Have you ever had a day that you were SO BUSY, but at the end of the day looked back and realized that you didn’t actually do or complete any of the major things you needed to?
I know most Financial Advisors want to work less, and know they need to manage themselves to get more done (in addition to having a killer, effective team & good systems!).
Here are the questions we are going to answer today:
1. How do you ACTUALLY get things done in your time blocks without getting distracted?
2. How do you manage your time when random tasks and crap just pop up in your business that you have to deal with?
3. How do you not get sucked into the vortex that is random to dos, being all over the place, and juggling all the balls?
4. How do you manage your energy so you can get the “big, more time-consuming” things done?
I am sharing 8 tips & tricks I uncovered over my near 2 decades in the business that worked for me when it came to actually getting done what I was supposed to… when I was supposed to do it.
1. BRAIN DUMP
The goal of the brain dump is to clear all the open tabs in your mind so you can focus on the tasks you have to get done TODAY. Essentially, you can use a sheet like this one I created for you that has prompts… or just a plain piece of paper is fine too! Now, you just write down all the stuff that’s floating around in your brain and get it down on paper. Things you need to do, random marketing ideas, name of an accountant you want to connect with.
All the stuff that typically pops up in the middle of doing something else and you get distracted because you think “You know who I really need to have coffee with? Bryan! Where is his email address? I’m going send him an email RIGHT NOW!”
I find that once my brain knows it’s written down, it can release those thoughts. When a random one comes to mind, I just jot it down and keep working on my project.
2. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
This one feels like a no brainer, but we all don’t do what we know we should. Like turning off notifications. So we actually just need to do it. Turn off all the dings and whistles for literally everything on both you laptop and your phone. Especially email. There is just something about an email notification that just BEGS to be responded too… even when you’re trying to work on a deep work kind of project.
I would often straight up hand my phone off to my assistant and tell her not to give it back to me for two hours (unless you see a call come in from the kids’ school!). Or, if you don’t have a teammate just yet. Put you phone in your desk drawer and promise yourself not to touch it.
Additionally you can announce to your team that you are going to do some work and can’t be interrupted. Often when you staff knows you’re available they also know they can get some of their questions answered when they pop up. Make sure to check out Episode #015: ‘7 strategies to reduce team interruptions’ if you need tips to proactively help your team help you.
Now that we’ve got those two bare bare minimums out of the way, let’s get into what really worked for me and I’ve seen work for other advisors I coach.
3. RAPID-FIRE POWER HOUR
This is one of my favorite strategies I stumbled across several years ago on the Productivity Straight Talk podcast. A Rapid-Fire Power Hour is essentially predetermined time built into your schedule to just knock out a bunch of small tasks on your to-do list in a row, back-to-back. Some may take only two minutes like a simple email, reviewing a document, or paying a bill. Others may take a little longer like looking up the answer to a quick client question and creating a solution (for example like where to take $5k out for a down payment on a new car). You know what I’m talking about — the little tasks that you know will take just a few minutes but you can’t seem to just get them done.
If you were to do those tasks sporadically throughout the week as they pop up, they would interrupt the flow of the high-priority tasks you are working on. They would also add up to big time wasters because each time your work flow is interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the level of concentration you were at previously! Alternatively, if you batch small tasks together into one rapid-fire power hour, you can address and complete all of those little tasks back-to-back with efficiency because they don’t require deep work and tons of concentration like sitting down to write a financial plan.
Think about your energy levels and when it makes sense for you to book this time into your Model Week. Do you prefer to knock these tasks out in the morning or at the end of the day. Beginning or end of the week? I suggest just giving it a try and testing what works for your personality, energy, & preference.
4. IRON BUTT TIME
I first heard about this on a podcast interview with David Crenshaw. Essentially, it’s scheduling time where you pretend your booty is made of iron or lead and it’s not allowed to leave the seat until a project is done. And just for reference, -if you Google Iron Butt Time you will NOT get info from David Crenshaw, but a lot of other fun and interesting things most related to motorcycle bikers. Now you know.
Anyways, I started this idea as a challenge. I’d set my timer for 30 minutes and challenge myself to work on something until the timer went off… and then I’d get to treat myself. The treat could just be a fresh cup of coffee, a lap around the office to make jokes, or whatever that looks like for you. Chocolate. Snacks. Emergency can of wine in your drawer. That’s a thing. I recommend it. Over time I worked my way up to 45 minutes and then a 15 minute break.
