During a recent call with a group of growth-focused financial advisors, I spoke about the attributes of high performance, which are: clarity, energy, productivity, influence, courage, and necessity (purpose). There was clear consensus that productivity is, by far, the greatest challenge. A number of people shared that they were not productive because they couldn’t get their “to dos” under control—they were simply too busy. I’m not surprised; busyness is often cited as the reason why advisors don’t make progress on their growth goals. 

Are you busy or productive? 

Busy or productive

If your workload or responsibilities exceed your capacity, then you are busy. But if you are able to maintain control and still progress towards your priorities, then you are productive. 

Busyness and productivity are both fact and feeling. You can be busy and feel busy. You can also not be busy but nevertheless feel busy. In our fast-paced, multi-tasking society it’s easy to feel busy. 

While you can’t always control how busy you are, you can manage how you feel. Think back to a time when you were truly busy. As you recall that time pay attention to your body, how does it feel? Now do the same for a time when you were really productive. Notice a difference?   

We want to tap into both the being and feeling of productivity. 

High-performers—those individuals who can maintain a high-level of achievement over time without a negative impact on their wellbeing—are productive, not busy.  

Five habits that help flip the switch to high performance

How do you make the shift to productivity? It involves becoming aware of your busyness and managing it intentionally. Here are five habits that help you turn high stress into high achievement.

1: Reframe your busyness story

We become who we believe we are. If you tell yourself you’re busy and stressed, you will feel busy and stressed. This week, I challenge you to pay attention to how often you say or think, “I’m so busy.” However you phrase that idea, stop. Instead, reframe your story to more accurately reflect what’s happening. “This is intense and I’m making an impact.” “A lot of people value my advice.” Or, “I get to be busy.” 

2: Approach your busyness like a high performer

Productivity starts by being clear on what matters, and what doesn’t. 

A productive prioritizing exercise

  1. Make a list of all of your to-dos and responsibilities. 
  2. Identify your top 3. Circle them; they are your top priorities. 
  3. Identify any tasks you can delegate, automate, or ask for help with. Assign them to a new owner or reset expectations and save them for later. 
  4. Identify what you can drop altogether. Cross those out. 

You should have no more than 3 priorities, and ideally only 1. How are you going to ensure you make progress on them? 

3: Have a plan

Project planning, breaking large tasks into smaller ones, cultivating a productive environment to manage distractions, and time blocking are all examples of tactics you can use to set yourself up for success. Look for efficiencies. If you find yourself doing the same tasks over and over, see if you can automate or delegate by defining a process. 

If you use SEI as your custodian and invest your client’s assets in SEI products, ask your relationship manager about the Businesswise advisor program, which provides a number of pre-built business workflows that integrate the SEI Wealth Platform with Redtail and MoneyGuide.

4: Honor your priorities

The final habit is to honor your commitment to yourself and your priorities. Make it a firm habit to take action on them. If you time block, respect your blocks. Hold yourself accountable, or ask for help from others to do so.  

5: Reward productivity

Productivity is the outcome of a series of your intentional choices. In order to maintain your good habits, don’t forget to reward yourself at the end of every big accomplishment. Look back and acknowledge what you (and your team) have accomplished. Take a moment to feel proud and celebrate. 

Productivity gives us the energy to sustainably doing hard things. For most of us, the real question isn’t, “Are you busy or productive?” It’s how can you become both busy and productive.


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Information provided by Independent Advisor Solutions by SEI, a strategic business unit of SEI Investments Company. The content is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide investment advice or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. While SEI welcomes comments, SEI is not responsible for, and does not endorse, the opinions, advice, or recommendations posted by third parties. The opinions expressed in comments are the view(s) of the commenter(s), and do not represent the views of SEI or its affiliates. SEI reserves the right to remove any content posted by users of this site in its sole discretion.

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