We all know what happened in 2020. The pandemic affected all of us. In an instant, remote work became the norm. People couldn’t go to offices, nor could advisors personally meet with clients.
But every cloud has a silver lining.
For many financial advisors, it was the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones. It was also a chance to revamp a lot of the old ways of prospecting. In many ways, the pandemic has presented us with opportunities to be more productive.
But without making conscious efforts of taming the work-from-home “beast,” this opportunity can also lead to misery. Boundaries do blur at home, and it can be tough working with kids running around. Your colleagues also expect you to answer straight away, often fogging the bounds of office hours and private time. And while on paper it looks like you’re spending less time on work-related stuff, the average advisor actually spends more time working.
Fortunately, I’ve got some work-from-home productivity tips that actually work. They’ve certainly helped me get back some of the lost time from overextended work-from-home hours. Get ready to level up! Here are my favorite productivity tips for the Virtual Financial Advisor™.
Have a workspace
Most homes weren’t designed to double as offices. So for many financial advisors, the lockdowns meant we just worked wherever there was room in the house. For some, this even meant working on the bed. But I cannot stress enough how having a dedicated workspace boosts productivity.
If you have the luxury of having a spare room, then you probably should use that. If you share a small space with people, try using noise-canceling headphones to tune out and create imaginary boundaries. Be creative with Do Not Disturb signs. Make sure everyone is aware that this is your space.
Not only does this lessen distractions, but it also puts you in the right mindset for work. A dedicated workspace has a sweeping influence on a lot of the other tips that follow — planning the day, being intentional with time, and focused work.
Upgrade your home office
Now that you have a dedicated workspace, you should also consider upgrading both hardware and software. The first step is to buy the most ergonomically comfortable office chair possible. In essence, an ergonomic office setup means you don’t have to strain or stretch when making repetitive motions.
This might mean an office chair that adjusts in height, swivels, and has a tilting backrest that supports your spine. The best ones also provide lumbar support and hand-rests that adjust to level your elbows with the desk.
On top of having an ergonomically friendly chair, I recommend using a standing desk. This allows you to effortlessly move from sitting to standing throughout the day (which is good for your mind and body).
Next, you’ll want to invest in decent headphones. This is especially true if you share a small space with people. But it’s also helpful in tuning out random noises, which means you can focus more on work. And that means better quality output.
Of course, a fast internet connection and computer are helpful upgrades. Sure, you might be able to do the same tasks with an old laptop or a dial-up connection. But better equipment often means less stress while getting the job done faster. Trust me, these things add up.
Over the years, these investments will be worth the improved output and better health. And as a Virtual Financial Advisor™ running your own firm or practice, most of these expenses are deductible.
Be intentional with your time
Planning your day transcends working from home. It is a handy tip that can improve your overall well-being. That said, being intentional with time is particularly crucial when working remotely with distractions close by.
Begin with the end in mind
I like to start the day with a plan. One helpful trick is to think about the most important task of the day. Gary Keller calls this your one thing, which is the action that, when done right, makes everything else easier or unnecessary. How do you know what the one thing is? It is the act that pushes you toward your long-term goals.
Everything should align, from your daily goals to your quarterly, annual, 3-year, and 10-year plans — a big plan, powered by persistent effort over time. In fact, consider writing them down.
Focused work over multitasking
When you know your day’s one thing, stick to the plan and keep distractions to a minimum. Sticking to a plan means saying “no” to a lot of things — this is actually harder than it seems, so practice, practice, practice. Also, choose focused work over multitasking for better output. Multitasking is a myth, as many studies have shown. What we think is multitasking is actually rapidly switching from one task to another, which means doing subpar work.
Instead, focused work, or what Cal Newport calls deep work, which is a state of distraction-free work that optimizes your brain’s capacity. Strive to have that.
Time blocks and flow
You will develop your own techniques or what works best for you, but one of the more popular ways of creating an environment of deep work is time-blocking. This just means creating time blocks throughout the day when you’re focused on a particular task without interruptions. People also call this batching your tasks.
If you imagine an engine that warms up, its capacity ramps up gradually. You are an engine, and your best work happens when you’ve had time to warm up. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this flow.
During this time block, you could also try the Pomodoro technique. So instead of two straight hours of dedicated work, break them up into 25-minute chunks of focused work, a five-minute break, and then repeat.
Maximize the power of technology
The Virtual Financial Advisor™ manifests technology’s potential to boost productivity. Rather than knocking on doors, for example, modern financial advisors set up virtual meetings. This is also partly due to clients’ increased willingness to meet virtually. Prospecting has never been more efficient.
Other than a CRM, there are many more programs and ways to automate repetitive tasks. One is having a custom domain or a website. A website is where you answer your clients’ frequently asked questions. It is also a place to display your portfolio and credentials. Moreover, a custom domain is easier to remember when prospects want to get in touch. Custom domains are cheap, too, as long as you’re using a specific name with low demand — kind of like “CoffeeChatWithMike.com.”
Other must-haves are a calendar system, like Calendly, and software to replace emails. Setting up appointments are silent time-suckers because of the back-and-forth of coordinating schedules.
Alternatively, hiring virtual assistants today has never been easier. Coordination with team members is simpler with platforms like the complete Google Workspace or replacing traditional email with modern solutions like Slack, Asana, or Trello. These platforms make tracking conversations or attachments and overall coordination so much easier.
Pareto everything through mindfulness
Ultimately, we all have the same number of hours in a day. For optimum productivity, you should key on the factors and actions that have the most significant impact. Remember that being busy and being productive can mean two different things.
The 80-20 rule
The Pareto principle, or the 80-20 rule, says 20% of our actions produce 80% of the results. The reverse is also true (80% of our activities produce just 20% of the results).
In light of this, consider which actions — which workspace upgrades, meetings, apps, or focused work — give you the greatest gains. But how do you even know which changes will bring the most impact? One way you can do that is through introspection and meditation.
Although mindfulness is last on this list, it really should be the first thing you do to boost productivity. I saved this for last, so you’ll remember to practice it right away. (Honest!)
The act of being mindful can be contentious, though. Others think it’s gimmicky. But for people who’ve seen the results, it is a life-changing skill. There’s no magic trick to it either. Just spend some quiet time alone with your thoughts, and observe the profound impact it’ll have on you and your practice.
Did I miss your favorite work from home productivity tips? I’d love to hear them!