Los Angeles: “When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, nothing is new. I’ve heard it all before,” Jim prefaced as he segued into his issue, “but I know I’m not as productive as I could be – I always get pulled off track. I guess it’s my ADD.”
Jim’s self-diagnosis aside, getting off track is an affliction with which many advisors can identify. The professional world of a financial advisor is rife with distractions. These productivity killers are often quite insidious, presenting themselves in numerous disguises; other advisors, incoming phone calls, irrelevant meetings, wholesaler interruptions, emails, and the list goes on.
In celebration of the Oechsli Institute’s 35 years in business and Jim’s preface of “I heard it all before…” I decided to tackle this productivity issue by revisiting some of our older coaching files. And yes, the issue of focus and productivity has been an advisor albatross forever. I then reviewed the most effective productivity tips currently used by our coaches and realized that as much has changed, just as much has remained the same.
The following are 10 tried and true productivity tactics used by our coaches that have been blended into our digital nanosecond world.
10 Productivity Tips
1. Plan your week in advance– The old saying, “create your plan and work your plan” is as valid today as it was 35 years ago or 135 years ago. However, the idea of planning each week in advance, much the way you would plan a five day vacation, is an exercise that keeps things from falling through the cracks. I recognize much of this weekly planning is fluid, appointments are scheduled in advance and so on. But reviewing your upcoming weekly plan on Sunday afternoon, doing a bit of fine tuning, and filling in any open time with productive activity can be the difference between a ho-hum and a highly productive week.
2. Create a routine to “trigger” your daily plan – Establishing fixed-daily-activities linked to a goal has always been at the core of every elite advisor. Yet, many advisors create a daily action plan but fail to develop the habit of execution. The secret is establishing a reminder, something that triggers you to execute your daily action plan. A trigger can take many forms; an email reminder, leaving your Excel spreadsheet on your desk, reviewing a picture of your goal reward, leaving an affirmation “I’m goal focused and always do my fixed-daily-activities” posted on your bathroom mirror. The trigger is up to you, the key is daily execution.
3. Block time to execute your “key activities” of the day – This should be part of your planning, both weekly and daily. Many elite advisors block time in the morning to make their client / COI / prospects calls. It’s here where they sources names, schedule lunches, give invites to intimate events, ask to be introduced, etc.
4. Turn off your cell phone and disable all email / texting notices – Welcome to the 24/7 digital world of distraction. This is both good manners and a productivity enhancer.
5. Screen all calls – don’t answer your phone – Yes, the phone still interrupts, albeit it’s probably taking more of a back seat to digital distractions. If it’s not a top client, COI or prospect, they’re a distraction.
6. Set a block of time to handle emails, and be vigilant on email sorting settings – Email has become the modern day junk mail. That said, advisors who won’t touch a piece of junk mail find themselves repeatedly going down that email “rabbit hole”. Block 15 minutes 3xs a day, early in the morning, before lunch, before leaving for the day, and you’ve devoted 45 minutes to emails. Turn off your new email notifications, and eliminate those annoying pop-up distractions.
7. Reward yourself after completing a set of “key activities” – This can be as simple as walking into the break room and getting a cup of coffee, walking around the block, or checking your favorite personal website. The idea is to give yourself a break and a little treat for completing those critical tasks.
8. Eat a nutritional breakfast every morning – Every nutritionist will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They will also tell you how important it is to eat a healthy breakfast. Not only does it get you started with the proper fueling for a productive day, it can serve as a trigger that helps make certain you have a productive day.
9. Be active – get a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise – Recently a health care expert told me that we wouldn’t have such a healthcare issue if people would do three things; stop smoking, eat healthy, and be active. Makes sense. I also know, that daily exercise stimulates our endorphins, provides us with energy, and enhances productivity. Take a 30 minute walk, it’s simple. Elite advisors exercise.
10. Rest – get a good night’s sleep – Nothing will interfere with your daily productivity more than lack of sleep. Everybody has different sleeping patterns and needs. The key is to know yourself – the amount of sleep you need each night. Schedule a specific time for preparing for bed, lights out, and your AM alarm. You want to be able to get out of bed excited about beginning another highly productive day.
I wasn’t able to provide Jim with these 10 tips during our conversation but I presume that he’ll read them along with everyone else. For most advisors, Jim included, it’s likely that acting on just one or two of these tips is all that’s required to make a difference. Yes, it really is back-to-basics, except with a 21st century real-time reality check.
Matt Oechsli  is the author of The Art of Selling to the Affluent. His firm, The Oechsli Institute  does ongoing research  and coaching  for nearly every major financial services firm in the US. To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile  for a complimentary consultation.