Here we are. Another fourth quarter. The busy time of the year. The three-or-so months when we have little time for friends or family, or anything else for that matter. Most agents work long hours from October through December, trying to take care of their existing clients and hoping to grow their business at the same time. Unfortunately, while the fourth quarter can be an exciting time, it can also be exhausting. Most of us find it difficult to get everything done, and naturally some things slip through the cracks. In this article, we wanted to share a few ideas to help you find more time during the fourth quarter. We hope you find a few that work for you.

Work longer

One way to get more work done during the fourth quarter is simply to work longer hours. Yes, this is a bit of a sacrifice, but it’s often necessary with the increased workload. If you’re not already doing this, here are two ways to put in more time without killing yourself.

Work two more hours per day. If you normally put in 40 hours per week, an extra two hours per day is a 25 percent increase. Put another way, that’s like stretching the fourth quarter from 12 weeks to 15 weeks. Just think how much more you could sell if you had three additional weeks to do so.

The good news is that you might be able to put in the extra hours without it eating up too much of your personal time. Suppose you normally work from 8am to 5pm with an hour for lunch. And suppose your rush hour commute normally takes 45 minutes each way. By coming in 45 minutes early and leaving 45 minutes late, you may find that your commute is now only 30 minutes each way. You could save another 30 minutes by bringing your lunch instead of leaving the office to pick something up. In total, you’ll gain two hours of work time and will only be away from the house an additional hour per day.

An added bonus of getting to work early, working through lunch, and/or leaving the office early is that you’ll be more productive during that time since the phone won’t be ringing and you’ll be less likely to be interrupted by co-workers.

Here’s how productivity guru Brian Tracy explains it: “By leaving home early and getting into the office early, you will avoid most of the traffic. Since there is no one there to interrupt you, you can get started immediately. Often you will find yourself able to clear up an entire day’s work in that one hour.” (Source: 4 Time Management Steps To DOUBLE Your Productivity At Work)

Work one day on the weekend. Yes, we know the weekend is meant for rest, but you might need to put in some extra hours during the busy season. What if you worked a few hours Saturday morning and a few hours Saturday evening? If you do, you might be able to add another two- or three-weeks’ worth of work time during the fourth quarter. And then you could reward yourself after the first of the year by taking some well-deserved time off work.

Work harder

When there’s more work to do, some people put in extra hours but end up wasting time while they’re at the office. This doesn’t make any sense. If you’re at work, you should be working. Resist the temptation to chit-chat with your co-workers, complain about carriers or clients, or surf the internet while you’re at the office. Instead, put your head down and get your work done.

Don’t cut corners. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean your clients need to suffer. They’re trusting you to provide them with the best advice and guidance possible, and that’s exactly what you should do. Too often, agents try to renew a client as is without doing their due diligence and shopping the market to see if there is a better option. Make sure your clients know they have the best plan for their company or their family, and make sure everyone knows how to use their benefits. In other words, every client deserves your full attention while you’re working on their policy. Don’t be too busy to help them.

Try to complete tasks so you don’t have to come back to them later. This is important. When you start a task, try to complete it. Sometimes that last step or two—documenting what you did in the client database, printing out important emails, filing away the paperwork—seems to slip through the cracks. Don’t let it. Unless you take the extra few minutes to finish the task completely, you’ll have the nagging feeling that it’s not done. On the other hand, when a task is 100 percent complete, you tend to breathe a sigh of relief.

Work smarter

You’ve heard the saying “work smarter, not harder.” They’re not mutually exclusive. You can work smarter and work harder, and that may be what it takes to be successful during the fourth quarter.  Here are a few ideas to work smarter and save some time.

Get organized. There’s an old time-management tip that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. It makes sense. If you want to be more efficient, it starts with being organized. If you’re not, you should change that. Doing so will pay big dividends over the next few months.

Do stuff early. This is different from saying “don’t procrastinate.” Obviously, procrastination is not the best way to be productive, but you already know that. Our suggestion here is to do whatever you can on a project as soon as you can. When you get the renewal from the carrier, go ahead and send it to your clients. Don’t wait for the insurer to send it. Go ahead and get the ball rolling – you may get some quick responses from clients saying that they want to go ahead and renew as is.

Eliminate your time drainers. Are there tasks you’re doing that no longer serve their original purpose? Perhaps you’re printing and filing information that you can easily retrieve from some other source. Perhaps you’re preparing a weekly newsletter that you know your clients aren’t reading. Perhaps you’re putting uncompetitive quotes from other carriers on a spreadsheet when your clients would just take your word for it that they’re not competitive. Whatever it is, if you can eliminate non-productive tasks, you can save a huge amount of time. Plus, you won’t feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.

Outsource tasks that someone else can do. A related suggestion is to outsource tasks that someone else can do. If you’re the only salesperson in your office but there are other people who can prepare quotes or print employee packets, then you should focus on selling and let them do the other work. If you spend your time running quotes, then you’ll certainly miss out on some sales. Similarly, you shouldn’t get too involved in employer compliance requirements when you can recommend a third-party administrator who can help your clients.

Discover your peak time. One final way to work smarter is to recognize the time of the day when you are most productive and use that time to complete your most difficult or thought-intensive tasks. For some people, that’s early in the morning. For some, it’s at night. What a waste to be sitting in traffic or doing data entry at the time of day when you feel most productive or do your best thinking. If you want to be more productive, you may need to adjust your work schedule.

Have fun!

This suggestion might be the most important of all. Try to enjoy the fourth quarter. Yes, it is possible… As an insurance agent, you’re helping people get coverage to protect themselves and their family members from big, unexpected, and costly medical bills. That’s important work that you should feel good about. You also get to meet new people and build relationships that you’ll have for years. That’s one of the perks of the job, so remember to count your blessings while at work. There are certainly worse jobs out there.

You should also try to enjoy the time that you’re not at work. After all, that’s why you do what you do, isn’t it? There are several holidays during the fourth quarter, so in addition to the busy time of the year, it’s also supposed to be the fun time of the year. With that in mind, here are two suggestions for you:

Take time to rest and spend time with family. Sure, you might be working longer hours, but if you take our advice you’ll still have time in the evening and at least one day on the weekend to spend with your family. Try to leave work at work. When you’re at home, give your loved ones your full attention.

Eat right and get plenty of sleep. When you’re putting in more hours at work, it’s easy to skip meals, eat more junk food, and get less sleep. Try to resist this temptation. If anything, you need to eat better and sleep more when you’re busy. Remember, food and sleep is how your body re-fuels and re-energizes. If you want be at peak performance, you need to take care of yourself.

Have other suggestions? Let us know!

While some of our ideas are common sense, and while you may already be doing most of them, we hope you can find a nugget or two that you can apply to your business. And if you have any other ideas that might help your fellow agents, please let us know. We’d love to share them and will be happy to give you credit for the suggestion. Thanks!