From the August 2006 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

August 1, 2006

Staying On Track by Taking Time Off

Maybe if you want to become super efficient at the office, you should get rid of it.

Catherine Nomura, director of business development at The Strategic Coach, a Toronto-based coaching firm for successful entrepreneurs founded by Dan Sullivan (see his comments on hiring people this month), says many people go to work, see the papers and documents piled up on their desk, and freeze up, paralyzed by indecision of what to tackle first.

So, when you have a client meeting, she recommends leaving all that behind and relocating to a conference room, caf?, or restaurant.

"If you take a client out for lunch, you can be very focused. Everything is taken care of by the restaurant. Make your whole day lunch. You won't be distracted by the messes around you," she says.

Nomura says advisors can further improve their efficiency by separating their days into three categories: free days, focus days, and buffer days.

A free day is just as it sounds, free of work, free of phone calls, and free of stress. She recommends taking about 150 free days a year. That's right, 150.

"For a full 24-hour period you're not thinking about work. You're not reading The Wall Street Journal, you're not checking your e-mail or Blackberry." Ideally, she says, you should be doing something totally rejuvenating like playing golf, going to a vacation spot, or spending enjoyable time with your family.

Upon your return from a free day, Nomura predicts that you'll feel much more creative, can get things done in a much shorter period of time, and that your colleagues will like working with you better.

She realizes it can be tough for advisors to fathom taking 150 days off--you're close to 110 if you include weekends and standard holidays--so she recommends starting off with Saturdays and Sundays, and then moving on to vacations.

During buffer days, you're thinking about your business all the time, you're taking client phone calls and reading the periodicals of the day. Most importantly, you're preparing for focus days.

Focus days revolve entirely around your top money-making activities, such as calling clients and other relationship based activities. Have your assistant schedule your day, let somebody else answer your phone calls and don't worry about other activities," she says.

But you've got to keep your days separate. If you work for 20 minutes while you're on vacation - a free day - it hooks your mind for the entire day and you won't get the same rejuvenation as if you had taken a true free day.

She says while it seems like a very basic concept, it can't be implemented overnight. It takes time to both develop the support structure required and to train your clients.

She says it might take as little as one year or as many as three years to fully implement the new schedule but once you have, you won't regret it.

"After three years, you're income will double and you'll have your 150 days off. After that your income goes up exponentially. You can be really creative and think of other ways to make more business. You'll immediately notice the difference. You'll have more energy. It's a gradual process that pays rewards along the way," she says.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.