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Financial Advisors: 7 Steps for Replacing Distractions with Goals

Vancouver—“Man, I got so much going on—all good stuff—but sometimes I’m not certain which way to turn,” Larry mused. Then, with a bit more honesty, he added, “Maybe I’m like most financial advisors and am easily distracted. I guess I need help prioritizing.”

Can you relate to Larry? Many financial advisors can. The professional world of a financial advisor is rife with distractions in normal times. Take ongoing market volatility in the midst of an ongoing economic downturn, and the distractions multiply.

First thing’s first in shutting out distractions: Commit yourself to the first rule in a classic manual for virtue and happiness by Epictetus, the revered Roman Stoic philosopher who was born a slave in 55 A.D. Know what you can control and what you can’t. Whenever you encounter someone trying to control something that is outside of his or her power, you’re witnessing frustration. I explained to Larry that he had to eliminate the unnecessary frustration before he could create the framework that would enable him to prioritize and focus his efforts.

The following is an exercise we use in our financial advisor coaching sessions for replacing distractions with extreme goal focus. Being a big fan of Benjamin Franklin’s “Prudent Decision Making” process, we use this process with slight modifications for financial advisors as part of our 7 Steps for Replacing Distractions with Goals.

Step 1: Take a blank sheet of paper and write “Distractions” across the top as your header. Draw a line down the middle. On the left side of the page, list every distraction that is outside of your control: market volatility, firm policies, FINRA policies, client fear, and so on. Make certain to label the left side “Outside My Control.”

Step 2: On the right side of the paper, list every distraction that is within your control: delegation, hiring a junior advisor, talking with other advisors, wholesaler meetings, chatty support staff, e-mail correspondence, friends, and so on. Label the right side “Within My Control.”

Step 3: Review your “Outside My Control” list and place a checkmark on items that, even though they’re outside your control, you can still influence. For example, you might be able to lessen client fear by taking a proactive contact approach.

Step 4: Take another blank sheet of paper, label it “Goals,” and then write your long-range goals. For Larry, this was easy; in his words, he wanted to be “the $3 million man.”

Step 5: Next, on your Goals sheet, write out the annual metrics that are linked to your long-range goals: new assets, new clients, new financial solutions, bandwidth, etc. All Larry knew was that he wanted to hit $1.2 million this year, but didn’t have anything else thought out in specifics.

Step 6: Still using your Goals sheet, outline your top five to seven activities that are within your control and must be accomplished for you to achieve your annual metrics. This will range from calling a certain number of clients a day, having face-to-face meetings with clients/referral alliance partners/prospects, uncovering names of affluent prospects, having second opinion conversations, socializing with strategic intent, and so on. Larry has some work to do in steps 5 & 6.

Step 7: Go back to your Distractions sheet and highlight every item that must be managed or eliminated in order for you to achieve your goals. This should include items within your control and items within your ability to influence. Next, draw a line through every item that is either completely outside your control or not essential to achieving your goals. Take, for examples, a clueless manager or a junior advisor with shoddy work ethic; avoiding the manager and career counseling the junior FA are both within your control.

The secret with these seven steps is to replace distractions with activities that are directly connected to your goals. So rather than succumbing to that black hole of distraction, which is full of avoidance patterns, you’re now extremely goal-focused. After completing these steps, as I explained to Larry, whenever an issue arises he should ask himself two questions:

  • Is it within my control or influence?
  • Is it going to help me achieve my “$3 Million Man” project?

If the answer is yes to both, take the appropriate action. If not, shut the door to those goal-deflating financial advisor distractions. Follow this process and you’ll have created a critical path that will lead you to achieving your goals as a financial advisor.

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