We have no more than 168 hours a week to make an impact and live a great life, so financial advisors need to make the most of their time. The key is to focus on the priorities that bring you joy and that generate value for your business. What you don't want is to waste time spinning your wheels or get stuck doing things that don't add value.
Recently, I've been working with Ari Meisel on this issue. Ari is a successful entrepreneur who faced major health issues and was forced to find ways to enhance his productivity and efficiency in order to stay successful and get healthy.
He created a system where to effectively tackle any task or problem, you have to take three key steps:
- Optimize it.
- Automate it.
- Outsource it.
This approach is more effective than the usual advice of simply outsourcing any noncore functions. Farming out a task that is inefficient doesn't make it more efficient. You still have to fix the fundamental problem, which is the suboptimal way the task is performed. Once you streamline the process, however, you can automate it so you can "set it and forget it." And then, wherever possible, you can take it off your desk entirely by outsourcing it.
With that in mind, here are some of the best tools and resources that I use to make every day more optimized, more automatic and more efficient.
These apps and services are what I call "business cool." They're not glamorous, but you can use them easily. Apps that are "technology cool" might wow you, but they don't typically work as well in a business setting that demands bottom-line results.
TRACK BEHAVIOR AND PROGRESS
When you track your behavior, you gain self-awareness that helps you identify the tasks you do that are essential and those that are optional.
Behavior tracking can also help you see how many steps you take to complete any number of tasks. This allows you to save time by eliminating redundant and unnecessary steps.
Meisel cites the example of paying invoices. His workflow once involved 27 distinct steps, but by simply tracking it, he was able to spot inefficiencies and eliminate one out of every four of those steps. Then he automated some of them by using email to automatically route scanned documents to his accountant. This saved even more time.
To track my behavior and ensure that my efforts are focused on the areas that really matter to my business, I use these tools:
The Five-Minute Journal. Take five minutes a day to write down three things that turned out well in the previous 24 hours and three wins you expect to achieve in the next 24. This type of activity can lead to a 30% increase in personal productivity.
Waze follows you when you are driving, automatically alerting you to traffic jams and offering alternate routes. This is perfect for wealth managers who visit their affluent clients at their homes or offices. Waze has saved me incalculable amounts of time and frustration by avoiding traffic tie-ups.
Fitbit. If you "game-ify" your life using technologies like Fitbit, you become more productive. Measuring your steps is a fun way to keep moving and conserve the energy you need to run your practice.
CREATING YOUR 'EXTERNAL BRAIN'
An external brain is a bit like extreme note taking. It's easy for our brains to come up with ideas but much harder to hold on to them. This becomes even more the case as we get older, so it's helpful to have a system that allows you to find anything at any time. I use these resources:
Fancy Hands. This is a virtual assistant service that helps you find information and answers to your questions. I've used it to identify everything from the top life insurance specialists in the San Jose area and census data to the brand name of some boots my wife liked.
SaneBox reads the subject lines of your emails and creates files for you. Nothing goes into your inbox unless it's something you are currently working on. Other emails are put into a "later" folder for you to review when you can. There's also a "black hole" feature that unsubscribes you from lists simply by dragging one email to the folder. If, like me, you receive hundreds of emails a day, this improves your focus and productivity significantly. In one recent week, I received 1,431 emails, which SaneBox automatically sorted for me. It calculated that this saved me 9.9 hours.
TOOLS TO WORK ON YOUR TIMETABLE
Certain times are better than others for particular tasks. Technology can now help set your schedule to match tasks with the best times for carrying them out. I use:
TimeTrade, a Web-based appointment scheduling application for setting up meetings more efficiency. When I schedule interviews for my podcast, for example, I send each source a personalized invitation with a link to my calendar showing available dates and times over the next 90 days. The source can then simply select an available time slot, instead of our having to go back and forth. This saves our client-coaching administrative teams many hours each week.
Skype and iMeet. Many of us already use Skype to keep in touch with family and friends. But Skype has become perfect for business, as companies have improved their AV technology significantly. Skype gives you face time with people who are important to your business, without having to travel to see them. Likewise, iMeet is great for screen sharing documents with clients in a highly secure manner. While it's important to meet with prospective clients in person initially, many prefer using virtual conferencing tools once the relationship is established.
TOOLS TO HELP YOU SKIP ERRANDS
You don't want to run errands, if you can help it. They're not efficient and there is no way to make them more so. That means it's all about automating and outsourcing, using resources like:
Amazon Subscribe & Save. You can automatically receive regular shipments of detergent, toothpaste, food and other staples for your home and office at discounted prices.
TaskRabbit. This service lets you outsource just about any small task you don't want to do yourself to prescreened contractors, who bid for your business. Task Rabbit currently operates in fewer than 20 major metro areas, but is expanding.
There's no question that in today's frenzied environment, time is a rare and valuable resource. So start using it to your full advantage. These tools can help you accomplish noncore tasks more efficiently or remove them from your plate entirely, leaving you with more time and energy to focus on what truly counts: delivering a great client experience and running a smooth practice.
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