Time is a valuable and finite resource. One thing that sets successful advisory practices apart from their peers is how they use that resource. The key is to be intentional and consistent with how you use your time. The best tool to help you achieve that is the Model Week framework. Most advisors and practice staff are familiar with this framework, but few are using it well. With that in mind, here are a few best practices to ensure you are building the right model week for each team member.

Start With A Clean Slate

Often, advisors and their team struggle to implement a functional model week because they try to build a model week around what’s already on their calendar, instead of designing the ideal model week first and then adjusting their schedule to fit. It’s important to start with a blank slate and to build your ideal model week as if nothing is already on your calendar. Once you build your model week you can then look at your existing obligations and see what can change to fit the ideal week. Don’t assume anything is set in stone. Most people are willing to adjust their schedules to accommodate the new framework.

Download the one page tip sheet for designing your Model Week.

Put Your Rocks In First

You may have heard the adage that “your spending habits are a reflection of your values.” Yet when it comes to many of our calendars the opposite is true. Our calendars can quickly become filled by other people’s priorities and emergencies, leaving no time for the activities that matter most to our role or our practice. That is why it is critical that you first schedule time to execute on your most important goals, or “rocks,” first.

For example, if organic client acquisition is a priority for you, there should be time carved out for prospecting every week. The amount of time you dedicate to that activity will be directly proportional to how aggressively you want to grow. The more aggressive your goals, the more time you must spend on prospecting and generating referrals.

Consider Your Natural Energy Fluctuations

Time is not the only valuable resource you must manage. It is also important that you manage your energy. Our natural energy rhythms can vary from person to person. Also, different activities demand more energy than others, while some activities can help replenish energy. If you find you are most alert and energetic in the morning, schedule your most demanding tasks for that time. Leaving these till the end of the day when you’re exhausted (and less productive) often leads to poor performance and outcomes.

Plug In Admin and Management Time

Every role has ongoing administrative and management tasks that need to be accomplished weekly, if not daily. This includes answering emails, calling clients, calling the home office, updating CRM, etc. If you don’t carve out time for it on your calendar you can easily find yourself trying to play catch up late at night and on weekends. Not only is this exhausting, but if you must delay updating these items till you have time, something important can fall through the cracks. This is especially true for tasks related to client service.

Batching these tasks together also makes you more productive and efficient. Many studies have shown that there is a 15 second lag time when shifting between distinct types of tasks. If you are constantly shifting tasks, that 15 seconds can multiply, using up valuable time and mental resources. Instead of checking emails here and there or moving in and out of multiple systems, you can group similar tasks together into a single time block. Examples include creating time blocks for CRM updates, client outreach, checking and responding to emails, and a task block.

Do a Time Study

People tend to significantly underestimate how long it takes to complete a task. This leads many to believe they can accomplish more in a time block than is feasible. On the other hand, a task can expand to fill the time allotted, making it a wasteful use of time. Using the stopwatch feature on your phone, time yourself doing many common tasks, such as updating client notes in CRM. Document your findings and use that information to determine an appropriate amount of time to allot for each activity.

Build In Buffer Time

As mentioned earlier, there is an energy and focus shift that must happen between activities. If time is not built in for these transitions, you can find yourself struggling to switch between tasks and meetings. You also must attend to your own biological needs (food, bathroom breaks, hydration) as well as account for those true emergencies or unexpected events that can creep up in a day. If every minute is committed, it leaves you no time to tend to these matters. Leaving five to ten minutes between meetings is often enough.

Consider Client Volume

Whether building a model week for yourself or your staff, it’s key to consider the volume of client work that needs to be done. This includes calculating client meeting time, time for meeting prep, etc. This is also something that can change as your client base grows, your team changes, or if you bring on an outsourcing service to handle things like meeting prep and financial plan production.

Taking control of your time and how you use it is a tremendous competitive advantage in a world dominated by time-wasting distractions. Advisory practices who are intentional and focused with their time often outperform their peers. If used well, the model week serves as the foundation of an effective time management and performance strategy. As the direction, size, and goals of the practice changes, so too should the model week’s change, evolving as the practice evolves.

Download the one page tip sheet for designing your Model Week.

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About the Author: Ben Thelen

Ben Thelen serves as Vice President for Key Management Group. As a former financial advisor, Ben brings an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of a financial practice together with sound practice management principles. He uses this knowledge to hep advisors identify key gaps and opportunities, design practice management systems, and implement solutions to help advisors improve client experience, practice efficiency, and drive growth.

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