The holidays are certainly a distraction for most people, let alone advisors who know what to do to succeed, but who are over burdened by the many tasks of running a practice.

The answer may be simple, but the execution isn't easy.

Many advisors know how to improve their business, writes Olympic medalist and former Morgan Stanley advisor Paul Kingsman in his book, The Distraction-Proof Advisor. Their problem, he says, is management of getting all their work done.

Kingsman, who is now an advisor at Taddei, Ludwig & Associates, an RIA, and speaker and coach within the financial services industry, offers strategies for improved focus and goals-setting designed to cut down on distractions, and which may help in getting the job done.

If you're looking for ways to get a handle on your business and want to make real progress toward your long-term goals in 2016, the following key steps featured in Kingsman's book may help you get there. 

1. You’re not the only one who feels out of control. A recent Financial Planning Association Research and Practice Institute study showed more than half of advisors said they were not in control of their time. Only 10% said they felt in complete control of their businesses. If you’re in the 90%, recognize there is a better way to run your business!

2. Set goals with built-in accountability. Name what you will do, determine how you will measure your success (specific numbers are very helpful), and set a deadline for accomplishing your objective. Break annual goals into monthly targets so you can effectively track your progress.

3. Choose your path. There are many ways to build and run a successful financial advisory business. Diligently research, select a business model, investment rationale, service model and processes that sit well with you and then commit to them. Don’t run yourself ragged by experimenting.

4. Be specific about client numbers. Face it: you can’t effectively service a thousand clients. Identify your ideal client and set a specific, realistic number you can service well. Decide how many clients you want to grow your business to in the next four years. Then divide that number by four to determine how many new clients you need annually. Further break that number down into monthly and quarterly targets to make sure you are tracking toward your goal.

5. Develop a network of like-minded specialists. You don’t have to do everything yourself to be your clients’ go-to expert for all financial matters. Provide clients with the full spectrum of services they need by establishing a network of trustworthy experts with whom you share referrals of ideal clients. 

6. Choose only clients who are a good fit. Ideal clients have the right level of assets, demonstrate a willing attitude to follow your advice, and are pleased to tell others how you help them. Bad fits always take up more of your time and energy than you anticipate, distracting you from what you have said you want to build. If prospects don’t fit your way of doing business, move on and let them be somebody else’s client.

7. The two most important conversation skills have nothing to do with talking. Be curiously and genuinely interested in the person you are talking with, and truly listen to what they say. Ask questions to focus the conversation on them rather than trying to impress them with your accomplishments. Great questions, which often start with “how” and “why,” generate meaningful exchanges and develop lasting connections.

8. Don’t assume your best clients get your best service. If you’re running your business in reaction mode, your high-value quiet clients can easily slip through the cracks because your days will be driven by responding to the needy clients who are contacting you. Deliberately plan and calendar your client touches so you consistently provide thoughtful service that leads to great impressions and valuable referrals.

9. Maximize solutions for top-tier clients. As you deepen relationships with your highest value clients, you’ll likely notice they face similar issues. When you find a great solution for one client, make the most of your effort by sharing that solution with other clients with the same concerns.

10. Decide if you’re an investment manager or a financial advisor. Developing a small but comprehensive range of model portfolios for clients’ investments allows you time to efficiently monitor investment performance for groups of clients so you can devote more time to developing strategic advice for individuals and growing your business.

11. If you don’t prioritize your time, other people will. What other people say is urgent is often simply convenient for them. Decide what activities are most important to move you toward what you want to achieve. Set uninterruptable time to complete these when your energy and concentration is strongest. Arrange time to reply to others when it best suits you.

12. Choose to do what matters most right now. There is nothing wrong with researching prospects or potential centers of influence on social media, or reading market commentary, or even playing a game on your phone for a ten-minute break. However, they’re all distractions if your top priority for the time at hand is some other crucial activity. Recognize that even good things if done at the wrong time are distracting you from completing what is most important right now.

13. Multitasking is a myth. Study after study shows human brains are not wired to simultaneously process and focus on multiple tasks. What people call multitasking is actually quickly switching focus back and forth from one activity to another. This is proven to make us less productive, less accurate, less creative, and even less able to accurately recognize our reduced quality of work. Establish a routine to focus your efforts on single specific tasks at specific times.

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