Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday. 

Time is a great equalizer — the poorest of the poor have the same amount of time as the filthy rich. One day is 24-hours, everywhere (well, everywhere on planet Earth), one week is seven days, one year is fifty-two weeks. We all have a finite amount of time in this life, so we shouldn’t waste it.

Volumes have been written on how to get the most from your time and manage it (and the best and worst ways to spend time). It’s been mentioned in literature and song since, well, time immemorial. But for our purposes, let’s look at the biggest problem areas for agents.

1. Scanning social media

When the topic first came to mind, I thought it would be easy to peel off 1,500-ish words of wisdom and make a shortlist of “time-wasters to avoid.” If anything, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep it short. 

That fear came to a grinding halt as I couldn’t get past a singular waste of time — social media, and in particular, Facebook. 

We spend an exorbitant amount of time in the social media space. Facebook tends to be the predominant social media time-suck. But Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and, most recently, Clubhouse are all viable candidates for time-waster of the year. 

This isn’t to say that all the time and energy spent on social media is wasted, far from it. These platforms offer viable ways to learn, teach and reach targeted audiences with well-placed advertisements. Never has it been easier for someone to produce and distribute content. Social media can be fantastic for both the content creator and content consumer. 

It’s that scope, reach and ease of use that also makes social media ripe for abuse and misuse. There is clear addiction potential, and like any addiction, that poses the potential for great harm. 

2. Complaining about and attacking individuals and businesses 

Talk about a complete waste of time and energy. First, what good can possibly be achieved with name-calling someone or bad-mouthing a business? I guess if you intend to hurt someone’s feelings, you may be successful. If you think the business you love to hate will change its ways because you don’t like it, well, think again.

Unless you just enjoy tossing people and businesses under the bus, why not just stop patronizing said businesses? Why torture yourself? 

3. Having hurt feelings

Spending time feeling hurt about something said on social media is more pointless and wasted time and energy. I was on the receiving end of many a rant, personal attack and accusation when I worked for Zillow Group. My family was attacked and even directly threatened.

At first, these attacks hurt. Sometimes deeply. It took a while, but I learned not to care what others think and say about me. I think most people in a position where they encounter juvenile name-calling and attacks eventually learn to realize it’s them, not me. So if you intend to hurt someone’s feelings (and what else could the goal possibly be?), you should be aware that you’re just wasting your time. You’re also doing more damage to your name and reputation than you’re dishing out. 

Use social media for your enrichment or to share useful things with others. Name-calling, attacking, speculation, venting, ranting — all are just a waste of time and energy that you could apply for good elsewhere.

Before I started writing this column, I asked on my Facebook profile, “What do you feel are the biggest time/energy wasters to avoid?” There were some terrific answers, and I encourage you to read that public thread. Facebook and social media were the top mentions for the biggest time-wasters, but several other things are worth mentioning.

4. Multitasking

It’s easy to think you’re getting more done if you are multitasking. That just seems to make sense. After all, if you’re doing two or three things at once, you’re getting two or three times the work done, right? 

Wrong. What you are doing is part of three tasks and likely making mistakes. Focus. Do one thing, do it well, and move on to the next job. 

Go ahead, Google something like, “Why multitasking doesn’t work,” and you’ll find a lifetime of reading. The science is clear; multitasking doesn’t work

5. Poor planning

When it comes to getting things done, often it’s tempting to “wing it.” I fall victim to this frequently. Invariably something will pop up and derail your impromptu efforts. Although it might be impossible to pan for every single potential contingency, a little planning goes a long way to ensuring success.

6. Analysis paralysis

Although planning matters, on the other side you don’t want to get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and wind up never getting things done. Many a great idea has languished in nothingness land because a plan or the data is analyzed, tweaked and retested repeatedly. 

Along those lines comes the need for perfection. Perfectionism is not necessarily a bad trait, but like analysis paralysis, it can lead to things getting so bogged down that in the end, nothing gets accomplished. Sometimes good is good enough. Not everything has to be perfect

7. Looking at our phone

Between telemarketers and notifications, your phone can become a weapon of mass distraction. The telemarketers have put me in a place where I rarely answer my phone unless I know who is on the other end. 

That’s a bad place for a real estate agent to be. Your marketing is out there 24/7, working to make your phone ring. When you fail to answer it or assume that whoever is calling will leave a voicemail, you are potentially losing a future client. 

In my Facebook thread, a friend offered a great solution.

Ring Ring

Brian: This is Brian!

Other person: Hi Brian, how are you today?

Brian: I’m great. Are you buying or selling a home today?

At this point, there are three options: 

  1. They are a potential homebuyer 
  2. They’re a potential homeseller
  3. They are trying to sell you something

Taking control of these calls puts a buyer or seller at peace and in a place of knowing you’re willing to help them. And it gets the telemarketers off your phone. 

Notifications are almost as distracting as telemarketers. The pinging, pop-ups and annoying red numbers serve as a distraction. Even if you have the willpower not to respond to a notification, the distraction alone commands your attention and pulls it away from the task at hand. 

You could turn off your phone, but that puts off the prospective client noted before. Better to disable notifications altogether. You can respond when you’ve completed the task at hand. 

8. Not asking for help!

It seems to go against our fundamental nature to ask for help. Perhaps we see it as a sign of weakness, that we aren’t good enough. No one is perfect; no one knows everything. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. All too often, we try to do it all, and we spin our wheels, bang our heads and get frustrated. All the while, there is someone in your circle who you could reach out to, get some assistance and get things done.  

Along these lines also comes delegation. Sometimes it’s best to delegate tasks or projects to someone with more time, expertise or resources. You don’t need to do it all.

Life is crazy, distractions abound

Selling real estate is hard. Prospecting constantly can be exhausting. Living in a COVID world adds a whole new level of crazy. Sometimes it’s a wonder anything gets done.  

Try to minimize the distractions. Plan for what you can, but have the flexibility to adjust. Although venting frustrations might feel therapeutic, in reality, it just builds more frustration and quite frankly may lead to you coming off as unprofessional in other’s eyes. Try some other coping mechanisms like meditation, exercise or hobbies to distract you from your frustrations. 

Finally, realize that as much as you might dislike or disagree with some things or people, you aren’t going to change the world, bring a dreaded company to its knees, convert every contact to a client, put a political party in power (or take one out). 

Focus on you, your family, your friends and your business. Influence and control what you can that’s reasonable. Don’t worry and fret over what others chose to do or how they act. Focus. Center. Relax. Ultimately we are all gathered here to get through this thing called life. It’s easier to do it together.  

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.

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