Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

Do you find yourself struggling to accomplish everything you need to do? Are you paying enough attention to your high-probability clients or are you wasting time with those that whine the most? If you want to increase your earnings, here are some simple guidelines to follow.

Less than 5 percent of all U.S. businesses have a written business plan. Writing down your plan is one of the most critical steps you can take in terms of achieving your goals. The real issue on a day-to-day basis, however, is how to make the best use of your time each day.

The first question to ask yourself as you begin each day is, "Who is closest to the money?" In other words, of all the clients you are working with currently, which of them is most likely to buy, sell or list a house today? Those who fall into this category should be the first ones that you contact daily.

You can update them with current sales, send them videos of new listings, or text them updates in the current interest rates. The goal is to stay top of mind, especially if they are owners of an expired listing or are trying to sell by owner.

The other reason it’s important is to make sure they feel that you view them as being your personal top priority. Buying or selling a house is a stressful experience, even in the best of circumstances.

Your current and potential clients are going to feel more comfortable if they know they can count on you to be there throughout the process.

Asking, "Who is closest to the money?" is especially important when it comes to those properties that you have under contract. There’s an old rule that identifies how to prioritize your activities in terms of who has first call on your attention.

1. Properties under contract
These are your money in the bank. They are always "closest to the money." If it comes down to going on a listing appointment or handling a problem that could cause your transaction to cancel, the first priority has to be taking care of the transaction problem.

2. Listing appointments and prospecting have the same priority
This part of this approach may come as a surprise. Most agents will dump their prospecting time in favor of going on a listing appointment. This is a huge mistake.

Your prospecting time deserves the same priority as going on a listing appointment. In other words, the only time you would cancel your prospecting time is when you would cancel a listing appointment under the same circumstances.

While there are numerous reasons why agents have slumps, a major cause is failure to prospect for new business regularly. You get busy with out-of-town buyers or with overpriced listings, and your day disappears.

The next time you feel like skipping your prospecting time in favor of anything other than a transaction issue, just remember that without prospecting, you will have no transactions. Keep your prospecting time as a regular appointment.

If someone is calling to see a house during your prospecting time, tell your caller that you have a conflicting appointment. If you must change your prospecting time, make sure that you reschedule the time you’re missing within the next 24-48 hours.

Again, treat your prospecting time the same way you would treat a listing appointment.

3. Buyers are the lowest priority
If you have buyers who are being transferred and must buy a house this weekend, then their urgency probably puts them at the top of your list in terms of who is closest to the money.

Nevertheless, they’re still not as important as working on a transaction file that has a serious issue or dealing with sellers who need your attention. Remember that these people have signed contracts with you.

Unless you have a signed buyer agreement, buyers simply are not as important as these other committed clients.

4. Who is most likely to close?
When you have a conflict that requires you to postpone an appointment with one client to meet with another client, ask yourself, "Who is most likely to close a transaction?" This simple question is an easy way to help you identify where your time is best spent.

5. The top producer formula
There’s a fairly common pattern you will see among most top producers. When they first come to the office, they handle any issues regarding their transaction files or their current listings.

The next part of their day is their prospecting time. Most top producers will become angry if you try to interrupt them when they are prospecting since they realize how important it is to maintaining their production.

Once they finish these two important parts of their day, they then turn to activities such as taking out buyers or going on listing appointments.

Need more help with setting priorities? See Part 2 on Thursday.

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