Run Your Calendar So It Doesn’t Run You

Jun 27, 2013

One of the biggest struggles most of us face is time management. Think about it: as an independent advisor and the owner of your Calendarbusiness, you are the chief marketing officer, head of client service, chief investment officer and operations manager for your firm. Sure, you may hire someone to do some of those tasks, but at the end of your business day, the responsibility still falls on you to make sure that the tasks get done.

So what do we focus on? The tasks that have to be done, of course! According to studies, the average advisor spends a majority of his/her time working on operations and client service, rather than focusing on growth or the business. I know you’ve heard it many times; we need to spend more time working ON our business instead of IN our business. But how do you find the time?

Scheduled play time

As you may know, my wife and I are the proud parents of two boys (ages 6 and almost 9). A few weeks ago, when school let out for the summer, they were thrilled with their new-found “freedom” from the rigors of kindergarten and second grade. While they were thrilled, my wife and I were having the dreaded summer organization conversations. You know the drill, which days are camp days and sports days (yes, I am coaching 3rd grade basketball), and when are the scheduled play dates with their friends? At least two times a week, we go over the calendar to make sure they aren’t left waiting with the instructor after karate or don’t miss a birthday party. In our house, one of the keys to a successful summer is organizing the calendar.

Fine for them, but what about me?

Last week, I had a conference call with a small group of advisors. The group and I have had an ongoing quarterly call for about two years, which started after we had met at a practice management meeting in the Midwest. We typically start with a theme for the call and provide ideas and support for a revolving quarterly call leader. As usual, about half of the attendees (yes, including me) were late to the meeting. When I jumped on the call, I gave my standard excuse of being booked for multiple calls and meetings during the day. I complained that while it is good to be busy, it is challenging because when the day is over, I sometimes can’t remember what I committed to or what deadlines I set for myself. A few of the advisors agreed with me, but this quarter’s call leader was blunt and to the point in asking – “Whose calendar is it?” Dead silence.

Block it

While the scheduled topic of the call was client activities during the summer, we moved into a discussion about effective time management. One of the only “on time” advisors on the call said he had a simple technique to make sure he was efficient and organized in his day. Whenever he or one of his staff schedules a meeting, he always books between 15 and 30 minutes right afterwards to make sure he has time to address that meeting’s follow-up tasks.

For example, if he meets with a client from 10-11 a.m., he immediately books 30 minutes at 11 to accomplish the follow-up tasks. In that 30 minutes, he:

• Writes “to dos” and follow up notes into his CRM

• Notes important topics discussed so he can remember them for the next meeting

• Uses any leftover time to get organized and be on time for the next meeting

Rather than being booked back-to-back and accomplishing little during the day, he is able to push out a great deal of work. I would imagine that his clients are blown away with his response time and attention to detail — and nothing could make them feel more confident that he is “on the ball” than immediate communication after their meetings.

Scheduling time to grow

Lastly, the advisor blocks time to work ON his business. Twice a week, for 90 minutes, the advisor steps back and looks at growth plans, marketing activities and even creating efficiencies for his business. He realizes that unless he blocks his time, he will get caught up in the minutia of working IN the practice.

As I said, the key to our happy summer is going to be an organized calendar. So, I have to ask, “Who owns your calendar?”
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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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