INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
Advisors Find Better Ways To Manage Their Time During The Pandemic
12:00 PM ET 01/15/2021
The pandemic has torn advisors' work habits asunder. Disruptions caused by stay-at-home orders and other safety protocols have posed unprecedented challenges.
To boost their productivity, advisors have adopted fresh approaches to time management over the last year. They are finding ways to accomplish more each day and balance work and home life.
On the plus side, there are new ways to save time when conducting business in a pandemic. With less face-to-face client meetings and more video calls, advisors can squeeze more conversations into the workday. And while staying at home eliminates commutes, even those advisors who continue to head to their office find faster drives and an emptier, less distracting work environment.
But the downsides of working from home with less in-person interaction create their own set of problems. Technology breakdowns cause delays. Misunderstandings can increase or tasks can fall through the cracks as a firm's far-flung employees try to coordinate their efforts.
Perhaps the toughest issue is maintaining boundaries when advisors run their business from home.
“I question if I'm working from home or sleeping at work,” said Nicole Gopoian Wirick, a certified financial planner in Birmingham, Mich. “The lines have blurred significantly.”
For Wirick, the key is mindfulness. She's more intentional about how she manages her time, paying more attention to reserving time to work as well as step away from it.
Her husband works under the same roof in a separate home office. She recharges by setting aside a one-hour lunch break every day with him.
“This time together allows a guilt-free opportunity to connect and enables me to refocus my time and energy professionally for the remainder of the day,” she said.
Boost Efficiency With Time Blocking
Working from home frees up pockets of time that advisors previously spent commuting to the office and driving to appointments with clients and others. Capitalizing on this extra time takes planning.
Matthew Ricks, a New York City-based certified financial planner, maximizes “found time” by asking himself, “What do I need to get better this day?” He'll then choose from activities such as meditating, walking for 10 minutes or squeezing in a few calls.
Like many advisors, Ricks favors “block scheduling” — designating specific times to focus on tasks tied to a single topic. For example, he sets aside Tuesday morning for client outreach.
“If you get interrupted on a task, it can take eight to 15 minutes to get restarted on what you were doing,” he said. “I don't want to spend time switching gears” due to disruptions.
For advisors who never stopped coming into their office, the lack of clients requesting in-person meetings has made time management easier.
Nadine Burns, a certified financial planner in Ann Arbor, Mich., used to schedule face-to-face client meetings every two hours throughout the day. Now that they meet via videoconference, she books them every hour.
“We've been able to tighten our client scheduling with Zoom meetings,” she said. She's also finding time to earn continuing-education credits, get more involved in her local chapter of the Financial Planning Association and conduct “deeper dives” in analyzing client portfolios.
Find Your Daily Rhythm To Maximize Productivity
One of the adverse impacts of pandemic-related stress is its potential to deplete our time and energy. Constant worrying about contracting the coronavirus — and calibrating the risks of certain actions — can in itself prove an unwelcome distraction.
Burns takes a proactive approach to ensure she works effectively with her employees. Every Monday, she leads a team meeting to review productivity goals and other measures she uses to track the firm's progress.
She concludes by asking each staffer, “What are you stuck on?” They might express concern about gathering signed documents from a client or fixing a service glitch.
“It can serve as a teaching moment,” she said. “And it helps us find ways to adjust our processes to be more efficient.”
Over the past year, many advisors have become more attuned to the mind-body connection. They realize that they're more productive in performing certain tasks at certain times of day.
“Finding your rhythm is important,” Burns said.
Reserving an uninterrupted hour or two when you're mentally sharpest to engage in cerebral activities — such as studying stock charts or economic reports — can help you focus and synthesize data.
Prioritizing what matters most also helps. Every morning, Wirick lists the five most important tasks for the day.
“I write them in a bound notebook,” she said. “Writing them down makes it more likely that I'll achieve them. Then at the end of the day, I evaluate how far I've come” in tackling those tasks
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