5 Ways to Build More Time into Your Day
If you feel like you’re not accomplishing your life and business goals in the time frame you want, it can be frustrating, not to mention unhealthy (it activates stress hormones). The good news is, there are people who are accomplishing their goals in spades and we can learn from them.
Recently, I wrote a Reuters column on what the most successful financial advisors do differently from those who have average profits and revenue and struggle every day just to keep up (though they might be great at helping clients). Research shows that only 13% feel in control of their time and 10% feel in control of their businesses (yikes!).
No doubt this reflects most of us, give or take. Only a small percentage of people actually feel in control of their time and are satisfied with what they’re accomplishing in their day.
The problem is we wear so many hats, get tugged in so many directions, and automatically respond to what’s urgent or what can be done quickly and crossed off the to-do list instead of doing what will move us forward in our lives, careers, businesses, with our families and what we value most. Not to mention that we’re distraction magnets.
Even if we know this, we can’t seem to close that big, wide knowing-doing gap. If that’s the case for you, don’t beat yourself up; it’s just how we’re wired. But it is something we can change.
So let me share with you 5 tips I learned from a few inspiring financial planners (and productivity coaches who weighed in) who have their lives running smoothly and efficiently and set up so they have time to do what they enjoy. (I was all ears). Here’s how they do it:
1. Change your mindset around planning (and start planning even when you think you don’t have time)
Most people feel like they’re too busy to stop the merry-go-round to plan out their day or week, let alone their life. The difference between those “busy” people and those who are successfully reaching their goals (that is, living the lives they want) is simply the mindset around planning.
We need to stop thinking about planning as optional and see it as critical to our well-being. It’s so important that it should be as ritualized in our lives as brushing our teeth.
If we don’t do this, we get stuck at ‘busy.’ But busy doesn’t mean productive. Busy doesn’t mean profit or revenue. Busy doesn’t get you much of anything except a lack of time. Successful people also know ‘urgent’ does not mean ‘important.’
“Someone else’s emergency or urgent thing is not a reason to get pulled out of your work or what’s important to you,” says Debbie Whitlock, a women’s business and efficiency coach in Seattle. “Don’t get sucked into other people’s agendas and schedules, where they’re calling or emailing when it’s convenient for them. Make sure you answer your emails and phone calls at a time that works for you.” Better yet, set up 15 minute-increments in your day to respond so you’re not interrupting productive time, she says.
2. Get efficient
Have you ever heard the saying “When you want something done, ask a busy person?” Certain people seem to get four times as much done as everyone else.
HPPs (highly productive peops) say the key is to spend time on the right activities—the ones that move you toward your goals, not away from them. And that takes, well, planning.
“For every five minutes of planning, you save 30 minutes of doing, says Cynthia Kyriazis, coach, trainer and founder of Productivity Partners. She found that her most successful clients, the ones who make over $1 million in revenue, have this in common: They write out in exact detail what they want to achieve. Then they break it down into tasks they have to do each day, week, month and year to reach it.
“The thing that distinguishes them is that they execute on that plan daily by working on their priorities first…every single solitary day, ” she says. ” They are very proactive about intentionally moving the right thing forward to get to the goal.” They let nothing get in their way. While they can be flexible if something important crops up, she says, they stick to their plan, getting right back on track “through snow, rain sleet and hail, just like the mail carriers.”
Whether you want to make a million dollars or create financial security and more time for family, the process is the same—figure out exactly what you want and how to get it, and focus on that.
Both Kyriazis and Whitlock say that when plans are well thought out, it frees up more time to accomplish things.
Whitlock, who sold her firm to become a coach, had her staff end each day 30 minutes early to plan out the next day so they’d be off and running in the morning. “If you walk into your office and you’re not clear on what exactly needs to get done first, you’ll get distracted and won’t get to the thing you needed to do.”
The fact is, while we’re complaining about not having enough time, we’re clueless to how much time we actually waste when we “fly by the seat of our pants,” as Whitlock puts it .
“We all have 24 hours, we all have too much to do,” says Kyriazis. “The difference between the productive person and everyone else is the productive person gets clear on their goals and priorities and sets up their environment so they won’t get distracted. We can get 20 interruptions an hour, so a person who says ‘I don’t have time’ hasn’t taken care of business on the front end.”
If you don’t spend time planning, it will cost you, she says. And that will be repeated and accumulate every day—bad input; bad output.
