Why You Need to Start Each Day with a Written Plan

I learned a lot from my first branch manager.

Shortly after starting, he explained I needed to start each day with a written daily plan, put together before I left the office the previous day. (I also learned I was supposed to be on the phone the entire time the market was open, except for lunch and appointments.) Here’s why the written plan makes sense.

Technology Has a Downside

Today, every advisor has a spectacular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program on our desktop. It tells us who to call. It keeps track of our notes. It alerts us to birthdays. We can attach documents. But it doesn’t tell us how to do business, when we are taking on too much or how to avoid interruptions.

The Joy of the Spiral Notebook

My manager told me to use a spiral bound college notebook. Each day started with a fresh sheet. Projects were listed in three categories of priority. In the upper right hand corner was the production number I wanted to hit. Down the right hand side were the personal things I wanted to get done and places I needed to be.Yes, this was back in the transactional days, or more accurately the years when transactions gradually led into the fee based, managed money way of doing business.The top priority list included the clients where most of my business would be coming from that day. Then, it was maturing money that needed to be invested or trades that made sense for that client. Those were the calls that were made first. The object was to get the day’s business in by noontime, leaving the afternoon free for client meetings and prospecting.The top priority also included client portfolio reviews. Those often lead to business. Notes from these meetings were written up on the pages following the daily plan. What did we discuss? What did I say I would do? What did the client ask about? Agree to? What do they need? Client phone conversations also were written up in notes form.Here’s the beauty of this approach: You are creating a chronological record, sheet by sheet and binder by binder. If a client calls and asks about something you discussed during their last call your CRM system lets you know when the call took place and the page in the binder lets you see all the notes you took, while they were fresh in your mind. “Yes, I did suggest that NYC muni bond. It’s not available now, but let me see…Yes, I can find something pretty similar…” (Obviously you have notes in your CRM system too.)Related: 5 Less Than Obvious Ways to Ask for ReferralsWe all hope we never have a Compliance problem. If a complaint comes up, you have a good, handwritten record of what you talked about. Even better, it’s in a spiral bound book! Additional pages can’t be slipped in and pages removed look pretty obvious, since notes are kept on both sides.What else does the daily plan do? The middle and low priority categories start to get into the “point of diminishing returns” category. You can easily justify shifting to prospecting or projects not generating immediate revenue if you have hit your number or the remaining items listed wouldn’t make that big a difference.If you find your plan is too big to fit onto one page, you are trying to do too much. If you find you only draw a line through one third of the items listed, you are taking on too much. If someone from the office comes in, asking you to do something you think isn’t a productive use of time, you can show your plan still has unfinished calls to get business or client contact projects. Clients and revenue come first.

Adding a Timeline

As an advisor, you have plenty of options for calendaring. You might still add a timelines onto your daily plan, blocking out time for prospecting, office meetings and scheduled client appointments or calls. The written daily plan gives you control over your life instead of other people dictating it for you.

Are Things That Different Today?

Today, the business has transforming into a fee based model with a focus on client contact and service. Most people would agree portfolio reviews, asking for more money and meaningful client contacts are priorities. The daily plan can easily be adapted to support that model. Don’t forget the prospecting part!