Do your clients and the people closest to you feel that you often cut them short or cancel commitments? Do they feel you are not present in the moment? Are you struggling with finding time for the things that are most important to you or with completing daily important tasks?

You are not alone. In fact, effectively managing time becomes one of the toughest issues for most leaders, according to Suzanne Peterson,a  partner at CRA | Admired Leadership, a Radnor, Pa.-based firm that acts as a consultant to senior leaders on Wall Street and other financial services companies, including Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Charles Schwab, BackRock, Fidelity and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

“The more senior you get in your career, the bigger this becomes a problem,” Peterson said. “All of a sudden, more people want little bits and pieces of you and more time in your day is taken up. So it’s a real challenge,” she said.

But Peterson, who spoke last week at the Charles Schwab Impact 2022 conference in Denver, said the best leaders make it look easy. “Those that manage time effectively have strategies behind them. They seem to have time for everything. They meet their deadlines. They always seem to get their work accomplished and make time for family and friends,” Peterson said. “And you have to wonder how they do it.”

Peterson, who also teaches at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, said the reason struggling with priorities is a real leadership topic for people is because we don’t manage our time effectively. “When we aren’t living really through values and managing our priorities, we either alienate people, cannot get deep-focused work accomplished or it just really hurts you from the grace of style,” she said.

She said her firm has been studying the best leaders for more than 30 years and has dug deep into the topic to ask the question, what do the most productive and efficient people that create great relationships in organizations do around managing their time that maybe you and I don’t do? “What is their secret sauce, so to speak?” she said.

"The whole idea behind this is there is a secret sauce to making it look easy," Peterson said.

Peterson said there are probably nearly 30 characteristics associated with the most efficient people. Here are five of the top ones she believes can help advisors perform at their highest level.

1. Who Do You Say No To And How To Say No
The key here is to always be relational because you never want to send a message that something else is more important, Peterson said. For example, saying something like, “'We can’t do that because we just don’t have the time or resources' is always read as less relational,” she said.

She advises against giving a flatout no to such requests. A better response, she said, something like, “I can’t meet Friday, but I can carve out three or four times for you next week."

Peterson said typically you want to say yes to things that are relational. “Somebody that’s really relational with us, someone we owe reciprocation to,” she said, adding that, “Sometimes we might say yes to things that are not that valuable for us, but they are valuable relationally.”

2. Making Pre-Commitments
You must have the language of pre-commitments in your life, Peterson said, noting that there are three areas that the most productive leaders focus on when it comes to pre-commitments. The idea, she said, is to go three to four weeks out on your calendar and see where there is a bit of freedom and block the things that are most important to you.

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