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Every financial advisor wants to get more done in less time. But this is an impossible task if you don’t spend your time productively.

There are too many workload changes, fires that pop up, and new priorities that happen to leave your schedule to chance.

That’s why I’m answering all your productivity questions in this episode. Not only will you understand how to maximize your time, but you’ll also discover how to minimize the impact distractions have on your productivity.

Want to grow your business by becoming more productive?

Listen now.

Show highlights include:

  • The “Capture Everything” secret for staying productive even when life happens and your workload constantly changes (3:31)
  • How to prioritize your laundry list of possible tasks so you maximize the impact of your limited time (5:02)
  • The “CPE” method for organizing your tasks in a way that will generate the biggest ROI for your business (5:41)
  • Why moving busy work that requires almost no brainpower to the end of your day instantly boosts your productivity (6:55)
  • How to tackle the biggest tasks on your to-do list in half the time by reading this book (7:55)
  • How blocking off your most productive period on your calendar rewires your brain and makes you a little more productive each day (11:30)
  • Why building momentum by breaking big tasks into bite-sized chunks actually helps you finish the task quicker than doing it all at once (13:55)
  • How to make your financial advising business indistinguishable in a year by simply following this 20-minute per day LinkedIn strategy (16:24)

Want to become an expert at niche marketing and put growing your business on “easy mode?” Then join my niche marketing program here: https://www.theadvisorcoach.com/niche.html

Need help getting more clients as a financial advisor? I created a free, 53-minute video outlining the steps to my “CLIENT Method,” which helps financial advisors land more clients. Watch the video before I take it down here: https://www.theadvisorcoach.com/theclientmethod.html

If you’re looking for a way to set more appointments with qualified prospects, sign up for James’ brand new webinar about how financial advisors can get more clients with email marketing.

Go to https://TheAdvisorCoach.com/webinar to register today.

Go to https://TheAdvisorCoach.com/Coaching and pick up your free 90 minute download called “5 Keys to Success for Financial Advisors” when you join The James Pollard Inner Circle.

Want to transform your website into a client-getting machine? Go to https://www.theadvisorcoach.com/website to get The Client-Getting Website Guide.

Want a masterclass training in running effective Facebook Ads? Head to https://TheAdvisorCoach.com/ads-training.

Discover how to get even better at marketing yourself with these resources:




Read Full Transcript

You're listening to “Financial Advisor Marketing”—the best show on the planet for financial advisors who want to get more clients, without all the stress. You're about to get the real scoop on everything from lead generation to closing the deal.

James is the founder of TheAdvisorCoach.com, where you can find an entire suite of products designed to help financial advisors grow their businesses more rapidly than ever before. Now, here is your host, James Pollard.

James: What's going on, financial advisors? It's been a long time since I’ve done a question-and-answer episode, which is kind of stupid on my part because they tend to get good feedback, and if they get good feedback, I should probably do more of them.

However, I don't want to do a general Q&A episode where I talk about everything from email marketing, content marketing, to project management to my favorite, I don't know, movies and music. I want to dig deep into the mailbag and pull out questions about a specific topic, and this episode is going to be about productivity, as the title says. [01:03.3]

These are questions I’ve received from financial advisors, both Inner Circle members and non-Inner Circle members. The difference is that Inner Circle members, aka the newsletter subscribers, they get direct email access to me for their marketing and business-building questions. If they're having trouble with something, they can email me and get my thoughts. Just this morning, I had an advisor email me with a question about his online ads campaigns. I’ve literally spent over a million dollars of my own money on ads, so I might have been able to point this guy in the right direction. Don't you think that's valuable for $99 per month?

We're talking about productivity. I've shortened and simplified these questions so they're easier to understand, because sometimes financial advisors will email me these long, long, long backstories with a whole bunch of information, and it wouldn't be very fun for me to read those on a podcast without you falling asleep, so I am getting to the point with these questions—and here's the first one: How do you stay productive when faced with a constantly changing workload or new priorities? [02:03.4]

This is a great question and it's something a lot of financial advisors face. They get new clients, lose some clients, have little so-called emergencies pop up, have to deal with administrative tasks, and all sorts of things. They just feel like they're putting out fires constantly.

