Financial Advisors Should Adopt Atomic Habits to Achieve Success
“Tiny changes, remarkable results.” This is the tagline for James Clear’s New York Times Bestselling book, Atomic Habits. If you’ve ever dreamed about making big changes in your life, but struggled with where exactly to start, (and let’s face it, we’ve all been there) this book is the launchpad you need. Whether you’re trying to grow your business, become more productive at work, or anything in between, Atomic Habits is full of information on simple changes you can make in your life to stop dreaming about your goals and start reaching them.
As part of our 1%, (see below,) the Beyond AUM book club recently finished reading Atomic Habits, and today we’re sharing how financial advisors can take concepts from the book and apply them to their own lives to grow their business.
The power of the 1%
One of the first (and most powerful) concepts introduced in the book is the power of small changes. Clear uses the British Cycling team as an example.
Between 1908 and 2003, the British Cycling team won just a single Olympic gold medal. In a last-ditch effort, the team hired Dave Brailsford as performance director in hopes that he might be able to put Britain on a winning trajectory. Brailsford was obsessed with the “aggregation of marginal gains,” or the idea of making small improvements in order to make a big difference. In this case, that meant searching for tiny margins of improvement regarding every aspect of cycling. From having riders wear electrically heated bike shorts to maintain ideal muscle temperature while riding, to redesigning bike seats, to seemingly unrelated improvements like determining the type of mattress and pillow that led to the best night’s sleep for each rider, Brailsford worked to make these simple 1% improvements. Just five years later, the British team won an astonishing 60% of the gold medals at the Olympics in Beijing.
Clear goes on to explain that improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable, and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable, but it can be far more meaningful in the long run.
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as your repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months or years can be enormous,” he writes.
Imagine applying this same concept to your financial advisory business. Things like assessing the comfort or complexity of your client meeting agendas or how you normally start a video conference are a few examples of places to look. On the surface, these may seem small, but each could make a big impact on setting the tone of how your clients feel, which over time can have a big impact on your overall client experience.
How to form new habits: Habit stacking
When it comes to building new habits, one concept that Clear shares is “habit stacking,” or identifying a current habit you already do and then stacking a new behavior on top of it. Habit stacking follows a simple formula:
“After I [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
Say you are a coffee drinker and you never miss a morning cup. A habit you have been trying to form might be incorporating meditation into your daily routine. Your habit stack could look something like this: “After I pour my morning coffee, I will meditate for one minute.”
Habit stacking can be extremely effective, as it’s based on the connectedness of behavior you already exhibit. As a financial advisor, you can use habit stacking to your advantage to help increase productivity, ensure a consistent flow of activity and momentum, and form professional habits that stick.
Say you are trying to boost engagement with your blog posts, with the ultimate goal of attracting new clients online. Your habit stack could look like this:
After I write a blog, I will post it to my firm’s website.
After I post the blog, I will share it on LinkedIn.
After I share the blog on LinkedIn, I will invite connections within my LinkedIn network to follow my company page.
How to form new habits: Implementation intention
Another argument Clear makes is that, while most people think they lack motivation to take action, what they really lack is clarity. Implementation intention is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act, and studies have shown that these plans can be extremely effective when it comes to making goals and following through on them. Try this formula to create an implementation intention and provide clarity around your intended behavior:
“I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”
As a financial advisor, you likely have a wide variety of responsibilities on your plate. It can feel near impossible to prioritize tasks and accomplish objectives when your mind is pulling you in a hundred different directions. This formula can prove helpful for creating and maintaining a schedule and crossing tasks off of your to-do list.
Take your workday routine as an example. Breaking your to-do list into implementation intentions could look something like this:
I will respond to client emails for thirty minutes at 8 a.m. at my desk.
I will brainstorm my next newsletter for fifteen minutes at noon on my midday walk.
I will make client phone calls for one hour at 2 p.m. in the conference room.
Clear continues by explaining that “being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course.” Being intentional significantly increases the likelihood that a task will be accomplished or a goal will be reached.
When it comes to forming habits, Clear shares that it is a continuous process and there is no finish line. His take is that the secret to getting lasting results is to never stop striving to be 1% better, make the next improvement, and build upon your positive outcomes. Small habits don’t add up, he reminds us. They compound.
Reach out to Beyond AUM to continue the conversation. We’d love to be your thinking partner in creating a goal-setting framework for your advisory team and identifying new habits that will help you achieve those goals.