A Short Course in Effective Time Management
Over my many years of executive coaching, I have learned that there are certain common traits that successful producers have in common.
Most of these success traits have many layers. The most successful producers master these levels either through their own actions and skills or by surrounding themselves with a team of qualified and competent people who do, and then manage their team effectively.
If you have ever said to yourself:
- "There's not enough time in the day to get everything done,"
- "My to do list is out of control,"
- “I'd delegate more if I only had the time to do it,"
If you have then you're probably a good candidate to make some improvements in more effective time management.
So where do you start? It all starts with having a very clear and passionate desire to achieve very specific goals. Once you can articulate what these goals are, you will be able to then evaluate how you are spending your time and where your energy goes each and every day.
Let me share a story with you about a client.
Steven is a client of mine who complained about working long hours every day, yet never seemed to get through his “to do” list. This included both urgent as well as important tasks. I asked him why he wanted to improve his time management. He laughed at first, thinking that the answer was obvious. Upon more thoughtful reflection, Steven came up with several very significant reasons, including desperately wanting to spend more time with his family, increase his revenue, and stop losing cases because he waited too long to get back in front of both clients and prospects.
Now that Steven had identified his "why," he wanted to improve, he now needed to come up with a plan to maximize his time and effectiveness each day. One way for him to do this is to ask this question, "If I am to achieve those important and significant goals, what are the highest and best uses of my time to do so?" Once you identify the highest and best use of your time, you will then be able to assess each day, whether or not you are devoting enough time to it. If you discover that not enough time is invested each day in these highest and best activities, you'll need to discover why and then take the appropriate actions to fix it.
It is usually at this point when clients tell me that it is difficult to make the changes necessary to fix the problems. I understand that change is difficult for most people; however, if you are serious about getting on top of your time management issues, implementing change is essential.
While there are multiple issues connected to this problem, there is one simple technique that my clients tell me made a huge difference to their practice, and that technique is time blocking. Simply stated, time blocking is nothing more that figuring out what needs to get done, how much time is needed to accomplish it, and then disciplining yourself to actually scheduling the time to do it in your appointment calendar and treating these time blocks with the same commitment you would have to meeting with an important client.
For most advisors, some of these time blocks include;
- Scheduling appointments with new and/or existing clients or prospects
- Case preparation/debrief
- Administrative tasks and paperwork
- Meeting with staff
- Self-development and,
- Time to work on their business and not in their business
I suggest that you first create this ideal work week schedule on a separate piece of paper to work out the kinks before you transfer it to your regular calendar. My theory is this, if you can't work out what an ideal week looks like for you on a piece of paper, you have no hope of being able to do it in real life!
Steven applied the suggestions above this practice and as predicted it was rough at first, but he persevered. He kept score everyday as to his progress. He told me that after just 30 days, he was able to find significant time each and every week to devote to his high payoff activities. The improvement was even more substantial after 60 days. The end result is that he now feels that he has more energy at the end of the day and feels good knowing that he has accomplished more of his mission critical activities each day. His income has increased and he is happier doing those things that he does best.
It will take a little time for you to adjust your habits to conform to organizing your week in this way. It's very important to note that we call it an ideal work week for a reason. As an ideal, it is something that you will most likely never achieve 100%, it is only something that you continually strive to achieve. In that regard, I highly suggest that you block out at least a half a day per week, towards the end of the week for what I call, "Fail Safe" time. When your week doesn't go according to plan, you'll always know that you have blocked out some time to catch up. If you don't need to use this time, great, but if you do, you'll be pleased that you set aside the time.
If you would like to see a sample ideal work week, just go to my website where you will be able to download a PDF copy of my book. Chapter 3 discusses this topic in more detail. Gaining control of your time will change everything in your business.
Good luck on your journey to success.
Robert A. Arzt, CLU, ChFC, LLIF, is CEO of Polaris One and InsuranceCoachu.com. He coaches professionals who want to achieve more.