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Control Yourself: Better Time Management, Better Business

Financial planning is no easy gig.

It involves working nights, weekends, and overtime. That’s a lot of time poured into your work.

But according to the inaugural study by FPA’s Research and Practice Institute™, many planners don’t feel they’re in control of that time or their business.

FPA’s recently released 2014 Time Management and Productivity study indicated time management is an important aspect of a successful business and a self-identified shortfall among the 759 respondents.

“This study, and the resulting tools and resources FPA designs to help advisers positively impact their time management, are central to FPA’s focus on helping financial advisers run successful businesses,” said Lauren Schadle, CAE, FPA’s CEO and executive director.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Advisor Impact CEO Julie Littlechild, showed that when financial planners have a greater sense of control over their time and business, it leads to greater profitability and capacity.

In general, solo practitioners feel more out-of-control than their counterparts who were on teams. Only 13 percent of respondents feel in complete control of their time, and only 10 percent feel in complete control of their business.

Respondents indicated the top challenges they face when it came to productivity are trying to do too much, dealing with an increased administrative burden, and procrastinating. And business is affected for those hindered by these challenges.

Valerie Porter, CFP®, director of FPA’s Research and Practice Institute, said it’s important for planners to get a grip on time management and their sense of control.

“Obviously if only 13 percent of advisers feel they have complete control over their time there are going to be far-reaching ramifications on their businesses and their overall stress level,” Porter said. “As a practicing CFP professional myself, I know the impact positive time management has had on my business and my work with FPA and RPI.”

Tips for effective time management

While only 13 percent of respondents said they felt in complete control of their business and time, they have a few practices that other practitioners could learn implement for success.

  • Go through a time-tracking process to determine how you spend your time.
  • Have a set schedule of meetings every day. Time blocks don’t have to be rigid but make sure you schedule your priority activities.
  • Set specific goals for the number of client meetings you’ll hold per week.
  • Have a business plan in place that sets specific client retention goals.
  • Delegate tasks where you can. Advisers who feel most in control typically delegate things such as data collection, preparing documentation for client meetings, and conducting client-specific research, among other activities.
  • Have a block of time to respond to emails and phone calls versus responding to them as they come in.
  • Set aside time during the day to prepare for the next day.
  • Design a model day/week to follow to keep yourself on task.
  • Prioritize your tasks, tackle the most important ones first.

Take a look at the full study, which can be found here, for more in-depth tips on how to better manage your time.

The 2014 Time Management and Productivity study is the first in a series of quarterly studies from FPA’s Research and Practice Institute that are designed to help advisers run more successful businesses. Future studies will examine client communications, business development, and team training.


Ana2Ana Trujillo
Editorial Assistant
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

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Carrying On When Life Happens

I can’t help but remember the Boston Marathon just one year ago—I live about a block from the finish line. While I wasn’t a spectator that day, I saw the smoke from the window of my condo and “sheltered in place” in the aftermath of the horrific events on April 15.

A year after the bombings, the stories of the victims and their families demonstrate the resiliency of the human spirit—the family that lost a loved one and now cheerleads for runners; the woman who is dancing again after losing part of her leg; the double amputee who is restarting his life with his fiancée and awaiting the birth of their baby.

Despite incredible loss, they’re continuing to pursue their goals and dreams. Their stories are a testament to our capacity to carry on—and thrive—in the face of serious obstacles.

Most of us will be fortunate not to experience a setback so severe. But at some point, negative events of some kind will likely intervene in an adviser’s life and business. Whether it’s health problems, the death of a loved one, or another unexpected event, the firm will be impacted while the adviser attends to these critical matters. That’s just life.

As Steven Covey points out, successful people make their business fit into their life—not the other way around. We can only try to take these events in stride, dealing with the issue at hand without losing sight of our goals. Take 2008, when the entire industry was suffering and a bit downtrodden. And now think about the recovery that’s occurred since then.

Whether in business or private life, we know that things don’t always go our way. Yet, it’s our resolve that determines the ultimate outcome. Life happens, but it doesn’t need to derail our dreams and aspirations.

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management

Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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The Waiting Place

What are you waiting for?

In Dr. Seuss’ Oh! The Places You’ll Go! he aptly describes the frustration of what he names The Waiting Place. Any time I feel stuck, jaded or impatient for what’s next, I re-read this insightful children’s book (I question whether it really is for children or, rather, for adults when we need a refresher on the exciting adventures life brings). I find comfort in the words that remind me that sometimes life includes transition stages that frankly can be boring.

Maybe you have to work for someone else a bit longer than you want to save enough cash to spin off on your own. Maybe you’re a few months into your new practice and you wish you were growing faster. Maybe you still have a year of CFP® certificant–qualifying experience to be allowed to use your letters. Maybe you want to move out of your home and into an office but haven’t found the right spot yet.

The Challenge and the Errors
The challenge comes in knowing when you’ve waited long enough and it’s time to charge forward. The error often is either (1) you are waiting for “the perfect time,” or (2) you waste the time while you wait.

For No. 1, you think, “If I plan and prepare perfectly then I will avoid failure.” Usually preparing 75 to 80 percent will get you where you need to be to take the leap. This way, you give yourself room to adapt as you view the reality of your next phase. Yes, have a plan; but know there is no time that is 100 pecent perfect to act. The longer you wait the more you fall victim to inertia. And that won’t help you create what you want.

The second error comes about as you get anxious or mad about the waiting. You focus more on what you don’t have and what you have to deal with in the present rather than draw energy from your future vision.

If you need more cash accumulated before you can go independent, then use the time in between to research technology, set up your firm, find outlets to reach your target audience, expand your competency, or get to know more professionals. Draft your first 10 blog posts you will use when you “go live.” As you can see, the options are endless.

Before you know it, you’ll be on your way out of The Waiting Place, and you’ll realize in hindsight it was a necessary respite.

How do you inspire yourself when you have to “wait” for your next stage? What’s stopping you from leaving The Waiting Place?

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
San Francisco, CA


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