2016
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Being an adjuster is very hard work. Most people get into the field having seen a friend or relative benefiting from the financial advantages, but few took the time to really evaluate the difficulty of the profession. Limited sleep, disrupted schedules, more and more work coming in and sometimes unachievable time-lines greet the professional adjuster.
Time and time again we have been warned about the dangers of overworking, limited sleep, long hours and strenuous activity, yet this seems to nail the job description of an adjuster. Today I want to discuss a few small changes that can help any adjuster get their days back on track and become more productive at what they do. Let's dive in.
1. Get More Sleep
Most of you reading this have been in the field before and experienced massive sleep deprivation. I'm talking about the level of sleep deprivation where you shut off the computer and phone to hide in your bedroom or hotel just to catch up. Problem is, sleep deprivation is our own doing. We have decided that the only path to success as an adjuster is by sleeping less, you know, so we can get more done...
Science has shown that sleep is crucially important to our ability to process things cognitively, perform basic motor functions (like driving or climbing a ladder), retain information and relieving stress. Sounds like all of those things would benefit an adjuster. Yet we still neglect and even feel guilty about sleeping.
Here is another way of thinking about it -- our daily productivity when not getting enough sleep (that is at least 8 hours for most between the ages of 19 and 55) can significantly decrease, as much as 30% according to some research. If a CAT adjuster works 14 - 16 hours per day, that means as much as 4.2 to 4.8 hours could be lost due to lack of sleep (assuming all 14 to 16 of those hours are spent being productive)!
If a CAT adjuster works 14 - 16 hours per day, that means as much as 4.2 to 4.8 hours could be lost due to lack of sleep (assuming all 14 to 16 of those hours are spent being productive)!
I have already written on how I took advantage of my most productive time by flipping my schedule, which you can read here. But maybe the loss in productivity in the afternoon was caused by lack of sleep the night before.
We could go on and on about the dangers of sleep deprivation and drowsiness, which are compounded by the hours we spend on roofs, behind the wheel and in other places with increased likelihood of death or injury. The point is this, turn off the computer, phone and any other distractions and focus on getting your sleep back on track, starting tonight!
2. Ditch the Distractions
Adjusters work in a highly stressful environment. Never before have there been more demands on our schedules and attention. Carriers want quicker turnaround. Insureds expect priority treatment in exchange for the same premium everyone else is paying. Firms want the highest quality work and have added a myriad of checklists and requirements, often varying from carrier to carrier or worse. Public adjusters, agents and contractors are calling constantly.
So much of this can be avoided with a bit of proactive thinking and prioritization. For starters, if you have email alerts on your phone, turn them off. Right now. I'll wait. Are they off? Good. Even if you didn't, you need to seriously consider eliminating this unnecessary distraction. These alerts are a plague. While I am not suggesting you eliminate email from your phone, I am simply stating that hearing a buzz or alert every time you receive new mail is distracting and increasing stress significantly.
Put email off until predetermined times of the day. Even if a message is urgent, I have found that most of the time the sender will call first or afterwards to ensure that you are paying attention to it. Common email etiquette specifies that 24-hour turnaround is acceptable. Also, be sure to follow the tips for reducing email clutter.
Put email off until predetermined times of the day. Even if a message is urgent, I have found that most of the time the sender will call first or afterwards to ensure that you are paying attention to it.
You should also consider the amount of time that you are spending on calls. While a notch higher on the importance scale, most of the calls you are getting are generally draining your time. I personally block out an hour in the morning and afternoon for returning calls, setting appointments or completing other phone related tasks. Everything else gets screened and either sent to voice mail or answered and completed quickly.
While this may increase the potential for escalating calls, it also frees your time to focus on writing reports, completing inspections and closing files.
3. Stop Multi-tasking
This is such a terrible habit. Your ability to multi-task is really killing your productivity. Don't interrupt an estimate to take a call. Stop checking emails when you should be labeling photos. Don't try to inspect a building while on the phone. Just stop.
I try not to rant too much, but a little prioritization goes a long way toward making us more productive. This should be evident in the tips on this site and in this article so far. Block out a section of your day for writing reports and estimates and get them turned in, don't put it off.
For example, I typically write reports, estimates, label photos, etc. first thing in the morning right after coffee and breakfast. I get as many as I can done in a few short hours. If I start at 5AM, I want to be finished by 10AM. I will then take an hour for calls and 30 minutes for emails. For those doing the math, still no inspections as of 11:30AM. From there, I will focus the remainder of my day on inspections, taking another hour for calls and emails in the afternoon (5 or 6PM).
While this schedule may not work for you, it clearly prioritizes my day and gives importance to the tasks requiring the most focus first, while I am mentally sharp and have the least distractions. I eliminate multitasking by only allowing myself to work in one mode at a time. When Xactimate is open, I leave the browser and email closed. When writing reports outside of Xactimate, I rely on the PDF of my estimate and photos, rather than be tempted to work on another project or fix an issue then and there.
By doing this, I am accomplishing more since I am focusing on one task until it is completed. This is what has allowed me to maximize the number of inspections and reports that I can get out in a day.
4. Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy
I won't spend too much time here, but it is a fact that stress can increase our ability to metabolize food properly. Pair that with the propensity of over-eating to eliminate stress and it is no wonder that we have increased a pant size or two since starting as an adjuster. While I have also fallen into this trap more than once, I have discovered that eating smaller meals and staying adequately hydrated has increased my ability to make it through long hot days in the field.
Hydration is most important here. If you have never felt the effects of dehydration, you are lucky. Not drinking enough water can lead to fatigue, headaches and dehydration can even lead to dizziness, which is not a good combination when working on rooftops.
Adjusters should keep a cooler filled with ice and water (sports drinks are okay too) and make sure that they are drinking between inspections. This is so important, yet commonly overlooked.
Not drinking enough water can lead to fatigue, headaches and dehydration can even lead to dizziness, which is not a good combination when working on rooftops.
5. Take a day off
This may seem counterintuitive, especially when deployed to a storm site away from family, but taking a day off just to relax and rejuvenate is worth the small perceived loss in productivity. I know adjusters that will go as hard as they can for a month and then completely burn out and have to force a week or more of time off just to refocus and re-energize themselves. Going non-stop 24/7 is not going to win you prizes, it is just going to wear you out.
Taking a day off is not selfish, it is not going to get you fired and will probably even help with all the things we have discussed so far. It will definitely put you in a better mood and leave you with memories of the places you got to see. What good is being an adjuster if we don't get to enjoy our travels?
If you're in San Antonio working hail claims, take a day and see The Alamo. Working wind claims in the Midwest? Go see a movie or walk around a local park. Wherever you are, make sure you take a little time to put the claims away for the entire day, focus on something different and relax.
The positives far outweigh any negative that can come from doing this. You will be emotionally rejuvenated and ready to tackle the daily grind with renewed vigor. Your stress will be relieved and you will get the opportunity to feel human again. In the long run, you will be able to sustain peak performance far longer than the adjuster who ignores rest and fizzles in two weeks, which may mean more claims for you!
This job is hard. Competition is fierce. Claims are limited and time-lines are short. We need every advantage that we can get. While these techniques and tips are nothing revolutionary, it amazes me how many adjusters are still trying to function while mentally, physically and emotionally drained.
If statistics point toward increased productivity just by relaxing, eating and sleeping better and being more organized, why do we continue to try to work in a manner that is counterintuitive to the facts?
My challenge to you is simple. Take a week to apply these techniques and tips and see if they work for you. If anything, you will gain a new perspective and some valuable self evaluation time, which we could all use.