Independent financial advisors lead busy lives with many commitments. From managing a multitude of client relationships with on-going deliverables like financial plan updates and quarterly statements to meeting and following up with prospects, it can feel overwhelming trying to stay on top of everything. Managing deadlines is a skill that takes time to master. Fortunately, you don’t have to learn it all the hard way. Below are several well-worn tips to help you handle those looming deadlines.
The human brain is an incredible thing, but it’s not the best at storing due dates, to-do items, and appointments. Write them down somewhere where you’ll see them regularly. Some people like to use productivity software and set reminders; others just want to use a paper notebook. You might even opt for a big white board calendar to hang on the wall. Do what works for you. Just get these details out of your head and free up space to focus on the work you deliver.
2. Do the Quick Things
If something will take less than five minutes to complete, it’s probably better to get it done right away, rather than add it to your to-do list. Once it’s done, you won’t have to stress about it anymore, and your list will appear less intimidating. If you are a student of David Allen’s Getting Things Done® Methodology, he recommends tackling any task that takes less than two minutes right away. The bottomline: if it’s quick, just do it.
Tasks like client communication and social media can be systematized, so they don’t take up all of your time. Set a time each day to go through your email, rather than constantly checking your inbox. When posting to social media, it’s usually best to prepare all of your posts for the week or even the month, then schedule each one to publish. A service like Buffer can make it easy to manage all of your social accounts from a single dashboard. For more ideas, check out my free video series that teaches how to set up your relationship marketing system to automate many of your prospect and client communications.
Are you a “pleaser?” We all want to make our clients happy, but there are only so many hours in a day. Sometimes you just can’t take on any more work. If you don’t have the time to complete a request by a specified deadline, it’s better to say so from the start than to disappoint your client later on. Always leave enough bandwidth to deliver more than what you’ve promised.
If you have a large project due, try breaking it down into smaller sub-projects, each with its own deadline. These sub-projects won’t seem so daunting, and you’ll find it easier to stay on track. You’ll also have the fulfillment of experiencing numerous ‘complete tasks’ rather than one big looming one. By the time you’ve finished the last small task, you may be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished.
Look to delegate tasks. Each team member you work with should have particular skill sets that you don’t have or don’t want to do (e.g. selecting or designing graphics for social media) that can make their effort more efficient. Get the most out of your team by putting their talents to use and giving them space to meet their deadlines.
Things don’t always go according to plan. People get sick, pipes burst, computers crash, all without warning. To leave room for the unexpected schedule your completion date a few days before the actual deadline. This is not always possible, especially when it’s your client with an urgent need. Try to make a habit of leaving yourself some extra room whenever you can. You’ll lessen your stress and make it easier to navigate any last minutes surprises.
Independent financial advisors have exciting and interesting careers. But, health, wellness and work/life balance are essential to sustain your energy. Late nights staring at your computer aren’t always avoidable, but with enough planning and organization, you can keep them to a minimum.