Ask a dozen real estate professionals what their biggest challenge is and many of the will say they don’t have enough time. It certainly feels that to many of us.
A truth about time
One truth about time is everyone of us has exactly the same number of hours in a day – 24. We can break that down many ways – 86,400 seconds in a day, the number of hours in a week (168) and hours in a year (8,760), etc. But no matter how you slice it and dice it, we all have a limited amount of time. I find it helpful to remember this when I’m struggling with the time to get things done; it puts my problem into perspective.
Urgent vs. Important
Years ago I read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the most important ideas in that book for me was coming to understand the difference between what is truly important and what is only urgent.
The exact details will differ for each person, but it boils down to this. If I’m to be successful I need to pay more attention to what’s really important and less to what seems urgent.
For example, when my kids were little, they led in importance. I had to put most of their needs ahead of my own and those of my business. These days my kids are adults and although they are still important I won’t interrupt a business phone call to take one from them.
As a writer, getting the writing done is important – answering unscheduled calls is not. As a real estate agent I’m going to figure the clients who are close to signing are more important than figuring out what slogan you want on my new year’s calendar give-away. The sales person calling me about that calendar may make it sound urgent, but chances are it’s not truly important and can be postponed to a more convenient time or skipped altogether.
Smart phones may be the worst
Smart phone, clever as they are, my be the worst in terms of creating a false urgency that interrupts the important. Think of how many times a day you’re taken off what you’re doing because your cell phone buzzes or chirps or rings.
No, I’m not suggesting you get rid of your smart phone – I have and use one too, and at times they are invaluable. I have, however, found out how to turn the darn thing off, including silencing all sounds it might make trying to get my attention. Right now it’s sitting next to my keyboard, recharging, but it won’t interrupt me because I’ve turned it off. I do this in the car too. Using a headset may be legal, but I find it too distracting and there is nothing going on in my life that needs attention right now. That’s what texting and voicemail is for.
After all, I pay for the phone and the time it’s used. It really is my decision on how I use it and at least for me, answering it whenever it rings is more distraction than anything else.
To do lists
I keep a to do list going. I like checking things off as I complete them. I also think the folks who say getting stuff on my to do list gets it out of my head are right. I use a free version of a program called ToDoist. There are many available online that will work on all your devices.
I also prioritize my to do list according to the Important vs. Urgent. Usually I get the important things done and one of two of the urgent completed each day. Sometimes I don’t and have to postpone both kinds to the next day or the next week or the next month or… but when I look back over the week I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve accomplished.
If I find there’s something I think is important I’m not getting done, I look more closely. Sometimes I can break it into chunks and approach it that way. Once in awhile I’ll discover it isn’t important at all and can dump it entirely.
Generous space around appointments
I also keep a calendar and when I set appointments or schedule events I work to create a generous space around them. That is, if I have a 9 am appointment I’ll block out at least 10 minutes before and after as well. If I have to drive there I’ll block drive time plus 10 or at both ends. My goal is to have a bit of time before and after each appointment to center or ground or double check some papers or enough time so if there’s a minor traffic delay I’m not frantic.
Delegation with trust
Delegating tasks to others is a great way to free up time. To make this work, however, micromanaging won’t work – I won’t delegate to anyone I don’t trust to do the job at least as well as I do it. I’ve learned that once someone is trained I need to let go and let them do their job. Do mistakes happen? Of course, but no more, and sometimes considerably fewer than I would make. It turns out that some people are much better equipped mentally to do certain types of tasks than I am. I love it when I can delegate to someone like that.