Are you asking your brain to do too much?
It takes a lot of energy and time for our brains to shift gears. I’ve seen stats ranging from ten to twenty minutes. This means each time you’re interrupted by, let’s say, a phone call, it could take up to twenty minutes to re-focus on the task you were doing—IF you even remember what that task was!
You’ll work much more efficiently and be more effective if you keep “like” activities together. Here are a few ways to start structuring your time so that you do more and feel more productive each day.
- Tomorrow Time
I’m presuming you have a business and marketing plan you’re using to guide the growth of your business. That plan includes goals and action plans with dates. Set your phone’s alarm clock to ding thirty minutes before the end of the day. Clear off your desk and wind down. Then review your action plans and write a list of what you need to do tomorrow to keep on track to reach your goals. An added benefit is that winding down will help you be more present at home.
- Today Time
Each morning, give yourself an hour of setup for a successful day. Start the day without answering the phone or looking at email. Delay those activities for one hour after you’ve arrived in the office. Instead, prioritize your “Tomorrow Time” list. Add or subtract anything new you’ve learned. Look at the rest of the day and schedule it. Meet with your assistant to communicate what you’re doing, when you’ll be available to return phone calls, meet with people, etc. Do whatever research you need to do to set the pace for the day. Then open your email and answer it for 30 minutes. Note: Some of my clients have their assistant open their email and just let them know what’s most important to answer during the “AM Inbox Run”.
- Inbox Runs
Tim Ferriss, in his book The 4-Hour Workweek, talks about setting up an auto-responder (an email automatically sent out to someone who emails a certain email account) for your inbox that also help you run your business more productively. “Inbox Runs” are certain times of the day you or your assistant answers your email. Set up a schedule, for example: one hour after you’re arrived in the office, one hour before lunch, and one hour before you leave the office. I know that many independent advisors answer emails after hours (I do, too). I highly recommend talking with your spouse to find a time each night that is agreeable to all, but also a few hours away from your bedtime, so you can wind down again. VIEW SAMPLE AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE
- Calling Day
Spend an entire day calling clients or prospects. Call your strategic partners, companies, or organizations you may be able to speak to or do business with. This is the day to schedule client calls, where you can spend quality time with them on Skype or the phone.
- Free Days
Thomas Leonard (1955-2003) was a brilliant financial planner who left the industry in the mid-1980s and became known as “the father of the personal coaching profession.” He created the concept of putting aside the fourth week of each month (and fifth where there is one) as times to NOT work with clients and TO work “in” your business. Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach went one step further, with his concept of “Free Day” – a day each week for you, away from your business. Oh, I can hear all expletives you’re shouting at me now! We all need free time to regenerate from giving to our clients, business, staff, etc. Start somewhere. Maybe attending an Integrity Day would get the ball rolling?
- Meeting Days
Schedule one day a week for client meetings. Let’s say you choose Wednesdays. Sure, there will be times when a client, no matter what times are available on Wednesdays, cannot meet with you, not even using Skype. Have a back-up day or afternoon for those situations. You’ll be surprised (like I was) at how many people CAN meet you on “Meeting Day” – if you only ask them. “What time on Wednesday are you available?” is a good way to start.
- Research Time
Some research needs to be done ASAP for clients. Much doesn’t. If you find that you’re doing a lot of research during the week, schedule “Research Time” and let everyone in the office know that time is sacred and off limits.
- Say “No” More Often
Most advisors would never think of turning down a new client. But turning down a prospect exhibiting “red flags” or firing a client from hell is the right thing to do for your business, not to mention your sanity. The prevailing thought in business is that if you aren’t losing 15% of the bottom tier of your clients yearly, you’re doing something wrong. As business owners, we need to make sure that we’re about taking care of clients the right way at all times. When you don’t have a niche and stick to it, or you work with everyone who breathes, you’re doing a disservice to your business, team, and family.
- Multiple Email Addresses
I’ve seen this done numerous ways, but here’s the way I prefer. I created various email addresses; some I look at three times a day and some I look at when I have time.
I subscribe using the same email address each time. I open it when I have time. As a side benefit, doing this allows me to know when someone is spamming me. If I get a newsletter that is NOT using my newsletter email address, I know it’s spam.
I have one email address on my websites that I open three times a day. If this address starts getting spam, I just change it.
I have an email address family uses. I open it three times a day. Plus, they know to send me a text if they’ve emailed me something that needs my attention right away. My clients get a special email address and so do vendors.
- Your Needs Here
In Outlook, I have each of these email addresses forwarded to separate folders I created (managed folders). When I open my email, I look at the important folders first. All else can wait.
The way you structure your day, check your email, and choose your clients all have an impact on how effective and productive you can be.
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