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Dec 14, 2019

EP - 37  Ideas to consider as you plan for next year and information for whenever you feel you need to make some changes. 

While most people do the goal setting at the end or beginning of the year, it can be done at any time.

Don’t just look at your sales goals, look at your productivity goals, your team goals and hopefully your marketing goals. Don’t forget about those personal goals too!.

Regardless of your position in the insurance industry, you should have some sort of plan to follow for the new year. If your boss doesn’t give you one, create one yourself.

Ideas to consider as you plan for 2020.


When I first started in sales, my boss would hand us a one page sales plan. We usually had about a week to complete it. If I remember correctly, it started with how much production we wanted for the next year and broke it down into what we needed to do to get there. (we backed into it)  In order to really do accurate predictions, we’d need to look at what we had done in the past. Some of that was in our heads, some of that was made up, but very little was really tracked. As I’ve evolved in the consulting world, I realize that the data is essential for creating a plan that will be productive. My boss knew he needed our numbers to do his own numbers…..but he didn’t provide a lot of guidance on completing our plan so that it was accurate and attainable.  For a sales plan, you need to know what you did last year, what worked, what didn’t, where the business came from, how profitable the different accounts are. If you aren't using a CRM that tracks where business comes from, integrates marketing efforts and expenses, it’s hard to get an accurate recap. Often times senior management has these figures, but it isn’t to often that this information is available to those pounding the pavement!

As a professional, you want to know these numbers. Honestly, I’m not a numbers person, accounting is not my thing, but I do know my numbers. I think this is one of the differences between success and marginal success…...numbers can motivate, numbers can show what’s working, what’s not working, what you need to stop doing and what you need to do more of.  

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of businesses fail because they didn’t know their numbers. Maybe they looked at them once or twice a year. I have some clients who look at them daily...I think that’s a little overkill, but at a minimum, you should be looking at them monthly!

As you are doing your planning for next year, where are you getting your numbers? Are you guessing like we did years ago or do you have actual numbers that you can evaluate? If you don’t have actual numbers to use this year, make sure you have a plan to track everything next year so you can better project and plan.


In my business roundtables, when I ask about challenges, the number one area people want help with is time management. I wish I had a magic ball for this but I don’t.  If you struggle with time management, you aren’t alone. 

I believe that technology is a great thing but it has also created a lot more work for many people. Managing multiple email accounts, multiple social media accounts, in addition to having multiple browsers open every time you are working. 

Tips to consider to help with your productivity. Maybe you can incorporate a few of the ideas into your planning for next year to help you reach your goals.

  • Time block - take out your calendar, look for some times that you have free every week or month, and block them out to be productive. Maybe it’s your time to call two clients or prospects; maybe it’s your time to write 2 handwritten notes, maybe it’s your time to work on a long range project. When time blocking, you want to color code your calendar. You don’t need to go crazy with the colors, but it should stand out. One real key here is that you need to make this time a priority and create tasks that you want to get completed during those blocked out times. You have to respect the time that you have blocked. If someone wants to meet with you during that time, you need to say you are busy. If you have to have a meeting during your time blocked time, reschedule it for that day or the next. The more you begin to respect the time you block out for productivity, the more productive you’ll be..
  • Set the timer - have you ever noticed that before you go on vacation, you get all of your projects completed? You have a deadline….get things done so you can get out of town….and for whatever reason, it works. Since we can’t go on vacation all the time, try setting some artificial deadlines. Set the timer. Give yourself 30 or 60 minutes. No distractions. No phone calls, no checking email. If you are one of those people that gets a popup every time you have a new email, turn it off. The idea behind working with the timer is to not have any distractions. I would also recommend that you put your phone in your desk, on silence. As a general rule, what can’t wait 60 minutes? Even if you had an emergency…’ll get there! 

I know not all of you will agree with that, but you have to respect your time if you want to work on time management.