Eventually I found a rhythm that worked for me… turns out there’s actually a name and it’s called POMODORO METHOD! And, it gave me even more energy and focus than just Iron Butt Time.
5. THE POMODORO METHOD
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have — rather than against it. Essentially, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. — again using a trusty little timer.
The concept behind the technique is that the timer instills a sense of urgency. Instead of having endless time to get things done — -and then ultimately squandering those precious work hours on low-value tasks… or just the ones you weren’t supposed to be focusing on — -you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible.
The forced breaks (I call them rewards!) help to cure that burnt-out feeling most of us experience toward the end of the day. This method makes it impossible to spend hours in front of your computer without even realizing it, because that timer reminds you to get up and take a break.
There is research too that even if you’re a sit and crank stuff out for 3 hours straight kind of girl… you still benefit from these breaks. And, the results are amplified if you do something physical in that time. Like walk. Sit ups. Squats. Arm lifts drinking your desk wine.
The research shows you’ll leave the office with more energy. And, I know a lot of you feel like you’re leaving exhausted and wiped out and have barely energy for Netflix at the end of the day… much less quality and stimulating conversation with your spouse. So… give this one a go!
Pro tip: Pick what needs to be accomplished in that 25 minutes and that’s the goal by the deadline. Which brings me to tip #6.
6. THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOU GIVE SOMETHING IS THE AMOUNT OF TIME IT WILL TAKE YOU
Pomodoro helps a TON with this. Racing against the clock. Like how when someone is coming over to visit you get more cleaned up in that last 20 minutes than you did all day. Same thing. Different application.
This became apparent to me when I retired. I still kept a planner and had my beautiful to do list. However, at the end of the day I was appalled at how little I got done. I felt like I was SO BUSY, but not really actually accomplishing anything.
I was lamenting to my best friend and she used me own coaching against me. “Libby, you’ve got ALL day to do the thing… so you’re giving it all day to do the thing.”
I got back to giving myself time blocks to do things. Swim lessons for the kids? I have 25-minutes to research and book it. Call the doctor’s office, submit a form to the school, all those things… now come in a Rapid Fire Power Pomodoro (that’s my new made up thing).
Giving deadlines for your team is important too! For example, telling your admin to have a sample workshop invitation for you to review by 2:00pm puts some pressure to race against the clock vs. an open-ended “go that soon, please.” Or even telling them, “Hey, research this thing… but do NOT spend more than 10 minutes on it.” We all need guidelines and deadlines. It helps us control ourselves.
7. DEPEND ON YOUR TEAM AND ASK FOR HELP KEEPING YOU ON TRACK
Your team (or family) can been a great tool to keep you on task. When I would sit down for “Iron Butt Time” or a series of Pomodoros… would literally announce to the office “If you see me come out before 10:30… refuse to talk to me. Turn me around and point me to my office.”
And they did! I needed their help as I was adjusting to Deep Work sessions. My Advisor ADD had a very hard time with this and I enlisted everyone to help me. Your team WANTS to help you!
The side effect of this, is it highlights how important something is (no interruptions, please!) AND if you’ve told other people that’s what you’re doing it holds you accountable to having a deliverable at the end of that time frame.
I also enlisted my team to hold me accountable to my model week as well!
8. SET INTENTION FOR TOMORROW AT END OF DAY WHEN EVERYTHING IS SUPER FRESH
This is the BEST time to lay out your plan for the next work day. What are the 3 big things you need to do to move your business forward? Or what big projects to you need to button up.
I would take it as far as to quickly sketch out the blocks of time on my model week and break them down into pomodoros.
So, if I had a 2-hour block it might look like this:
Pomodoro 1: Finish Goals, Observations, and Tax Analysis for the smiths, Write protection goals and print off illustrations/comparisons
Pomodoro 2: Asset management recommendations, income distribution options — finalize and give to Lori to proof read
Pomodoro 3: Write script for next social media video and submit
Pomodoro 4: Research socially responsible large cap funds & finalize 3 options for the Davis family
By laying out ahead of time what needs to get done AND setting a reasonable amount to get done in each pomodoro, there is now ZERO thinking left for tomorrow when you can change your mind based on your current mindset or the crummy morning you had. Instead, you just follow the plan!
You’ll also leave the office feeling organized and prepared versus frazzled and overwhelmed.
So there you have it…
Eight pretty simple productivity hacks for you to implement in your model week right away to make you more efficient AND more effective.
I’d love for you to share this article with an Advisor friend who could use some tips & tricks for maximizing their time too!