• Make a daily plan and stick to it.
  • Factor in time for the things that send your schedule off track.
  • You don't have to say yes to every person, event or commitment that comes your way.

If one of your 2016 New Year’s resolutions is to conquer time management, you are not alone. Do a Google search on “time management tips for Realtors” and you’ll find more than 47 million results.

Obviously this is a popular topic and one that many of us need help with. So here are a few tips, from me to you, to help you accomplish your goals.

1. Have a plan 

Plan your day, or you’ll find yourself trapped by letting others plan it for you. Create timeframes when you will show homes or go on listing appointments, time to be in the office, time for lunch and other breaks and time for yourself.

If someone wants an appointment when you are supposed to be doing something else, offer them a choice of alternate times if possible. It sounds easy, but it’s actually hard to put into practice until you make this a habit.

For example, I book appointments in the morning, spend mid-day in the office and then go on appointments late afternoon and evening again. This time-blocking works for me.

Agents know when they can find me in the office, and when I’m likely to be in the car or with a client. It also avoids the hectic in the office, in the car, back in the office, back in the car hustle that wastes time and energy.

2. Give yourself a buffer zone 

Are you packing too many appointments into the day? Squeezing just one more client into the schedule might throw the whole day off when a showing runs late or the listing appointment stretches past your expected timeframe.

This leads to stress as you try to make up for lost time. If a second appointment that day runs late, you’re really off schedule. Just as you should overestimate the amount of money a project will cost you, overestimate the amount of time something will take.

Do you think a closing will be an hour? Allocate 90 minutes on your calendar. Don’t forget to factor in drive time between appointments, and again, overestimate this figure.

If it should take 15 minutes to get across town, plan on 20. That way you won’t panic when you hit traffic or get behind a school bus.

3. Set realistic expectations 

Setting expectations is crucial, but be sure they are realistic.

For example, if a buyer wants to see 17 properties in one day, is this reasonable? The buyer might think this is the only way to see everything in his price range in one trip, but by the end of that day, everyone is likely to be tired, mixed up (which property had the green countertops?) and cranky.

Instead, try to weed out marginal properties and ask the buyer to rank them in groups of A (must see), B (might be nice) and C (bottom of wish list). Send links to Google Maps and sites where they can investigate the neighborhoods beforehand.

Counseling the buyer beforehand will help set the tone for the visit and make sure you’re all on the same page. A buyer with unrealistic expectations will become an unhappy buyer.

4. Take a break 

The days when you are rushing from one appointment to another it might seem almost impossible to take a break, but that’s precisely when you need it most.

Plug in time for lunch every day on your calendar, even if it’s just eating a packed lunch at your desk. Do try to get up and move regularly if you’re at the office all day.

Walk to the bank in the afternoon rather than dropping the deposit in the lockbox at night.

5. Learn to say no 

We are not just real estate professionals, we also have families and other commitments to take care of every day. It’s OK to say no to someone. You can say no to a consumer you don’t want to work with — to tire-kickers and unqualified buyers and to unrealistic sellers.

It’s OK to turn down a friend asking you to chair another fundraiser with her or an associate who wants you to sit on a charity board. Say yes to causes and events that inspire you and you are passionate about.

Say yes to dinners and invites where you truly want to spend time with the people. But if you are tapped out and feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to simply say no.

Last year was the year I learned to guard my time more tightly, and it helped make me more productive and happier. Between following a plan (“No I cannot show you homes at noonm but I can be there at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. Which is better for you?”), time-blocking and saying yes only to the clients, events and commitments I truly want to do, 2015 was less stressful than previous years for me.

Being realistic about timeframes and factoring in space for snafus, in turn, led to more breaks in my schedule when things do go miraculously on track. Here’s to a fabulous 2016 filled with less stress and more productive days for all of us.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Email Erica Ramus.