By Matt Aitchison
Intentionality. A very impressive sounding word, but what does it mean?
Intentionality literally means being deliberate or purposeful, but for me, the word goes much deeper. You likely spend all your time talking to clients about their hopes and dreams for the future. But what about you? What kind of life do you want to live now and in the future?
Too many of us float through life in personal and business terms. When was the last time you remarked to someone, where has the year gone? I don’t know about you, but I felt like summer turned to autumn very quickly this year! Time can drift away in the wind and you suddenly find days, weeks, months and years disappearing. The way I find to combat this is with intentionality. For me, being intentional is trying to live every moment on purpose, but what does that mean in practice?
Start With You
Let’s start with you… what do you want your life to look like? What hours do you want to spend working? What hours do you want to spend with your family? What about your health and hobbies? A useful exercise is to think about your perfect week. When would you wake up? Which hours would you work? Where would you eat lunch and who with? What about your evenings? Which days would you work? What about your free days? What would you do and who would you spend them with?
At times, work time can creep up and either reduce leisure time or take over your home life. You can’t let it. It sounds fairly alarmist, but the clock is ticking! You can’t get back time that has already gone. If you think back to last week, how much time did you spend doing things that made you unhappy or didn’t fulfill an important purpose?
I try to be very intentional about most things I do. For instance, for me, family is massive. I am very aware that I cannot go back in time to when my children are young, so I cherish every moment. I prioritise and make time for them as much as possible.
I also recognise that being healthy in terms of regular exercise and eating well helps me feel happy, energised and able to make the most of the day. Anything that doesn’t contribute to either living that intentional life or moving closer to it isn’t important. For instance, I don’t watch much television at all. Purely my choice, there are other things I would rather spend my time doing!
Bringing Intentionality To Your Practice
For business owners, senior managers, and financial planners who are in charge of their own clients, this intentionality applies just as much.
Every business starts with a vision. It might be a big world domination vision. Or it might be a small, earn money for your family and look after your clients’ visions. But after a few years many people find that the business they are building is not quite as they envisaged. They might be working too many hours, looking after too many clients, doing unfulfilling work and/or not making a healthy profit.
Intentionality means making a conscientious decision about the business you want to build. What kind of work would make you happy and fulfilled? This includes thinking about the number and types of clients you want to spend time with.
As a sole adviser, you can’t take on everyone as clients. The best analogy I’ve heard is that every adviser’s capacity is represented by an aeroplane with 100 seats. Each seat is a client relationship. If you only had 100 seats to fill, you would be very intentional about who you put in those seats. Every client would need to meet certain criteria. Maybe they would be nice to work with, profitable to service, or have a situation where you could add massive value in helping them achieve their goals. With only 100 seats, you can’t afford to get this wrong too many times!
Why 100 seats? Because time is a finite resource. If you are looking after more than 100 clients, it will likely start to impact on the service you can deliver and your happiness. While I appreciate the client capacity will vary amongst advisers, the principle remains the same. Work/life balance is an overused phrase, but in this instance it absolutely applies.
If you’re being very intentional about the business you are building, every business decision can then be mapped towards intentionality. The central question is does this business decision help me move toward or maintain the intentions I have for my business and my life? If yes, do it. If not, why spend time on it?
In our profession, we spend our days helping people figure out the life they want to live and helping them get there. I see our own intentionality as an extension of this. It’s just a version of walking the talk!
A version of this article was published on Clear Vision Financial Planning Limited’s website.
Matt Aitchison is a Chartered Financial Planner, Certified Financial PlannerTM and Managing Director at Clear Vision Financial Planning Limited. In his free time, Matt loves spending time with his wife and four daughters, making memories and generally enjoying life.