METAphorically and in practice, everyone's on the same page at The Phelps Group, a Santa Monica, Calif., integrated marketing-communications company where almost all 56 employees carry the same model of day planner book. How does a uniform time-management system inspire salespeople? For starters, the organized format can help prevent them from getting bogged down in paperwork, so it's easier for them to make outgoing calls. Second, having the same day planners connects them to the rest of the organization so that salespeople function as team players.

The system Phelps swears by is called Priority Manager, from Priority Management Systems. "At $495 per employee, it's a big investment - but I think the payoff happens pretty quickly," says CEO Joe Phelps. The cost includes several training sessions, including one in which a trainer walks through a workday with the employee to help establish better time-budgeting behavior. The system melds a calendar of events (meetings, appointments, project deadlines), a daily scheduler, an A-to-Z directory with phone numbers, a communications planner, and a special scheduler for "balance elements" (soccer games, pottery class, symphony concerts). "It's become a part of the company culture," says Phelps. "You don't attend a meeting without your planner."