Many of our students have expressed interest in learning more about time management skills for financial professionals and small business owners. Whether you are running a small business like an insurance agency or at the beginning of your financial services career, work can feel a lot like a juggling act. There are always decisions to be made, employees and/or clients to attend to, and correspondence to keep up with. This article provides some steps for developing a time management plan that will help you prioritize what needs to be done and use your time as efficiently as possible.
Before you do anything, it is valuable to spend an entire day logging how you spend your time from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed at night. You should track everything in order to get a real picture of where you spend your time. Try not to change your typical behaviors on this day otherwise you will not be measuring a “typical” day. Then, look back at your log and see where you are wasting the most time. It might be useful to categorize all of your activities and then calculate the percentage of time you spend on each type of activity. Some categories could be: emails, phone, meetings, breaks, errands, meals, or recreation.
Now that you have figured out what you spend your “typical” day doing, it is then time to determine what you should be doing. This involves developing very clearly defined goals for your business. Consider developing goals that are short-term (monthly or quarterly), annual, or long-term (two to five years). Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound), so you will easily be able to track your progress of them.
Once you have your list of goals, break those down into clearly defined tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve your goals. Then you can clearly see the necessary actions you need to take. The list will also help you see what resources you need and how to allocate them to reach your goals. You may find you are missing resources you need too. Use this list to start identifying what those resource needs are and how you might go about getting the tasks done.
In addition to your goals, you will also have ongoing business functions that are crucial to your business. These activities are crucial to continuing your business operations and should not be ignored in your time management plan. Even if these are not directly attached to goals, you should still record tasks you need to complete on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis. Examples of these include: check and reply to email (daily), deposit funds (weekly), pay electricity bill (monthly), renew a lease (annual).
After figuring out your detailed list of tasks, you should then rank your tasks in order of importance. You will want to complete the tasks that will have the greatest impact on your goals and/or your bottom line first. Take into account consequences of not completing something as well. Even if paying your bills does not impact your goals, it is important to them on time to prevent losing important services you need.
It is a good idea to assign a time estimate to all of your tasks that need completing. This will help you in the next step when you need to create a realistic plan for your day.
Now that you know all of your tasks, you can then go about making a plan of action. It is not realistic to assign every hour of each day with a task. Leave some unscheduled time each day that you can be flexible with should something unexpected come up. While your task list should remain somewhat fluid as things come up, you should revisit it each day when you are devising a plan for your day. Make sure the highest priority items are getting addressed rather than the easiest tasks to complete.
If you are looking for a way to be more efficient, try the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique involves setting a timer for a 25-minute interval to focus on one specific task. Then, you should take a 5-minute break before starting another 25-minute interval. This is a popular time management method because it allows you to manage distractions and prevent burnout by being regimented with breaks. Experiment with the time intervals – some people may find 25 minutes is too long, but 15 or 20 minutes might work.
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