The life of an independent insurance agent can be hectic, especially when you’re just getting started out.
As the the College Grad team points out, in addition to spending time with clients during normal business hours, many agents spend their evenings doing paperwork and preparing presentations.
It can an all-encompassing profession. And as you probably know, there’s a big difference between being busy and being legitimately productive. To build and sustain momentum, you must take an organized and methodical approach to completing tasks.
Here’s how you can prioritize your time, dedicate it to crucial tasks and ensure that you stay focused every step of the way.
1. Plan Out Daily, Weekly and Monthly Tasks
Prioritization is vital. At any given time, you’ll have a wide range of tasks that need your attention. Naturally, some will be far more pressing and important than others.
In order to stay on track, you’ll need to know exactly what needs to be done the following day, week and maybe even month. This ensures that you always have a game plan and allows you to take an organized approach to things.
For daily planning, the Engage team suggests taking 15 minutes to write out your to-do list the day before, whether it’s when you’re leaving work or just before bed. “Ask yourself what you need to achieve during the next day, set a block of times to look at email and deal with phone calls and get an overview of what meetings or other scheduled activities are already planned to try and imagine the flow of the day in advance,” they write.
For weekly planning, they recommend setting aside 45–60 minutes on Sunday to plan out your week. As for monthly planning, this should be strictly limited to bigger projects where you devote a couple of hours to figuring out the best approach.
To streamline the process, Helena Parmask encourages using a planning tool so that everything is tangibly outlined and can be easily updated. She says that old-fashioned pen and paper still work well for many. If you prefer to go digital, use a task management tool like Scoro or Trello.
2. Focus Wholly on One Task at a Time
Cynthia Kabu and Andre Machado have an excellent piece about the myth of multitasking in Time. “For nearly all people, in nearly all situations, multitasking is impossible,” they write. “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once—but instead, individual actions in rapid succession.”
There’s definitely something to this. In fact, one scientific study they cite found that only 2.5 percent of people are actually able to multitask effectively.
Amanda MacMillan at Health.com concurs. She says attempting to multitask
- Slows you down,
- Makes you more prone to mistakes,
- Creates stress, and
- Hinders your creativity.
The bottom line is humans just aren’t very good at multitasking. And haphazardly trying to tackle several projects at once is likely to impede your progress.
So, how should you approach task completion?
Chris Bailey discusses a technique at A Life of Productivity that involves “single-tasking,” where you set aside 20 minutes to focus 100 percent on a certain task. He says this tends to be effective because the 20-minute mark is roughly how long humans can concentrate on a task before losing focus.
Whether your task is responding to client questions, working on marketing or updating your client database, this tip should help you stay on track and get things completed more efficiently. And once you’re done, you can move onto the next task and focus entirely on that.
3. Practice the Two-Minute Rule
Here’s the scenario: Something pops up midday that requires your attention. It’s only a small task that can quickly be completed, but you’re tempted to put it off because it’s not high priority. So, it remains on the backburner along with other minor tasks.
The rule is based on a very simple premise. If a task can be done in two minutes or less, then do it right away. This could be responding to an email, posting on social media, returning a phone call, whatever.
The idea here is that putting things off until later breeds laziness and procrastination. But addressing little tasks right away increases productivity and helps you become more disciplined.
Jonathan Furman also points out in Thrive Global that this rule prevents small tasks from being overshadowed and forgotten. Once you get in the habit of applying the two-minute rule, you should find that your days are more fluid and you won’t have a mountain of tasks piling up on you.
4. Set Aside Admin Time
Unbillable hours aren’t something independent agents are very fond of.
Admin time refers to the more mundane tasks that don’t directly generate revenue (e.g. doing reports and paperwork) but are nonetheless a critical component of running a successful insurance company. They’re what keep the wheels turning and new clients coming.
That’s why Rick Grantham suggests setting aside time at the beginning of the day to handle tasks like these — maybe even start your day an hour earlier if necessary. This approach motivates you to get tasks done more quickly rather than waiting until the end of the day.
The MBO Partners team adds that it’s smart to schedule a recurring calendar appointment each day to tackle admin work and that completing small tasks each day should help prevent you from being overwhelmed at the end of the week.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Wanda Thibodeaux talks about how distractions are toxic to modern businesses in Inc. She says that distractions have become the unfortunate norm and that they literally cost big companies millions each year.
Thibodeaux references a 2018 Workplace Distraction Report by Udemy that found nearly three in four people (70 percent) feel distracted while working.
Constantly battling distractions as a new independent agent can be crippling and make it incredibly difficult to get your business off the ground.
And as the Association for Psychological Science team points out, even small distractions can derail productivity and make it far more difficult to complete important tasks. Not only does the quality of your work suffer, but it’s likely to take you much longer.
So, what are some of your biggest distractions?
In Business News Daily, Chad Brooks says most people’s top 10 include:
- The Internet
- Social media
- Co-workers dropping by
- Smoke breaks and snack breaks
- Noisy coworkers
- Sitting in a cubicle
While these may not all apply to you as an independent agent, they’re all things to be aware of, and you should take efforts to ensure that you don’t get sucked into the these time wasters.
Brooks also offers some advice on being more productive where he mentions the importance of scheduling formal breaks to create clear boundaries between work and relaxation. This way, you’ll have a designated time to unwind, and you’ll know when it’s time to get back to work.
6. Limit Email Checks
Email is a primary medium of communication for independent agents. And it’s great for staying in the loop with clients, prospects and business partners.
But as David Burkus explains in Forbes, it can quickly become a hindrance if abused and can end up making you far less productive. What he means is that constantly checking your email can be distracting and mess up your flow.
He references Kostadin Kushlev, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, who found “email fragments our attention and contributes to our feeling that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.”
Kushlev also adds that “limiting email decreases stress and increases productivity because it cuts back on multitasking and distraction.”
While you will obviously need to check your email at certain points of the day, it’s crucial that you’re cognizant of how frequently you’re checking it. If it’s a compulsive habit, you’ll want to set limits to keep it in check and ensure that the more important tasks aren’t being disrupted.
Making the Most of Your Time
Statista reports that the number of insurance agents is on the rise and has grown considerably since 2000. For new independent agents to get started out on the right foot, it’s critical to understand the basics of effective time management.
Knowing how to prioritize your efforts, when to focus on what and how to stay focused will help you make the most of your time. This way, you’ll be able to deliver the best possible experience to your clients and continually expand your book of business without creating unneeded stress.
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