Time Management

HANDLING THE LANDMINES OF WASTED TIME

There are numerous challenges and landmines to the time management equation. Entrepreneurial small businesses face a large number of these challenges. As Real Estate Agents, we are owners of entrepreneurial small businesses. This business type tends to put us in the front lines, with multiple job descriptions at once, trying to drive strategic objectives in sales, marketing, management, leadership, customer service, accounting, administration, and research and development all at the same time. The probability for landmines that can blow up and wreck your day, hour, or even half hour of production is lurking around every phone call e-mail, fax, cell phone call, and meeting. My goal is to give you tools, strategies, and implementation techniques to help you achieve the highest return on investment for your time.

1 – Handling the constant stream of interruptions:

We are in a profession that we delight in the inbound sales inquiry calls. We all live for the potential Seller or Buyer who calls us to ask about a property or, better yet, about our services. The problem for most Agents is there are never enough of those and a lot more problem calls. We can compound those interruptions through the use of cell phones, pagers, and access to our home phone as well.

I believe that we are the most interrupted profession on the face of the planet. We have the highest probability of distraction, as well, especially when we add e-mail to the distraction list. We must be able to limit the access we provide people by restricting inbound calls significantly. We want those calls, and we need to be able to respond to them quickly. One tactic is to use your cell phone for the lead generation calls or what I call “money” calls. We might have to re-educate our clients whom we have listed, sold, or are securing a home for to call the office line. It would help you reduce the number of cell phone calls. The more we can direct only “money” calls to the cell phone, the more we are able to secure the other calls out for later. Certainly, another technique is to simply turn off your cell phone and only operate through the voice mail for much of the day.

Create a short list. That’s a list of people your Assistant or Receptionist knows to put through to you right away when they call. You want about half a dozen people on your short list. For me, it’s my wife, my attorney, and my father. All other people must leave a message or book an appointment for as soon as I am free. There is rarely anything in real estate sales that can’t wait an hour.

2 – Procrastination – the silent killer:

Procrastination is caused by thinking that we have more time to complete a task than we really do. It is also a lack of urgency on our part. There is a difference between procrastination and prioritization. Prioritization is the skill of a Champion. A Champion puts off the things that don’t matter as much and uses their time to do high-value activities. Procrastination is putting off everything that is challenging and difficult. The challenging and difficult items are usually the most important and valuable items. Procrastination is caused by lack of clarity in goals and lack of connecting the goals to important activities that link with the goals. The key question: Is what I am doing right now bringing me closer to or further away from the goals I have set?

Procrastination can be caused by having too many workdays available. In your mind, you can think, “I can always do that later”. It allows you to do the activities a few days later, even though today would be best. We can really fake ourselves out by not having set workdays. The old adage that work expands into the time allotted is true.

3 – Unclear vision, objectives, and priorities:

Procrastination can happen because of a lack of clarity in your vision and what you do. Why are you in real estate sales? What are your objectives for the year in gross commission income? What is the mix of your business in listing side versus Buyer controlled side? How many listings do you need to take yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly to reach your goals? How many Buyer sales do you need to make in the same time frame? What’s your conversion ratio of leads? How many leads do you need to generate and appointments do you need to make to earn your income goal? Every Agent who wants to achieve the Champion level must have clear objectives and a clear vision of what needs to happen next to accomplish their objectives.

The skill of prioritization is missing for most Agents. How you execute your priorities has a dramatic effect on your income and results. When we evaluate what our objectives and priorities are, too many Agents view them synonymously. Objectives are really the results you are aiming for in your business. Priorities are the individual steps in the right order to accomplish the objective.

Champion Rule: We have too much to do and not enough time.

Most people who are Champion Performers are running at 100% or more all the time, and there is more stuff added to their plate daily. As we get better and more successful, our opportunities and responsibilities increase.

I am blessed with more opportunities and responsibilities today than when I sold real estate. I have more now than when I founded Real Estate Champions over fifteen years ago, and fifteen years from now, there will be even more. With greater success comes greater responsibility and greater opportunities. You will also experience greater problems. As you expand your business, the problems and challenges will increase in number and difficulty. The good news is with larger problems comes larger money. We are problem solvers in the real estate business. When markets shift, problems increase, and your value as an Agent increases too. The increased responsibilities and opportunities are the circle of life from the time we were born. Wesley, my son, has more responsibilities and opportunities than his younger sister, Annabelle.

Time management myth: More successful people have fewer distractions. Because of their production and the opportunities they are constantly creating, they experience more interruptions, distractions, and challenges on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. They are, however, better at handling these demands than others. They have the ability to solve the challenges much faster. They let the negative things that happen to all of us affect them mentally for shorter periods of time. If you are a Champion Agent, like many of my clients who earn $500 an hour or more (that means each fifteen-minute block of time is worth $125), you can’t let too many of those fifteen-minute blocks slip away during the day. The control of those blocks of fifteen minutes and the attitude control is one of the main reasons they are worth $500 an hour.

