When it comes time to start your workday, do you start with a to do list? Maybe you have a planner or an online calendar that keeps everything color coded and organized. Regardless of the planning method you subscribe to – do you feel like you usually get everything done? If your answer was, “Yes!” good for you! You’re one of maybe five people I know who always feel fully accomplished at the end of their workday! I joke, but in all seriousness, even you probably feel like you’ve got some big-picture goals that you’re not making progress on.
It’s the blessing and the curse of the motivated professional! Whether you own your own financial planning practice or you’re part of a rock star team, you probably have big-picture goals and short-term tasks that just keep adding up. It would be easy to get overwhelmed (and believe me, I have on many occasions!) thinking about all the things you need and want to get done. Of course, that’s just thinking about your professional life! What about all your personal goals and dreams that make you, well, you? Don’t those matter, too? And how in the world are you supposed to get everything checked off the list?
Here’s the deal, organizing a schedule isn’t easy. Sticking to the schedule you put together is even harder. But you’re making it even harder on yourself by attacking a daily to do list or long-term goal sheet without a strategy. Just plugging in tasks and appointments into your Google Calendar isn’t enough. There needs to be a method to the madness. I recommend that people use systems to schedule and plan for both short and long-term goals.
If you commit to prioritizing and organizing your time, you’re more likely to stay on track to reach those pie in the sky goals that we talked about earlier. And you’ll end your workday feeling like you knocked everything out that was on your to do list. Sound too good to be true? I swear it’s not, and it’s much simpler than you probably think it is. There are five levels to this scheduling system. Let’s start with the daily level, because you need to feel accomplished in the short term to move forward and work towards bigger things.
Level One: Scheduling Your Day-to-Day
Let’s talk about how you organize your day. There are a ton of theories on how to do this best, and I honestly think you need to find the method that works best for you. Here are a few ideas I like:
- Schedule your daily tasks around your energy levels. If you’re a morning person, attack the most energy-consuming tasks first thing when you get rolling. If you prefer to ease into things, grab your cup of coffee and check emails, or do admin tasks that don’t require a ton of brain power.
- Schedule your tasks at the same time every day to keep things time efficient. Staying consistent with your time can help to make you a faster, more productive worker bee. Over time, you become use to performing those tasks at those times. Your mind is trained to accomplish them, so you’re reducing the amount of time spent switching between tasks and getting in the groove.
- Schedule your tasks based on where your focus lies. This is a bit of a new theory – but I like it. We spend a lot of our time fighting to stay focused on the task at hand. This method of scheduling says that you’ll be more productive if you start recording what you focus on during the day and schedule your tasks around that. For example, if you struggle getting through your morning admin tasks because you’re so focused on returning client calls – switch your task order to reflect your focus. You’ll be more engaged with your work, feel fulfilled, and knock things out faster.
No matter what method you choose, you’ll notice they have one thing in common – time blocking. Time blocking is simply setting aside a predetermined amount of time to dedicate to one task. During that task (whether it’s your morning calls, writing a blog post, or looking over a new client’s portfolio) you aren’t doing anything else. Shut down your email browser, maybe silence your phone. You’ll already have time blocked off for email admin or answering calls later – focus your energy entirely on the task at hand and watch your productivity soar!
Level Two: Weekly Scheduling
Organizing your week using the time blocking method takes scheduling to a whole new level. This idea has been revolutionary in the way I do business – and it seriously does make you infinitely more productive. Designate each of your days for a certain kind of task. Personally, I have a day where I work on my business (creative focus things – like blog posts, social media, videos, etc.). I have a day where I fill my schedule with client calls. I have another day where I take no calls and don’t touch my marketing and only do client work.
This method works well because you aren’t constantly switching between tasks that require a totally different kind of focus or energy. You’re in the zone all day without any distractions. It’s a magical feeling, and the quality and quantity of work you’ll be able to put out there is glorious!
Level Three: Monthly Calendar
We’re almost to the “high level” stuff. Your monthly schedule should be a combination of nitty gritty tasks and big picture goals. Keep an ongoing calendar that contains deadlines, appointments, and meetings. But also try and schedule chunks of time – an afternoon, or a day or two during the month – to work on accomplishing goals. Set this schedule up at the beginning of each month, knowing that it might change should something unexpected come up.
If you walk into each month knowing what you have going on and prioritizing goals that you want to achieve, you can schedule tasks that help keep you on the path to achieving those goals. Keep your monthly goals big enough that you’ll be excited to check them off your list, but small enough that you can still achieve them within the month. Big picture planning is for levels four and five of the scheduling system.
Level Four: 90-Day Business Plan
Speaking of big picture planning, your 90-day business plan is where you’ll do most of your high level “scheduling.” Scheduling is a term that should be used loosely here. When you set up a 90-day business plan, you’re allowing yourself to look ahead. It can be very easy to get swept up working in our business. This often is so intense that we forget to work on our business. That’s because taking a step back when you’ve got one million things going on and you’re working off a mile-long to do list is hard. But if you’ve taken a second to organize your day-to-day, schedule your weeks so that you’re working efficiently, and create a monthly outlook, you’ll be able to take a minute to come up for air and look around.
Your 90-day business plan should include big events. These things should be conferences you want to attend, or seminars you’re planning to speak at. It should also include big picture ideas and goals that will help you improve and grow your business. Yes, some of these goals should be the usual, “I want to sign my first few clients,” or, “I want to focus more on marketing.” But now is not the time for generalizations – it’s the time for concrete, well-defined goals. Instead, you should write down how many clients you want to sign, and at what key points within the 90-day period you’ll check on your progress. You should create distinct marketing goals like blogging every other week, or putting together a free download to grow your email list on your website. The more specific you get, the better. Don’t forget to incorporate professional and personal goals in your 90-day outlook. It’ll help you organize your time to reflect these goals in the day-to-day.
As you decide what’s important, you can organize them into a list of goals and tasks and prioritize from there. After you create your 90-day business plan, you can go back to the monthly, weekly, or even daily calendars to add and subtract tasks as needed so that you’re always working towards the preset goals you’ve prioritized in your 90-day outlook.
Level Five: The Year Outlook
This is more along the lines of creating your business plan (or evaluating the business plan you already have). Your year-long outlook is an exciting thing to work on. This is where your big picture decisions are made, and you determine the direction of your practice. Of course, as you go year-to-year, things in your plan might change. Maybe you choose to shift your niche, or you find that your costs have changed. Each year, you can change your year outlook to reflect where you’re at in your business right now.
Getting organized doesn’t have to be all about longer to do lists and more time spent at your desk. Sometimes just having a well thought out system of task scheduling to meet your preset goals is enough to get you on the right track!
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.