Four tips to kick your "time-wasters"

By Anne Bachrach

The Accountability Coach

It seems like the world is running at such an accelerated speed that we barely have any time to catch our breath. We start the day running out the door at full tilt and keep going until we crash into bed from exhaustion. Then we get up and do it all over again -- day after day. The weekends don't seem to offer much relief either, because we have soccer practice, ballet recitals and business social events. While most of us would consider ourselves effective time managers, few of us actually are. We're constantly on the go and can accomplish a lot in one day, so we must be effective time managers, right? Wrong.

In the ever-increasing rat race that we run to turn business profits so we can pay ourselves, all the while making time for our family, we find ourselves suffering from sheer exhaustion, trying to create more hours in the day so we can get everything done we need to do to get and keep clients. At some point, you have to concentrate on only what's important to your success and sanity. It's a process that all successful financial professionals find themselves having to learn in order to focus their energy on the most important things. All the miscellaneous stuff that consumes your time with little or no return eventually must be eliminated from your schedule.

The bottom line is that anyone who runs their own financial services business has to practice excellent time management, effective delegation and learning to say the word, "no." It's just not possible to maintain the simple life while achieving a high level of success. And, with today's technology, it's harder to hide when you need a break. Your e-mail inbox is dinging, your cell phone is ringing and your spouse is trying to call you on the car phone because your cell line is busy. It is at this point that you have to filter the input so you can begin to regain control over your life. As good as you think you may be with your time management, there are always "time-wasters" that can be eliminated from your daily life. Let's review some practical tips:

Time-wasters tip No. 1

In terms of your work e-mail, how much time do you spend typing and replying to e-mails each day? More than an hour? Two? Four or more? Now, ask yourself how much of your time is spent on essential e-mails? Think about how many e-mails you receive that do not require your response and think about the percentage of non-essential e-mails you could eliminate from your inbox each day. It is estimated that only 10 percent to 20 percent of e-mails that most advisors get at work each day require their attention and are essential to their job. Even if you estimate that 50 percent of the e-mails you receive are considered essential that stills leaves 50 percent that are time-wasters.

If you are spending the majority of your time on non-essential e-mail, do whatever you can do to either delegate or eliminate needless e-mail. The goal is to spend close to 100 percent of your time devoted only to essential e-mails.

This goes for personal e-mail, as well. If you are spending valuable time scanning chain e-mails, spam and video of the week e-mails, it's time to re-prioritize. Your time would be better spent in the gym, working, or with your family. It's OK to ask your friends to remove you from their bulk e-mail list, and a courteous request will go a long way.

Time-wasters tip No. 2

Reduce time-wasters by creating a to-do list for the following day the night before. Writing a to-do list before you go to sleep every night will help your mind run through the day and organize it. While you're sleeping, your brain is organizing the best way to create successful outcomes for the next day`s tasks. If you give it a task, it will figure out a way to complete it successfully and be more focused on success-supporting actions instead of time-wasters. Prioritize everything on the list so if you don't have time for everything, you at least get the most important items done. (I didn't say the easiest to do).

Time-wasters tip No. 3

If you have an assistant, evaluate if there are additional tasks you can delegate to them. Have your assistant look through your e-mail, screen phone calls or walk-ins, schedule all appointments, or research something you need more information about. When working with my clients, I'm amazed how each one of them doesn't utilize their assistants or team to the fullest extent. Delegate whatever you can in order to free up some time.

If you don't already have an assistant, find one. Hire an experienced virtual assistant to help you part-time or full-time. There are many good people out there, if you can live with them not being physically located in your office. Some advisors share a virtual assistant. Again, the goal is to minimize and reduce the time-wasters that are demanding your attention, but not delivering big payoffs.

Time-wasters tip No. 4

Last, but not least, you have to learn to say "no." You cannot always take care of everyone else and if you spend more than half your day on the phone, you've got to figure out a way to scale back. Sure, many of us go to the store, make dinner, drive and dress our kids while we're talking on our cell phone, but spending more than four hours a day on the phone is taking away from other valuable opportunities.

The goal is to slow down and be focused on the highest pay-off activities that will produce the results you desire in the timeframe you want -- personally and professionally. The goal is not to figure out how to move faster. It's impossible to create more hours in the day and it's simply not healthy to run at full tilt constantly. Learn how to eliminate the time-wasters in your life to improve your quality of life and success.

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