Champion Rule: We will never get caught up.

For Champion Agents, there is no hope of ever getting caught up. Why would you want to? It means you are not getting new opportunities, challenges, clients, prospects to sell to, etc. It means your business has stagnated or receded. A Champion Performer will go home each day of their work life with something un-done or not completed. We could stay in the office past midnight each day, and we still would not have everything completed. We must get over the “clean up and get everything done” syndrome. The question isn’t, did we get everything done; it’s did we get the most important things done. The ability to have a system to select and execute the high-value tasks enables us to align our priorities with our objectives.

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DEALING WITH TIME-CONSUMING FIRES

Time-consuming fires are the hot issues that result from the emotional turmoil involved in many real estate transactions. Sometimes they require calm and caution; other times you need to put on a fireman’s hat and start dousing the flames of a delayed closing, emotionally frustrated buyer or seller, problem co-op agent, or slow moving inspector, appraiser, or loan officer. Let the following rules guide your responses:

Rule #1: There is no closing issue that can’t wait an hour. When your transaction hits a snag, don’t let it dramatically change your day’s schedule. Wait to resolve the issues during the time you’ve blocked for administrative tasks.

Rule #2: A frenzied reaction only adds fuel to the fire. More often than not, when one closing party gets riled it’s because someone else in the transaction is riled – and hysteria is catchy. Aim to serve as the calming influence in the transaction. If the problem arises two hours before your predetermined administrative time slot, inform the parties that you have prescheduled appointments that you can’t change, but that you will be able to take action when you get out of the appointments in two hours.

Rule #3: Fires often burn themselves out. Rather than jump into the mess, give the issue a bit of time to simmer down. Remember that your prospecting and lead follow-up tasks are appointments to which you have committed. Sticking with your daily plan may give the issue time to cool or even resolve itself.

Rule #4: Don’t wait for a three-alarm fire to call for the pump truck. If the fire becomes hot, suit up your broker right away. Before the transaction flares out of control, ask for help. The longer you delay, the more effort you’ll spend getting the situation cooled down.

 

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TEN TIME EFFICIENCY HABITS

1. Start Your Day Earlier: Get up Earlier: The key to wringing more out of your day or getting the most from your time can often be just starting your day earlier. When I have deadlines to hit and projects to complete I have the habit of getting up earlier.

It can mean that I complete my previous day earlier by going to bed earlier. If you are like me, the evening time is rarely a time that I can work on projects and important tasks. I am generally too tired to be able to focus well. I am much better off hitting my sleep pattern earlier in the evening so I can get up earlier in the morning. I have been known to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. or earlier but get up at 2:00 a.m. That way the house is quiet. I can establish a time where I can increase my high focus production time.

I find that the most successful people and time managers have one thing in common. They are early risers. The old fable “Early to bed and early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise” is true. If you just get up a half hour earlier each day, those 30 minutes add another 182 1/2 hours to your year. You gain an extra 23 days of eight-hour work days in a year. It’s like you have added more than another month to your year. You have established a wonderful new habit in only 30 minutes a day of reduced sleep.

2. Plan Your Day in Advance: Being able to plan your work and work your plan is a habit of high achievers. Establishing your objectives, priorities, and agenda for tomorrow before you leave today will increase your effectiveness in your business and life. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What didn’t I get done today?
  • What did I do really well today?
  • What could have I done better?
  • What really frustrated me today?
  • What do I wish I had been able to do today?
  • How was today on a scale of 1-10 and why?
  • What priorities do my boss, my customers, or my employees need me to accomplish?
  • What is the most important thing I need to do first tomorrow?
  • What does my family need from me when I get home?

You need to be able to ask yourself some key questions to make sure you are on the track to your habit of time management and success.

3. Eat Healthy and Exercise Regularly: That might not seem like a time management habit or tip but it is really important. When we are not in shape physically and we do not have the proper fuel for our bodies it affects our time management. It takes us longer to accomplish tasks. We waste time because we are not physically able to keep pace with others or the pace we need to complete our objectives and advance our career.

There is a direct connection between your physical health and your usage of time. If you are overweight and out of shape it takes longer to do anything and everything. It takes longer to write a report, walk from your car to the office, fix dinner, or even get dressed in the morning.

Reducing your fat intake, lowering your carbohydrates, eating lean protein, and reducing your portion sizes will help shed excess weight. Increasing our use of strength conditioning will increase our metabolism because we have increased our muscle mass and muscle will burn more calories than fat. By doing cardio vascular training three times a week such as bike riding, walking, running and swimming we can increase our stamina. You might mix up your workout to avoid boredom. Try a number of different cardio options to keep it fresh.

