Over the past several years, the ever-expanding technological landscape has given financial advisors a plethora of tools that they can use to expand their reach, market their services, communicate with and serve their clients, and manage and grow their businesses. Yet, those same technological tools that have been so useful for advisors (i.e., email, social media, team communication platforms, CRMs, etc.) can also serve as irresistible distractions that can fill an advisors’ days with low-impact tasks as they react to an endless stream of notifications and, in the process, end out sacrificing their ability to do the things that can move their practices forward and allow them to do their best work for their clients. Which raises the question: how can financial advisors create the space in their schedules for high-impact work and actually leverage technology to do so (instead of sacrificing real productivity for ‘unnecessary’ responsiveness)?
In our 59th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and financial advisor communication expert Carl Richards discuss a key framework that advisors can use to prioritize their tasks, actionable strategies to create an environment that’s conducive to spending sufficient time on those things that are the most important, and how to manage their own natural tendencies to get distracted by life’s constant stream of interruptions.
The best place to start is by using the task prioritization framework introduced by Steven Covey over 30 years ago, which uses a container to represent the unalterable amount of time that we all have in any given day or week. The container, as the analogy goes, can be filled with rocks (the big, important stuff that moves us forward), pebbles (which are the things that have to get done but don’t necessarily move the proverbial needle), and sand (which is just the constant stream of communication and distraction). And the challenge that every advisor faces is that, if they don’t actually prioritize their rocks, then the sand and pebbles will naturally fill up all the available space in their container (which is why it’s easy to feel as if there’s never enough time to tackle the big rocks).
From there, the best way for advisors to make time for their rocks is to put it on their calendar… not mentally earmark a slot at some point during the week to get around to the rock, but literally book the time on the calendar, just like it was a meeting with a big client that can’t get moved or interrupted. Because when something inevitably comes up, advisors can (without missing a beat) respond that the time slot is already booked on their calendar. And, in order to create an environment conducive to the sort of deep concentration that working on rocks requires, advisors can turn off all incoming email and text notifications and set messaging apps on Do Not Disturb.
After making rocks a priority and eliminating distractions comes the hardest part, which is maintaining focus to actually do the work (and avoid the temptation of taking a quick look for any messages that may have come in). Maintaining focus, just like any other worthwhile endeavor, requires practice, but one effective strategy to get started is by setting milestones, and when a milestone is reached, the advisor can take a break and do something pleasurable (like going for a walk or getting an afternoon coffee).
Ultimately, the key point is that advisors who want more time to tackle the important things that will push themselves, their clients, and their businesses forward can start by actually booking time on their calendar to force time to be made. And if that causes issues because other urgent tasks aren’t happening, then the next logical step is to find someone to help handle them. Because, at the end of the day, there will always be more things to do than anyone has time for, and advisors who don’t actively take control of their calendar will always find themselves reacting to the sand and never have enough room for rocks. Or, put another way, no one has a magic machine that allows them to do more than anyone else. Rather, the real secret of time management isn’t about being more efficient; it’s about making the things that matter most (but aren’t necessarily the most urgent) the real priority.