FPA Book Club: Learning Instead Of Overloading

Submitted by Scott Nelson, CFA, CFP® - Director, Professional Issues Committee

Last month, Josh Wolberg wrote about the importance for the financial professional to stay well informed. He suggested ways to stayed informed from listening to books while commuting to taking part in FPA of Minnesota’s soon to be launched book club. I can understand why we professionals don’t read much more than we have to. There is just too much with the latest magazine issue every week, a new research report every day, two dozen emails every hour, a new social media post every 5 minutes. In the information age, digital media has settled on the carpet bombing approach for wrangling a few moments of our attention. It has never been easier to find the answer to a client question and yet it has never been more difficult to stay informed.

All financial professionals face the same prospect that there is too much information and no good way to filter it all. What can a busy professional do to be effective against this onslaught? Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. advises overloaded executive clients to filter to the extreme by doing the following:

  • Check emails only a couple times a day, have an assistant sort out the nonessential stuff.
  • Stay focused on the problem at hand. When checking emails or doing web searches don’t get sidetracked by links to off topic items that sound compelling.
  • Give up the delusion that you can be well-informed on everything. Rely on others for their expertise in areas you can’t easily stay current on.
  • Stop trying to multi-task. Rather than being an essential skill of the productive professional, research has shown that multi-tasking lowers productivity. Research participants who multitasked were 30% slower and more prone to make errors than participants that completed tasks in sequence.

The executives quoted in the McKinsey article on handling overload, all found time to shut off their digital devices and focus on something that refreshed them – exercise, yoga, reading whatever they wanted. I think the FPA of Minnesota book club can be that tonic for the overloaded professional - a diversion from the digital noise; a chance to focus on one concept; an opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn from their experience.

Financial professionals and advisors in particular, face the tough prospect of trying to keep up to date on so many topics that it can be easy to feel overloaded with information that is quickly lost and never utilized. How often have you read an interesting and informative article that was never acted on? It is our vision that the FPA of Minnesota’s book club be an enjoyable experience where the opportunity to focus and interact with colleagues makes learning fun and useful. Wasn’t it those classes that were fun, the ones that we remember best? Here’s your opportunity to read an entire book, maybe discuss it with friends over a glass of wine and probably learn a thing or two you will not forget.