From the September 2011 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

August 24, 2011

7 Principles for Gaining Control of Your Day

No single principle will increase productivity on its own

Advisors often ask us, “What’s the single most important thing I can do to be productive and profitable?” While we’d like to say there is “just one thing,” the reality is there are seven core principles that every advisor should follow.

1. Stop Saying You Don’t Have Enough Time
The truth is that whether you’re a $100,000 producer or a $5 million producer, we all have 24 hours in the day. We all freely choose how we’re going to invest those 24 hours. Never forget that you always have enough time to do the most important things—but you’ve got to know what those most important things are.

2. Know what is most important to you
Before you can be productive, you must discover what is important to you. Gaining clarity on what is important to you requires being introspective. Why do you do what you do? What do you hunger for? What do you want to be remembered for?

3. Focus on the outcome you love
You need to love the outcome of your efforts more than you fear the pain that you might have to go through to accomplish it. That means you might have to endure the pain of picking up the phone and calling prospects who you’d like to do business with. You will do this if, and only if, you love and value the resulting growth and satisfaction in your business more than the pain of possible rejection.

For example, take time blocking. You know that it’s effective and can help you be more productive. But if you’re not doing it, what you’re really saying is you value flexibility more than you value sticking to a structured schedule that might keep you more organized and more profitable.

4. Spend time on the right activities
You can be busy and feel like you’re getting things done, but if you’re spending dollar time on penny work, then you’re making a bad investment.

Set a timer to go off every 10 minutes during working hours for five days. Write down what you were doing when it vibrates. At the end of the week, categorize your notes and analyze them. When you see inefficiency like this on paper, it’s often a catalyst to make changes and re-focus on the most important things.

5. Reduce stress and workload
Successful advisors reduce stress in their lives by focusing on what’s in their mission and vision statements. You can use these statements as a “not-to-do list.” For example, if you’re thinking about adding something, then check your mission statement. If the new action doesn’t mesh with your mission, then forget it.

Part of reducing stress also involves not taking on more than you can handle. If you decide to sit on a new board or undertake some new activity, you’ll need to drop something that’s not giving you the results you want.

6. Don’t try to multitask
To achieve maximum productivity, you need to focus: Stop multitasking and start uni-tasking. There is great power in focus so whatever you’re doing, be it checking email, returning calls or preparing a plan, stay focused on it.

If you’ve got a proposal that you need to put together for a big prospect, rather than letting that drag on and on, you might tell yourself, “I’m going to allocate X amount of time today or tomorrow to work on this.”

7. Write down the six most important things
Take out a sheet of paper and at the top of it, write “6 Most Important,” today’s date and your business mission statement. Before you leave the office, write down the six most important things that you have to accomplish the next day in order of priority. As you think about what you write, look at your business mission. What are six things you should do tomorrow to keep you on track with that mission? 

When you get into the office the next day, start on your No. 1 item and finish it or take it as far as you can go, scratch through it, and move on to the next item. By sequentially going through the list, you will stay on track with the most important things you need to do that day.

Finally, remember this quote from Peter Drucker: “Efficiency is doing things right, while effectiveness is doing the right things.”

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