4. Spend Time in Quiet Time, Prayer, and Meditation: I notice a significant difference in my effectiveness, energy, accomplishments, and my time usage on days when I am on my morning routine of quiet time versus when I am off or omit it. My routine is to get up early and pray, read, and study my devotional Bible each day. When I adhere to that routine I am far more centered spiritually for the day.

To ignore the relationship between our spiritual being inside, our physical bodies, our brains, and our goals and accomplishments is to be naïve. We have a clear connection in all these areas that relates to our use of time and the effectiveness and accomplishments for our day. For me when I give the first of my day to time in “The Word”, prayer, and meditation; more gets accomplished and my time is better spent throughout the day. My focus is intensified and my overall state of mind is much calmer and more patient than if left to myself.

5. Meal Plan for the Whole Week: Whether your feelings of food are being merely fuel to your body or your view of its position is to be indulged and enjoyed, planning ahead is a wise habit to establish.

I learned this habit from my mother. She was very deliberate in meal preparation for the family. She would decide on the family meals for the week in advance. She would select the family meals based on the sale items at the store, special occasions that week and family preferences. She would map out on paper the meals and ingredients she needed to prepare the meals for her hungry family.

She would then go to the store once to collect the groceries for the week. She didn’t operate through impulse buying throughout the week. She didn’t waste her time multiple times a week trying to find a parking spot, getting a cart, walking the aisles of the store, fighting to keep toddlers controlled, waiting in the checkout line, paying the bill and using coupons, loading the groceries in the car, unloading the groceries, taking them in the house, and finally putting them away. She did that necessary part of life once a week rather than numerous times a week as most people do today. What a colossal waste of time because of our lack of vision, decision and organization.

6. Delegate Almost Everything: The best time investors delegate better than most others. They figure out what is really important, valuable, meaningful, and fun and do only those things.

The key in both personal and business life is to delegate the task or activity to the lowest paid competent person. Many of us struggle with this because we don’t want to be viewed by others as being “too good to do _________.” It’s not an elitist view we should take. It’s the efficient and also effective view. Don’t do anything unless it brings you or someone else you love joy.

I can’t say that I am big on playing dolls. I would say that like most men I didn’t grow up playing with dolls. I do know that there is an incredible amount of joy that comes to Annabelle when I get down at her level and play with her dolls. When we have tea parties with her dolls and make believe my joy comes out of seeing her joy come out of her. I wouldn’t delegate doll playing to anyone.

I would gladly and do delegate yard work and any fix it work to anyone skilled enough to take it off my hands. I am willing to pay someone to do these things that matter little to me, my family, or my business. To these things I say, “pass me a doll.”

7. Say No More Often: We all must get in the habit of saying no. We live in an overcommitted, stressed out, rushed world. We have people who want more of our time at work. We have people that want us to contribute our time to the school, the church, the Junior League, business associations, our golf club or athletic club, the kids sports teams, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, United Way, political parties, Cancer Society, MS Society, the hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs, Rotary, Lions. There is an endless list of organizations that need our help and resources. The one resource that they want the most is time.

I am not saying tell all of them no. The truth is we have to say no to some of them because we can’t do all the things most successful people are asked to do. When you become more successful people will seek you out for help. As you get better at your time management your level of success will grow. People will notice there is something different about you. They want what you have and want help because they sense something special about your skills and results. We have to learn to say no!

8. Always Use a Time Management System: Whether you use a Franklin Planner, Day Runner, Day Timer, or CRM you must use something.

You could also just create a time block schedule. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or who you are, you must have a time management system.

9. Begin Every Day at Zero: Start over and start fresh each day. Resolve to make each day a perfect ten. If you didn’t have a good day yesterday in how you managed your time, give yourself a clean slate to begin anew today. Conversely, if you had a wonderful day yesterday at your time management, don’t let your guard down. A greater day yesterday doesn’t automatically translate to a great day today in your time management. The past is history. The future is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present. Unwrap each day with anticipation and expectation of unfolding a wonderful day of production, success, fulfillment, service to others, results, and relationship building. Use your time to create the largest, best, most significant return on your time invested as possible.

10. Simplify Life: We tend to make our lives more complex than is necessary. We work to fund our lives so our work can overtake our life. Our wants tend to expand significantly beyond our imagination, can overtake our capacity and our willingness to delay our own gratification. If we are faced with ever expanding bills, increasing monthly obligations and debt it makes it difficult to invest our time in other more meaningful pursuits in life beyond working and earning a living to pay the bills.

We need to embrace the habit of being content in all our circumstances. Being content doesn’t mean stuck, or not striving for better. It just means there is a limit to the chase of keeping up with the Joneses. It doesn’t mean to give up, but to be happy and grateful for the things we do have rather than exclusively focusing on the things that we don’t.

