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How Financial Advisors Can Overcome Their Four Main Time Challenges

What's really getting in the way? Identify your time challenges 

“I’m too busy, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I know I need to, to grow.” True, time is limited but what’s really stopping you from making progress towards your goals? 

In part one of this growth challenge, Time, three steps to own your day and your growth, we unpacked how to stop the busyness and start growing in three steps. 

Let’s take a deeper dig into step two, to identify what is causing your time challenges. There are four main time challenges:  

1. Time expectations

2. Time habits

3. Time quantity

4. Time quality

An important part of being able to develop a plan to own your day and drive the results you’re looking for is to identify the underlying reason(s) why you’re struggling with time.

Let’s explore the four common time challenges and how to work through them.

Challenge 1: Time expectations 

Let’s start with your expectations around time and growth. Mindset is hugely important to your ability to use the limitation of time to your advantage. The right expectation and mindset will empower, the wrong expectation can sabotage you and leave you exhausted. How does this works?

If your expectation is that growth is hard and takes a lot of time then guess what, it’s going to be hard and will take a lot of time. If you’re expectation is that successful advisors work X amount of hours a day then guess what, you’re going to have to work X hours a day to become a successful advisor. 

The truths you tell yourself, consciously or subconsciously become your reality.

One expectation that you should have is that pursing growth will be uncomfortable. Growth happens outside of our comfort zone. 

Be intentional about the expectations you have around time, carve out and protect the space that you need to sustain the discomfort of growth. 

Challenge 2: Time habits

Habits support your expectations and outcomes. 

As James Clear says in his podcast, How to Hack Your Habits for Exponential Growth, “Every action that you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become.”  

Take a look at your routine, we all have them whether they are conscious or subconscious. What do you do first thing in the morning? Does it help set the tone for your day? Does it support your purpose and goals? How do you prioritize tasks? Does your day have structure (are you being proactive) or is it largely unstructured (reactive)?

In Steven Covey’s world-famous book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People he outlines the seven key habits he’s uncovered working with successful people. Habits number two and three are really relevant when we consider our relationship with time and growth. Habit two, begin with the end in mind and habit three, put first things first. 

As Covey explains, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” 

Covey’s Time Management Matrix is a helpful planning tool. Activities in quadrant II, those that are important and not urgent typically have the greatest impact to growth. They also tend to be the activities that are easy to avoid or not get to because they aren’t urgent.

To be intentional about growth you have to get in the habit of keeping your goals top of mind and holding yourself and team accountable for continuing to do the things necessary to make progress towards those goals, to schedule your priorities as Covey says.  

Starting with your goals complete the Time Management Matrix for your business, what are the things that you need to focus on (quadrant II). Then create small changes in your routine to ensure those activities happen regularly. Doing these things with intention enough times will create a new, productive growth habit.  

Challenge 3: Time quantity 

The amount of time or effort you put into something (the quantity) directly impacts the output. In general, the more time you spend on something the bigger, better and faster the outcome. 

I know this isn’t news to you but it is something we lose track of in the day-to-day hustle. 

The start to regain control over your time it’s important to know where it’s going and to be intentional about spending enough time on your priorities that support your goals. 

A time management audit will help you understand where your time is going. I use a time management audit tool with clients but you can do the same by simply outlining the main categories of your job and tracking how much time you spend on those activities over a few days. While you’re tracking hours also keep note of which activities are growth focused and if they are energizing or depleting (aka sustainable). Are there any in your zone of genius, activities that are effortless and energizing?

Once you know where your time is going you can determine how to align to your ideal day and week to support your goals. What things do you need to do more of? Less of? Delegate? Automate?  

Once you know where your time is going and how you want to adjust it don’t start the day without a plan. Make sure you’re spending time on those things that are most impactful to your goals. 

While running a sales strategy and analytics team I relied heavily on a team vision and goals document that outlined the large goals and the small, incremental goals that were necessary to make progress. This document was a guiding light on what mattered, how we were going to get there and who owned what. It was a simple reminder of the focus items that mattered, where we needed to spend our time.

Once you determine where your time should be spent document and communicate those priorities to your team.  

Challenge 4: Time quality

Finally, quality matters. If you’re spending time on your focus items but nothing is happening then it’s time to evaluate what’s going on. Quantity is essential but it also requires quality. Some things are better to do really well then to just do. Other things it’s better to just do and not stress about getting them perfect, progress not perfection as Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach would say. 

For example, some advisors struggle to close new business or they spend a lot of time and money on events with no results. There are a lot of examples where time was invested but the outcome was disappointing. This happens to everyone. What matters is that you are paying attention to the outcome to learn and adjust. Some grow activities are skill-based and require you to develop and improve your aptitude (or quality of execution) to increase their impact. For example, if you’re struggling to get a second meeting or close business with prospects you may need some help with your sales skills. Sales is a skill. The best sales people practice their craft. You don’t have to be an expert sales person but you need to be good enough. 

It’s also possible to turn quadrant one activities, the ones that are urgent and important into growth opportunities. If you are spending half of your time on client activities as Kitces found how can you get more out of those interactions? Being intentional and consistent with your processes and their client experience can support growth. That may mean being intentional and consistent with your client experience. It may also mean intentionally gathering feedback on their concerns and experience and using that to inform content and changes to your practice. At the end of the day, it’s all about deepening relationships, building trust and good will, and helping your clients help you grow by using your time with them intentionally.

Overcome the time quality challenge by identifying where you’re spending time but not getting the result you expect or want. Dig deeper into why. Is it a quality issue? If so, what adjustments can you make to improve the quality of the time spent? Or do you simply need to spend less time? Maybe you aren’t the right person for the job. Is there someone else on your team or a third-party you could outsource this task to?

Part of getting the most out of time is knowing your (and your team’s) strengths and weaknesses. Amplify and leverage your and your team’s strengths to make the most out of your time.

Recap

There are four main time challenges that limit your ability to grow.  

1. Time expectations

2. Time habits

3. Time quantity

4. Time quality

Identifying which challenges apply to you and your team provides you the necessary insight to overcome and develop the right tactics to grow. 

Related: The Three Steps to Own Your Day and Your Growth