20 Time-Management Hacks for Virtual Financial Planners

September 27, 2021 | 8 minute read

Time Management

A hot topic in our executive peer groups is time management. Planswell advisors are not unique in their need to get the most out of every hour of every day. Generally speaking, financial advisors far and wide struggle to find the time to manage their firms, service existing clients, and prospect for new business.  

In our quest to support our partnering advisors, we put out a call to our high-performing, fully remote team. We asked them to share their productivity advice. Below, find twenty great tips to stay on top of your game.

  1. Make it to your next meal. I got a really good piece of advice when everyone started working from home during the pandemic. “Make it to your next meal” I think originated in U.S. Navy training for hell week. The idea is to be as productive as possible and push yourself between meals. For me, if I get an urge to look at my phone, I hold off until lunch. And then at lunch, that's my free time. - Tyler Hindley, Account Executive
  2. Use multiple screens. Many screens equals more time saved. Some of us open a million tabs on Chrome and spend a lot of time looking through all those tabs to find what we need. When you have more screens, you don’t need to do that and you’ll be more efficient. - Alan Lau, Sales Coach
  3. Sprint. What really helped me is breaking my day up into parts and really focusing during the specific parts to do as much as I possibly can. I do 15-minute increments, but you can do half an hour increments or hour increments or even three hours. Just get as much done as you possibly can in that time. - Patrick Brennan, Account Executive
  4. Time-block. I really believe in time-blocking. So the night before, I'll plan out my next day. Then, I simply follow my calendar. - Mwangi Muthui, Account Executive
  5. Take Notes. Back when I was in school, I was that kid who always carried a Palm Pilot with him everywhere, seemingly unable to function normally without it. I've always been bad at remembering appointments or deadlines, let alone the minutiae of some weeks-old chat. However, I never really nailed down an effective digital solution that I pined for. Even as smartphones proliferated and my all-digital approach to calendaring & notes became more common, I found that the process of entering an appointment or typing out a quick note was cumbersome enough that, all too often, I just didn't bother. I found the solution I was looking for: pocket notebooks. Stated plainly on the back of the first pack of Field Notes notebooks that entered my ever-growing collection: "I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now". These days, I take a lot of notes every day. Sometimes an old friend or rarely-seen family member will act as if caught mildly off guard when I suddenly produce a well-worn paper notebook from my pocket to jot something down. Digital tools just can't compete with the ease of making a quick scribble, and the real secret is that I hardly ever go back to read anything in my notebooks. It's the act of writing it down in the first place that makes it easy to remember later.  -Shaun Esau, Software Developer
  6. Keep a To-Do List. It's always good to have a list of things you need to do in the day, and then you're always kind of checking back with your progress. It keeps your eye on the prize and keeps you focused. - Meagan Terrel, Product Designer
  7. Stop multitasking. Be aware of the fact that, generally speaking, people can't multitask. Much has been said about multitasking and getting so much done. The truth is, you always have to start and then get back in the flow of something, then stop, get back in the flow, and then start yet again. And then if you're distracted by something else, when you're going back and forth, you're losing tons of time. If you can truly focus on one thing, you can get it done in 20 minutes instead of an hour. - Lukasz Merdzik, Head of Sales
  8. Schedule personal goals. Be specific about what you want to accomplish personally, and schedule time in your calendar to achieve your goals. For example, whatever book I'm reading, I’ll schedule time in my calendar to read 50 pages per day. If I don’t, I’ll never find time to pick up the book. It's really helped me to achieve what I need to do. - Jonathan Inada, Account Executive
  9. Go to “homeroom”. I practice a “homeroom” concept modeled after the homeroom period in high school. The idea is to tackle the project that needs the most focus first thing in the morning, before checking slack or email or anything else. Tune out the world, get something major accomplished, and then you can go on with the minutiae of your day. - Jen Mastrud, Chief Marketing Officer
  10. Say no. One of the things I needed to learn is to say no to things, because you can't be all things to all people all the time. -Andy Cosby, Account Executive
