If there’s one topic that I’ve always been fascinated with, it’s productivity. On my reading table, you’ll find classics like Getting Things Done, The Four Hour Workweek, and The Power of Full Engagement. But if I’ve noticed one thing about the financial advisors I’ve worked with over the years, it’s that they’re not a terribly organized or tech-savvy group. These productivity tips will help you overcome the onslaught of chaos.
What makes matters worse is that they’re incredibly busy and juggle many different roles, from running a business to dealing with clients to sales and marketing. Financial advisors need organization skills more than anyone, but many are overwhelmed, disorganized, and frustrated.
Today, I want to share three productivity tricks that I really think will change your life. The resulting sense of peace and calm will help you sleep better at night and the minutes you save each day just may add up to a round of golf on Friday afternoon. Here are my three favorite productivity tips to try today!
1. Use Your First Hour of the Day to Complete Your Most Important Task
The morning is the most productive time for most of us when we aren’t distracted yet, we’ve had our cup of coffee, and we’re at peak optimism for our day. In my opinion, it’s a tragedy to waste your prime functionality checking emails or returning phone calls. Use the first hour of each day to do the most important thing you need to accomplish that day.
In their best selling book, The Sustainable Edge, top advisors Ron Carson and Scott Ford explain their framework as “The Essential Six and Most Vital.” They recommend prioritizing the most vital objective you must accomplish each week and the six most important things to get done each day.
My version is simplified a bit, but it’s a great way to get started on the strategy. Once you finish something important at the start of your day, you gain the momentum of having already completed a critical task and you have plenty of time to answer those emails later in the day. Each day, I write down my most important goal for the following day and I don’t open my email or listen to voicemails until it’s complete.
2. Use Secure Password Storage to Save Time
I was recently helping my dad, a financial advisor here in San Diego, with his LinkedIn account. When we went to log in, I cringed when he opened his desk drawer to get out an old-fashioned recipe box to find the three by five card where he keeps his password written.
Then, he has to painstaking type the username and password. The whole process took about 45 seconds. But he repeats this process dozens of times each day, to log into different systems and accounts that he needs for business.
This wasted time adds up over the weeks and months and causes each small task to become more of an uphill battle. Every time you have to look for a password before you can get something done, it creates small amounts of friction in your day that drains your energy.
Did you know there’s an easy way to improve your online security and automatically save all of your passwords? A secure password storage system like LastPass encrypts each password and saves it, so when you go to a website, your password is automatically entered for you. No more typing email addresses and complex passwords.
It also saves time navigating to the sites you need to use. If you can’t remember the login website page address for American Funds, you can search in LastPass and click to automatically go to the login page and enter your credentials.
You can even share your passwords securely with members of your team. Just like when you got your first cell phone, once you get this up and running, you’ll wonder how you ever existed before.
3. Never Open an Email Unless You Have Time to Respond
Back in 2008, when I was in business school full time and working two internships, this is the productivity rule that changed my life. I read it in a magazine in the business school lunch lounge: don’t open an email unless you have time right then to take action. David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, has a similar concept where you never process the same “inbox” item twice.
Set aside time each day (start with two hours) to go through your emails. If an item takes less than two minutes to complete, go ahead and do it during that time. This means delegating to an associate or responding to a client with a simple answer. But if the item takes more than two minutes to complete, put it on your list of things to do for that day or the following day, and let the person know when to expect a response.
You will be amazed at the time you save if you only open each email once. There’s no more reading halfway, then having to come back to the same email later, only to have to re-read the first half. You won’t be distracted during your day by emails you haven’t responded to yet or forget to follow through on tasks. The first time you open each email, you’ll take action to move the inquiry down the line.
Finally, you’ll find a sense of calm and order when your email inbox is at zero at the end of each day and you habitually respond to emails within 24 hours. If you try all three of these tips together, you may just notice yourself feeling more refreshed and having more time at the end of each week.
What are your most impactful productivity tips? What are your favorite organization and productivity books? Please share with me by commenting below or emailing [email protected].
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Claire Akin runs Indigo Marketing Agency, a marketing firm serving top independent financial advisors. Claire is a former Investment Advisor Representative who holds her MBA in Marketing from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego as well as a BA in Economics from UC Davis. It’s her goal to help specialist advisors target their ideal prospects with content marketing.