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Time Management Can Make Or Break Your Career

SuperUser Account posted on September 04, 2013

You're sitting at your desk overwhelmed by all the things you have to do. You're excited about all the new business you have, but you worry there are not enough hours in the day to finish your top priorities. In fact, you're not really certain what your top priorities are.

Sound familiar? As an advisor, it is important to stay on task. After all, you're probably on commission, which gives a strong incentive to stay focused, but advisors are hit with a lot of unexpected tasks throughout the day.

You have numerous people vying for your time. Most advisors have hundreds of clients. Plus, there are branch managers, operations managers, compliance managers, sales assistants, other advisors and friends and relatives all competing for their time.

This is no mundane, predictable career. Every day brings unexpected events. This is why it is critical that every advisor become excellent at time management.

Most people follow routines, walking through the day on auto-pilot without any real thought or plan. Some of us might have a loose idea of what we want to accomplish in the short-term, but very few people have a real plan and hold themselves accountable. Even fewer have a written plan with accountability.

For those individuals who have been thoughtful enough to have a real business plan, they have most likely found it difficult to stay on task. It is difficult to prioritize your tasks in an A-B-C format and stay on-point. This is because we are all directed and controlled by our deep rooted psychological "monsters."

Indeed, time management (or "task management," if you prefer) is more about psychology than organization. Of course you have to be organized, but to be highly successful you must keep these "monsters" at bay.

It is your deep-rooted psyche that drives your actions. Some of these actions you know are not in your best interest, but they are hard to resist. It is one of the things that make each of us unique. It is our insecurities, fears, suppressed emotions and psychological weaknesses that dictate many of our actions.

We are all born with a core basic personality and then life's experiences and surroundings determine the rest of who we become. Some of us are better at dealing with these monsters than others. Some of us don't even realize we have these monsters controlling many of our actions.

I would argue that about 70% of people are poor at prioritizing and planning. The rest try, but still are not super successful. There are those few individuals who are great at time management, but it's a very small percentage of the population. This is because it takes a very strong, dedicated and determined individual to fight these deep-seated tendencies.

Assume for a moment that you're in the upper tier of time management. Let's say you have a written plan and have prioritized your tasks on an A-B-C scale. Still, I would bet many times throughout the day you work on C-priorities even though you have not completed the As & Bs.

Ask yourself how many times throughout the day you respond to a text or email that is not a high priority. How many times have you worked on a low priority task that could have waited several days? How often have you taken a long lunch even though you couldn't keep up at the office?

A big part of effective time management is setting goals and priorities and then rewarding yourself for a job well done.

One of my favorite sayings is "there is no time like the present." However, I've been guilty of getting off track. Writing this article is an "A" priority, but I have worked on a couple of "B" priorities, because they were easier and kept staring me in the face. It is ok to get off course as long as you are aware of it and can recover.

We like to do things that come easy and that we're good at. We tend to procrastinate on the more difficult tasks. It takes a very strong person to stick to the important tasks, no matter the difficulty level.

Some individuals are people-pleasers and will lose sleep if others are counting on them. These individuals complete assigned tasks first even though they may be a low level priority — this is an example of a "monster."

How often have you worked on an easy task for a very small client before you worked on a more complicated task for a big client? When I was an advisor or manager I saw this all the time.

Here at the Rummage Group we say, "knowledge is power" or "admitting you have a problem is most of the battle."

It is time for you to make a list of actions you take every day. Assign a priority to each activity in an A-B-C format. When possible, set the time of day for various activities.

Reading trade publications for example, may be assigned at 7-8am. If you miss this window you miss reading the paper. Holding yourself accountable is very important as well as giving yourself rewards.

If you finish all of your assigned tasks for the day early, reward yourself with a treat. This may sound silly, but your psyche will start longing for these rewards. Spending time with my wife and children is my biggest reward for a job well done. If I complete my tasks early I leave the office and surprise them with an early dinner or a trip to the park.

Once you understand the power of the monsters that are dictating your behaviors it is much easier to stay focused on the important tasks instead of the easy ones.

Getting off track throughout the day will happen, but the more you practice the better you will get. With every action you take ask yourself this basic question: "Is this the most important thing I could be doing right now?"

Most of you became advisors to help people and make a high income doing it. The better you become at time management, the better you'll be at your job and the more money you will make.

Rick Rummage is the founder and CEO of the Rummage Group. He can be reached at