  11. Check email less frequently. We live in a world where we try to be immediately accessible, but it's so easy to get off track in the follow-up. While some emails are quick and easy to respond to, others require more legwork if you have to do a bit of research. If I keep my email notifications open, my focus shifts. So I have them off and typically only check email in the morning, maybe once at midday, then again toward the end of the day. It helps me focus a little bit better - Isabel Leong, Plancraft Community Success Manager
  12. Dedicate work space. Don't work everywhere in your home and don't work outside. Set yourself up with a table in a corner or in a room, and make that the only place you do work. This serves two great purposes. First, when you enter that space, your brain enters work mode and you think about work. Second, when you exit that space, you now have a place to leave all your stuff — like when you used to leave the office and go home. - Craig Savolainen, Head of Engineering
  13. Do mindfulness planning. I have a really thick planner. It's a mindfulness planner, so it has stuff like what I’m most excited about for each day.  It really helps me identify my main focus, and then I write my highs for the day and my lows for the day.  I don't do this every day, but I like to make a habit of it when I can. - Javairia Asif, People Operations Lead
  14. Get organized. Organization is key. Have a plan for the day so you can move efficiently throughout your day without wasting time. - Corey Small, Account Executive
  15. Leverage technology. Shout out to the Google Calendar and Slack extension. Every day, it sends me a list of all the meetings I have, then I set alerts for myself to remind me when a meeting comes up, five minutes ahead of time. And then again one minute beforehand because I'm jumping from one thing to another. - Javairia Asif, People Operations Lead
  16. Have mindful mornings. A good hack for me is waking up early. I want to say I'm part of the 5am club, but that's a lie. I do wake up around six. From six to nine, I have all the time to work out or do whatever I need to get done that day. Things that maybe I wouldn't get done after working hours because that's when family, friends, or whatever activities just start getting in the way. I like to use that time to make sure I am extremely productive before my work day even starts, then I feel pretty good about that and I feel good about myself. My energy is up by the time I start hitting the phone. I’m able to manage my life, and that just kind of trickles down. - Tony Peters, Account Executive
  17. Prep meals. I cook batches of stuff and put them in the freezer so I can just pull something out and have a quick meal ready. - Vanessa Robinson, Account Executive
  18. Sleep. I took sleep for granted and the lack of sleep caused me to be groggy & irritable throughout the work day. I’m sure this had an adverse effect on my energy levels, work performance, and focus. My bedtimes were all over the place, my wake-up times were inconsistent, and I was spending too much time on my phone in bed. A few weeks ago, I made a decision to focus on improving my sleep and I noticed positive changes in my life. - Patrick Brennan, Account Executive
  19. Disconnect. Recently, I decided to completely remove myself from social media (excluding LinkedIn…gotta prospect). The results thus far have been significant to say the least. Not only have I found I’m more present in the moment, but I’ve also found myself increasing my daily productivity at Planswell. But checking social for 2 minutes won’t hurt, right? Well, let’s really think about it. What if you’re doing that hourly every day? Every week? Every year? That’s almost 70 hours a year! What would you do with 70 extra hours? I challenge you to find out! - Mark Maynard, Account Executive
  20. Run better meetings. Regardless of my best intentions to maximize my time, I find myself in unproductive meetings, or meetings that could have been emails. A couple of small tricks can make meetings more productive. Make it clear you have a hard stop. Have an agenda. Commit to ending each meeting by recapping next steps or action items. When possible, prioritize which meetings you take based on your priorities—it’s often ok to schedule a meeting a couple weeks out rather than squeeze it into a busy day tomorrow. Scrutinize ongoing meetings on your calendar; are these a good use of everyone’s time? If not, should we restructure the meeting or cancel altogether? To master time management, take control of your time spent in meetings. —Kristina Smith, VP—Partnerships
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Kristina Smith

VP Partnerships, Planswell


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