  • Set a daily schedule - Do you start out with a list of what you want to accomplish every day? Sounds basic, but so many people don’t have any direction for what they will do each day.  I hear over an over that people are using the old fashioned yellow paper legal pads to keep the notes and lists on. They find its easier to track and more importantly, they like putting a line through the things they have accomplished. My suggestion would be to create your list at the end of the day while everything is fresh. This will help you get started quicker when your day starts. 
  • Put your phone (personal cell) away  or put it on DNS when you can. For some of you, this is a tough one, I know. We are so dependent on our phones these days for business. We are worried we are going to miss something or there will be an emergency that we can’t respond to. Call me old school, but there was a time when you couldn’t reach me for hours at a time, a time before cell phones when I had to stop at a (gasp) pay pone and call to see who was trying to reach me. If I was at the coffee shop and there was an emergency, someone would have to contact the coffee shop! It’s not the end of the world. I’m sure a few of you don’t like this idea, but trust me, if you can put it away, you will find yourself more productive. 
  • Close your door - if you work in an office where people walk by all the time, it’s easy for them to stop in or a 5 minute conversation. 2 or 3 people doing this can add up to some significant time!  If you have the option to close your door, do so. If you can’t close the door, go to another location. Maybe a conference room, a lunch room or a managers office that doesn’t mind you working there for an hour.  I’m not suggesting that you keep the door closed all the time because that can lead to other issues, but when you want to be productive, it will help.
  • This is a good segway to another another idea that I know works and that is to get out of the office into a new location. I’ve been home based for over 20 years. I love working from home for the convenience, but there are a lot of distractions there. I’m good at not doing laundry or watching tv but sometimes just seeing everything that needs to get done can be overwhelming. If you are in your office and you have a lot of projects that need to be completed, and you are surrounded by clutter, it can be hard to focus and stay focused. Consider getting out of the office. Go to the local coffee shop, block out an hour to work, leave your phone in the car. If you only have a limited amount of time, you will be productive, especially if you can eliminate the distractions. As I prepare this podcast episode, I’m sitting in the local coffee shop. I have 90 minutes until I need to leave for my next meeting. My goal is get this finished. I’ve had to put my headphones on and turn on the music to minimize the chatter from others around me, but I’m following my advice, my phone is off, my email is closed and my goal is to get this finished.
  • Delegate…..this is the hard one. Maybe you aren’t in a position to delegate. I understand. But even if you can’t delegate yet, if you have the mindset that you have to do everything because no one can do it as good as you, or it takes longer to train someone than to do it yourself, then you have some work to do. You will forever be overwhelmed and working on time management. Delegate….it’s a key to success.


Now, if you are listening to this and you are at the bottom of the food chain, don’t worry, there might be things you can do to have an impact in this area too. Why do people struggle with delegation? Personally, I think it is mostly a control issue. You can’t let go. No one can do it as good as you can. The amount of time it takes you to train someone or to check their work you could have it done by yourself. There might be some truth to that but the problem is that you can only do so much before you get bogged down, have to work longer hours then the rest of your productivity or lifestyle is impacted. 

Here’s an idea to try. For a week...and I know that can seem like a long time, but it’s only one week. Make a list of everything you do. Make a log every 10 minutes. You only need to do this for a week. Set your timer to remind you every 10 minutes. 

I’ve talked about this concept for a long time and when people do the tasks their eyes open quickly. One of my clients did it for two days then realized she was spending 2 hours on opening the mail. It took her less than a week to hire someone. I have another client that has about 10 employees and he had everyone in the company do this task. He said every 10 minutes he could hear the timers going off. For him, it was an analysis of what everyone was doing to see what systems and processes were working and what they needed to change. 

At the end of the week, do an analysis of your tasks. Add two columns. One is ROI the other is Do you have to do the task or can someone else. When it comes to ROI, it will be subjective, but is the task something that could be done by someone at a lesser pay scale or by someone in another department? Is the task helping you to grow your business or make more money? 

For the last column, is your client expecting the task to be completed by you or could it be completed by someone else? Again, based on  your job description, the ROI and who needs to do the task might be different, but you get the idea of what to look for. 

One of the podcasts I listen to is Build a Better Agency. Its hosted by Drew Mclellan and it’s for marketing agency owners. In this particular episode, his guest, Jess Tysons runs a virtual assistant business. She’s also the author of: Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business 

She talked about how to use a VA and the different projects that you can have them do. In all honesty, what she is referring to is having an admin person. An admin person that is focused on your tasks. An admin person that you trust and can get the job done. A VA is someone you hire for a few hours a week or a month depending on the contract and your needs. They are usually set up as a business or work for another VA firm, so you are hiring an independent contractor. Whether you hire a VA or an admin person, the sooner you do, the sooner you will free up some time and be able to work on the projects that are more important or are the real revenue generators. 

One of the topics they discussed was having your VA manage your email account. So many people cringe about this...for so many reasons. But think about it, how much time are you spending on email management? If you did the exercise I just described and tracked what you were doing for a week, you’ll know how much time you spend on email. My guess is you are spending up to an hour a day….if not more.

The real issue is what else could you be doing and what would be more productive with your time? I”ve been harping to business owners for years to delegate their email management. I get a lot of resistance and I understand their concerns, but if they want to be more productive, they need to delegate.

