Feeling Crunched For Time? Here’s How To Structure Your Schedule

Matthew Jarvis, CFP®, shares takeaways from his conversation with Michael Kitces on maximizing your time and making the most of your calendar

4 min read

One Little Thing Advisors Do To Tank Onboarding
Matthew Jarvis
Financial Planner, CFP®

When trying to build a successful business, you’re constantly up against a never-ending barrage of your time, and we often hear from advisors who tell us they feel like they’re spread pretty thin.

When you first opened your practice, you hoped that anybody would show up and prospective clients would engage with you. You gladly welcomed any revenue because it was better than nothing.

You probably worked through that initial stage of starting your firm and suddenly felt like you could breathe. You were making some money. You had consistent work and a budding client base.

As your firm grew a little more, it started to feel pretty good—like you’ve got a handle on this, and more money kept coming in.

But then, all advisors hit a point in their career when things begin to feel hectic. We start hearing from advisors that they are “at capacity” or are hitting thresholds and crossroads where big decisions must be made.

You realize you don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done, and you start feeling buried by the demands of your to-do list. Essential tasks may get dropped; projects go to the back burner, and family time slides.

There are things in your practice that must happen to continue to grow, but you also need to meet with clients, do casework, reply to an endless stream of emails, and squeeze in some time for loved ones.

Advisors are left struggling to complete all the necessary work and feel like their world is collapsing.

What are advisors to do?

If anyone in the industry knows how to be hyper-productive, it has to be Michael Kitces. I recently had the opportunity to chat with him about how he manages to turn out spectacular content for Kitces.com while balancing a demanding conference schedule, running multiple businesses, and focusing on his family.

Here’s a rundown of how Michael’s productivity hack has allowed him to reclaim his schedule and produce more than ever.

Filling your jar

We all have the same 24 hours a day and a set number of days, weeks, and months in a year. No matter how much you have going on, you can’t have any extra time. You’ve got to figure out how to make the most of what you have available.

But how do you go about doing it?

Imagine that your entire day has to be compiled into a quart-sized mason jar. You need to fill your jar with tasks that rocks, pebbles, and sand can represent.

You can fill your jar however you please, but you can’t swap it out for one with a larger volume.

The big rocks are the few big, meaty things you can do to move your life, business, and career forward. Rocks are the kinds of projects that take weeks—maybe even months—to finish, and you can’t procrastinate.

You must also squeeze in pebbles, the medium-sized tasks necessary in your life. While pebbles aren’t life-changing, they still have urgency, and you need to deal with them this week.

Finally, sand is the never-ending minutia that’s always coming at you.

Emails, texts, tweets, phone notifications, and people poking their heads through your office door asking for “just a minute” of your time all count as sand.

Every human being has more rocks, pebbles, and sand in front of them than will fit in their jar. There’s always one more thing we need to do. We all have more work to do in a day, a month, or a calendar year than we actually have time for because the sand never stops coming.

Unfortunately, getting caught up in all the sand passively happens if you’re not careful. Before you realize it, you’ll blink, and half your jar will be full of sand, but you still need to fit more significant things in there.

Maybe you can stuff a few more pebbles in your jar, but you’ll struggle to fit in any rocks.

Remember, rocks are oversized, heavy items that will take weeks or months to finish but will propel your business forward.

When your jar is overcrowded with sand and pebbles, you’ll never find time to add those rocks to your schedule.

Structuring your jar

Advisors who want to take control of their lives will have to dump out their entire jar and restructure their priorities.

When adding rocks first becomes your top priority, you can get those massively essential things done. Then, add your pebbles and fill any remaining nooks and crannies with sand.

This is why Surge works for so many people. In Surge, you can’t fit any sand in your jar; your entire focus is on those essential tasks and projects—those rocks and pebbles.

Advisors who focus on filling their calendar with those meaty endeavors and urgent tasks find that they still have eight months of the year left over—which shows how much sand you were letting into your life.

You cannot force the sand out of your life until you can restructure your time to focus on your rocks and pebbles.

We’re constantly bombarded with sand. It flies at us through social media, pings, notifications, and bingworthy entertainment. All of these distractions are engineered to be alluring and seductive. But if you want to succeed, you’ve got to cut back on as much of it as possible.

Eliminating Sand

Michael shared that because he’s easily side-tracked, he’s eliminated distractions in his life. He’s turned off notifications on all his devices, including email and social media pings.

Much like yours, Michael’s inbox is overflowing with an endless deluge of spam, newsletters, and business communications. If left to his own devices, Michael would waste countless hours wandering between messages, hyperlinked articles, and crafting personal responses.

Michael recognized that he didn’t have the discipline to focus on critical communications, so he sequestered his email account to his executive assistant to triage.

You see, mastering your time and taking control of your jar is less about discipline and more about creating systems to eliminate distractions and encourage deep, focused work.

Action Items

Identify three ways sand creeps into your life and create systems to remove it.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be on social media or need to cancel your Netflix subscription, but these things must happen on your terms.

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