By: Daniel C. Finley

Managing Anxiety During Uncertain Times

Some financial advisors/agents find themselves running their business in a constant state of anxiety. A few examples of this are: putting out client fires, rushing off to meetings (in today’s world via video conference calls) and assessing every changing market conditions. Unfortunately, when this is the norm rather than the exception and you add in a global pandemic you can bet that growing, managing and maintaining a business is more challenging than ever.

Rose Kennedy said it best, “Neither comprehension nor learning can take place in an atmosphere of anxiety.”

Have you been running your business in an atmosphere of anxiety lately and as a result not comprehending how to best connect with your clients/prospects? And, what about this learning curve we have all found ourselves collectively on, what have been your takeaways from all of the uncertainty the past several months?

I strongly believe that there are always opportunities within any obstacle. If anxiety is a hurdle that you are experiencing then the opportunity that you have is to learn how to manage your anxiety during these uncertain times.

The following is a step-by-step process that I have utilized with one of my veteran financial advisor clients to aid him in getting off the emotional roller coaster he created during a moment of crisis.

Step 1: Identify the Cause of your Anxiety

You can never hit a target you can’t see and that is why the first step is to identify the cause of your anxiety. It might be a series of events or in the following case it might just be one. Whatever the reason, it’s obviously something that you feel is important.

Ron S. has over twenty years of experience in financial services and he would have described his emotional state as calm. That was until his assistant was out of the office for a week and he discovered fourteen client files on her desk. After reviewing each file he realized that each one had something that needed to be addressed. His state of calm grew to one of anxiety in seconds.  He recognized this was because his clients needed attention (all 14) in some manner and he was without anyone to help him.

Step 2: Know your Desired Outcome

The second step is to know exactly how you will address your anxiety.

Ron knew what he needed to do. Unfortunately, those very things were contributing to his anxiety.  He was also creating an unrealistic expectation on himself to complete it all within a timeline that wasn’t doable.

Step 3: Prioritize & Visualize your Tasks

The third step is to prioritize all tasks so you can visualize what exactly needs to be accomplished and in what order.

A tool I use with clients is the Time Matrix To-Do List (TMTD) which is a resource for prioritizing “to-dos”. Each task is assigned one of four time horizons for being completed: now, today, this week and whenever. When Ron initially filled out his TMTD, he had listed only two of the fourteen tasks, both of which he thought were “now” items. When I asked him why he didn’t add the other tasks he said he was too busy to do so. I had him add all of the other tasks so he could see the big picture. Next, we reviewed the list in greater detail and he came to the realization that none of the tasks were actually urgent. In fact, only four items required attention that day, six that week and four could be done whenever. Instantly, having re-prioritized he felt immensely in control and relieved.

Step 4: Take Action & Assess Results

The fourth step is to take action and consistently assess and evaluate your results.

Ron went to work on the four tasks that needed to be done that day. The next week we reviewed his results and he found that he had completed everything that he had mapped out.  Having done so reduced his level of anxiety and allowed him to focus much better on the tasks at hand.

Why Having a System to Manage your Anxiety Works

When it comes to anxiety you really only have two choices, you can have a system to manage your anxiety or you can have your anxiety manage you. The reason why the above steps work is because they break down the source of what’s causing the anxiety into manageable action steps. This way you are not viewing everything at once but one thing at a time.

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