Three Easy Ways to Save Time

The art of time management happens incrementally. You don’t change one thing and suddenly become ultra-productive. These three small adjustments can have a great impact on your day.

Three Easy Ways to Save Time By Levi Landau

 

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Learn to manage expectations, leave detailed voicemails and complete the subject line of an email message last.

 

Each of us gets 24 hours a day. That’s it. We can’t buy or create more time. The only thing we can do is to make better use of the time we’re given. In fact, you could say that time management is a crucial differentiator between great and mediocre financial professionals. The great ones understand how to best manage their most precious and limited commodity.

 

The art of time management happens incrementally. You don’t change one thing and suddenly become ultra-productive. Rather, you become more efficient by making small adjustments that cumulatively add to a dramatic difference.

 

Here are three "small adjustments" that have made a great impact on my day — maybe they’ll work for you too.

 

Adjustment #1: Practice the fine art of managing expectations.

A few years ago, a friend explained this concept to me and it changed my professional and personal lives. Use this skill with your clients, your spouse and even your kids.

 

The premise is this: You can deliver exactly the same result to two people and their satisfaction levels will dramatically differ. One person will be thrilled and the other will be disappointed. How can the same result yield such different reactions for different people? It comes down to one thing: the expectation of the person served.

 

Satisfaction doesn’t exist independently. It is the product of expectation. If you deliver more quickly or better than expected, satisfaction will be high; if you deliver more slowly or less than expected, satisfaction will be low. The problem is that we often operate without a benchmark. We don’t ask enough questions about the client’s expectation to know if we can deliver. Conversely, we often don’t take the time to manage their expectations so that our results have a chance of achieving satisfaction.

Here’s an example: If a client asks me for a policy value statement, I have two choices: I can say, "Of course, we’re happy to help. We’ll get that for you right away." The client then sits at his keyboard, refreshing his email every 10 minutes to see if the new statement has arrived. When it arrives two days later, he’s smoking mad.

 

Or, I can say: "Of course, we’re happy to help. This process usually takes about three days because we need to reach out to the carrier and have them prepare a current statement for you. And of course, we’ll need to work your request into their production queue. Will three days meet your needs, or do you want me to see if they can expedite the turnaround time?" The client responds that three days will be fine, and when the statement arrives two days later, he is thrilled.

 

See the difference that expectation setting can make? This seems simple, but it can have monumental implications for your business. When the client is happy and satisfied, you feel more confident and effective. The client expects you to perform well; so the stage is set for future wins and for glowing referrals.

 

Conversely, in the first choice, a downward spiral ensues. The client is mad. You’re not expecting him to be mad; so you’re off your game. He now expects you to mess up in the future, which makes you nervous and more apt to stumble. Even though this is a small miss, he complains to his wife and she tells everyone in her office. So much for referrals!

 

The key is to build expectation-setting into every aspect of your life. Do this with your team when you give assignments and teach them to manage your expectations. It creates more harmony with your spouse and your children, too.

 

Adjustment #2: Leave action-oriented voice mail messages.

I heard this seemingly simple tip about how to leave a voicemail message at a conference. It turned out to be life-changing. We work in a personal business that requires a lot of phone time. Email may be more efficient, but some clients don’t regularly check their messages, and there are some topics that are too personal for email. So we use the phone, and phone tag inevitably ensue.

 

Here is how to leave a voice mail message that is not action-oriented: On Monday you call Joanne and ask her to call you back at her convenience. On Thursday, Joanne returns your call and asks you to call her back when you have time. On Friday, you call again and leave another message.

 

Here is how to leave one that is action-oriented: On Monday, you call Joanne and say, "Joanne, this is John Smith. I’d like to schedule an appointment with you to review your life insurance options on Tuesday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m. I’m happy to stop by your office. Please call me back to confirm or propose another time."

 

On Tuesday, she calls you back: "John, this is Joanne. I received your message and Tuesday, May 15 at 2:00 works great for me. I look forward to seeing you at my office."

 

See the difference? If you leave a detailed, action-oriented message, your clients will respond more quickly than if you don’t, and they will respond with more detail. The voicemail becomes a vehicle of efficiency, more like email. With action-oriented voice messages, you can finally stop chasing your tail.

 

Adjustment #3: Come back to the subject line when sending email messages.

Often, when we begin to write an email message, we waste time in formulating an appropriate subject line. Writing the subject is challenging because it forces us to summarize a message that we have not written yet. I find it more efficient to skip the subject line and the address line and write the message first. Only when the message is completed to my satisfaction do I complete the address and subject lines.

 

When you write the subject line first, it controls the message. When you write the message first, it controls the subject. With no subject to dictate the content, the message is easier to write. And with the message already written, the subject line is obvious and easy to write. This method also eliminates the risk of accidentally sending the email message before you are ready.

 

The key is to build expectation-setting into every aspect of your life.

 

Levi Landau is a Principal and Advisor at SimkowitzCo in Brooklyn, New York. He and his team strive to consistently exceed client expectations at every step of the financial and estate-planning processes. For more information, visit www.simkowitzco.com. (Simkowitz & Co. does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice).

 

This article appeared in Advisor Today.

 

Topics: Time Management