I just planted a garden. And don’t worry—I’m not going to provide you with tips for growing award-winning tomatoes or keeping the deer from munching your salad greens. But as I was shoveling away, I could see an interesting parallel between the garden I put in each spring and the work that most of us Realtors do on a daily basis.
First we plant the seeds. Then we cultivate, water and fertilize. We build our client base and we anticipate a bountiful harvest. But it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? It’s important to do all those things, but we also have to do them at the right time and in the right way. And we have to avoid getting sidetracked with products and ideas that consume time and energy but don’t really add to our harvest.
So here are my top seven tips for growing your productivity. A caveat: don’t try to implement all of them at the same time—nothing will work and you’ll get discouraged. Try one until it becomes a habit and then add a couple more.
- Batch it. Don’t hop from task to task like a bunny on speed. Instead, group like tasks together and do them all at the same time. For example, set aside a block of time first thing in the morning and another in the late afternoon to return phone calls. Let your receptionist and your assistant know so they can tell clients, “Monica usually returns her phone calls in the late afternoon.”
- Ignore it. I’m talking about that incessant “ping” that lets you know you have incoming email. It’s so hard to resist clicking on that little envelope icon, isn’t it? After all, someone might want to list their house or show one of your properties. On the other hand, somebody might be trying to tell you that you’ve just won the lottery in Nigeria. If possible, have someone else monitor your emails and alert you if there’s real money involved. Otherwise, follow Tip #1 above.
- Start tomorrow today. Before you leave your office or end your business activities for the day, look ahead. Are you ready for your scheduled appointments? What are the day’s priorities? Are there any carry-overs from today that need to be handled? Jot down a quick list and then number the items in order of importance. Which leads us directly to:
- Focus on your top three. A lot of people work their to-do list from the bottom up, rather than the top down. In other words, they feel they are accomplishing a lot if they can cross off a bunch of minor tasks and “clear the decks” before they start on the big stuff. That’s backward thinking. Instead, focus on the three most important things on your list and do those first. If you do this every day, you’ll always be focusing on what matters most. As a bonus, sometimes those things on the bottom of the list will just go away on their own.
- Maximize your talent. You probably enjoy doing the things you’re good at. So you get better at those things and do more of them more often. Nothing wrong with that. But meanwhile, what’s happening to those things you’re not so good at or don’t enjoy doing? Mentally, they are probably dragging you down and interfering with your productivity. Evaluate your situation and see if you can eliminate some unwanted tasks. Ask your assistant to take over certain responsibilities or offer to trade tasks with a colleague who has skills that are different from yours.
- Watch the clock. No, I’m not suggesting you count the minutes until happy hour. Instead, make a point of keeping to a schedule. If you’ve booked an hour for a listing conference with a new client, don’t let it morph into two hours. A little socialization is fine, but resist the temptation to show them photo albums of your grandkids or your new puppy. If your staff meetings are getting longer and longer, think of a polite way to excuse yourself whenever you can.
- Just say no. It’s OK, really. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad, uncaring, or uninterested person. When someone presents you with an opportunity, an invitation, or a new responsibility, don’t immediately say yes—or no. Take a few minutes to evaluate the situation. If it’s a big deal, ask if you can check your schedule and get back to them. See how this new thing lines up with your goals and priorities. If it doesn’t, then decline as graciously as you can. Say something like: “Thanks for thinking of me, Joe, but I’m not able to take that on right now.” This lets Joe know that you’re saying no now, but that the door is still open for future requests.
The old cliché, “Work smarter, not harder” is tried and true advice. If you follow even one or two of these tips on a regular basis, you’ll be doing exactly that. We love feedback so drop a note and let us know what works for you.