How to do less and earn more.

Plan a Daily Desk Vacation & Boost Your Productivity

I learned a lot when I worked on Wall Street; sometimes, my lessons took me by surprise. The phones on the trading desks often stop ringing right before the Fed releases an economic number. During one such lull in activity, I was chit-chatting with other team members about life in general. "What do you do for fun?" my colleague asked us. I listened to the others talk about what they do for fun. However, I couldn’t remember the last thing I’d done that was "pure fun". I instantly realized that I wasn’t doing enough to reenergize myself.

I enjoyed everything I was doing — even the long hours. But my colleagues were talking about fun that had nothing to do with work. That was the day I also recognized myself as the type of person who has to "plan" for fun. Strange but true! Since that epiphany, I’ve scheduled time for fun into every day, week, and year.

Girl Daydreaming At Her ComputerThere’s a practical reason to make room for fun during your daily agenda. You need new stimuli in order to think new thoughts and be more productive. You can’t coax creativity from your brain if you’re constantly working in the same environment, or allow new ideas to drift in if you’re busy 24/7. Some of my most innovative outbursts have created a running joke with my team. "Have you been on the ferry or taken a drive to a new place?" they’ll ask. They tell me that I send them out-of-the-box articles, concepts, or new programs soon after one of my excursions.

When you’re running a business, you can never have too many creative solutions and ideas. But you don’t always have the leeway to venture out of the office every time you need to think of one! A few minutes of mental redirection as you take a "vacation" at your desk is a great way to get a little rest and jump-start your creative mind.

Below are 7 websites to visit when you take a Desk Vacation. You can explore them to lighten up, take some "time off" to regroup during the day, or find inspiration when you need it.

1) I Like You: I first found this on ICQ (one of the original instant message companies) but it has disappeared from there. At first, it seemed a little corny, but it’s really quite good. Find it on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk6r41zbNJc or on a website in its original format at http://www.webworksllc.com/I_Like_You.cfm

2) 2 Minutes: What can you do in two minutes? If you love the sound of the ocean, this website will show you how you can "do nothing for 2 minutes". See if you can pass the test! http://donothingfor2minutes.com/

3) Where Cool Things Happen: This site has great photos of cool things, ranging from amazing places to clever gadgets to mind-blowing architecture. http://www.wherecoolthingshappen.com/

4) Positivity in Action: Journalists and photographers employ their craft to share stories and images of people and organizations making a positive difference in the world. http://storytellersforgood.com

5) Values: This foundation was created to remind us of the inherent goodness of people, and inspire us with values we all share as human beings. Their popular video is worth watching. http://www.values.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/122-Annie-s-Song

6) Oscar-nominated "Happy": Pharrell Williams’ cute and catchy music video will stir your serotonin and have you bopping along in your seat. Warning: this song proves that happiness can be highly contagious. "Happy" is from the "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack http://www.marketingwithintegrity.com/happiness-truth/

Serenity Cards7) Serenity Cards: While in training as a Life Coach, my coach requested that I start a list of things to do when I felt stuck, anxious, or overwhelmed. I turned the list into an article that I shared with my clients. At my clients’ urging, I turned the list into "Serenity Cards for Business Owners". Here is the original article about the 50 Ways Business Owners Find Serenity. http://www.marketingwithintegrity.com/50-ways-business-owners-find-serenity-during-the-holidays/

Bonus

Last, but not least, take a few minutes to read or watch something spiritual. Whether it be the Bible, Torah, or Koran – you’ll find many online resources to visit. OR maybe subscribe to a quote list, like http://www.spiritual-quotes-to-live-by.com/, watch YouTube videos by folks like Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, or Wayne Dyer http://www.hayhouse.com/, one of Joel Osteen’s videos http://www.JoelOsteen.com, or TED videos, like this talk by Rick Warren: http://www.ted.com/talks/rick_warren_on_a_life_of_purpose.html” target=”_blank”>http://www.ted.com/talks/rick_warren_on_a_life_of_purpose.html

©2014 – Maria Marsala guides high-achieving independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a financial advisor coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base.

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Comment below. How do you take brief time off and rejuvenate while at your desk?

8+ Email Productivity Tips For Financial Advisors

For the last two months, I’ve been changing the way I view my email accounts. I’ve noticed that NOTHING I get is ever an emergency that needs action this very minute. I’ve also noticed that if I don’t read my email until 11 a.m., I accomplish more and when it’s time to read my email, I can go through it much quicker — to answer, delete, or move to an appropriate folder.

EmailSmall12432432_sEmail can be so time-consuming, it’s not surprising that in his book, "The 4-Hour Workweek", Tim Ferriss recommends creating an automatic email that says you read your email once or twice a day. (I’ve read the book and used this one idea, but found many ideas from the book to not be relationship friendly, so I gave the book away.)

