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Has time-blocking left you feeling more frustrated, inefficient, and like you’re the only real estate agent who doesn’t have it together? You’re not alone.

We all wish we had more time, but I’ve found that better time management is the way to go in the absence of having more time. As the COO of a robust and growing brokerage, a large part of my job focuses on efficiencies and how we can be more efficient through time management. By managing your tasks, you’re managing your time. If I can help free up more of our agents’ time, then they can do what they do best — sell houses!

Because we don’t have a predictable 9-to-5 career, it can sometimes feel like our business is spinning out of control. Creating anchors in agents’ schedules without constraining their flexibility allows them to relax and focus on the priority tasks at hand.

When I meet with agents about their business, time management is always at the core of our conversation. The flexible nature of the real estate industry doesn’t always allow us to control our schedules, which means that agents have to fit tasks in when they have time to focus on clients and their needs.

Because agents can schedule their days however they see fit, this can be a huge perk for many people. At the same time, this freedom can also be a recipe for disaster if agents don’t manage their time efficiently. Between the deluge of emails and managing several clients at once, it’s easy to let the chaos consume their work.

To gain control of their business schedule, I often tell agents to forget the restrictive practice of time-blocking and consider anchoring their days with themes instead. By theming their days based on recurring tasks and business needs, agents can take time-blocking elements and fit them into a more flexible way of managing tasks weekly, monthly or annually.

In this system, agents would dedicate each day of the week to particular tasks or areas of their business, so it doesn’t matter if they complete tasks at 6 a.m. before a busy day, at 10:37 a.m. after a sales meeting, or at 9 p.m. when the kids are in bed.

By anchoring their day with a theme, they’re able to free up headspace to focus on the clients and transactions that need them at the moment. Here are five ways real estate agents can utilize a new approach to manage their schedules effectively.

1. Forget time-blocking. Instead, theme your days

Start by thinking of your schedule weekly, monthly, quarterly and yes, annually. What are some events that you know are coming up this year? Mark down graduations, weddings, holidays or any major work events so that you can plan ahead.

Next, focus on your main business elements. This list might include financials, client relations, lead generation and operational processes. Space those elements out according to what each day looks like every week.

For example, you may want to block out time every Monday morning to plan for the week ahead. Likewise, Tuesdays can be your client contact day where you check up on active buyers, listings and contracts to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and so forth throughout the week.

2. Write it down in your calendar

Once you know how you want to categorize your days, put the plan down in your calendar. Whether your calendar is a physical book or online, make sure it includes a notes section to list all of the tasks that you need to work on for that specific day. Think of this as similar to a shopping list.

For example, if your client contact day is Wednesday, make a list of every contact you need to reach out to and what you need to discuss with those contacts and put them on your Wednesday calendar.

Also, this is a great way to start planning for events. If you know you have a work event, make a note to start preparing two weeks before so that you’re on top of your schedule. It’s best to start this scheduling at your slowest points of the year. That way, you don’t have to worry about planning your calendar in the springtime when things typically get busy for agents.

3. Batch tasks and projects during slow periods

Real estate is cyclical, so ideally, you can anticipate how busy you’ll be based on the time of year. Why not batch work during slower periods to avoid extra stress during peak sales seasons?

Annual business planning at the end or beginning of the year might be a perfect time, but there are also certain times of the month or days that you find aren’t as busy. Take that time to create, plan and execute on items that require more of your focus.

For example, if you send a monthly newsletter, don’t wait until the month before to create it. If January is typically slow for you, take that time to start all 12 (or as many as you can) of your newsletters, so they’re all ready to go. Just because it’s March doesn’t mean you can’t be planning your December holiday pop-bys.

4. Assign personal monthly check-ins

To make sure that you’re managing your schedule to the best of your ability, schedule some time, either once a month or every other week, so you can stay on top of completing your most important tasks.

If Mondays are when you take time to plan out your week, use the first Monday of every month to go through last month’s schedule and determine what you could have done better to achieve your goals and stay on task. Apply that information to the upcoming month.

It’s best to have an honest discussion with yourself and figure out where you can do better or where your time needs to shift, so you can determine how to be even more efficient.

5. Don’t beat yourself up! Leave it for next week

When working with several different clients and managing multiple transactions, it’s often impossible for real estate agents to plan their days down to the minute. Situations arise that force you to drive your attention elsewhere. Telling yourself to complete a specific task on a designated day at a particular time will only set you up for failure.

With that said, don’t beat yourself up if you weren’t able to finish all of your tasks when you hoped. I usually tell my agents to take everything that they could not accomplish and transfer it over to the notes section on their calendar for next week. This simple action allows the activity to live in your calendar until it becomes a main priority. Remember to keep on task, and take your schedule day by day.

Although agents can get stuck in the “shiny object syndrome” of the real estate world, moving quickly between tasks without completing things, we often get caught up in the different software programs, lead-generating tools, business plans, etc.

Rest assured, there is no silver technology bullet to time management. A thoughtful approach and self-discipline are all you need when using time management to maximize your efficiency.

In my experience, it’s the best way to ensure that you manage the critical tasks at hand while creating a place in your calendar to work on your business instead of always working in your business.

Leslie Hillman Dollinger is the chief operating officer for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate The Good Life Group in Omaha. Connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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