August 10, 2017

The control! The power! The freedom!

Being in charge of your own work hours seems like a pretty good deal.

But (you knew there was a but coming), it’s a huge challenge for a lot of independent insurance agents.

When to start? When to stop? Which hours are the most productive?

And most importantly… what is everyone else doing?

The Norm

For all intents and purposes, you’re a small business owner. You’re completely in charge of creating your own paychecks and finding your own leads.

This can be pretty intimidating, and the number of hours small business owners work definitely reflects that.

According to a survey done by The Alternative Board (TAB), almost half of small business owners work over 50 hours per week. And 19% of those actually work over 60 hours per week.

That’s a lot of hours.

As far as actual hours of the day, most people fall into that 9-5 routine, but according to a study we did here at New Horizons, a lot of business owners start earlier.

There are a variety of different reasons why, but here are a few:

  1. It’s easier to answer emails, because you’re not playing a game of immediate catch-up. In other words, you can answer emails and make some progress before the responses start flowing in again.
  2. Other members of the house aren’t awake yet, so it’s a great time to knock out work with uninterrupted focus.
  3. Productivity is at its highest at this time.
  4. If it’s done in the early morning, you know it’ll be done no matter what other issues or time-suckers pop up.

Very few small business owners work past 6-7pm, but there were a rare few that claimed to work into the night, as their own productivity seemed to be higher at that time.

Steven Benson

Steven Benson, Founder and CEO of Badger Maps explains that it doesn't matter what time of day it is — it matters that there’s peace and quiet.

He says, “The way I carve off time to focus on getting the important things done is by working late at night when there aren't distractions.

The other thing that has worked just as well for me is waking up early and working. In either case, the key is that the phone doesn't ring, there are no meetings, and no one is grabbing me to take care of things that are on fire.”

A funny observation we have at our sister company, Sams/Hockaday & Associates, is that most agents like to enjoy a good 3-day weekend. As in, Friday is considered an off-day.

 In any case, it seems that most small business owners work a lot. But… hours worked doesn’t always translate into lots of work done.

Ryan Riley

Ryan Riley, Partner at Something Creative, started his company because he wanted to have control of his own life. Sound familiar?

He explains that the members of his team don’t work a set number of hours. They work until the tasks they wanted to finish are completed.

He says, “If it's 1pm on a Wednesday and you're on track, then don't stick around until 5pm just because that's what is expected.”

His team is entirely self-guided. They are assigned tasks with deadlines, and that’s the focus of the job. Ryan explains, “As long as we deliver on time and the work lives up to the standards our clients deserve, then it doesn't matter if you work 4 hours a week or 40 hours. Just do your work and live your life.”

So, when you’re planning out your day, it’s important to ask yourself: am I being productive with my time? Is my time being spent actually getting things done?

It can be hard to figure out the ins and outs of productivity, but if you turn to science and productivity research, everything starts to seem a little less difficult.

The Perfect Schedule

There are few things that science has taught us about being productive in the wee hours of the morning. If you have some problem-solving to do, or if you have some work to do on your agent website, the morning is the best time to do it.

Beware of doing draining tasks in the morning, though. Research finds that if we expel our brainpower right away, we’re less productive for the remainder of the day. And no, coffee can’t reverse it.

Have you ever noticed that you’re pretty groggy right after lunch? Yeah, us too. Our circadian rhythm dictates how our hormones are released throughout the day, and after lunch, productivity takes a deep dive. Now’s the time to do things that you could do with your eyes closed.

Moira Lawler at LearnVest actually came up with a suggested work/life schedule that capitalizes on our natural circadian rhythm. Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like:

6:30am: Send emails

8:00am: Make judgement calls and ethical decisions

9:00am: Tackle the toughest tasks

10:00am: Do a presentation

11:00am: Think strategically and focus on big-picture goals and plans

1:30pm: Zip through mindless tasks

2:10pm: Hold a meeting

4:00pm: Avoid interviews

6:00pm: Hit the gym

7:00pm: Do something creative

10:00pm: Disconnect from technology and get ready for bed

We decided to use this guideline to make the perfect agent workday, so here goes:

Perfect Agent Workday Template

In many cases, your day will revolve around client appointments and what your main goals are at the moment, but if you can sync up your schedule to your body’s inner productivity meter… you’ll be unstoppable.

What does your schedule look like? Comment below – this is going to be interesting!

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