The first step is to realize that things are constantly in a state of change. I tend to recommend a more rigid schedule than a lot of people in the “help financial advisors” space, but I understand there needs to be some flexibility in there, too. One of the, quote-unquote, “criticisms” that I’ve received from financial advisors is that my approach for a lot of things is way too robotic, way too stiff, way too “go hard, do it no matter what,” like “laminate the pages, read them in the shower. Go hard, go hard, go hard.” I understand it is not for everyone, but it works. However, I understand that you need to have some flexibility in there as well. So, make sure you aren't scheduling yourself so tightly that you have no breathing room for when life happens. [02:59.2]

I can't remember where I read this, but I remember reading that if Amazon's top few plants or the production facilities where they put all the stuff in the boxes—I don't know, is it called a plant? I'm not entirely sure. The Amazon facility. I'm not sure—if that shut down for a few days, they would be devastated as a company. It would take so long for them to catch up because they are hyper-efficient and every second counts. They're obviously mega successful, but they also depend on a lot of automation and robotics—and, well, you're not a robot, so give yourself some freedom.

But here's the basic process I use for dealing with changing workloads and varying priorities. The very first thing I do is capture everything. If you get nothing else from this podcast, get the fact that I want you to capture everything. Have a place to take notes. Have a place to put your to-dos. You have to have some way to capture everything that comes to you. This could be a to-do list software. This could be your calendar. This could be a Google document. It could be a legal pad. You need some way to acknowledge the new tasks that come to you so you don't forget them. [04:04.0]

A common trait among underachievers is they have no capture process. They work based on inspiration or what they feel like doing. It does not work. I have software that keeps me informed that helps me keep track of every idea, every piece of work and every priority I have. This includes in my businesses and in my personal life.

For example, I have recurring reminders to change the air filters in my house. I have recurring reminders to charge my fire extinguishers. I have recurring reminders to charge my electric toothbrushes. I have recurring reminders to send holiday cards. I don't even have to think about these things anymore until they come up. That is a game changer in and of itself, and I'm being serious. I’ve got stuff to clean the keyboard, clean behind the fridge, and all these things. Some people think that's neurotic and, hey, I'm not wanting to tell you if you're right or wrong about that, but it still accomplishes the task. It gets them done on a regular schedule. [05:01.6]

The second thing I do is categorize the tasks based on how they will impact my outcome. For example, if my desired outcome is to make an extra $250,000 per year, I will ask myself, “Will this new priority get me closer to this outcome?” If the answer is no, then it isn't much of a priority or it doesn't become much of a priority. Of course, there are certain things that have to be done. For instance, getting your car tags renewed, that's a pain in the butt and it has no impact whatsoever on the car's mechanical ability, but not getting your tags renewed can cause more headache, so you have to do it anyway, and there are lots of things in the financial services industry that are like that.

The third thing I do is to organize the tasks. I understand my way is not for everyone, but I organize my tasks based on context, priority, and energy level. Context, priority, and energy level. [05:55.1]

The context stuff is LinkedIn or email or home repairs. Throughout the day, I might think of something that I want to do that's related to LinkedIn. Maybe I want to contact someone on LinkedIn. That would go into the LinkedIn category. That way, when I am on LinkedIn, I can go through all of the LinkedIn-related tasks. They're in my to-do list software. They're literally tagged with LinkedIn. I can go in, I can search the LinkedIn tag, and it will show me everything that is related to LinkedIn.

This is called task batching and it's a productivity technique by itself. It involves combining related tasks and doing them simultaneously. I don't go on LinkedIn, do one LinkedIn task, then check my email, then go grab lunch, and then come back to LinkedIn and then go back to email. I do all the LinkedIn stuff when I'm on LinkedIn, and then I shut it down. I do all my email stuff when I'm in my inbox, and then shut it down. I don't switch context that frequently.
But priority is self-explanatory. How much of a priority are these new tasks? [06:55.5]

Then energy level is something that has made me far more productive. If you go through your to-do list, I guarantee you will see several tasks that don't take that much energy or brainpower. Move those tasks to the end of the day. I’ve talked with advisors who waste their energy on all these low-level tasks at the beginning of the day and then they hit a wall in the afternoon. It's called the 3:00 p.m. slump or their 2:00 p.m. slump, you can google it. Then they have no energy for the tasks to actually move the needle in their business, and it's just goofy.

