Dec 04 2023
Making every minute count
Time is a precious resource that always seems to slip away faster than anyone would like. For Daniel Heng, a three-year MDRT member with two Court of the Table qualifications from Singapore, the challenge is not just balancing work and life but also integrating the demands of university into the mix as he is currently studying for a double degree in Accountancy and Business with a Major in Finance. Currently approaching his final semester at university, every tick of the clock is a reminder of the dense workload he juggles.
A personal journey in time management
Heng's journey into effective time management began three years ago when he joined the financial advisory field. Surrounded by high-achieving peers excelling both professionally and academically, he found himself intrigued and somewhat baffled by their ability to seamlessly manage dual commitments, including achieving milestones like the MDRT qualification.
“’How do you do it?’ became a constant question in my mind. Each individual I met seemed to have cracked the code to manage both worlds harmoniously, transforming what appeared to be insurmountable challenges into achievable tasks,” Heng shares. Engaging in conversations with both his peers and seasoned advisors, he encountered an analogy that reshaped his perspective on productivity. "Iconic figures like Bill Gates and Tim Cook, synonymous with success and productivity, operate within the same 24-hour day as the rest of us, yet achieve monumental accomplishments," he reflects.
“In the whirlwind of school assignments and client meetings, I often felt busy yet unproductive. That's when I stumbled across an article about Tim Cook's routine that encapsulated his focus and intentionality. I realized successful people do not just pass moments; they were making them count," notes Heng.
Internalizing this revelation, Heng’s mindset towards productivity and how to maximize his time began to change from merely being busy to becoming strategically engaged and making every moment count.
As he embarks on the last stretch of his university education, Heng emphasizes that "productivity is not about how busy you are, but how you use each moment". His motivation stems from viewing every task as a step toward academic achievements and expanding his expertise to contribute more meaningfully to his clients’ lives. This dedication has earned him a nomination in the 8th Asia Trusted Life Agents & Advisers Awards 2023 as a finalist for Financial Advisor of the Year.
To manage his time effectively, he relies on two main strategies.1. The ABCDEs of prioritization
Prioritization is one simple, yet highly effective technique Heng uses to tackle his day-to-day tasks. One such method that has proved to be highly beneficial for his practice is the strategy shared by Brian Tracy, in his book Eat That Frog!:
- 'A' Tasks: Crucial activities with significant consequences if ignored. The focus is to complete these tasks first.
- 'B' Tasks: Important but less urgent tasks.
- 'C' Tasks: Tasks that have no significant consequences.
- 'D' Tasks: Tasks to be delegated to others.
- 'E' Tasks: Inconsequential tasks to be eliminated.
For Heng, tasks categorized under the 'A' section include prospecting, opening cases (e.g., meeting clients and identifying gaps in their portfolios), and closing cases (e.g., recommending solutions to bridge portfolio gaps).
On the other side of the spectrum, 'D' tasks involve keeping track of tax claims and filing claims for clients. These are responsibilities delegated to his administrative staff for a more efficient claims process. Heng emphasizes, “I don't handle the filing myself – I inform my clients that my job is to ensure they CAN claim, while my admin's job is to claim for them.”
Regularly evaluating his task lists through this lens helps him to align his efforts where they matter most, ensuring that each moment contributes meaningfully to his overarching goals.
2. Time blocking through Pareto's principle
Another strategy he utilizes is time blocking his daily schedule based on Pareto’s principle. According to this principle, 80% of results stem from 20% of efforts. Applying this concept to his daily schedule, Heng meticulously identifies the 20% of tasks that deliver 80% of his desired outcomes.
With this understanding, Heng allocates specific time blocks to ensure that every crucial activity has its dedicated space in his day. Strictly adhering to these time limits helps to enhance his focus and efficiency, resulting in consistently productive outcomes.
To ensure he applies these two strategies consistently, he shares three simple tips that has helped:
- Identifying an accountability partner: Collaborating with a colleague or mentor serves as a mutual support system, fostering accountability in adhering to effective time management practices.
- Cultivating a culture of continuous learning: Attend seminars, read books, and participate in workshops on time management to always stay updated with new strategies.
- Setting aside a weekly “CEO hour”: Set an hour aside once a week to review the week's activities and to zoom out from the daily execution, gaining a broader perspective to strategically plan the upcoming week’s tasks.
He concludes with some food for thought: “In the world of financial advisory and academia, a common illusion persists—the busier you are, the more productive you must be. The reality, however, is starkly different. It is not about the countless hours clocked but the essence and impact of those hours.” Heng firmly believes that fostering intentional habits and having the discipline to seamlessly incorporate these time management strategies into a daily routine will pave the way for optimizing your time and making every moment count.