Whitlock has clients differentiate between activities they love and that move them toward their goals versus what is required, and has them laser-focus 75% of their time on the former and 25% on the latter.
This requires having a list and checking it often (I love this way of prioritizing your to-do list by Michael Michalowicz, author of The Pumpkin Plan).
Whitlock also suggests using low-productivity time to create more productivity.
For example, if your least productive time each week is Monday morning when you’re still recovering from the weekend, take an hour and spend it planning your week. Also, take an unproductive hour or two monthly to work out and update your plan for the year. Keep those plans front and center—on your desk and in a prominent place in your house—so you see them daily.
Also make a plan for spare pockets of time you have coming up, like sitting in a waiting room or airport or between out-of-office business meetings. I’ve gotten my best work done waiting for people, while a friend of mine accomplishes like a madwoman in airports. Where I used to allot 30 minutes to my stationary bike and 30 minutes to reading up in my field, I now read while riding my bike. Thirty minutes saved.
Whitlock has seen clients boost their revenue by 25% to 30% within a year and 60% over 18 months after implementing more efficient practices. Consistent, committed effort over time brings about the greatest change and allows you to serve the most people and have time for yourself, she says.
3. Simplify, automate and systemize EVERYTHING
With a smartphone and computer and the boundless productivity tools at your fingertips, you can shorten the time it takes to do anything.
I always ignored this and took the dinosaur approach until I spoke to certified financial planner, Dave O’Brien, who did the math and figured out that by using technology and apps for everything he does, he adds about 30% more time to his day, which frees him up to do more of what he loves—helping people improve their lives.
Every productive person I interviewed used apps galore to make their lives easier, and inspired me to do the same. I’ve since begun using Evernote premium which allows me to save every note I make, along with articles and excerpts captured online in a searchable database so I can discard the piles of papers and files. (Kyriazis recalls a study years back showing that the average executive spends six weeks a year looking for misplaced documents. That may be why every HPP I spoke with has gone fully electronic).
I also now use Siri to do a multitude of small tasks, because one financial planner, Sunit Bhalla, who serves engineers (and may be the most efficient person I’ve ever spoken with), said Siri saves him a lot of time; he even uses it to remind him to call people.
Sophia Bera, who founded Gen Y Planning, says that setting up an online scheduling system through ScheduleOnce—where prospects can set up appointments online—saves her about an hour a day.
There are apps for quickly tracking your expenses and personal and business finances, such as Quicken and Mint.com (I use Quicken), and programs like Buffer and Hootsuite that send (or schedule) social media posts to all of your social media accounts at once. I’m about to buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking so that I can dictate articles into a digital recorder wherever I am, and have them show up in type on my Mac. I started with the free iPhone version and found that it cuts writing time in half.
4. Leverage relationships
Debbie Whitlock teaches her clients to leverage relationships so you can stop spending time pounding the pavement for business. Instead create strategic partnerships with other professionals in which you can mutually refer clients. For example, if you’re a financial planner, and you build relationships with attorneys and accountants, or if you’re a nutritionist and you partner with doctors, therapists and health food stores, you have business coming to you. Make your networking time count too, she says. Don’t waste time going to just any networking event, but events where you can meet referral partners rather than those in which you might pick up a client at a time.
5. Say ‘no’ a lot
Before you say ‘yes’ to anything, ask yourself if it means you’re saying ‘no’ to yourself and what’s important to you. If you’re helping everyone with their needs and goals, you will not get to yours. Remember, yours are as important as anyone else’s, and often what we don’t realize is that others are rarely saying ‘no’ to themselves to say ‘yes’ to us. Bottom line, choose your yeses wisely if you want to have time for what’s important to you and your family.
I have to add that the biggest lesson I learned was from Sunit Bhalla. Most new business owners focus on trying to make as much money as possible. When he started his financial planning practice, Bhalla decided he’d gain more by investing in himself and not thinking short-term. “I just decided not to worry about revenue for the next couple of years and create the long term vision that I wanted. That allowed me to spend money on the tools I needed to become an efficient, sustainable, scalable business,” he says. It paid off. Four years later, he has the dream business he wanted, more revenue than he thought possible, and plenty of time for family and volunteering.
For him and many others, planning means believing in yourself and investing your time and money in a higher-quality life and business in the long-term, one that ultimately brings you to the life you want.
Tell us what productivity tools, tricks, apps, or technology you use to make your life productive and to use your time wisely.
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