Brian Tracy has a book called Eat That Frog! where you do the hardest thing in the morning, you eat the frog in the morning. It's based on a quote from Mark Twain. You need to do that. You need to do the hard stuff first. But it needs to be something that is also going to move the needle in your business. It needs to get you closer to your goal. If eating the frog isn't going to move you closer to what you want to accomplish, then don't eat that freakin’ frog. You need to find the frog just going to move you closer. That's a lot for this question, so I'm going to move on to the next one. [07:55.0]

How do you handle distractions and interruptions when trying to engage in deep work? For those of you who don't know, deep work is a concept popularized by Cal Newport. He has a book of the same name. It's called Deep Work. I don't remember the subtitle right now. It's all about being able to focus without distraction on a cognitively-demanding task. It's a state where you can produce high-quality work efficiently and effectively. So, when you get up in the morning and you eat that frog that moves you closer to your goals, you should be in a state of deep work while you're doing it.

In essence, deep work is about immersing yourself in a task so you can make significant progress and achieve a higher level of performance when you're doing it. It’s the opposite of what he calls shallow work, where you might be multitasking or frequently interrupted, and you just can't get in the zone. You have lower productivity levels. You're putting out a lower quality of work, which is a double whammy.

When it comes to deep work, first, it's essential to create an environment that is conducive to deep work. This might involve finding a quiet space, using noise-canceling headphones, or setting up a dedicated workspace where you can minimize interruptions. [09:03.0]

Another important aspect is setting boundaries and communicating your need for focus time to those around you. Let your colleagues know, let your coworkers know, let your family know, let your housemates know, if you've got roommates or housemates. Let them know, whoever it is. Say, “Look, I need uninterrupted time.”

I know you have kids. There are some people who say, “Yeah, try that we kids, LOL.” Do you have a choice? Either you're going to be interrupted or you're not going to be interrupted. If you know for sure that your kids are going to interrupt you anyway, that they're just going to disregard whatever you say, then figure out a way to do deep work while you're getting interrupted. Hmm . . . but that would require independent thought. That would require work, James. We don't want to do work around these parts. So crazy.

In a professional setting, you might continue setting all your chats to “Do not disturb” or “Busy.” iPhone, if you’ve got an iPhone, flip that thing on, “Do Not Disturb.” You know that I put mine in the case safe. I don't even know I have my phone with me when I'm doing deep work. But I am a realist and I know people can't get rid of their phones. They're addicted to the little things. They need to have that dopamine rectangle in their pocket at all times or on their desk. [10:11.8]

Honestly, when it comes to that sort of thing, setting boundaries, that's a huge productivity hack by itself. You can get rid of all those “Got a minute, Gabriel?” and “Quick question, Quincy” that suck up your time like nobody's business, because if you look at “Got a minute, Gabriel?” and you say, “Look, here, Got a minute, Gabriel? I'm going to be busy from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Unless this building is burning down, you shall not interrupt me. You shall not knock on my door for any reason whatsoever under any circumstances, unless our lives are threatened.”

“Oh, but James, that's too harsh. I don't want to be rude.” Look, it's not rude. You're setting boundaries. Everybody sets boundaries. If you go up to a stranger on the street and you get within six inches of that person's face, the person is going to tell you, “Back to heck up off me,” because boundaries exist, whether you like them or not. [11:05.5]

Hey, financial advisors. If you'd like even more help building your business, I invite you to subscribe to James' monthly paper-and-ink newsletter, “The James Pollard Inner Circle”. When you join today, you'll get more than $1,000 worth of bonuses, including exclusive interviews that aren't available anywhere else. Head on over to TheAdvisorCoach.com/coaching to learn more.

