By Travis G. Parry
As a coach, I frequently speak to advisers around the country about their careers in financial services. Almost all successful advisers tell me they love the work they do and they couldn't ask for a better business to be in. For most, the freedom to work their own businesses and help people have more solid financial futures are the two reasons for their passion.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency with that freedom and the tightening economy to put other priorities aside and focus even more on the business to keep it thriving or at least surviving. This behavior quickly leads to a life out of balance as the adviser overlooks time in other areas of life, including health or relationships, to work the business even harder. Of course, this outlook is completely justified by looking at the short-term nature of the problem and the demand to do more with less, causing increased stress affecting at least 90 percent of advisers in the market, according to the 2008 Health of Advisers Press Report by Katherine Vessenes.
A recent study by FPA and Vessenes found that when advisers were asked, "If you could wave a magic wand and change two things, what would they be?" the leading response-more than 75 percent-was to increase income, revenue and/or profitability.
"It appears that the strong desire to build up their practices and increase their income motivates these advisers to sacrifice themselves, their families and sometimes their personal health," Vessenes wrote in the report.
Advisers need to keep a better balance in life so when emergencies arise they are able to shift just enough that they don't capsize their own boat and have to start all over again. The vital key to work-life balance is having an effective "ideal calendar."
As a retired financial planner, I know how important it is to get the job done and still have a life. The benefits to creating and living your ideal calendar are a life back in balance and a business that will be more productive in less time, allowing for better relationships, increased health and more time for yourself.
An independent financial adviser, who is a client of mine, recently relayed to me the following experience: "My highest priorities have always been my spouse and my family. Unfortunately, after the hit in the markets, I was back working more hours than was ideal and was not spending time with my most important people. After taking a better look at my priorities I realized that neglecting spouse and family was not helping me at all in the business, and I decided to go back to living my ideal calendar. My life has been more in balance, and it's great to be able to hang out with my wife and kids again. It may seem counterintuitive to take time off right now, but business is actually better when I am paying attention to my highest priorities."
3 Steps to Creating an Ideal Calendar
An ideal calendar should be a calendar that has each hour of the week, 168 hours total, outlined into one of the 10 following areas of life:
- Physical health
- Spiritual health
- Self improvement
- Fun and recreation
- Relationship with spouse
- Relationship with family
- Relationship with friends
- Relationship with community
Face it! You are only one person with 168 hours a week, but you wear a lot of different hats. Identify with these areas and what they mean to you, and these next three steps will make all the sense in the world.
Step 1: Make a list of the 10 areas of life and prioritize them from most important to least important. The simplest way to prioritize is to start with the top two areas and ask yourself this question, "If I could only have one which would it be?" Ignore the tendency to think about the- chicken-or-the-egg problem and focus on which area is truly most important. Then take the winner and compare it against the next area and so on down the list until you find your highest priority. Continue this practice until you have eliminated each area and placed it in the correct order for you.
Step 2: Starting with the area of highest priority, decide how many hours a week you would like to spend on each area and write it down. Keep in mind this is your ideal calendar. It may or may not be what you are currently doing, but it should represent what you would like your calendar to be. Add up all the areas and double check that it adds up to 168 hours. No cheating.
Step 3: Using your calendar program-Outlook, Google, iCal, Redtail, etc.-create a new calendar and label it "ideal calendar." Starting with the top-prioritized area of life, outline on your calendar where those hours will be. For example, if career is your highest priority and you would like to spend 45 hours at week at work, find when you would like to spend those 45 hours and enter it in your calendar.
Continue through each area of life until the calendar is full and no white space remains. Do not overlap areas even though some may seem to mix. To avoid this, decide in advance what each area means. For example, you might consider sleep time and prep time to be included in your physical health area.
Now that you have an ideal calendar to follow, here are some helpful hints:
- Stick to it and keep it with you at all times. If it's paper, carry it around. If it's electronic, make sure it syncs to your handheld device.
- Be nimble. Use the ideal calendar most of the time, but be able to shift areas around as life happens or else there will be more stress associated with trying to keep the schedule versus living a happy life.
- Review your schedule after the first month and then only quarterly to make sure that it is realistic.
- You probably won't ever live your ideal calendar perfectly, but the old saying is true: "If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail."
Remember why you got into this business in the first place and who you are working so hard for. As we see the ever-changing economy and stricter guidelines and issues that this industry faces, don't get caught off guard, and remember to take care of yourself. As you use this ideal calendar, you will have more time, greater peace of mind and a better work-life balance.
Travis G. Parry is a former adviser who is now a speaker, trainer and coach. He is the developer of the Discover.Balance.Master.© system and the author of the forthcoming book, The Vital Principles of Distress-Free Living: How to Discover, Balance, and Master Your Life. Contact him at email@example.com.