Don’t be down in the 1st Quarter

So now the rollercoaster ride that was 2020 is finally over and our cart has passed through the gates of this brand new year; with vaccinations well under way and a small but growing feeling of optimism that we’ll be back to some form of normality by the summer months becoming more of a reality then a distant dream, to steal a line from a 90’s chart topping physicist (and clearly showing my age!), “things can only get better”!

But now the confetti has been swept away, the balloons have been let down and the new year resolutions are hopefully still intact (?!), what this also means is we have officially entered Q1 and as many of my fellow comrades in the Employee Benefits and General Insurance broking industry know, it’s time to buckle up and hold on tight as a crazy busy few months await us!

Working in the Employee Benefits industry for just over a decade now, I’m certainly no stranger to the odd meltdown during this first period of the year when your workload is especially high and the pressure is on to hit the ground running and start the year strong, but as the saying goes ‘with experience comes wisdom’ and one positive thing 2020 has taught us all is that a healthy work/life balance is very good for both our physical and mental health and wellbeing. With that in mind I would like to share some advice and tips that I hope can help not only those in the broking industry, but anybody who finds themselves in a high-pressure work environment whether it be in Quarter 1 or any other time of the year of that matter.

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail!

Early preparation is key! Q1 obviously falls just after Christmas and naturally it can be very difficult to get your mind focussed on the year ahead when approaching the festive period or other similar quieter times of the year, spare yourself some time to look at your forthcoming renewals and projects for the upcoming quarter and beyond. You can do this by:

• Updating and creating files for approaching renewals and projects, this is a real timesaver!
• Look at the last renewal, what happened and are there any points to consider that you can start addressing ahead of this upcoming renewal.
• Send a quick message or give your client a quick call to remind them that the renewal is approaching and are there any questions they would like to ask ahead of time to get a head start on proceedings.
• Speak to the holding insurer and request that the terms are sent over as soon as possible with any other relevant information that you require to get started straight away.

Time management

Growing up as an aspiring chef, I was taught that one of the main keys to cooking the perfect meal is down to timing and this can be applied to many things in life especially in an environment filled with targets and deadlines!

Start your week by sizing up your outstanding tasks and consider how long they will take you. Simpler jobs that take less time to complete are tempting to be put to the side whilst you work on finishing that 40 page report due in 2 weeks however addressing these smaller tasks is just as important and they can have a tendency to pop up out of nowhere and start multiplying like gremlins when neglected, so before you know it you’ll become overwhelmed and at risk of missing deadlines!

What I have learnt is that it is better to diarise your tasks as well as setting yourself follow up reminders, allocate some time for that report, maybe book out a couple of hours in the afternoons or your usual quieter time of day giving you time to tackle the smaller tasks properly and thus freeing up your time to fully focus on the larger project.

Teamwork makes the dream work!

During these times where the once novel idea of home working for most has become the norm, it can understandably be easy at times to feel that you are working alone however your teammates are still there, all be it in a virtual world!

It’s important to remember that we’re all in this together at the end of the day and nobody is perfect so if you’re finding yourself under what seems like a mountain of work with tight deadlines to meet, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! Maybe one of your colleagues have some capacity within their day to lend a helping hand. You could bring this up in a team meeting or if you would prefer a more private conversation, a one-to-one chat.

The chances are that you have helped out in the past so your colleagues will be more than willing to return that favour to you!

Speak to your manager

If reaching out to your colleagues is not an option, you should also never be worried about raising your concerns regarding your workload to your line manager. Pride can be your biggest obstacle at times like this and it’s easy to find yourself feeling ashamed and as if you’re letting the side down somehow by admitting you’re struggling with your workload, but you really shouldn’t feel this way! Your line manager ultimately wants to help you achieve your best and is there to offer you support and advice where you need it, part of this is ensuring you are not drowning under your current workloads BUT as good as your manager is, they are not a mind reader so it’s up to you to bring such matters to their attention.

You could address your concerns in your one-to-one catch ups or if there is not a meeting due for some time and you need to address matters urgently, send them an invite and schedule a catch-up meeting with them. 9 times out of 10 you will find that just discussing the situation with your line manager will help you realise things aren’t quite as bad as you thought and with their support and guidance you will find the right solution together. Two heads are better than one after all!

Above all else don’t worry! You’ve got this!

The arrival of quarter 1 each year may well send shivers down our spines as we collectively groan in anticipation but let’s be honest, when you break it down, is Q1 really that different to any other quarter, any other month or any other day? Of course it’s not! You’re still the same kick arse, amazing professional you were last quarter and you’re still part of an elite team of kick arse, amazing professionals! Before you know it, the Q1 storm will pass and when the dust settles you’ll be enjoying a well earned celebratory cold one in the sun with your teammates in the warmer months of spring (fingers crossed)!

Author: Mark Pinfield | February 3, 2021

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