How to Manage Long Hours Closing Deals Without Losing Your Mind
by Cyrus Grant
It’s no secret that working as an analyst in finance and M&A means putting in some serious hours. There isn’t really a way around that — and we’re not here to pretend that there is.
But, there are things you can do to manage those hours without losing your mind, or making mistakes that will come back to bite you. Here are some tips for how to make marathon days (or marathon weeks and months) a bit more manageable.
1. Time Tracking
Well duh. There’s zero chance you haven’t heard of time tracking, but that doesn’t mean you’ve actually taken the time to implement it. Adding time tracking to your agenda when you already don’t have enough time in the day might feel counterproductive, but over time it’ll help you see where you can shave a few minutes here and there, and that stuff adds up.
When keeping track, try and separate your daily agenda into categories.
Time spent on important tasks — This is how much time you spent doing tasks and reports with strict and fast-approaching deadlines.
Time spent on non-urgent tasks — This is how much time you spent doing little tasks like catching up on some emails or other small things around the office.
Time spent due to inefficiency — Once you see where you’re spending your time, try and figure out if there are more efficient ways to complete some of those tasks. It might be a pain, but investing some time early on can add up to time saved down the road.
Pay attention to how much time you waste — At the end of the day, try and add up how much time you wasted on trivial stuff. Whether it’s scrolling on your phone, browsing the internet, or reading in-depth spread analysis for this Sunday’s games, note it down. After a while, you’ll realize when you’re doing it in the moment, and it’ll be easier to pull yourself out of the hole. That way you can go home a little earlier and do those things in more comfortable clothes.
2. Learn the Shortcuts
Excel, Word, Powerpoint…whatever tools you use, learn the shortcuts. It might seem obvious, but take the time to learn if there is a quicker way to input tasks that you are doing regularly. Those keystrokes add up, and why do more when you can do less?
Some simple excel shortcuts that can save you time:
Shift+space to select row
Ctrl+space to select column
Alt+; to select visible cells
Ctrl+; to insert current data
Alt+W+V+G to hide and unhide grid lines
Alt+E+S+V to paste special values
Alt+H+O+I to autofit cell to its contents
Alt+N+V+T to insert PivotTable
Alt+W+F+F to freeze panes
3. Use the Right Software
There is no shortage of programs and software that aim to do all the tasks and provide all the services you might need. But not all providers are created equal.
Get the right VDR
If you’re in M&A, you know VDRs. They all aim to securely store important and confidential information while controlling who can see what. Some do it better than others. CapLinked is one of those better VDR providers.
CapLinked’s VDR is nothing like the clunky dinosaur your team uses because their rep took your entire floor out for drinks. It combines industry-leading security credentials with a quick and modern UI. This means spending less time navigating weird, old technology, and more time spent actually getting your deals done. We’re talking 30 minutes or less to set up a CapLinked data room. At the end of the day, a win for everybody involved.
Find Tools to Help You Automate
This isn’t the Terminator. Use technology and automation on things like reconciling accounts. Even for simple things like scheduling emails or automatic replies (Gmail has templates you can set to auto-reply to certain emails and keywords and Outlook has a ton of integrations you can use to help automate everything from outreach to to-do lists). Let the robots do it.
4. Don’t Neglect Your Health
You know how to do your job. That’s not an issue. But, if you fail to take care of yourself, your performance and mental health will suffer.
Cliche, you’ve read it a hundred times, but it’s important. Trying to block off time to exercise when you work 80+ hours a week can feel near impossible, but finding a way to fit in some consistent physical activity will actually help you work better. Research shows that regular exercise can improve concentration, increase mental stamina, and even lower stress. Think of it this way — exercise makes you better at your job.
Who has time for breaks? It might feel counterproductive, but taking breaks can actually help reduce the amount of time you have to spend at work. Studies show that even small breaks can actually improve your ability to focus. Better focus = better results = better checks.
How do we have all this technology, yet no one can provide meal replacement pills? Until that product is patented, you’re stuck having to cut out time from work to eat. While delivery apps can be a blessing when time is really tight, it isn’t typically the healthiest way of getting in your macros.
If you know you have a big week coming, try to meal prep (or, you know, hire a chef to meal prep for you) so you have food ready to keep you energized and productive throughout the day. Whatever you do, don’t skip meals!
5. Maximize Your Leisure Time
Working at the big firms means leisure time is limited. That’s just how it goes. So, make sure when you do get some time to yourself, you’re using it to do something that’s good for your mental health. Whether it’s reading a book, working out, or just straight-up vegging out, make sure you squeeze in whatever “me time” you can. (And no, blowing off steam over bottles of Patron doesn’t count as leisure time well spent!)
6. Reward Yourself
You don’t work long hours for nothing. While a done deal might be rewarding for some, don’t forget to actually reward yourself for a job well done. Whether it’s allowing yourself to go to your favorite restaurant, getting those shoes you’ve been eyeing for months, or just sitting down for an episode of your favorite show, setting rewards for yourself will help power you through your tasks.
While new things and fancy restaurants are always fun, setting up productive rewards throughout the day is also a beneficial strategy for burning through your work hours. Schedule rewarding tasks between demanding tasks. By doing this you’ll break up the tedious stuff but stay productive throughout the day (and night).
7. Ask for Help
Yes, everyone is busy. But occasionally everyone also needs help. While it might not always be realistic to get help at work, it’s just as okay to ask for help outside of work. When you know you have a sprint of especially long days ahead of you, see if a family member or friend can help with some stuff around the house. Just remember to return the favor when you can.
There’s only so much you can really do when it comes to making long hours better. But that doesn’t mean you should do nothing. While implementing any of these things might seem small or trivial, they’ll help slow down the wear and tear of constantly being in work mode, meaning you’ll not only work better in the long term, but you’ll live better too.