In a FPA Time Management Hacks and Productivity Study, 13 percent of financial advisors said they feel in complete control of their time. More than one-third are working more than 50 hours a week. This makes sense when you think about all the tasks financial professionals have to tackle: accounts receivables, accounts payables, audits, expense reports, budgets, bookkeeping, investments, etc. That’s a lot of time and cash you’re dealing with. In retrospect, the time accounts for the cash. So let’s dive in to maximizing your time with 5 time management hacks for the finance team.
1. Funnel your Focus
The latest FPA study recommended a time management hack all about focus. It said financial professionals should begin by focusing on three broad categories: Strategic, structural, and personal. The following image illustrates what each category entails and the sequential order:
First, a strategic focus provides the foundation for the remainder of your actions. Strategy determines what tasks need to be done. Once you determine what items need to be done, you can then decide how to do it. This leads to structural productivity; it describes how you will deliver action items. It’s a tangible plan of the action items you need to focus on to accomplish your strategic goals. Finally, personal productivity is prioritizing when you tackle tasks and in what order. Strategic productivity needs the largest amount of focus, followed by structural productivity, with personal productivity requiring the least time. They all form the time-management infrastructure to support killer productivity.
2. Prioritize the Metrics
“Decide what your priorities are and how much time you’ll spend on them. If you don’t, someone else will.” – Harvey Mackay
LexisNexis Group surveyed 58 professionals tasked with corporate financial responsibilities and budgeting to discern the most important metrics to consider when setting financial goals. Prioritizing and managing your time is consistent and necessary part of your day. The ability to discern these metrics and report them in an effective way advances a finance professional’s contribution to the enterprise. Here are the top five metrics to track:
- Total departmental spending versus budget
- Outside counsel spending
- Budget forecast and accrual accuracy
- Spending by matter versus budget
- Spending savings achieved
Prioritize the metrics that matter, spit out results, and inhale the fresh air that comes from being on top.
3. Develop a Routine
If you are financial advisor Nicolas Doumenc, you arrive at the office before anyone else to get a head start and work quietly for an hour or so. He emails an update about what he will work on to his project manager each morning to keep him accountable. If you are Patrick Dolan, the EVP and COO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), you start by going on a run each morning to get your blood pumping. Or you could be more subjective like Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson who said in an interview with Fast Company, “It doesn’t matter what your system is, you have to have a system.”
Uncover the system that gets your clock ticking. A hidden niche or hobby could satisfy mid-day temptations and distractions.
4. Write it Down
“Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.” ― Albert Einstein
These time management hacks include writing things down on paper, or keeping track of your tasks in your electronic device of choice. Whether its written physically or electronically, create a to-do list in a way that best fits your productivity style. Whether you prefer old school or new school tech, create a list and check tasks off as you complete them (so satisfying). Before you leave from work, organize your to-dos for the next day. Every morning, review your list and adjust it as needed should urgent need arise. Set your goals for the day, then attack the list with renewed energy each morning.
Writing goals, tasks, and to-dos down keeps you zoned-in on the important items. Plus, accomplishing goals satisfies the part of us that’s always striving to achieve.
5. Identify Specific Challenges
Find out what’s limiting your productivity. Try keeping a log to calculate how much time you spend on organic work versus distracted moments due to chatting, social media, tangents in meetings, etc. Once you record what helps and what distracts, you can start making specific time management goals. For example, if you find that you average one hour (which is a common statistic) per day on your phone, here are some time management hacks you might want to implement:
- Get on the pomodoro app bandwagon
- Schedule breaks for social browsing
- Delete social apps from your phone
- Turn off notifications for social or news app that create consistent distraction
The above tips cover just a fraction of the strategies that you can use to stay in control of your time. Read more about productivity tips here.
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