Time Management Tips For Financial Professionals

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The world of finance has evolved into a highly competitive workplace. And although each professional is allocated 24 hours in any single day, as the saying goes, time is money; therefore, time management is a competitive advantage for any finance professional looking to become more productive and secure added quality time away from work. However, as any professional can attest, there are many distractions that can keep you at work longer than necessary. Read on to learn more about common time wasters and discover some time-management tips that will have you getting more work done in less time.
The Black Hole
There are various time-wasters that can suck down productivity. For instance, finance professionals are perpetually tempted to multitask. Suppose that you’re an advisor, and between 8:30 and 10am on a Wednesday morning, you manage to accomplish the following:

  • You work on a spreadsheet
  • Then stop after being interrupted by two new messages in your inbox
  • Then send off six emails in a row
  • Then check a college friend’s wedding pictures on Facebook
  • Then accept a company social outing invitation via instant messenger
  • Then field two unexpected calls from prospective clients and
  • Then – without securing deadlines on the next steps – hang up early as the director stops by your office to remind you that you are five minutes late for the staff meeting

Does this sound like a typical morning for you? If so, and particularly if you work in a cutthroat corporate environment, a private equity firm or investment bank, you are probably in the lowest-performing tier as compared to your peers. Five or 10 years from now, no one will remember, care about or promote you for all the busywork that you have accomplished. Would the world have cared if Thomas Jefferson finished a lot of paper-shuffling but never wrote the Declaration of Independence? The same is true in your job – your organization values necessary work and masterpieces, not busywork.

Each Sunday afternoon, finish your week’s “To Do” list, preferably on a Word or Excel document, as your Outlook calendar will eventually fill up as the week progresses (thus diminishing the value of your earlier planning). Highlight the items that are absolutely critical to your success at work and in your personal life. The ones not highlighted are probably things that you can delegate, delay or avoid altogether.

In finance, critical deliverables include reports or research that needs to be accurate and submitted before a deadline. Your organization is served better if you focus on improving the quality of these reports, as opposed to merely doing a decent job on them so you can free up time for non-key items (like answering low-priority emails or taking part in a long-winded meeting).

Similarly, 10 minutes before leaving work at the end of each weekday, finish listing the next day’s action items and number them in order of importance and priority. Again, continually ask yourself all the things that you do not really need to do – the things that do not meet a certain productivity threshold.

Success in finance boils down to one’s ability to always deliver on critical and immediate deliverables. What are the crucial information and data points your finance managers are relying on? What can you deliver in order to help your organization and/or your clients win? Does it involve the timely submission of an audit report, accurate calculations of net present value on a proposed project or ensuring that the formulas on Excel lead to proper aggregate totals?

At the end of the day, no one cares about all of the emails that you exchanged, the social club meetings you attended or the chronological filing of folders in your cabinet. Multitasking constantly prevents individuals from giving their best on the few critical deliverables their employers really expect from them.
Do the important, difficult, urgent and highest-value action items first

Success in finance can involve simplicity in methods on how you approach your tasks. This may seem brutally simple for the well-read and uninitiated recent graduate, but do one thing at a time and do not stop until it has been completed. If your tasks relate to a long-term project, chop it up into shorter-term milestones and finish ahead of time. As Henry Ford said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Doing things from start to finish eliminates costly inefficiencies because you’ll avoid having to constantly start over and recalibrate on different, unrelated items.

If you spend three hours each week on useless tasks, this adds up to 150 hours per year. Your finance associate a few cubicles from you, who is more efficient and puts in 150 hours more per year is likely to enjoy a few promotions and salary increases that others did not get.

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