Want To See Big Changes in 2023? Stop Playing Office

Matthew Jarvis, CFP®, defines “playing office” and discusses the pitfalls of false productivity that prevent too many advisors from reaching their goals.

5 min read

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

Fact check: 90% of the tasks on your to-do list today aren’t moving the needle for you, and you shouldn’t be doing them.

I’m sure I’ve ruffled a few feathers with this claim, but it’s not unfounded.

When I talk to other advisors, I hear how they want to grow but aren’t. They talk about their busy schedules and everything on their calendars, but none of that work is actually paying out.

It’s astounding how much they have on their plates for advisors with only 12 clients. And I know advisors who have 100 clients and are still floundering. Unfortunately, when pressed, these guys will justify their actions all day long; they feel they must do time-sucking activities to be productive. 

Advisors who want to see any lasting change must stop lying to themselves and admit that they play office and need to simplify their to-do lists. 

These little lies keep you from delivering massive value, which is a disservice to those you serve. Your clients have entrusted you with their life savings. Show some respect to them by doing all you can to provide the most value possible.

Everyone plays office at some point. I do it; harassing other LinkedIn advisors is my little guilty pleasure. However, I don’t lie about it. And I only scroll through LinkedIn after my productive work is done.

So, what is playing office, and how do you break the habit?

What is playing office?

Playing office doesn’t mean you’re spending your working hours becoming a solitaire extraordinaire.

No, we know you’re busy, busting your butt in your practice and putting in extreme hours each week. However, you’re going about it all wrong. 

Playing office means that you’re doing things the hard way, which looks like this:

  • Spending hours researching centers of influence instead of calling them
  • Personally pulling old dictations and tax returns before every client meeting
  • Having an internet search browser open while you should be focusing on work 
  • Client meetings consistently last over sixty minutes because you feel longer meetings help justify your fees, value, and worth as an advisor  
  • Trying to grow your business through social media by throwing random thoughts on LinkedIn or putting up a cute selfie on Instagram and calling it marketing

These are all examples of playing office: busy work that doesn’t increase your revenue, move the needle or do anything to help you grow.

  • Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. – Cal Newport

    Setting up a Surge schedule for your office is the most powerful step you can take to increase your effectiveness while being 100% intentional in Delivering Massive ValueTM.

How to identify playing office?

Some examples of playing office are easier to spot than others. I’ve found it easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “I’m not playing office because I’m busy.”

Here are a few rules of thumb you can use to help you determine if you’ve fallen for the trap: 

  • If anything you’re doing is a regular practice for other advisors— you’re playing office. 
  • Anytime you get message/email alerts, notifications, or interruptions from your team or clients — you’re playing office. 
  • Anytime you’re doing a task that somebody else could do for a fraction of the cost — you’re playing office.

How do I stop?

Playing office is a tough habit to break, especially when you justify your reasoning behind every checkbox on your to-do list. 

Advisors who want to break the habit and become successful must start by being honest with themselves. Pull out a pen and paper and list where—even potentially—you think you could be playing office and want to give yourself an out.

Here are a few points to consider as you build your list: 

  • Does this task directly help a client? 
  • Does this add massive value to a client? 
  • Could I have someone else do this task?

There are things that we, as advisors, are uniquely focused on and designed to do. We can’t pass some things on to other team members because the tasks are too financially involved. That’s okay! Move those tasks to your to-do list and create a process for handling them. 

I want you to find a balance between what you must do and what you can delegate

Forcing mechanisms

Habits surrounding playing office run deep, making them difficult to break. If you want to see profound change in your life, you need to recognize which things you need extra help with, and we need to call in reinforcements. This is where the concept of forcing mechanisms comes in. 

We have to create forcing mechanisms because willpower alone isn’t enough. As humans, we’re easily distracted, avoid doing hard things and kill our productivity. Forcing mechanisms hack the process by making you admit, “I can’t be reliable here, so I need to force myself to take it off the table.” 

Start by turning off all notifications and alerts. Next, pull in a trusted advisor, mastermind group, or personal assistant to help you. 

Here are some examples of my forcing mechanisms: 

During meetings, Colleen knocks on my office door, gently opens it, and smiles five minutes from the top of the hour to keep me on track with my meetings. I love talking to my clients and would get carried away otherwise. 

I know that going on to LinkedIn to stir the pot is clearly playing office—it must be a personality flaw because I just can’t stop. I can’t get on LinkedIn until all of my productive work is complete for the day. So, as a forcing mechanism, I’ve given it a place to live. 

I spend too much time researching my centers of influence instead of calling them, so at the end of the work day, I print out a physical list of all the people I need to contact the following day. When I return to the office, I can’t turn on my computer until I’ve made those calls.

Happy Planning!

Action Items

Make a list of all the ways you’re playing office. Pick your greatest pitfall and create a forcing mechanism around that thing that you can implement today. 

At The Perfect RIA, we know that plans without action are worthless. Advisors who want to see lasting change in 2023 need to keep an eye out for when we open BackStage Pass enrollment.

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