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Vera Fischer Solocast Episode #1

Episode 10: 3 Ways to Stop Underestimating Time, with Vera Fischer

Vera Fischer began her career in residential real estate, working her way up from Leasing Agent to Property Manager. She segued to Operations Manager for the first privately held Cognitive Rehabilitation clinic in Austin, Texas. In 1993, Vera launched her career at GSD&M, an internationally known advertising agency. After various positions within several Austin area agencies, Vera went client-side to Forgent Networks. There she managed and implemented a multi-million dollar marketing budget for several years. In 2004, Vera founded her agency, 97 Degrees West known as The Brand Marketing Agency. Since 2004, the agency has survived both recessions and shown significant growth since 2012. Clients include: LS Tractor USA, United Heritage Credit Union, FirstCare Health Plans and several area small businesses in real estate, oil & gas and specialty medical practices. 97 Degrees West has been the recipient of 15 international creative and marketing awards including a Stevie Award from the American Business Association. Vera is a member of the University Area Rotary Club, a member of the Advisory Board for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University, a Mentor at Capital Factory and most recently, was accepted to the Master’s program at Texas State University in Strategic Communications.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to stop underestimating time
  • The three reasons why we underestimate how long it will take us to do something
  • Why you can’t ever schedule more than one event for an evening
  • Why you should block out your time for strategic thinking
  • Why you need to delegate

Ways to contact Vera:


Welcome to System Execution, the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company. Here, we’ll solve your physical, technological and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business and providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results. Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera: Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host. All businesses, no matter their size, relies on systems. Some of these are physical systems such as a factory. Some are technological like project management software while others are psychological systems such as checklists and organizational charts. Many of these systems overlap in your business. Today’s episode is a little bit different where I, Vera Fischer, your host, is the guest. Let’s start off and let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I began my career in residential real estate, worked my way up from leasing agent to property manager. After that, I segued over to operations and was the operations manager for the very first privately held cognitive rehabilitation clinic in Austin, Texas. This was back in 1990. I launched my advertising career at GSD&M in 1993, internationally known at the time and still is. After several positions within several different Austin area agencies, I went client-side to Forgent Networks and that is or was a spin-off of VTEL back in the day in the beginning of video conferencing. I managed and implemented a multi-million dollar marketing budget for several years including top of the funnel activities and outbound marketing and lead generation.

This was back in, let’s say, 2001, where we were getting a little bit smarter about online advertising and driving people to websites to get them to fill out demo forms or contract forms. In 2004, I was laid off on maternity leave, and that same day, I started my agency, 97 Degrees West, known as the Brand Marketing Agency. Since 2004, the agency has survived both recessions and finally showing some significant growth since 2012. Our largest clients are LS Tractor USA, United Heritage Credit Union, FirstCare Health Plans, and several state and national small businesses in the industries of real estate, oil and gas and specialty medical practices, healthcare, manufacturing and distribution.

We’ve been the recipient of fifteen international creative and marketing awards including a Stevie Award from the American Business Association for Online Campaign of the Year. That was actually this year in 2016. Let’s see what else. I can now call myself a podcast host. Beginning in the fall of 2017, I’ll be a professor of practice at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. I am also a mentor at Capital Factory and I am on the advisory board for Texas State School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Okay, enough about me. Let’s go on to the topic of today’s episode, underestimating time. Time: the one thing in your life that you cannot make more of. So many of us lament the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done on our list. Time management or how you divvy up your hours of the day for your to-do list has become an art.

Let’s face it, if you’re not an innate planner such as me, time management is difficult and dreaded. Throughout my career, there’s a pattern that has emerged in regards to time. Everybody including myself will woefully underestimate the amount of time it takes to do certain tasks and I am the biggest abuser of this. “Alright, you need this paper or this strategy? I can do it in three hours. Yes.” Really, it takes about sixteen. We underestimate that time. Why do we do that? Why do we underestimate the amount of time it takes to do certain tasks? There’s a couple of reasons, several in fact.

The first one is wishful thinking. If you’re trying to fit a fifteen-hour day into an eight-hour time-slot, on paper, it works real well, but in reality, it does not work. Secondly, we tend to underestimate the importance of complete focus. Most of us think that we can do multiple things at once. See item one of wishful thinking. Thinking requires focus. Focus requires uninterrupted time, and focus means working on one thing only. The third reason is that our new workforce that is coming up in the ranks which is also known as millennials are under the impression that immediate responses to digital communication is imperative to success.

Several screens opened at once is considered the task of the day, and there are several studies, and listeners, I encourage you to Google it, where the trend that is coming out of that third reason of underestimated time is that the millennials, as they’re going through and responding to every single tweet, text, email, LinkedIn request, they’re doing a lot without getting anything done, and it will impact their career trajectories or how they’re able to produce more insightful and thoughtful pieces of work. I find that to be really interesting.

How do I go through all this and how do I get everything that I do done? I have a system that works really well for me and again, you have to find the nuggets that work for you personally and I want to preface my system that I’m an innate planner. Part of it is who I am. The other part is how I grew up in advertising. In advertising, to be really successful at any agency, you have to predict anything that could possibly go wrong with a project and then circumvent it before it ever happens. I’ve had to circumvent customers, I’ve had to circumvent executives that don’t read emails or respond to emails. I mean, name it and I’ve gotten around it. Let’s go through the list of time management for Vera.

First, one evening, one event, period. What does that mean? It means that if there is a dinner with family or friends or a networking dinner or if I’m going to stay at the office later or if I’m going to go exercise or if I’m going to go attend a class because I’m getting a master’s degree, I don’t double up. There are a lot of people who think they can get two or three events done in one evening and it creates havoc, so one event, one evening, period. I actually do that for Sundays as well and the weekends.

Also, at the second item, I block out my calendar during the day for strategic thinking or strategic items for the time of day that works really well for me. I’m a morning person, so I really like to do my heavy thinking in the morning. You might be a night owl, so after 3:00 or 4:00 is going to be your prime time for thinking. You really need to block out that time that works best for you as best you can. The third one has to be told with a little bit of a story about the chief marketing officer that I worked with on the client side. My title was marketing director.

I had grown up as a Generation Xer and we grew up as latchkey kids, so we’re used to doing everything, no matter the size or the depth of the project. It’s the worker mentality. All of it on your shoulders is typically what we think of. He pulled me aside one day and he said to me, “What is your title?” I said, “Marketing director.” He said, “Now, what’s the key word in your title?” I of course thought, “Marketing.” He goes, “No. It’s direct. That is what you have to do. You have to direct to stop underestimating time. Get other people to do certain things to free up your time. It’s not failure if you don’t do it all yourself.” He goes, “I don’t care who gets it done. It could be co-workers, it could be a paid partner, it could be family members.” He goes, “I don’t care if it’s monkeys. As long as you direct and you get it done, that’s all I care about.”

I thought that was very insightful and since then, what I do is I ask myself, “Is this something someone else can do that I can have them take care of it?” I get a lot of what I get done by the sheer level of directives and delegating to other people to get it done. That’s three action items. You can try implementing one or all three of them. You know what? Let me know how it goes. Or if you have something to add to this, let me know because this is the good stuff that people are looking for, in my opinion.

You can write to me via the show notes at systemexecution.com. Look for the Underestimating Time episode. You can also tweet me @systemexecution, or if you want to reach out to me personally, send me a tweet @verafischer97. That is Vera F-I-S-C-H-E-R-97. Alright System Execution fans. No matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to this episode, the key is you must know that every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome. Thank you so much, listeners, for your support and your share of ear.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution on underestimating time to be enlightening. For free examples, case studies, e-books and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.




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