Failing to plan, according to self-help guru Alan Lakein, is planning to fail. And while that’s true for the large-scale operations of your practice, it applies equally on a smaller scale to your own daily activities. That calls for a proactive approach to examining your own performance and finding ways to achieve maximum efficiency. Remember, running a tight ship isn’t just about managing your staff; it also requires you to assess how you approach your work each day.
So, how can you redefine your day—and change it for the better? Here are 10 tips to get you started:
1) Plan Your Day
It might sound simple, but what if you allotted just 10–15 minutes each morning to planning your day? You could use this time to:
- Determine the most significant things you must accomplish before you go home
- List and number your tasks according to priority
2) Schedule Time
As a busy advisor, you’re well aware of how easy it is to let time get away from you during the workday. To help better manage your time, estimate and block time in your schedule for any important projects, tasks, and appointments.
3) Check Your List
As your day gets busier, checking (and rechecking) your to-do list will help you focus on your most critical business. Ask yourself:
- How am I progressing?
- How accurate are my time estimates?
4) Define Specific Times to Check E-Mail
How many times a day do you check your e-mail? If you’re like many advisors, it’s every time you get a new message. Consider, instead, setting specific times for checking your e-mail. To avoid constant distraction, turning off the e-mail alerts on your computer might also be an option. Ask yourself, “Is answering e-mail now the best and most profitable use of my time?”
5) Meet with Your Staff
Each morning, spend about 10–15 minutes with your staff to review pending business. You can also use this time to identify the top-priority tasks for the day. At midday, you might want to reassess progress to determine whether you need to devote additional resources to a task.
6) Pay Attention to Communications from Your Broker/Dealer
Be sure everyone on your staff pays particular attention to communications generated from your broker/dealer, as they may include ideas on how to improve your office’s operations.
7) Go Paperless
When there’s too much paperwork, desks are easily overrun with stacks of file folders. More important, necessary documents get lost, distracting you and your team from key objectives.
8) Monitor Not-in-Good-Order Records
Gather data on how often your paperwork is not in good order. Then, take the time to examine and refine any procedures that are causing this problem.
9) Maintain Written Procedures
For any key processes conducted by each person or role in your office, develop written procedures documenting those processes. These roles and processes include, for example:
- Initial client meeting (e.g., discovery) process
- Financial planning process
- Client review meeting process
- Administrative staff
- Opening a new client account
- Tracking work in progress (especially direct business)
- Scheduling client meetings
- Research staff
- Mutual fund research process
- Asset allocation process
- Investment committee meeting process
10) Create a Tiered Service Matrix
A tiered service matrix should differentiate among services you offer to your A, B, and C clients, as well as how frequently you offer those services. The matrix should also note the time commitment required for each service—as well as for any marketing activities or events—depending on the client category, all of which allows you to better plan and manage your time.
Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, said there are “five essential entrepreneurial skills for success: Concentration, Discrimination, Organization, Innovation and Communication.” It’s my hope that these best practices for personal efficiency in the workplace touch on all five of these skills—and will help you and your business to succeed.
Maria Considine King is vice president, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer–RIA.