Fixes for daily challenges faced by professional service firms

Jim Rohn once famously said “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

How many times have you wondered where the day went? Despite best intentions, a myriad of distractions can stop you from getting your best work done. In a professional services setting, distractions affect the bottom line. Here are three challenges – and fixes – for boosting productivity.

Daily challenge #1: Thought leakage – Why is it so hard to concentrate? 

The jury is out on open-plan offices.

Open-plan gives colleagues the AOK to mess with your to-do list.

It’s good to be available to help team members as and when they need your input, but there is a downside to this, and that is the inability to get into a state of “deep work” to tackle the important thinking work you need to do for your clients. It’s hard to finish your budget when Phil from marketing innocently, but annoyingly, keeps needing your reassurance regarding logo colours.

So how do you find the headspace to get important work done? Part of the answer is creating the environment, both physically and mentally, where you can concentrate and where boundaries are respected.

What’s the fix?

  • Keep the open-plan if you must, but set up rules and brief staff:
    • if a chat with a colleague is going to take more than a few minutes, book a meeting
    • be on time to the meeting and stick to its allocated time
    • create soundproof workspaces that staff can book when they need to do their deep work
    • book the soundproof space for lengthy phone conversations
    • trust that your team will do good work when they are in a private area where you can’t see their monitor
    • block space for deep work in your calendar, for example, first thing each morning
    • don’t constantly check emails – train team and clients alike to know that you are not “always-on”

Daily challenge #2: Cash flow leakage – Where does all the money go? 

There are so many places cash flow goes rather than sticking to your bank account.  Payment of your invoices can be held up for a number of reasons even when your client contact has the best of intentions to get you paid on time.  The complexity of organisations means it’s often out of their hands.

Expenses you are paying on behalf of multiple clients to get the job done can eat up all your working capital with long lead times before you get paid.   And even once you do get paid, the cash goes straight back out the door for working capital needs like wages and rent.  It’s a case of money in, money out.

What’s the fix?

  • With the changing face of the finance sector, there are many fast and cost-effective ways to unlock your working capital to stop this feeling of leakage:
    • Consider disbursement funding
    • Consider debtor finance
    • Consider better cash flow management strategies

Daily challenge #3: Time leakage – Where does all the time go? 

  • The answer to this one is easy: your time disappears because of Daily challenge #1 and #2.

What’s the fix?

  • These challenges are interrelated: If you can fix thought and cash flow leakages, you can fix your time leakage. But beware: It can take so much time sorting out both that sometimes there is barely any time left to do the vital thinking work that your clients are hiring you for.
  • Digital time-outs. We’ve already addressed email management, but what about the series of notifications, beeps, whistles and vibrations from your phone? And, yes, from your wearable device too. We call this the three D’s – Digital Dopamine Discipline! Establish device settings that reduces interruptions during work hours to only those that are mission critical to your business. Your group chats will just have to wait. Tough love, we know.

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