What’s the solution? The more you make it clear what you expect yourself to do and when, the more you make it unthinkable that it won’t happen. Here’s a simple approach for getting the most out of your day (and yourself).

Virtual open houses, digital closings, conversations from behind face masks — what productivity looks like for real estate agents this summer covers new terrain for all of us. All June, Inman surveys the New Productivity: the tools, skills and insights needed to make it work now.

This article series is largely taken from the Real Estate Marketing Playbook with permission from the author.

In real estate, time can be your friend or your nemesis. You can use your flexible schedule to handle personal matters or spend time with friends and family, but if you allow your freedom to lead you from one to-do list item to the next, you’ll find yourself at the end of a week having completed very little actual work.

Even more insidious is spending your time on tasks that seem like actual work, but are in fact a big drain on your energy and attention. You know what we’re talking about: unstructured Facebook time! Email! Those quasi-work-related endeavors that don’t really contribute to your business success. 

The solution to this time-management black hole? A structured schedule! The more you make it clear what you expect yourself to do and when, the more you make it unthinkable that it won’t happen. 

With all of the news and social media right now, it’s very easy to get distracted, but if you practice regular time-blocking, you’ll snap out of it when you get the reminder notification on your phone from your calendar.

Start by using a calendar routinely

First, find a scheduling device that works for you. It could be iCloud Calendar, Google Calendar, the calendar on your favorite customer relationship management (CRM) tool, or a good old Franklin Planner.

I like to use a calendar method that color-codes my activities. Everything, from working out to working on my database, has a different color. Whatever calendar method you choose, you have to make using it a daily habit. Do what your calendar tells you to do, and tell everything to your calendar. 

Note each commitment as they come up

Once you have used your calendar as the great repository of all things time-determined in your life, you are free from having to keep the 500 different schedules (work, home, soccer, gymnastics, workouts, yoga, etc.) straight in your brain. Record events in your calendar as soon as a new commitment comes up, and you’ll immediately be on top of conflicts and commitments. 

Avoid the distractions by time-blocking

But it takes more than just keeping track of events. You have to plan your day. With real estate, you truly are your own boss, and you will reap what you sow. This business requires a high level of discipline and personal time management. If left unchecked, I could (and have!) spend hours of unproductive time on Facebook. 

Many agents stay busy doing busywork and forget to do the things that are the most important: prospecting and getting face time with clients, be it virtual or in real life.

When you’re not able to go into the office it is easy to start sleeping in or become distracted with things around the house. Using time-blocking and dedicating time each day to focus on the critical tasks will help you achieve your big goals.

The concept of time-blocking includes setting aside time dedicated to specific tasks such as prospecting, following up with clients, working out, or any step toward a larger objective. Whether it is a reoccurring task or an item on your to-do list, once you’ve carved out time for it, you’re much more likely to get it done.  

Outlook has been a life-saver for me. I simply block out time each day for every activity that I know I need to get done. I schedule all of my appointments in Outlook, and my phone reminds me where I need to be and when it is time to leave. 

You now have freed up an amazing amount of bandwidth in your head. All kinds of creative and strategic thoughts are available to you when you’re not focusing every synapse on remembering what time you need to be where. 

Get it on the calendar, and let it go. 

Be flexible

It’s also important to recognize that schedules aren’t immovable sculptures set in stone. Your schedule can be moved and squeezed when necessary.

A good calendar reminds me of my priorities and what needs to be moved and rescheduled. Seeing the canceled time blocked off for lead follow-ups in my calendar provides a visual reminder of any divergence from my plan, as opposed to the more ephemeral feeling of accomplishment that comes from thinking about making follow-up calls. And when something like a workout does have to fall by the wayside, having the next one already on the schedule keeps me from losing momentum.  

If you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants for most your life, give yourself some time to adjust to this new discipline. There will be mistakes. But the more you can commit yourself to structuring your time every day, the more you’ll notice the positive effect it has on your life.  You’ll spend more time on the doing, and less on the negotiations with yourself on whether or when to do things. Eventually, you’ll come to see the time slotted for a non-favorite activity as a commitment that gets you to the fun thing that’s on the schedule afterward.  

As that famous sportswear company says:  Just do it.  

Real Estate Marketing Playbook was inspired by observations and experiences over many years in the real estate business. This series includes example strategies from the playbook, and the full text is available on Amazon, Kindle and Audible.

Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — Re/Max Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.

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