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Increase Your Productivity with One Piece of Paper

Tracking your daily productivity can improve it.

Allyson Lewis, 01/15/2009

There are two burning questions I would like you to consider as you read this article. The first is "What daily activities originally made you successful as a financial advisor?" The second question is "Are you willing to increase those activities and can one piece of paper help you increase your daily productivity?"

I believe that when we take the time to answer those simple questions, the logical and simple outcome will be that your business and your productivity will increase.

What repeatable daily activities originally made you successful?
It is amazing to remember what we focused on when we started our. Our branch managers would have called these activities "the basics." The basics were the tasks we would need to focus on to become and remain successful. Here are examples of these basic daily activities:

1. Talk to our clients regularly over the telephone
2. Meet with our clients in face-to-face appointments
3. Network with people who have money
4. Become involved and stay involved in our local communities
5. Hold seminars
6. Call prospects
7. Ask prospects with money to do business with us

These basic activities worked so well we stopped doing them! As time passes and we grow our financial advisory practices we somehow forget the importance of these fundamental concepts.

It should go without saying that the goal of any financial advisor should be to help clients create models and investment strategies to help them achieve their financial goals and dreams. In order to do this, it also becomes our job to have a deep and ever-growing understanding of the current markets, the economy, various investment instruments, asset allocation models, style allocation implications, and more.

However, knowing how to invest for our clients is only one aspect of building a successful practice. You must also be able to seek out and acquire new business on a regular basis. This leads us to the second question:

Are you willing to increase those activities and can one piece of paper help you increase your daily productivity?

As obvious as it seems to me, after 26 years in this business I can get so caught up in the day-to-day emotion of the markets that I forget to focus on these seven simple basic daily activities. Therefore, about six years ago I made a conscious decision to become accountable for how I was spending my day and I created a one page tool that has revolutionized how I structure my work day. This single piece of paper is called the "daily progress report with contacts."

This simple tool forces me to focus on high-dollar-value activities and work toward achieving a daily productivity goal. As a financial advisor, there are many things I can't control. I can't control the performance of the stock or bond markets, but I can control how I construct my personal daily business model. I can also control whether or not I will work toward accomplishing those goals every day.

Our daily progress report with contacts is shown in this image. This worksheet is broken into several sections. The "Top Priorities" section in the top right-hand corner is possibly the most important. From a practice-building and training aspect, we see so many financial advisors walk into an office filled with clutter and without a written daily plan of action.

However, if you will set aside five to 10 minutes just before leaving your office to grab your daily progress report, list your top three to five priorities for the next day, and leave it on your desk, can you imagine how much this single choice could mean? Imagine walking in the office the next day with this piece of paper sitting on your clean office desk and a mere three to five key priorities to accomplish. Further, imagine having a clear expectation for your most important tasks. Finally, imagine actually starting and finishing each of those tasks.

Contrast that picture with your current work habits of walking in the office and letting the direction of the markets or your incoming client phone calls determine your focus. Imagine just how much more productive you could be if you had five prioritized tasks that you wanted to complete before 11 a.m. In fact, one of my friends and mentors liked this idea so much that she coined the phrase "completing her five before 11." As I was visiting with her she said, "It has been amazing how productive this one idea has made me. There has been a huge psychological component to this for me as well. By making the decision to completely finish these five tasks by 11 a.m., I have a great sense of accomplishment and maybe even more importantly, I feel the freedom to spend my afternoons focusing on whatever else I want or would like to do."

It is my belief that this one idea of completing your "five before 11" and by knowing and executing your top priorities each day can revolutionize your daily productivity.

Once I have completed my "five before 11" top priorities for the day, my focus shifts to reaching my daily contact goals for each day. In order to run my business like a business, I knew that I had to find a quantifiable method of tracking how regularly I was personally staying in touch with my clients. With this in mind, I set a goal of reaching 25 points every day.

The first step was to devise a point system that would take into account the amount of time that different activities take and their values. This is the point system we came up with:PAGEBREAK

* One point for an attempted outgoing call
* One point for an incoming call
* Five points for a face-to-face appointment with a client or prospect
* Five points for a telephone appointment
* Five points for attending a networking event
* 25 points for a seminar

Because the key to continuing client satisfaction is often tied to the frequency and the quality of our communication, I receive one point for each attempted outgoing phone call. (I receive points even when I don't reach anyone because the only thing I have control over is how many people I attempt to reach.) I receive one point for each incoming client call. However, our team believes that each face-to-face appointment should carry a higher point value because there is preparation work to be done for each of these meetings and because they should be considered the most important communication tool we have to help our clients achieve their goals. We also will give five points for a telephone appointment. Because we live in a rural area, we often host our reviews over the telephone rather than face-to-face only because some of our clients live in different cities and sometimes different states.

We have valued networking events, community boards and other outside activities to be worth five points. Finally, seminars are worth 25 points to our team because they are one of the specific activities that allowed us to consistently grow our business.

As you call people, you may think of administrative issues that you need to complete or you may think of additional people you need to call--the "tasks" section is for these notes. Just below tasks is the "Thank You Note" area. Our goal is to write two hand-written thank you notes per day. Printed on the back of the daily progress report is space for writing down all of your voice mail messages.

The bottom line is that my goal is to finish each day with a total of 25 points. This sheet of paper has revolutionized my daily work habits. As you begin to track your daily progress, you may be stunned by how few outgoing calls you have been making. Tracking each call and keeping score has dramatically helped me increase my daily activity level. And I know that increasing my daily activity will result in improved client communication and hopefully increased business. What I didn't really expect is how the increased activity level made me feel so much better about myself. Somehow the new level of momentum made me want to work even harder.

The incredible volatility we have experienced in the financial markets have proven once again that we have no control over the performance of any financial asset class. However, we do have the ability to control how we spend the hours and the minutes of our day. We can choose to let the market overwhelm our emotions and freeze us into taking no action, or we can choose to set top priorities and accomplish our five before 11. We can make a conscious decision to increase the actual number of outgoing phone calls and face-to-face appointments we have with our clients. In the face of all the media noise, our clients are especially interested in knowing our opinions and thoughts going forward. They want to hear from us.

As a final suggestion from the author, I print the daily progress report with contacts on bright green paper so it is easy for me to keep track of during the day. We also three-hole punch these reports and keep them in calendar order each year for reference.

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