The ClientWise Blog

Financial Advisors: Top 10 Ways to Reclaim an Unproductive Day

Posted by Chris Holman on May 7, 2013 11:21:00 AM

It happens to the most successful financial advisors. You glance at the clock, and it’s already 3 p.m. and you say to yourself… “Where did the day go? I haven’t gotten ANYTHING done!”


It’s a topic that’s been exhaustively studied; Harvard professors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer are among the leading experts. They call this conundrum the Progress Principle. Here’s how it works: nothing makes people feel happier and more engaged at work than making meaningful progress on something that they care about. Conversely, few things make people feel worse than being stalled in their work, and feeling unproductive and ineffective.


Aaron Lynn and Thanh Pham are the authors of the Asian Efficiency blog, a website that focuses on time management, efficiency and productivity. In this post, “How to Handle Unproductive Days”, they go into great detail regarding unproductivity, where it comes from, and what to do about it…including a fascinatingly granular “decision tree” that demonstrates how to conquer unproductivity in the short, and long-term.


With acknowledgement to all four of these authors mentioned, we have compiled the following ten tips that assist successful financial advisors salvage a day that has careened desperately off-track:


  1. Tomorrow’s another day. It seems obvious, but sometimes it really is just better to wait and do things tomorrow. Sleep is a great reset. Set up your outcomes for tomorrow today, and then putting them out of sight until the next morning.
  2. Productive mood anchors. Most people have something that serves as a good “anchor” for their productive moods. Coffee, espresso, green tea, Kombucha, etc.; when you are focused on a creative task, finding an anchor can foster a productive flow.
  3. Switch to a different task. If you’ve started doing one type of work and really struggling with it, try switching to something different. For example, if you’re doing creative work but struggling, switch over to some “easy” administrative tasks like returning phone calls or checking email.
  4. Take a break. Taking a short break is one of the best -- and most counter-intuitive -- things to stay focused. Just step outside for some air or a walk and get back in 10-20 minutes.
  5. Take a nap. Much like taking a short break, but with a higher impact. Keep it really short (5-15 minutes), and make sure you don’t drop into deep sleep.
  6. Go somewhere else. Grabbing your laptop and heading to the park, coffee shop or simply another part of the building to work can be a great way to reset your focus and your mood. Sometimes the switch in contextual environment can jumpstart our brains into a productive state.
  7. Carve out a time oasis.  Focus on a meaningful project or task. Carve out just 20 minutes of your day for this one thing. Eliminate all distractions and interruptions.
  8. Note your progress for the day. Use a work diary to keep track of whatever progress you’ve made that day, however small it may seem. Make a note, and write it down.
  9. Email management. Turn off email notifications and sounds. Check your email less, not more
  10. Multitasking. Stop it. Multitasking is a myth. Our brains can’t multitask. You’ll make more progress by focusing on one thing at a time. 

Underlying all of these methods are two critical conditions – first, the self-awareness of knowing that your day is off-track, and second, the underlying belief that something can be done to make things right. 

We trust this helps.


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Topics: Organizing Priorities