Here’s an automated note I like because it’s customer service oriented…

Thank you for contacting Elevating Your Business.

In an effort to better serve my clients best and attend to requests for Interview Sessions, information, etc., I am reading my email at 11am, 3pm, and once after hours..

I’m also returning all phone calls that are not in regard to orders twice per day, too. All calls regarding orders will be taken as they are received.

Your email and phone calls are important, and therefore I want to give you all the time you deserve. Our system of returning non-order emails and phone calls will help us accomplish this.

Sincerely,

Your name

Remember: never leave orders of any sort or questions about orders on voice-mail or send them to us in an email. Always call us.

Any other words your Compliance Officer prefer go here.

Here are a few more email productivity tips from me:

1. Create a REMOVE Folder

Always unsubscribe to newsletters you realize you don’t want. However, instead of interrupting your day to find the unsubscribe link and verifying they actually unsubscribed you, do this instead: Create a REMOVE folder in your inbox. Quickly move any unwanted emails into that folder. Then, pick a day each week (I like Friday afternoons) to go into that folder and unsubscribe to anything you no longer want.

2. Create Different Email Addresses

This tip works when you own a website domain name on a hosting service that allows multiple email addresses. I create an email address to receive mail for many different aspects and functions of my business: my business cards, newsletters I read, my clients, the forms people fill out to contact me or apply for a free session, my website, etc. I set filtering rules so these email addresses divert to different Outlook folders. When I’m busy, I can quickly scan my Inbox and make sure I read email from my clients and prospects.

Enjoy these tips collaboratively brought to you by a few of my clients or newsletter subscribers!

3. Where Did I Put My Member ID#?

I create a SUBSCRIPTIONS folder where I put all the “Welcome” emails from accounts I create, such as my airline points club or online shopping retailers. They always have the contact information on them if I need to reach someone from that organization, and sometimes it reminds me which login name I used to subscribe or lists my member ID number. Many times, the Welcome email also gives me links to forums or other handy information that I know I’ll want to refer to later, but not necessarily add to my "master list" of logins and passwords. Creating a special folder saves me a lot of time because I don’t have to look through all the email in my inbox to find them.
— Chris Mifsud, WordWizard, Orlando, FL http://www.wordpowermarketing.com/

[Maria’s comment: I do something similar. I keep all my passwords in a folder called "Passwords".]

4. Dealing With Several Email Accounts

Having a few email accounts, my tip is to make folders in each account along with setting up rules for mail to automatically be moved to each folder. I have folders for each of the associations I’m a member of, each client, prospect, etc. I check daily and sort what didn’t get in the files. I review emails from clients I’m working with that week or associations whose meetings I’m attending soon. If I don’t have time to read them in the morning, I read them at my leisure at night. Because I use folders, I take care of what’s most important first and then read the rest later.
— Cindy Worden, Founder, Bookkeeping Etc., Piece and Kitsap County, WA www.linkedin.com/in/cindyworden/

[Maria’s comment: If you use Outlook (and a few other email programs), set up all your emails to arrive in one place. I have a few (older) personal email accounts (using Comcast, Gmail or Yahoo). When I send/receive in Outlook, I automatically get ALL my emails. I also set up a rule so that the mail from each personal account automatically goes into a folder named with that email account.]

5. Create Rules

Direct emails that come in from certain carriers, vendors, and clients to automatically go to certain staff members. That way your staff can be informed and help get a jump start on tasks. Have conversations ahead of time with your staff so it is clear who takes the initiative and responsibility. You can also use rules to block spam and certain vendors to reduce email clutter.
— Elaine M. Shanley, CFP®, AIF®, Partner at Young and Company, Brooklandville, MD www.yco.com

[Maria’s comment: Spend the time and learn how to use Rules. They will save you oodles of time! Start here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/create-a-rule-HP005242897.aspx

6. Automatic Emails

I create “standard” email responses for questions I consistently receive. I maintain these responses as Drafts in Outlook. Then, when a question comes in, I click on the draft, forward the email, take out the “FW:”, customize as necessary, and hit send. HUGE time saver.
— Kim Bryant, CPA, Lincoln, NE http://bryant-associates.com/ @bryantcpa

[Maria’s comment: I send myself the email and maintain them in a folder called AutoMessages.]

7. Just One Click (For MS Outlook 2010 Users)

Is there someone (or a group of someones) you often email? Instead of starting to type out an email address and hoping it’s in the list of people you’ve recently emailed, use “Quick Steps”. Introduced in Outlook 2010, you can accomplish frequently-performed Outlook tasks in one click! Quick Steps are located on the Home Ribbon. Leonard send me his instructions on this tip; however, I’m unable to post the photos in this article. You can find the instructions on the Microsoft website, here.
— Leonard N. Katz, CRC®, RFC®, MFP™, S K Management Consultants Inc, Long Island, NY http://www.SKmgmt.com/

[Maria’s comment: When I finally upgrade, I’ll be using this tip a lot!]

