Tired of chasing your tail and skipping lunch? Let’s consider an alternative.
With the end of the year now within sight, it’s unlikely you’ll be feeling too strategic about how you are using your time. “Get it done, off your plate, out the door” will be the overriding sentiment as you contemplate a well-earned break.
However, I’d like to plant the seed in terms of how you could become vastly more productive in the year ahead. My starting premise is that the working week is a painfully limited and flawed means of organising your time.
Just think about the number of weeks where your standard allocation of desired activities is completely unrealistic. This can be for any number of reasons – deadlines, conferences, client expectations and the like. Regardless of the reason, the effect is the same. Very quickly, a week can go by without working on any business improvement projects. This can quickly turn into several weeks in a row and before you know it nothing strategic has been accomplished for several months.
Accompanying this, it’s not uncommon for practitioners to feel a sense of being out of control – back to back meetings, follow up file notes not getting completed and a hurried lunch taken at 2:30 PM – it can feel like being in a washing machine.
Rather than line up for another year of chasing your tail, I propose that you organise your time in blocks of 90 days. You’ll be surprised how thinking quarterly broadens the possibilities. By grouping like-related activities and completing them en bloc, you will find space for development projects, mentoring team members and other leadership matters that can’t be accommodated in most weeks. Oh yes, this also means time can also be found for professional development, client nurturing, networking and additional holidays, which are otherwise the first casualties in a week to week existence.
Those that aspire to a four day work week or a five hour workday might well find that adopting this structure brings them a step closer to making this a reality.
Absolutely, a quarter by quarter existence requires more planning and the development of an overall structure. Certain weeks will be vastly different to other weeks during any particular quarter. For example, some of these weeks will be heavily weighted towards client meetings whilst others will accommodate dedicated time for marketing and content creation.
Clearly then, it’s not for everyone! If you are unwilling to plan to this extent or you’re unwilling to change then read no further.
On the other hand, if you would like to explore the possibilities, a good place to start is to make a list of all the items that you would like to accommodate in your 13 week block. To start with, it should be possible to make a reasonable approximation of the number of client meetings, regular and otherwise requested, that can be expected. To this, set aside appropriate times for the must-do activities such as file reviews, invoicing, internal meetings, project time and professional development
While still leaving flexibility to respond to clients on a timely basis, I expect you will be able to structure some weeks include otherwise neglected business development matters. Imagine for example, the marketing articles you could write or the systems you could develop if you had an uninterrupted burst of two to three days for this purpose!
Naturally, you will need to bring the team into your plans and to mark out your diary in advance. For the weeks focused on client meetings, I suggest you work to set times (e.g. 8AM to 9AM; 10AM to 11AM etc) with a buffer in between to prepare beforehand and complete file notes afterwards. Don’t worry! Plenty of slots will be available, even if you have to start a bit earlier or finish a bit later than usual. You will find that there is even scope to factor in a proper lunchtime, which sure beats grabbing food on the run or skipping lunch altogether. The payoff will be getting on a roll, as opposed to the constant chopping and changing which characterises a typical day right now.
None of this is particularly difficult to organise and yet the payoff could be significant. Why not trial this for 90 days and then re-evaluate? It could be the catalyst for you to have your best, most enjoyable year yet!
By Scott Charlton
Scott Charlton is a Director of Slipstream Coaching, a company dedicated to assisting financial practitioners achieve their potential. Since 2002, Scott has been applying and refining a practical approach to performance improvement based upon his own experiences as a professional practitioner and from coaching hundreds of financial services firms.
Scott is an author of three books, written for professionals in practice. He is also a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, a member of CPA Australia and an Associate Fellow of Australian Institute of Management. For more information on Scott and his professional activities, refer to www.scottcharlton.com.au. Scott can be contacted via phone 0409 870 330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.