There will always be someone with a bigger house, more houses, better cars, more cars, more money or more of anything that you might want. Contrary to pop culture, He who dies with the most toys doesn’t win; He merely dies and leaves most of his toys to the Internal Revenue Service and his family. Live your time, enjoy your time, and simplify so you are not a slave to a lifestyle. An ancient proverb says that the borrower is servant to the lender. The time of the borrower is also servant to the lender.

Want to learn more about time management? Take a look at Dirk’s free white paper, “Getting Control of Your Time Management Monster”.

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AVOIDING TIME-BLOCKING MISTAKES

Sales professionals in the top 10% of their industries share a common trait: They control, use, and invest their time more wisely and effectively than their lower-performing associates. Among sales professionals, time usage determines income.

The most significant challenge for most sales professionals is time control. Through years of study and coaching sales professionals, I’ve compiled the following list of challenges that most sales people experience when trying to master their time-block schedule.

 

Mistake #1: Making yourself too available. The biggest error that salespeople make is getting sucked into the interruption game. You need times in your schedule that are free of interruptions, during which you bar access to all but those to whom you grant exceptions. Follow this advice:

Use an effective gatekeeper to screen your calls, redirecting all minor issues, problems, challenges, and interruptions that can be handled by an assistant or some other person.

Limit the number of people who have unfiltered access to you. Create a short list of the important few people who can interrupt your schedule at any time of the day, and don’t let anyone else in during time blocked for interruption-free activities. My short list includes my wife, my father, my attorney, and a few key associates. Period. As you make your own list, include only those who are extremely important to your personal life. Very few clients find their way onto the short lists of truly successful people.

 

Mistake #2: Choosing the wrong office location and set-up. The nature of your physical office has a dramatic effect on your time management and productivity. Give serious consideration to the following two issues:

See that the size of your work environment matches the size of your practice. If you don’t have enough square footage for yourself and your staff, your production will be stunted.

I had a coaching client a few years back who worked out of 150 square feet of office space with three associates. Amazingly, even as they were tripping over each other they managed to do 150 transactions a year.

But when they moved into a new 500 square-foot office, they watched their production soar. Each team member could control time better, limit interruptions, access files, hold meetings. The expanded space allowed for an increase in discipline, talent, skill, and production.

Don’t let your physical space limit your growth opportunities. If you are crowded by your staff, you’re in the wrong physical location.

Your personal office must be private. There are too many focused activities in a day for a top producing agent to be in the bullpen of activity. If you’re surrounded by the buzz of the staff, inbound phone calls, problems, and challenges, it’s too easy to be tempted to jump in and help, tackling the issues of servicing at the expense of new business creation. The only way to control your planning and prospecting environment is to locate your practice in a private office away from distractions, other agents and staff.

 

Mistake #3: Failing to operate on an appointment-only basis. Too many Agents are willing to meet at all hours of the day and night and on a moment’s notice. By time blocking, you can create appointment slots and drive prospects into those slots, just as your doctor, dentist or attorney does.

Studies show that 80% of all prospects are willing to fit into the schedules of their professional advisors. But when they aren’t alerted to a schedule, they take control on their own, dictating the appointment time and leaving an agent like you juggling your schedule to adapt to their needs. Realtors accept this knee-jerk scheduling approach as a necessary aspect of a “service oriented” business. As if total availability equals service.

Operate as a professional on an appointment-only basis, with all appointments scheduled during time-blocked periods when you know you will be available, focused and uninterrupted by any issue other than the one your client is sharing.

 

Mistake #4: Bowing to distractions. Real estate sales is among the most interrupted and distracted professions on the face of the planet. Realtors are distracted by the constant jangle of desk phones, home phones, and cell phones.

If the phone isn’t ringing, you have the distraction of e-mail, usually interrupting you with some unsolicited miracle offer or, less often, with a new lead opportunity. Here’s a tip: Don’t derail your day just because your computer tells you that you’ve got mail. The conversion ratio of Internet leads is less than 1%. If you’re engaged in productive activities, don’t stop what you’re doing for a 1% opportunity.

Control distractions following this advice:

Block time in your day for the distractions you know you will encounter. If you want to socialize with other agents, plan a set time to do that. Just remember to keep it short and to limit the coffee klatch to the time you allocated for it.

Create a list of no more than five people that are granted instant access during your workday. Have your assistant memorize the names. If you don’t have an assistant, then work with your receptionist so that only those few people are granted unfiltered access.

Position yourself as an agent-in-command versus an agent-on-demand. Block your time and maintain your schedule. Rather than putting yourself at the beck and call of others during all hours of the day and night, work on an appointment basis, eliminate distractions, and take control of your days, your business, your income, and your life.

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