It's also helpful to schedule dedicated blocks of time for deep work in your calendar, actually put it on your calendar. By setting aside specific hours for focused work, you can train your mind to expect and to prepare for these periods of deep concentration. If you do this every single morning from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., you will know 7:00 to 9:00, that's my time for deep work. You will get used to it.

It makes it easier to actually do it and it makes it easier to communicate that boundary to other people where you just go to “Quick question, Quincy” who knocks on your door or sends you an email every 20 minutes with a quick question, you can say, “From 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Monday through Friday”—or maybe Tuesdays and Thursdays, or Monday, Wednesday and Friday—“I am not going to get back to you. I am going to be busy.” That makes life a heck of a lot easier. [12:15.1]

This also means actually doing the work, doing the cognitively-demanding work in the morning. For me, that's writing my newsletter and answering Inner Circle member questions. My Inner Circle members get the absolute best part of my day. I am at my peak when I'm working with them because they deserve nothing less.

I have to laugh when I hear people say that they haven't been able to read the 20 or so pages per month that each newsletter has, or potential subscribers might say they're worried about that sort of commitment. What do you think about me? I actually have to write the thing. Which would you rather do, read it or write it? Plus, I have other businesses to run and other obligations, and personal life and other things that I'm dealing with, so it's a lot of work for me, too. [12:55.4]

Managing digital distractions is another crucial part of deep work. I want you to think about turning off all notifications on your devices, all of them. I want you to close all unnecessary tabs. I want you to close all unnecessary apps. You might even use a website blocker to do this. I use an app called Freedom that will literally lock me out of social media, email, and anything I deem unnecessary. There's also a Freedom mobile app, which will cause the apps to stop working.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve had about Chrome extensions and these tools that block social media on desktop, they don't block social media on your phone because it's through an app. While the app Freedom will block social media apps on your phone. It's awesome.

Doing deep work, it might be super hard at first, especially if you've never done it before, because your brain will be addicted to multitasking and the little dopamine hits that come from doing low-level tasks like checking email and social media. But the more you stick with it, the more you can build that deep work muscle.

Next question: Can you provide some tips for overcoming procrastination, especially when faced with daunting or complex tasks? Ooh, okay, good question, good question. [14:03.8]

This might seem kind of silly, but one thing you can try is breaking the task into smaller, more manageable steps. Yes, I know this is a beginner, very-obvious advice, but sometimes tasks can feel overwhelming and that makes it difficult to begin. By focusing on one step at a time, you can continue making progress and you can build your momentum, which will help you stay motivated to continue working.

There's a ton of research out there about momentum and its ability to keep you on task, to keep you doing stuff. That's another reason why you should schedule your deep work for the same time every single day and don't break the streak, because you can keep your momentum going.

Another technique is setting a timer for a short period, like 25 minutes and then working on the task for 25 minutes, then taking a five-minute break. That's called the Pomodoro Technique. If you’ve read any personal productivity book or attended a productivity training, you know the Pomodoro Technique is very popular. It works. [14:55.0]

Now, of course, these are tactics. If you know me, you know that I'm not really a big fan of tactics. I prefer strategies, and the best strategy you can employ in this case is to figure out why you're procrastinating. Are you unsure of how to start? Are you afraid of failure? Do you find the task unnteresting?

I rarely procrastinate anymore because I have everything so systematized, but when I used to procrastinate on stuff, it was because I wasn't interested in doing it. When I realized that, I started figuring out ways to make the task more interesting and that was the strategy that I used to become more productive. I made them fun. I made them more interesting, if I had to do them. If I didn't absolutely have to do them and they didn't move me toward my goals, I got rid of them. I either delegated them or I eliminated them.

Next question: I would like to build better habits in my life. Would you suggest trying to build several smaller habits or one large more time-consuming habit?

