Effective time management is one of the key components of a successful career. Without competent planning of tasks, you can't maintain high productivity all the time and avoid procrastination. Every day, you have many activities vying for your attention: meeting with clients, making deals, checking emails, and others.
In essence, time management comes down to basic math. You need to calculate how much time it will take to complete each of your tasks, including the smallest ones. Then, you can determine the return on investment and discover the main time absorbers.
So, if you're ready to take control of your schedule, keep reading to uncover valuable insights and practical tips that will transform the way you manage your time.
Peculiarities of Time Management for Financial Professionals
The main problem with effective time management for financial professionals is a large number of factors that do not depend on you. But they also need to be taken into account when planning your work day. These include economic downturns, customer delays, and other unforeseen circumstances.
But you can focus on those situations that you can control. The main way to improve productivity is a rigorous discipline in the management of your time. Other time management problems that are common for financial professionals:
- The habit of meeting with clients and making deals haphazardly while working on other tasks in between;
- Multitasking. Your attention becomes scattered, and you cannot fully concentrate on a single task.
You should determine exactly how much time you need to complete each task, including even minor ones. Then, analyze whether the time spent is consistent with the payback. If not, you should reprioritize your tasks.
7 Tips for Effective Time Management
Professional time management involves smart planning, prioritizing each of your tasks, and knowing how to reserve time for contingencies. This approach will save you from procrastination. So, you will be able to meet deadlines.
1. Prioritize Your Goals in Advance
Effective time management is essential in the fast-paced world of finance, where professionals juggle numerous tasks and deadlines. If you do not organize your work priorities, it is difficult to identify the primary and secondary goals. In this case, it is complicated to plan your work day properly because too much time is spent on secondary tasks such as checking emails and other routine tasks.
While approximately 51% of an employee's workday is dedicated to low to no value tasks, the most important issues are put on hold, which does not contribute to the quality of work positively.
How to properly set priorities:
- Make a list of tasks at the beginning of the week and select the most important ones.
- Start by understanding the typical activities you engage in as a finance professional: analyzing financial data, conducting market research, preparing reports, attending meetings, or managing client portfolios.
- Determine which tasks directly contribute to your financial goals and have the highest impact.
- Focus on activities that drive revenue generation (client meetings, investment analysis, or strategic planning).
- Use services such as Kanban, which will help you divide tasks according to their urgency and importance. Also, leverage other financial software and automation tools to streamline processes. For example, you may want to use accounting software for efficient bookkeeping or investment management platforms to automate portfolio tracking.
- After that, be sure to allocate the time that you may need to handle any unforeseen tasks.
The last point is especially important for productive work and meeting deadlines. One important attribute of a professional in any field is the ability to perform your duties well, even when unforeseen circumstances arise.
For example, if you know you have a report scheduled for today, but there may be calls from clients, you should schedule time for both tasks. Thus, the reporting deadline won't be affected.
Another effective method of sorting tasks by importance and urgency is the "ABC principle". Its essence lies in the division of tasks into 3 groups:
- A - something you need to do today;
- B - something you'd like to do today;
- C - something you don't need to do today.
After that, make a schedule, and follow it strictly. Be sure to include not only work tasks but also personal matters such as doctor's appointments, children's sports competitions, and others. This way, you can complete the most urgent and important tasks on time.
2. Plan Tasks Before the Deadline
Another important rule of working productively is to set a margin of time for each task. Simply put, set a date in your diary for when you plan to finish the task. It is highly desirable that the date you set is earlier than the deadline.
In this case, you will have enough time to not only complete a particular stage of work in time but also to have enough reserve time. Time allowance that is worth having for tasks of varying importance:
- Up to 3 days for the most important ones. For example, when preparing financial reports for clients, allocate up to three days for the most critical reports that require meticulous analysis and accuracy. This time cushion enables you to conduct thorough reviews and address any potential errors or complexities.
- Up to 2 days for tasks of medium importance. When it comes to tasks of moderate importance (data analysis or internal financial planning), it's beneficial to allocate a time reserve of up to two days. This allows for greater flexibility in handling any unforeseen challenges that may arise.
Even if a force majeure situation arises, you will have enough time to adjust the deadline for this task or transfer its implementation to a colleague.
3. Make a Detailed Daily Plan
To keep everything on time and under control, make a detailed schedule for each day and stick to it rigidly.
Planning your day, you will get two important advantages at once:
- You will see the whole situation at once and won't miss the deadline for urgent tasks;
- You will have less time left for "time stealers" such as social media or endless checking of emails.
To track your productivity effectively, utilize the 15-minute method. Set a timer for 15 minutes when starting a task and assess its relevance to your planned outcomes.
