You have a to-do list, right? Despite your list (and your best intentions), do you often haphazardly start your working day? When it’s a miserable Monday, terrible Tuesday, or overwhelming Wednesday, your to-do list probably gets shoved aside as soon as you slide into your office chair.
Obviously, a to-do list alone does not make you more organized.
Organization, efficiency, and time management are big concerns for all my business coaching clients. I try to model what I teach. As a result, people often ask me how I have the time to do everything I do.
When I worked on Wall Street, I created my to-do list for the next day before I left work. The next morning, with my cup of coffee, I viewed that list, added items, removed items, and numbered the tasks according to their priority.
That system worked for me on Wall Street and it still works today. I see a BIG difference (one that I don’t like) when I wing it instead of writing my list! But it doesn’t matter WHEN you write your to-do list. Many of my clients prefer to write their list during their first hour of their day. No calls. They just focus on what’s important and urgent to do that day.
Practice Management Beyond the To-Do List
Everyone works differently. When I work with my financial advisor clients, we create rituals that help them work smarter each day. These rituals go beyond their to-do lists. Here are some other ways to organize your day and better manage your financial practice.
- As mentioned above, designate a time of day to write out your to-do list and do it every day!
- Spend the first hour of your day with your staff. Meet with your assistant, for 5 minutes, every morning at the same time to go over your plans for the day. Set the tone for the day.
- Create a system for usual to-dos. Let’s say one of your goals is to send out 60 thank you cards per month. Or make calls to 80 prospects per month. Chunk those goals into smaller pieces, spread out over the days you work. Create a form or use a spreadsheet.
- On your firm-wide appointment schedule, show Fridays as a day off and a day away from clients. My day off is called “integrity day”, a term coined by Thomas Leonard, the father of coaching (and a former financial planner). I use my integrity day to catch up on unfinished management and marketing tasks. If there is nothing to catch up on, I reward myself with a three-day weekend!
- Don’t schedule any client calls during the 4th week of the month. Again, use this week to catch up in the office, for team trainings, or spend more time out of the office with family and friends. We all need time off!
- Change the way you work to a way that works better for you, but also keeps your ideal clients in mind. Maybe you’re out of the office on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday visiting with prospects and clients. Why not schedule quarterly, semi-annual, and yearly reviews during certain days and times of the year?
Years ago, after taking my first yearly cross-country drive from my Seattle home to New York, my business coach suggested that I move my client meetings to just two days of the week. Being willing to try out her idea, I started to schedule client meetings only on Mondays and Tuesdays. I was surprised that only one client complained and I kept him scheduled on Wednesdays. That gave me Wednesdays and Thursdays to focus on management and marketing tasks and returning phone calls that need my attention. My new schedule allowed me to take mini “work-cation weeks” during the year. Plus, when I drive across the country each summer, I earn money working 2 days per week (Mondays and Tuesdays) and spend the other 5 days vacationing.
- From the book, “The 4-Hour Workweek”, one of the concepts I picked up was to answer emails at certain times of the day. I’m always amazed that the world didn’t stop and nothing bad happened just because I didn’t answer my email every 10 minutes and instead waited until 10am!
- Delegate tasks. Hire employees or contractors. Yes, do this at work and at home as well! Hire someone to deep-clean your home, organize the garage, etc. I often hire someone to clean with me and love that everything gets done so much more quickly! Sometimes, I hire an administrative assistant to work in my office for a day when I can just “boss them around” to organize client packages, clean, and file things away. Delegate. Need I say more?
- Schedule free days and play days. I can remember the day like it was yesterday… My colleagues and I were waiting for some financial numbers to come out, so we were talking about what we did for fun. What I realized (like I was hit with a brick) was that I loved what I did so much (at work and volunteering) and was such a workaholic that to have fun — play days, vacation days, or free days — I had to schedule them each month. Thirty-something years later, I continue to schedule out these days on a yearly calendar. If you have a team, keeping a yearly calendar in the office (or online) is even more important. When your staff can look at a calendar, fewer people ask for the same days or weeks off.
- Uncover your tolerations and begin to systematically eliminate them. What are tolerations? They are the irritations, large or minuscule, that slowly and often silently zap your energy, creativity, and productivity. Tolerations sabotage your aspirations because they are in the background, the things you brush off as “no big deal” but add up until you begin to notice their collective weight.
Tolerations can be an unorganized drawer, an appointment you’ve avoided making, a squeaky dryer, the form that needs updating, a messy desk, the fact that you’re working nights or weekends, etc. Whatever your tolerations, write them all down. The first time you write your tolerations list, don’t stop until your list is between 75-100 items. Next, schedule 15-30 minutes to chip away at them during your catch-up days. You will be amazed at how much better you feel! Here’s a link to my own worksheet for listing your tolerations.
“I choose to create structure in my life so that I accomplish much more in less time.”
I have to state here: being a rebel, I hate the word discipline. I prefer the word structure. Structure helps my firm and life run more smoothly. Structures are practices I choose to use that give me more choice. Implementing to-do lists and other structures into our businesses helps us accomplish more. These practices also give us the confidence to say “no” to activities that won’t help us reach our business or personal goals.
Getting more done comes with the side benefits of using your time more effectively and what I refer to in my financial advisor coaching practice as “banishing burnout”.
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