I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV or on this podcast, but I will tell you, there's been a lot of research in this area and the jury is still out. There is no definitive answer either way, so I'm going to give you my personal recommendation. This is not etched in stone and you should make your own decision based on your preferences, your unique situation and your circumstance. However, I would start with small habits, especially if you're a financial advisor who wants to get more clients. [16:16.3]

My reason for this is because successful financial advisors typically grow through little habits, not big ones. I’ll give you a few examples. Your business would probably look undistinguishable in a year, if you took 20 minutes per day and followed my LinkedIn strategy. You can find that over at TheAdvisorCoach.com by clicking the Get Clients with LinkedIn tab.

Imagine a mere 20 minutes per day to connect with and message potential clients. Not spammy copy-and-paste messages, either. Real, genuine, thoughtful messages that are designed to start conversations, and, yes, I mean, a real conversation, not “Does Wednesday or Thursday work for you?” Not “Are you interested in learning more about IRAs?” That stuff is so dumb. You need to realize that there is a real human being on the other end of the computer screen and an actual human conversation is what's most effective. [17:06.3]

Another small habit is setting aside maybe another 20 minutes or maybe 30 minutes per week to write a broadcast email to your list. You might be thinking, Per week? I thought James was all about daily email. I am for your autoresponder sequence. But for broadcast emails, you can send weekly if you want, you can send bi-weekly.

The idea here is when I'm talking about getting appointments with email marketing, when someone subscribes to your list, that person will go into your autoresponder sequence. That person will get an email immediately from you. Not tomorrow, not the next day, not next week. Immediately. If somebody subscribes at 10:59 p.m., that person should get the welcome email immediately, and then the next day, get the first email. And then the second day, get the next email. And then the third day, get the next email. Every single day until the end of your sequence. I typically recommend between five and 12 emails in an autoresponder sequence, because all the data says that the response drops off after the 12th email. [18:01.0]

Now, this is not limited to email. This is based on sales and marketing, and just follow-up, in general. People either convert or they don't by the 12th touch. You could send someone a handwritten note, connect on LinkedIn, send a message and send an email, send a direct mail piece, whatever. Whatever your combination is, by the time you get to the 12th, it is very unlikely that that person will change his or her behavior, because there’s just the law of diminishing returns after that.

In this case, the conversion is setting an appointment with you. You're not asking for their firstborn child. You're not asking them to amputate a limb. You're literally just asking them to set an appointment, and if they can't send an appointment with you after 12 touches where you've explained who you are, who you help, what you do, your process, and you've told a couple of stories, you’ve built rapport, you've established credibility, you've establish authority. If they can't do that by the 12th email, chances are they're probably not going to send an appointment with you. [18:54.7]

Now, are there exceptions? Absolutely. That's why you send the broadcast email, because if you have 500 email subscribers, you might be able to get another 10 or 20 appointments over the course of a year by sending weekly broadcast emails. Is that worth the time investment? Absolutely. If it takes you 20 or 30 minutes per week to write these emails and you get those appointments as a result, absolutely, it's worth the time, especially because if you write evergreen content, you can recycle them anyway.

Just want to make that clear, in your autoresponder sequence. I'm talking about daily emails, but you don't have to do anything. You write the autoresponder sequence one time. You establish it one time and you don't have to do anything else with it unless you want to split-test the emails. When I'm talking about broadcast emails, these are ones that you actually sit down and write. Okay, hope I cleared that up for people.

Another thing you could do, another small habit is setting aside 20 or 30 minutes per week to send handwritten cards to people like clients, influencers in your niche, referral partners, potential clients, people you’ve met at networking events, old friends you've lost touch with, family members, anyone and everyone you can think of about sending a card to. [20:01.3]

Let's say you write five cards each week. That means, a year from now, you will have sent 52 times five, which is 260 handwritten cards forming real connections with people. People will see that you put the effort into sending them something that isn't some generic message that everyone else gets. Do you really believe that sending 260 cards wouldn't transform your business in some way? If you do, you need to stop drinking the guru Kool Aid and do stuff that actually works.

That is it for this week. I might do another Q&A episode about another topic next week or in the coming weeks, I'm not sure. I like doing these because all I have to do is pull some questions up and then start chatting with you. If you liked this episode, leave a review. Share it with a friend. Post it on social media, tag me in it. Do something. It would mean the world to me if you did. And I will catch you next week. [20:54.8]

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