By Ian Bloom
It’s 3 p.m. on a Friday. You’re working on the last edits to a financial plan you will present at 4 p.m. A call comes in from another client and your cell phone vibrates incessantly, distracting you from your work.
You decide to answer the phone and end up talking to the caller for thirty minutes about their issue. You look back at the clock and realize that the plan, in its current state, will have to be sufficient. You glance at your email inbox to see a count of nearly one hundred unread messages. It no longer feels like a relaxing Friday afternoon, you feel busy and stressed.
Financial planners have to take on a lot of different roles. A planner might be a firm owner, a team lead, a member of the team, or a solo practitioner within a larger ecosystem.
Planners spend their days meeting with clients, working on plans, educating themselves, keeping up with responses to calls and emails, marketing, and trying to find moments to gather their thoughts. The to-do list can feel overwhelming and unapproachable. But, it is possible to organize these tasks and take back control of your time. I’d argue it’s essential to do so.
Block Off Time
The first step to go from “feeling busy” to “feeling organized” is to block off time on a calendar. Start by writing down the essential tasks you must do every day. My list was: Meet with clients, check email, read, post to social media, meditate, and work on plans. Once you have that list, go through your work week and make sure there is adequate time blocked off for each.
Some tasks may need time slots every day, some may just need a few times a week. You will want to repeat this for weekly and monthly tasks, the less-fun items that must be done with some regularity. Examples of these tasks might be: organizing files, reviewing contracts, or managing assets among many others.
The next step is to implement a calendar scheduling application that only allows others to book time during the time you have allocated to meetings. Depending on your role, these might be client meetings or they might be meetings with your colleagues. Either way, protecting your productivity windows and restricting meeting times to the times when you are least likely to be productive on your own is ideal.
In my case I have ten client meeting slots available throughout my work week, none before 11:00am and none on Fridays. I handle networking meetings and my prep for the week on Mondays. Friday is for wrapping up the week only. Segmenting time like this will allow you to focus on the ‘must-dos’ of the day and give proper attention to each.
The Final Step
The final step, which is definitely the hardest, is to firmly enforce this calendar of yours. Do not allow tasks for the morning to spill over into the afternoon. Do not allow clients to take up time they are not given on your calendar, except for the rare phone call. Do not check your email throughout the day, when your calendar tells you to be focused on a plan.
You have set up this calendar to be ideal for your productivity. Whether you are a solo practitioner or a member of a larger team, it is a greater benefit for you to stick to this calendar than for you to deviate.
You inevitably will deviate, and it’s important to forgive yourself like you would a client who fell away from the plan, but it’s also important to get back on schedule when you realize you’ve deviated.
Taking control of your time as a planner is critical to delivering good work for your clients, working well with your team, and maintaining good work-life balance. We work hard to help our clients live their ideal lives, so it’s important to live yours.
When you are in your best frame of mind, accomplishing tasks and feeling that surge of achievement, your clients will be inspired by you.
Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP® is the owner of Open World Financial Life Planning and specializes in financial life planning for nerds!
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