Based on your evaluation, take one of these financial-focused time management approaches:
- Refocus on high-priority tasks. If the current task isn't essential, redirect your efforts to the most important responsibilities at hand.
- Prioritize non-urgent tasks. Add less critical tasks to a separate list for later attention, allowing you to concentrate on immediate financial priorities.
- Delegate to colleagues. If appropriate, assign the task to a competent team member, freeing up your time for more critical activities.
Implementing these management tactics empowers you to optimize productivity and focus on finance-specific tasks, ensuring effective utilization of your valuable time.
4. Divide Each Project Into Specific Tasks
If you notice that you are busy scrolling your Instagram feed or doing daily chores instead of a large and complex project, it's worth dividing a voluminous task into smaller subtasks.
The advantages of this method are:
- You don't feel overwhelmed because you see the result of your actions right away, and the number of tasks completed in a day quickly increases;
- There is no desire to postpone work on a large project to a later date, which usually has a negative impact on your productivity and professional reputation.
Work on a large task should be divided into intervals of 30 to 60 minutes. When planning your activities, determine beforehand that a case requiring division into 3 - 4 or more small phases is a separate project.
Services such as Todoist, Trello, and Asana are useful for making lists of such tasks. In each of them, you can set deadlines and prioritize tasks, add new ones, or delete them as needed.
5. Avoid Multitasking If Possible
Another important rule of high productivity is monotasking. This is especially relevant when you need to maintain sufficient concentration for an extended period.
For example, if you are working on a spreadsheet with data or compiling a report, give up the idea of checking email at the same time or doing other routine tasks.
The benefits of monotasking:
- You don't slacken your pace of work, which means you're most likely to complete the task on time;
- You don't lose concentration, which is crucial when dealing with finances.
During the workday, it's common to encounter situations like responding to inquiries from new employees or trainees in a chat room. However, engaging in such multitasking activities has a limited impact on productivity compared to the constant task-switching that occurs when interrupted before completing a task. For instance, imagine working on a complex task and being frequently distracted by client phone calls.
In order not to be overwhelmed with a lot of tasks and be able to concentrate, it is also necessary to learn how to prioritize and delegate some tasks. For example, when it comes to data migration, it is better to use professional data migration services than to do everything yourself and distract from your main activity.
So, you should avoid multitasking because it increases mental fatigue.
6. Make Effective Use of "Peak Attention" Hours
Everyone has their own peak performance periods during the day. Remember those moments when you wanted to climb the highest mountain or learn 10 foreign languages? Use these "peak attention" moments to work on your most important tasks.
In a financial context, optimizing time management involves aligning your tasks with your peak productivity periods. For instance, if you find yourself most focused and efficient between 9 a.m. and 12 noon, it's wise to schedule your most demanding financial analysis or strategic planning tasks during this time. On the other hand, when you experience a dip in productivity, such as in the late afternoon, it's a great opportunity to tackle routine and less critical tasks like organizing email folders or handling administrative duties.
Adopting this approach offers several advantages:
- Maximizing peak productivity: By allocating your most challenging and critical financial tasks to your most productive periods, you make the most of your concentration and focus, ensuring high-quality outcomes.
- Reserving prime time for important work: Rather than spending your peak productivity hours on mundane or routine tasks, you can devote them to tackling significant projects and strategic initiatives. By incorporating this strategy into your daily planning and prioritization, you optimize your workday and enhance your overall productivity in the financial realm.
7. Allocate Time for Checking Emails
Balancing the necessity of checking emails with effective time management is crucial in the financial realm.
Although it may appear simple and quick to glance at an email for a few seconds, the cumulative time spent on email management can add up significantly, potentially consuming up to an hour each day.
To get rid of this problem, use some simple rules:
- Set a certain time during the work day to check the emails, and if possible, stick to the set time;
- Do not check your emails more than 3 to 4 times a day;
- Do not be distracted from other things every time an email reaches you;
- To make handling your emails easier, set up automatic email sorting and keep your Inbox in order;
- Create a separate folder for non-urgent emails in advance: it can be checked last;
- At the end of the day, it is advisable to completely clean the Inbox so that you don't have to waste time later deleting unimportant emails.
These simple rules will help you save a lot of time when working with your inbox.
It's essential for financial professionals to maintain mental focus at all times, even when dealing with several complex tasks at once. Practices such as prioritizing and controlling the time spent on each task will help you maintain productivity throughout the day.
Only a disciplined approach to time management will help you avoid problems such as overdue deadlines and procrastination.
About the author:
Dmytro Sokhach is an entrepreneur and the 6-Figure Flipper Club member. Founded Admix Global (web agency) that builds websites, makes them profitable, and sells them as business.
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