Experienced mystery shoppers could probably teach a master class on time management. However, for those of you just starting out in the industry, know that managing time well is a skill you have to learn. There are several tricks that will make this process, and your future report writing, much easier.
Calendars are key
Keeping a calendar detailing shop dates, times, locations and when their reports are due is critical to an effective mystery shopping lifestyle. Even if you've been given a span of time to complete a shop, try to designate a specific day and time you can commit to completing it. Mystery Shop Maven asserted this will keep you on track. Waiting until the last minute can leave you scrambling. Plus, shops can come up suddenly and if you've left other tasks waiting, you'll be in over your head. Especially as the holiday season approaches and personal commitments come up more frequently, keeping an organized calendar will help you manage time well.
Time management goes hand in hand with being an organized worker. Keep track of receipts, jobs, correspondence and reports with a system that works well for you. This means being able to easily locate files when asked and being on top of emails with your schedulers.
Multiple shop days
There will inevitably come days when you'll have to complete a few shops in a row. This will certainly require strong time management. For these instances, it's important to stick to the requirements of each shop. Not only because the client requested specific information, but because this will save you time when taking notes and writing reports. Though it may feel like you're doing a favor for the client by adding additional observations and opinions to a report, avoid doing this. Reply well to the questions they've asked or the details they've noted. On the other hand, don't skimp on reporting. If you don't accurately complete their requests, this can result in your editor tossing out your work or calling to obtain more information from you. This will waste everyone's time and reflect poorly on your performance.
It also helps to take notes during a shop whenever possible. Though this isn't always an option depending on the type of shop, it will certainly save time later when you sit down to compile your thoughts. If necessary, spend time in transit between shops to record thoughts. Whether this is on the bus, train or sitting in your car before heading out to the next location, take the time to jot things down while they are still fresh. Use a highlighter or different colored pens for each shop to help organize notes.
Focus on one thing only
When you finally sit down to compose a mystery shopping report, focus on just one at a time. Again, when those multiple shop days are over, you'll find your head swimming with various images, thoughts, details and observations. Limit yourself to one report at a time and focus only on that shop experience. Take breaks between reports to let your mind settle. This will actually make you more productive and prevent you from burning out.
Be productive, not busy
As Buffer Social stated, becoming better at time management requires taking action instead of just planning new ways to work more efficiently. There is a difference between being busy with tons of shops that pay small fees and actively seeking out more challenging gigs that pay well and give you better experience in the industry. In addition, writing three sloppy reports is not as beneficial as writing one solid report. Rather than rushing through activities, be sure you're taking the time to produce quality work.