Think about the old days, almost every business owner had an admin person. They might have been called a secretary then, but I’m trying to be politically correct so I’m calling them an admin. The admin person would open the mail, he/she could respond to a certain percentage on their own because of their experience and the rest was given to the boss to address. Smart bosses would have the admin person in their office as they go through the mail and indicate what they wanted done with each piece of correspondence. Why can’t you do the same or something similar with email? You’ll train your staff person or VA on what you must see, what they can address and what needs to be deleted. Your admin or VA is there to help you be more successful. Answering email might be getting in the way!

From a planning perspective, give some thought to delegating. What can you intentionally take off of your plate to free up some time…..and make you more productive.

For those of you at the bottom of the food chain? If you are overwhelmed and feeling overworked, tracking what you are doing, how long it takes and creating systems to be more efficient might be helpful. With tracking everything, you’ll eventually have enough data to get your boss to spread out the workload or hire someone to assist you!


Another area that you might want to consider as you plan for next year is setting some personal goals for self development. Maybe this is professional, maybe it’s personal. The reality is what are you doing to work on yourself? We are our biggest commodity. There’s always room for improvement. 

If you are in sales, work on your sales skills; if you are in management, take some leadership classes; if you are in marketing, takes some courses. My recommendation is to do these in person if you can. It provides you the opportunity to get out of your office into another location and if you can get outside of your comfort zone, meet some people - talk to the person sitting to your left and right. Who knows where they have been and what you can learn!

If you are a licensed agent, you have to do mandatory CE’s to keep your license. These can be boring and mundane. Trust me, after doing 25 years of CIC updates, I’m tired of hearing what a named insured is. But we have to do it! Take additional classes. As part of your planning for next year, look for a class or a conference you want to attend that will expand your horizons. Even if you have to do it on your own time, you will be a better person because of it!

The personal goals don’t just have to be about education. Perhaps you set some time to do some things that you have always wanted to do but haven’t. 

  • Family time - Are you spending quality time with your family? If you are working all the time, your spouse might be missing you….find more time to be a better parent and spouse.
  • Recreation time - what are you doing for fun? Are you playing tennis twice a week or getting together with your peeps for a card game?
  • Exercise time- are  you scheduling time to exercise. For me, this one is essential. It isn’t easy because I’m a runner and I prefer to run during the day…..On Wed, Thurs and Fri mornings, I have 7:30 am meetings so it’s hard for me to run on those days. When it gets dark at 5:00 it’s really hard to get anything done. But I continually try. It’s also easier for me to have an accountability partner - I have been known to let myself down when it comes to exercising, but if I’m meeting someone, I’m there….I don’t want to disappoint someone else! I’m also a believer that exercise is essential for productivity. You’ll feel better, move better and your brain will function better. Find time a few times a week to get up and move. And during the day, get up and stretch, walk the stairs or walk around the outskirts of the building. Don’t eat lunch at your desk, go out somewhere, take in some fresh air.
    • I remember attending a 3 day conference a few years ago and in between many of the sessions, we had a trainer in the front of the room offering up exercises to do at our chairs. It was only five minutes but it kept the blood flowing. 
    • Wegmans the grocery store chain, has their employees do an exercise regime every morning at 9:00 am…..I’ve heard them make an announcement at other times during the day to take 5 minutes and exercise. It’s proven to be a good investment of time. So give some thought to how you can incorporate something into your daily routine
  • Friends time - do you have enough time to get together with your friends or are you always working? Your children will grow up eventually and not be as demanding of your time. Your friends will come and go but as your get older, more will go that stay….we just fade, or we become introverts. Be intentional about getting together with friends and having them around as you get older. 
  • Volunteer time - are you giving back to the community? Some companies provide time for employees to give back, some people do it just to do it. If this is something that is important to you, be sure to plan it into your goals for next year.

So we’ve talked about knowing your numbers, Time Management, Delegating and Self Improvement. These aren’t typical goals that are on the goal planning worksheet that your boss might give you, but I said in the beginning, I want to get you thinking differently. 

  • If you aren’t tracking your numbers, find a way to do so….create a plan to set milestones. 
  • If time management is an issue, tackle some of the ideas presented. 
  • Look at what you can delegate and make sure you have a plan for taking care of yourself. 

I’m not talking about new years resolutions, but a plan to implement throughout the year. 

Don’t make too many changes at one time because you will overwhelm yourself. Maybe you work on time management in the first quarter and add volunteering in the second quarter. 

Your plan isn’t just numbers, but it’s a holistic approach to increased performance!

Until next time, keep creating opportunities.