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15 Tiny Productivity Tips Guaranteed to Make a Big Difference for Busy Bankers

7 min read
Mar 15, 2017

You only have 1,440 minutes in every day. Are you making the most of yours? Here are 15 small productivity tips that will make a huge difference in how you manage your minutes, hours and days. They'll help you accomplish your tasks, meet your goals, and exceed expectations.As a banker or compliance officer, your job is never easy, but some times of the year are just more stressful than others. These few weeks around the HMDA filing deadline, and the subsequent Fair Lending analysis it sparks, is one of them.

Some of the key challenges we hear from compliance pros are:

  • Too much to do, too little time.
  • Every task on the to-do list is "high priority."
  • Challenging team environment, either because of staffing or leadership's perspective on compliance.
  • Staying on top of regulatory change to maintain compliant programs, policies and practices.

With those top challenges in mind, here are 15 simple, easy and actionable productivity tips guaranteed to make your day at least a little more manageable.

Tip 1: Identify your top priorities at the start of your day.

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but I can personally attest to the fact that it works. As you sit at your desk first thing in the morning, with your metaphorical coffee, take a few minutes to jot down the top 5 or ten priorities for the day ahead.

Whatever you don't get to today will go at the top of tomorrow's list. You may schedule these are calendar blocks, or you might use a real list - whatever works best for your and your company.

  • The benefits of this are twofold: first, you have a written record of everything you've accomplished and your priorities that you can share with your boss and team, and second, it gets you in the habit of thinking tactically.

Wondering about what to do with the other items? Keep a running task list where you put the important but not urgent items. On the days you complete your priorities, check in with your to-do list.

Related: What Is A Compliance Management System And Why Your FI Needs One


Tip 2: Use the two minute rule.

The most common cause of those top 5 or ten priorities not getting finished? Small tasks and conversations that consume your energy and disrupt your time management. To combat this, use the two minute rule. If an interrupting task or conversation is going to be quick - literally two minutes or less - go ahead and do it. If it's going to take more than that, put it on your to-do list. 

Tip 3: Say no nicely.

It's widely believed that the most productive people know how to say "no" in a considerate, polite way. In fact, Warren Buffett even says that it's one of the secrets to his success. But how do you say "no" to your team and your boss without letting anyone down, going against directives or being seen as rude?

The reality is that not everything is equally important, and you're not always the right person to help. Determining who is the right person for the job, when it is required, and why it's important will give you enough information. This way, you'll know whether it's a task for you or not - and if it's more important than your current top priorities.

If not, your answer is simple, polite and helpful: "I am working on X, X and X, which are also high priorities. I unfortunately can't help you with that today." Or, if it's your boss who is asking, say ""I am working on X, X and X; is this project more important than those other items?"


Tip 4: Take notes.

Keep a notebook with you to jot ideas, notes, tasks and more. That way, your brain isn't filled with "I need to remember to do X, keep track of Y and talk to Z," which can add stress and make you feel overwhelmed. With today's smart phones, you always have a notebook - and you don't even need to remember a pen.

Tip 5: Watch your clock.

You have at least an 8 hour workday, and 5-10 top priorities. That means that each priority should take about an hour, depending on the day and the task. Track how much time you spend on specific items on your priorities list so that you know if you're wasting time, or if you chronically underestimate how much time it will take you to finish a project.

With a clearer understanding of your capacity and the time you need, you'll be able to communicate clearly your bandwidth, set yourself up to exceed expectations and successfully manage your time.

Tip 6: Sleep!

In order to be productive, you need to be happy, healthy and energized. Your health is a priority, not only for your personal life, but for your work life, too. Sleep is one of the most important elements of mental and physical health.  Making sure that you get enough sleep is a necessary way to prepare yourself for an energized, productive day at work.


Tip 7: Reach email nirvana.

Schedule specific time to review emails. Otherwise, you end up spending a little time, all the time, on your emails. This may be a quick check-in with your inbox every few hours, or more depending on your company culture.

Take it one step further by only reading each email once. When you get an email, read it and decide what to do with it. Either respond, forward it or archive it. If it's simply information you want to keep, consider where to put it and how to mark it, so that you can quickly find it when you need it.

Tip 8: Tidy up.

Taking small, positive steps can generate momentum and lead to larger productive actions. In that spirit, take a few moments to tidy up your work space or your computer's desktop, so that you feel accomplished and ready to tackle the next item on your list. 

Tip 9: Delegate, delegate, delegate.

We want to help our teams, contribute actively, and show our commitment to success. Often, that means taking on more responsibility or helping out on more projects than we can reasonably handle. Instead of trying to do every task yourself, train yourself to think "How can this get done?" If you're not an expert, it's worth considering delegation. This may mean delegating to a colleague, or an outside company that will be able to get it done faster and more effectively.

[Read More: Are You Delegating these 3 Areas of Compliance Yet?]


Tip 10: Consistently reduce distractions.

Distractions are productivity killers, so it's important that you do everything you can to reduce them. This may be as simple as silencing your phone or listening to ambient music, or as complicated as installing software to help you stay focused. Pay attention to distractions while you're working, and be proactive in limiting them.

Tip 11: When it doubt, search it.

Search engines are your friends, and so are social networking sites for the industry. If you're spending more than 10 minutes trying to find a resource, learning how to do something new, or struggling with a vendor's software, you're probably spending too much time.  When you have a question or an issue, don't burn 30 minutes trying to answer it - know where to get help. 

Social sites like CBANC, BOL and BankersAdvice are designed for financial institutions, and the communities there are proactive in providing resources and answering questions. And your vendors should have highly responsive support agents to help you fix problems - 24 hours to respond, at the very most. If not, your vendor isn't a very helpful one and you can probably do better. 


Tip 12: Enjoy your procrastination time.

Procrastination is an important part of productivity. Our brains need a break, and sometimes getting a little closer to the deadline is just the motivation we need. So don't waste that time by scrolling through your social media. Instead, enjoy your procrastination time!

Take those 10 minutes to learn something new, read a fun article in a celebrity magazine, meditate or talk to your friends at work. You'll feel like the time was well-spent, and you won't beat yourself up about taking a little break.

Tip 13: Batch similar to-dos.

Think like a computer and batch similar to-dos into one process. For example, if you have to respond to ten emails, do them all at once, at a scheduled time. 

You wouldn't drive to the grocery, drive home, and then drive back to the gas station. Take the same approach to your work, and do related, similar or proximal tasks at the same time to streamline your day.

Tip 14: Schedule walking meetings.

Many Americans don't get enough exercise throughout the day. A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy for our hearts, our muscles and our minds. To address this, schedule standing or walking meetings for one-on-one discussions or small brainstorming sessions. Not only will you be getting your steps in, you may also find that going outside or around your building will help job your mind and inspire creativity.

Tip 15: Share some encouragement.

Healthy teams communicate with each other about both positives and negatives. Take a little time to share words of praise or encourage your teammates, especially if you know they're working on an important project. This small act of kindness will help to improve your culture and team spirit, and will likely keep you motivated, too! After all, one of the best ways to attract good will is to spread it. 

TRUPOINT Viewpoint: Most of these hacks will take less than five minutes. Most importantly, they're designed to establish or strengthen healthy habits. These time-saving, stress-reducing habits will keep improving your work life, day after day, month after much an year after year. 

We speak with financial institution professionals regularly who are stressed or overwhelmed. Compliance is a big job, full of risk, pressure and scrutiny. We understand the difficult position that many bankers today are dealing with, and are here to help.

With this blog post, as well as our solutions and our free resources, we aim to make your life easier and be a real partner in your job. As always, please let us know how we can help.


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