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Paraplanner Pointers: Workload management

24 October 2018

In Paraplanner Pointers we highlight tips from your paraplanning peers and others that you can use in your working day to speed up processes, become more efficient and generally get things done in a better way.

Here we report some of the tips offered at the recent national Powwow in a discussion between paraplanners, hosted by Elsa Ordonez Garcia and Rebecca Tuck, around how best to deal with managing an often hectic daily workload.

Powwows are held under Chatham House rules, which allows us to report on what was said but not who said it.

In a discussion taking in time and workload management, questions arose around how to deal with an often pressured environment, where work overload was difficult to deal with and pressure from advisers to deal with their ‘urgent’ cases was difficult to handle.

in terms of individual productivity, the consensus was that it was always best to deal with the important or more complex cases first. “It can seem easier to do the smaller or easier items to get them out of the way but it’s a false economy,” one paraplanner advised. “It is important to be disciplined, to create a priority list and to stick to it”

They used the jar of pebbles analogy, where a set number of large, small and tiny pebbles needed to be fitted into a jar. Putting the smaller and tiny pebbles into the jar first could mean the larger pebbles would not then fit, whereas putting the larger pebbles in first, ensured they were all in the jar and the smaller pebbles could be fitted around the edges, filling rest of the jar with the tiny pebbles, so that every pebble could be accommodated.

Another paraplanner said she found it beneficial to take five minutes to make a list of what needed to be done. This could be at the beginning of the day or at the end. She said she found it was best done last thing at night before she left the office, that way she left work at work and could enjoy family time without thinking about what she might need to do tomorrow and she could start the day running in the morning, knowing exactly what she had to do and in what priority from the moment she got into work.

Taking a reverse calendar approach was also recommended as effective. This starts with the end point and works backward, blocking out the time in advance of the deadline. It can also be used to show how long a task or case will take.

Another important but often overlooked or ignored way to manage workload was to delegate. “Paraplanners can be perfectionists and like to control things but delegation is the key to success,” said one paraplanner. “Don’t think you have to do everything. Don’t do something, for example, that admin can do better. Delegation will help focus on what you do best and will help you make the best use of your time.”

Adviser urgent cases

Where a paraplanner may have two (or more) advisers demanding that their work is urgent and needs to be done first, the most effective way to deal with the situation, it was suggested, if possible, is to get them together and have them decide which is the most important case and so which needs to be done first. Then, depending on the complexity of the case, the paraplanner can tell each of them when they are likely to get their case back.

“If you tell people when you can fit in the next case, if they want it done faster, then they have to ask someone else. “In that situation you often find that urgency is very subjective.”

Setting realistic expectations of how much you can do and by when is also key. One paraplanner recommended allocating more time per case than was needed. “If you say it will take three days and you deliver in two it is appreciated. It also acts as a buffer where real emergencies occur.”


Having a focus on what needs to be done and selecting the priority task at a time was also important, it was suggested.

One paraplanner said that after reading the book The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results she had stopped trying to multi-task and focussed instead on getting one big thing a day done. “It really helps productivity.”

In this respect, she added, it also paid off to work out when you work best and do the important things that need to get done when you are at your best.

A final and fundamental means of addressing workload issues was not to get into lengthy email exchanges on an issue or case, instead pick up the phone. “You’ll find you can get something resolved far quicker, especially if it is complicated.”


Professional Paraplanner