And last, but not least is this tip from the U.K.

8. Use the Latest Tools to Streamline Your Inbox

Most of us are able to keep spam out of our inbox with strong filters — but what about BACN? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bac – the stuff you have subscribed to and would like to read, if you have time, it’s just not ‘real email’! I use a tool called www.sanebox.com which has a clever system to filter out your non-urgent/essential emails automatically. It has saved me countless hours and stress staring at an overflowing email inbox!
— Alan Smith, Capital Asset Management, England & Wales www.capital.co.uk, @alanjlsmith

[Maria’s comment: Thanks, Alan, for teaching me about a different type of bacn!]

©2013 Maria Marsala guides high-achieving independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base.

Get FREE thought-provoking marketing advice and business expansion tools delivered directly to your inbox every two weeks. Sign up here: www.CoachMaria.com

What’s your best email productivity tip? Tell us below!

5 Ways To Eliminate Invisible Expenses & Earn More in 2014

Supported by the Wise Words of Benjamin Franklin

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” — Ben Franklin

pocket watchYou can cut budgets in many areas, but often, activities that waste your time can cost you the most.  Savvy financial advisors see that soft or invisible costs translate into hard dollars lost.  To help profits, focus your energy on repairing the “small leaks” in your firm and measure the value of how, and with whom, you spend your time.  After assessing which activities add value to your business, eliminate time and energy wasters. Below are five ways you can narrow your focus and enhance your efforts to grow your business, complete with Ben’s wise words.

 

1. Networking events:  If your goal is to improve the overall caliber of your clients, you need to attend events where you’ll find better ones.  Don’t continue your memberships in organizations out of habit.  As Ben put it,  “Never confuse motion with action.”  Participate only in groups that provide great contacts and actual business.  To figure out which networking events are most worth your time, ask yourself, “Which events draw more of my ideal clients?”  Don’t be afraid to be the only financial professional at a networking event.  If your ideal clients are attending specific events, it only makes sense for you to be there, too.  For example, if your ideal clients are high net worth individuals, consider attending philanthropic advisors’ meetings.

 

2. Business friends:  Have you been spending social time with the same colleagues for years because you’re comfortable with them?  Are they at the same level of business as you?  Cultivating business relationships is like playing tennis.  If you “play” with people who are better than you, your game improves. If you associate with people at your level or below, your game plateaus and you forfeit forward motion.  The people you’re meeting for coffee or meals should truly add something to your business and vice-versa.  Ben’s useful advice:  “Observe all men, thyself most.”

 

3. Social media:  You can spend half your day Twittering your every move, posting interesting comments to Facebook, and searching for new LinkedIn contacts.  Needless to say, if you’re using social media for business purposes, you should remain focused and resist the temptation to check out the pictures your colleague posted of his new Mercedes.  Also, you must observe the restrictions set by your compliance department.  When your social media activity has been approved, it can be a legitimate online marketing tool, but be realistic about your objectives in the Web 2.0 arena.  Start writing a blog about things you’re passionate about.  In this way, you’ll connect personally with your ideal clients.  Join industry-based social media platforms, such as FAtoday, to connect with other financial advisors in a safe environment to discuss topics from business development to portfolio management.  As with networking, join LinkedIn groups that your ideal clients join.  When you Tweet, post your own messages, but also share information on subjects your ideal clients find interesting.  Ben’s useful advice: “Time is money.”

 

4. Newsletters:  Recently, I realized that my inbox was cluttered with newsletters I was receiving simply out of habit.  You may think receiving extra email is no big deal.  But listen to Ben’s wise words, “A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.”  Just the time you focus on deleting emails (multiplied by several checks per day) erodes your profitability.  Now, as newsletters arrive in my inbox, I ask myself, “Do I depend on this newsletter for useful information that I can apply to improve my business?  Is their business at a level I want to achieve?  Do I often learn how to do business better from them?”  If the answer is no, then I unsubscribe.  Also, consider subscribing to newsletters from people outside the financial industry who may provide new strategies for approaching common challenges all business owners face.

 

5. Clients:  This is a hard cutback to make, especially in this economy.  Marketing guru, Seth Godin, wrote that pandering to the masses and casting a wide marketing net leads to “dumb” customers.  Dumb customers don’t spend as much, don’t talk as much, don’t blog as much, don’t value your services as much, and don’t evangelize on your behalf.  It’s hard to turn down money, but “dumb” customers may take more of your time and energy than their accounts are worth.  As Ben said, “Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.”  To attract the clients who value your services the most (and who you can help the most), have a clear vision — in writing — about your firm and your ideal clients.  When you have a written vision of your company’s direction and know everything humanly imaginable about your ideal client, you’ll be less likely to dumb down and much more likely to start attracting high-quality clients–those who know what you do and value the results you produce for them, and benefit the most.

