There are scores of time management articles written for real estate brokers, and many of them boil down to one sage piece of advice: buy a comfortable schedule by outsourcing the “little things” to someone else.
Unfortunately, that’s not a practical solution for everyone. Even the cheapest options (like an overseas virtual assistant) cost money that you may not have if you’re just starting out.
This article is written for you. Below, you’ll find time management tips that (mostly) won’t cost you a thing.
Start With One Thing
The hardest part about getting started on your time management journey is…well…getting started. By the time you start looking for advice, you’re already overwhelmed. Learning and practicing time management probably just feels like one more thing to add to the pile.
That’s why it’s important to build your time management skills slowly. If you try to implement a whole transformative system, you’ll probably fall off the wagon sooner than later. This article is intended to help you start small and build new habits. If any of these suggestions feel too big, feel free to implement only part of it. Every little bit will help.
Take Control of Your Phone
This one is huge. In some ways, time management is largely stress management. In a world of 24/7 distractions from the gremlin in your pocket, the best way to increase your productivity is to take control of your phone. You’ll find immediate relief from that harried, pulled-in-too-many-directions feeling.
How to tackle this one:
- Decide on a reasonable frequency for returning communications during your work day – we suggest 2 hours. It’s frequent enough that no one feels neglected but still leaves a good block of time for concentration.
- Mark out a schedule for your check-ins, avoiding times when you definitely won’t be able to communicate (for example, a weekly office meeting).
- Set a reminder alarm for each check-in. Keep it unique and discreet.
- Record a new voicemail greeting as well text and skype autoresponses that set clear expectations for the wait (ie, “I’ll call back within 2 hours”).
- Turn off ALL notifications for social media, games, and other entertainment apps.
- Mute your communications apps at the beginning of every workday. You can get pretty sophisticated with this on modern smartphones – create exceptions for anyone who should be able to reach you even when it’s not convenient (your kid’s school, for instance, or the couple with a scheduled showing that day). There are tips for handling this on Android phones and iPhones, or you can search for apps that automate your settings by time and place.
- Remember that the goal is to avoid interruption, not to become inaccessible. If you have a moment of downtime, glance through your messages for anything urgent.
- Stick to your guns for a solid two weeks, then assess. Do you need to check in more often? Less? Are there some people you need to add or remove from your exceptions list? (Hint: anyone who contacts you more than once a day should be removed). Most importantly, is this strategy working for you, and can you make it work better?
Expect to have to help people adjust to this new world order – after all, they’re used to getting a response from you nownownow. If a client or colleague complains, explain that your new resolution is to give each client your full attention without distractions. That will benefit them, too!
Prioritize Your Day
Take 15 minutes at the start of each day to be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Most of us have a to-do list that’s twice as long as what can actually get done.
Some questions to help you decide where to put your time that day:
- Does the item have a direct, measurable impact on success?
- What are the possible consequences of not doing that item today?
- Is there an external deadline for the item? How immovable is it?
- Can you accomplish the goal of that item in a different, less time-consuming way?
You don’t have to tackle the items in order of importance, necessarily, but you should be able to identify which items HAVE to get done today. Decide when and how you’re going to get those items done, and then arrange your other tasks around them. Remember to include travel time and other hidden time costs.
Acquire and Leverage a Good CRM
This is our exception to our tips not costing a thing. Finding a good CRM and making full use of its features will help you become more organized, efficient, and effective. You can automate routine communications, decrease your response time, set up tasks and events for each client so you don’t drop the ball, keep them engaged with personalized drip marketing, and track lead sources to make the most of your ad dollars. It also gives you a complete record for each client that you can access from any device, which will help you keep details straight and build long-term relationships.
Fuel your Machine
It’s easy to justify skipping meals when you’re overwhelmed. The problem is, it’s counterproductive. When you go prolonged periods without food, your concentration goes down the drain and your energy bottoms out. Every task is going to take you longer and feel more insurmountable. You’ll be more likely to make mistakes and less likely to catch them.
Start carrying snacks and set a reminder on your phone. Plan for portable foods that give you long-term energy.
You should also take a real, honest-to-goodness lunch break. Your brain needs a break from stress and concentration. Block at least thirty solid minutes in which you do not work. At all. For any reason. Find something that helps you take your mind off work – reading a book for pleasure, catching up with a loved one on Facetime, watching one episode of a show you love on your phone. Taking a nap. Make it something you enjoy.
When you’re back on the clock with a full stomach and a rested mind, you’ll have a second wind for the afternoon.
There are many excellent resources for advanced time management, but these should keep you from drowning if the water feels too deep. Remember to take it slow – focusing on one technique at a time will help you build habits that will ensure better time management for years to come.