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Time management is a myth — no one can “manage” time because we each have the same 24 hours per day. If you’re burned out from working 60 or more hours per week, the secret to regaining control is managing your choices, not your time.
I recently taught a full day leadership class for the Austin Board of Realtors. One of attendees was glued to her cell phone throughout the day. When we did a listening exercise that required her to devote her undivided attention to the person who was speaking, she was still glancing down at her phone to see her incoming messages and notifications.
Later in the day, she described the nightmare scenario that was her business — calls at 2 a.m., clients demanding she had to be available exactly when they wanted her and the terror of losing those clients if she didn’t get back to them immediately. She was so stressed out that she seemed close to snapping.
In response, another woman explained how she had set boundaries in her business. She doesn’t work on weekends, doesn’t take calls after 7 p.m., and when she receives a referral from a past client, those leads always tell her, “We already know that you don’t work nights and weekends.”
If your business is more like the nightmare scenario described above than that of the agent who has his or her evenings and weekends free, here’s six ways to make better choices about how you use your time.
1. Time-block your day
This is the no. 1 secret for having more time for you.
Time-blocking is the secret to utilizing your time to the fullest. This means that you schedule uninterrupted blocks of time devoted to completing a single activity. For example, if you’re prospecting, put your phone on airplane mode, and prospect for 30 minutes straight.
At the end of the 30 minutes, check for notifications, texts or important phone messages. You can also improve your concentration if you will stand up and move around between time-block. After your break, return your phone to airplane mode and complete another 30-minute block.
Chunking your day into uninterrupted intervals keeps you focused. The cost of a 30-second interruption can be as high as 30 minutes before you regain the same level of concentration. Furthermore, time-blocking reduces errors by up to 50 percent.
2. Set boundaries
There’s very little in real estate that constitutes an emergency. It’s safer and easier to show a home during the day, most MLSs and companies only load their new listings online during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, and it’s best to present offers in the morning when everyone is fresh and rested.
The truth is that clients don’t need you to be available 24/7. Instead, the secret is to let your clients know when and how you will communicate with them and then do so at those times.
For example, if you finish your day at 7 p.m., let your clients know that you check messages at 6:30 p.m. and will get back to them with any issues that need to be addressed that night. Otherwise, you’ll contact them in the morning.
If there is a truly urgent situation (like the house just flooded due to a broken pipe and is set to close tomorrow morning), have them text you. Be sure to check your phone at least once during the evening for emergencies, but only respond to actual emergencies. Everything else can wait until morning when you can do something about it.
3. Sleep on it
When it comes to disputes, whenever possible, let everyone sleep on it.
Listen to what they have to say, write down their concerns, read those concerns back to the person, and then tell them you’ll get back with them first thing in the morning when you can reach the lender, title or the other agent and principals.
4. Only work with clients who meet the “GWC” standard
Romeo Manzanilla, the broker in charge for Realty Austin, described the criteria he recommends in terms of deciding whether to work with a client. Those three criteria are:
- Gets it
- Wants it
- Has the capacity
In other words, the potential client understands the nature of the real estate action and has realistic expectations about the market and the agent’s role in the transaction (gets it), is ready to transact now (wants it) and is credit worthy including having the necessary down payment (has the capacity).
If clients don’t meet all three of these criteria, pass on working with them. Chances are they’re unlikely to transact, and even if they do, it will only be high-drama and headaches for you.
5. Audit your activities for a week for your true billable hours
Attorneys bill their clients based on how many hours they work. For the next week, track how many hours you work that could be billed to a specific client if you were using this model. These activities include:
- Taking listings, marketing them (includes open house) and closing transactions.
- For buyers, researching and showing them properties, writing up contracts and closing the transaction.
- Staying in touch with past clients, prospecting for new clients or referrals from your sphere or past client list, cold calls, door-knocking and client appreciation events.
Notice that all these activities are proactive. Sitting in the office waiting for the phone to ring or attending an office meeting are not billable. Eliminating as many unbillable activities as possible is one of the best ways to be more productive in less time.
At the end of the week did you have at least 30 billable hours? If not, start building toward that goal by time-blocking. If you can get to 40 billable hours per week, your business will really be humming.
6. Create a 3 + 3 business plan every day
Very few agents operate from a written business plan. To make better choices about how you spend your time, identify the three most important business and personal activities you must complete each day to keep your business and personal life on track.
This keeps you focused on what is most important and ensure you’ll get the maximum results from how you spend your time.
The bottom line is that you can’t manage time, but by making savvy choices about how you spend your time, you will have a more prosperous business plus more time off for you.
Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP (brokerageup.com) and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.