 

Action Plan  

Evaluate the five areas above A.S.A.P. (as soon as possible) so you can turn them into good habits before 2014 even begins! The more energy and time wasters you trim from your daily schedule, the quicker you’ll be on your way to growing your firm.  By taking charge and focusing on the things that add value to your business, you might even enjoy your work more, delight in your clients, make the money you deserve, and own more of your time.  Ben’s final word?  “Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure.”  

 

©2013 Maria Marsala guides high-achieving independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in <em>Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine</em>, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, <em>Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base</em>.

 

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10 Important Accountability Questions For Financial Advisors To Answer Weekly

ID-100123071No one goes independent to be more disciplined, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need just as much focus and accountability (maybe even more) than a J.O.B. requires. The good news is, with a few well-placed habits you won’t have to give up your freedom and flexibility. In fact, you’ll enjoy your business more, you’ll be a better boss to your team, and you’ll reap the profits, too. Answer the following ten questions every week to help keep you focused, accountable, and profitable.

1. Where are you prospecting this week and how much time will you spend prospecting?
Think about putting yourself in front of large groups of potential ideal clients or conducting follow-up meetings or calls with prospects you met last week. Determine how much time each week you will spend prospecting and stick to your schedule for three months. Monitor your efforts. Then reevaluate.

 

2. Which clients will you call this week?
It could be a be someone’s birthday, anniversary, or maybe a child’s or grandchild’s special occasion. It could be a “just because” call to catch up, to update your records, or to find out how they’re working their plan.

 

3. Which clients will you mail something to this week?
Finding an article, an event that your client may appreciate, or a TV show they may enjoy. Think about something they’re passionate about (it doesn’t always have to be about business). This is a great way to make a client feel special–because you thought about them.

 

4. Which clients or vendors will you mail a Thank You to this week?
Saying “thank you” is always important and nothing says it better than a handwritten note. Send at least five Thank You cards per week. (And you do have a Thank You wall in your office, with posted Thank You notes from clients, right?!)

 

5. Which clients will you send a birthday/anniversary card and/or a gift to this week?
Your assistant can print a list of card recipients. But you’re the one that will write a personal note on the card before it’s mailed. You can follow up with phone calls to your “best” clients, too.

 

6. What three commitments dedicated to growing your business do you need to keep?
Your business development best practices–updating your intake system, designing a marketing calendar, working with your IT person, testing your conference line, reading or listening to a book–are worth the investment of your time each week.

 

7. What’s the most common question your ideal clients asked you last week?
Keep a list of questions that will inspire topics for your blog, an article, or an upcoming seminar you’re conducting. Ask your team members to tell you what their most-asked question was this week. (Consider having team members write guest articles, too.)

 

8. Who on your team needs your attention this week?
Each week (or month if you have a small staff), spend some quality time with one member of your team. Get to know this person. Ask about his or her goals, see if there is a project you can help with, ask for suggestions to make things better, or just chit-chat. Consider doing this out of the office. Do I hear lunch?

 

9. What is your team working on this week?
Your firm will go farther if everyone is working toward the same goals. If you have a business and marketing plan, make sure each one of your team members has a part to execute.

 

10. What do you need to tell your assistant?
Each day, without fail, have a five-minute conversation with your assistant. Double-check your schedule, provide special notes for the day, ask for their comments or suggestions, indicate when you’ll accept client calls, etc. An enlightened assistant is your best way to focus each day.

 

BONUS: Take time for yourself, out of the office, to chill and relax.
You may not even plan it, but your best ideas and inspirations may hit you when you’re not “thinking” about business. Include time in your schedule for a bit of solitude, even if it’s a walk in the park or a treat at the corner coffee house.

 

©2013 Maria Marsala guides independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base. Did you find this article thought-provoking? Get more delivered directly to your inbox every two weeks by signing up here: www.CoachMaria.com

Twelve Time Management Habits to Master in 2013, by Pat Brans

Benjamin Franklin had a procedure for changing habits and bringing about positive change in his life. Who would have thought that Ben Franklin would be so insightful as to know that he could be a better human being and then create a system for it to happen that is still relevant today. So many of the concepts Franklin lived are concepts taught in coaching schools and personal development programs world-wide.

I enjoyed reading this article written by Pat Brans, who writes about time management and productivity on the Forbes website. I think you will, too!


http://www.forbes.com/sites/patbrans/2013/01/01/twelve-time-management-habits-to-master-in-2013

ACTION
Talk about one of the concepts and how you are using it in your life (or plan to)

OR

In general, what is your favorite time management tip?  Talk about a time management concept you’ve used in your advisory business and how it’s helped boost your productivity or free time.