Aren't there days you wish were a little longer, say 28 hours, so you could get everything done? Or maybe you've thought about cutting your sleep time to four hours and working for 20. I once complained to a boss that I just couldn't get everything done. His response? "That's why God created weekends.
Or how many times have you heard someone say, "Work smarter, not harder?" Probably a lot, because it's easy to say. But in the real world, where there are constant interruptions, distractions, fires to be put out and a thousand things that have to be done every day right now, how does anyone really do it all?
The truth is, no one can "do it all." But smart, effective and productive professionals have figured out how to get all the really important things done-and focus on getting these things done well. Here are some of the critical ways successful professionals, including top-producing advisors, increase their productivity and production.
PUT IT IN WRITING
It's perhaps the single most effective way to be more successful and productive-create a written plan that includes specific goals as well as tactics and strategies to achieve these goals. Be specific about what you need to accomplish every day to achieve these goals. It might be a minimum number of new contacts, a production goal or getting a professional designation.
By having a clear, written plan you'll know each day whether you're getting close to your goals. Study after study has shown that people in all walks of life have a significantly higher probability of achieving their goals if they are written and include plans on how to achieve them. Whether it's a weight-loss goal, or an assets under management target, write it down, along with a plan to get there. And look at the goal and plan often, don't just stick it in a file. The more you think about the goal and the plan, the more likely you are to succeed.
BLOCK OUT TIME
Rather than constantly moving from task to task and project to project, it's far more effective to block out time to concentrate on just one thing. For example, do your paperwork from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. every day. Or prospect for new business from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. New product study? Slot that in on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The idea is to isolate blocks of time to focus on just one thing. This helps to minimize distractions.
And only take calls when they really are critical or when you simply can't make a callback later. Otherwise, have the discipline to make callbacks during callback time. Don't read the paper, text or check quotes. In the normal course of the day, there will always be distractions, and things come up that must be dealt with right away. But the idea is to put all your mental energy into doing just one thing and maximizing the time spent on just that one task. This is an old trick because it works.
Nothing could be simpler than making a list and putting "must-do" tasks at the top and "be nice" tasks at the bottom. The point of prioritizing is not just to get the important tasks done, but also to help you think about what you do, the time needed to get it done and making the commitment to stick to the list you have. A prioritized list should be viewed as a contract with yourself to get the really important tasks done that day (or week, month or quarter). Just remember, this not only means doing the important things first, but also means making a commitment to not go home until it's done.
I know, I know, you don't have an assistant. Or you share an assistant with someone else. It doesn't matter. There are many resources available that can be utilized to off-load less important tasks. From client management software, to email, to having your vendors help, there are many ways to get help at little or no cost.
Remember that you're a highly trained and skilled professional. Calculate what your time is worth and then think about whether you would pay someone that amount to do a specific task. Even if your program won't pay for an assistant, it may be well worth it to pay someone out of your own pocket. If you can pay someone $25,000 to do administrative work that frees up your time so you can do $250,000 more in production, well that's a no-brainer.
We live in a world where people drive and text at the same time, or read, listen to music and watch TV simultaneously. But how well are they doing any one of them?
How would you react if your surgeon was operating on you while checking his stocks or watching a football game? Drastic, perhaps, but how effective are you if you're writing a client letter, returning a phone call and checking email at the same time? Not very.
Multitasking assures only that you'll do a mediocre job at all the tasks. I realize it's impossible to eliminate all multitasking, but the more you can focus on critical tasks, the better they'll be done. That means fewer errors, clearer communications and better results.
Yes, in a results-driven world where there never seems to be enough time, a case can be made for quantity over quality. But when that becomes the norm and output is the priority, quality will indeed fall.
TAKE BREAKS TO KEEP FRESH
It sounds counterintuitive that if you stop working you will get more done. But many studies have shown that taking breaks during the day really does recharge your batteries.
It's just not possible for anyone to maintain 100% focus and concentration during an entire day. In fact, studies have shown that after about two to three hours of intense mental activity, there is a noticeable decline in productivity. There's a reason those high-tech firms in Silicon Valley have ping-pong tables and video games for their employees-taking breaks allows you to refocus and reenergize. So, every few hours, make sure you get out of your chair, go for a walk, read the paper, or listen to some music, even if it's just for a couple of minutes.
And what holds true for the benefits of short-term breaks during the day also applies to vacations. And not just an occasional day off-when you do that, you'll likely just obsess about work-but a real vacation.
Research has shown that to fully decompress you need at least five days. And you can rest assured that business will go on just fine without you. More important, you will be far more valuable when you return reinvigorated and ready to go.