You hear me say it all the time:
“Keep working smart!”
“Work smarter, not harder!”
But without explaining exactly what I mean, I can’t possibly expect you to follow my advice, now can I?
In real estate — or any career, really — there are numerous benefits to working smarter, rather than harder. Not only will working smart allow you to have a more successful business, but you’ll be able to enjoy a more fulfilling life. We've all heard the word efficiency, but what exactly does it mean?
We define efficiency as using time wisely to increase productivity, while maintaining balance. When we are efficient, we are not wasteful, and we steadily make progress. That’s working smart.
Let's take this example. Suppose you go to the grocery store before each meal and purchase whatever ingredients strike your fancy, rather than shopping once a week. This practice is inefficient because it wastes gasoline (or physical energy, if you walk or ride a bicycle) on each visit to the store, as well as time, and probably even money, since the meals aren’t being planned ahead of time.
This idea of being more efficient to work smarter can also be applied to our real estate careers, where we’re not only dealing with our own time but someone else's.
Here are key strategies that can help you become more efficient.
- Listing and prioritizing necessary tasks
- Setting clear boundaries
- Communicating effectively
- Using logic
- Tracking results
- Learning from mistakes
Let’s break them down.
List and Prioritize Tasks
It’s crucial to have a task list — and not just a hastily scrawled note in a cellphone. Everyone needs a comprehensive plan to stay focused. Whether you choose to use pen and paper or software on your laptop is up to you. Just make sure you break down the list into short and long-term goals.
Of course, we can’t always accomplish everything we need to do in a day — or even a month. Sometimes, the kids have a soccer match or the neighbor stops by in the middle of an evening cold-calling session. That’s why, even after we’ve listed tasks, it’s a great idea to number them in order of importance. That way, if we get interrupted and lose out on time, we can address the most crucial matter next.
Set Clear Boundaries
For some people, the line between work life and personal life is non-existent. Maybe you’re happy to answer an email at 11 p.m. or study reports over a stack of Sunday pancakes. But even if this is your “normal,” it’s obviously not an ideal way to live. To become a more efficient worker, you need to “get a life.” (Pardon the teen angst.)
It may sound counterproductive at first. Isn’t it good to work around the clock? Isn’t that the American dream?
Well, our answer is no. With clear boundaries between our work lives and personal lives, we actually make the most of our allotted work time.
To set boundaries, first define which hours in a day, week, and month you will not be working. Then, don’t do anything work-related during those hours — that means checking emails on your phone, replying to clients, reading reports or anything else. Instead, savor the down time, and come back to work feeling motivated.
If being unresponsive stresses you out, you can set up automated email and text responses when you’re not actively working. Simply state that you’ve received your client’s message and will get back to them as soon as possible when you resume work.
Setting up automated emails is typically as simple as going into your email server’s settings, typing in a message and choosing the timeframe for the message to send automatically.
As for text message automation, try one of these applications.
- Android: “Do It Later Text Message Automation” - This app lets you schedule messages and reports when the message has been successfully delivered.
- iPhone - “AutoSender” - This app not only lets you schedule and automatically send messages, it keeps a history of the sent texts.
Consider a scenario where a client or colleague asks you to be available at a certain time, but you already have a prior obligation. Yet, instead of communicating what works for you, you simply accept the imposed change to your schedule and scramble to get everything done. This not only affects the quality of the work you were planning to do but can also negatively impact your interactions with the person or people you agreed to meet with.
Situations like these can easily be avoided if we tell people what works for us and what does not. All of us get shy about saying “no,” but polite communication actually saves time. It promotes compromise, instills confidence, gains us respect from others and eases our stress because we aren’t trying to juggle too many things.
Instead of just saying “yes” to someone’s request, try responding with a few other times that work better for your schedule.
Approaching work challenges with logic is absolutely necessary. The alternative — feeling angry, sad or discouraged at every little thing — is not only exhausting, but wastes our time. Of course, humans are going to feel things, but it’s important not to allow our feelings to control our careers. Whether it’s a dissatisfied client or a financial slump, solving any problem with logic ensures we make the best of things and move forward.
Here’s an example. Suppose you had a prospect who plans to list a beachfront property with you, but at the last minute, they decide to pull out. An emotional reaction would be to stew over the loss and feel dejected about the possibility of listing other homes. A logical reaction would be to call up the prospect and earnestly ask for feedback on why they chose another agent, then use that feedback to improve.
Try this trick. Write out a recent scenario where you responded with emotion. Then, rewrite it as though you responded with logic and imagine how things might have gone more smoothly. Remember, emotions make us tired and cause us to ruminate over problems, when we should be taking action.
Let’s suppose you implement a new tactic for reaching leads — but then you don’t record how many you reached out to, how many called back, and why they called back. Because you failed to track these results, you aren’t sure if your new method was an overall success. This is not working smart.
No matter what results you’re working with — prospects calling you back, annual sales — always track them so you know what worked (and what didn’t). If you don’t, you risk repeating activities that are not successful.
Learn from Mistakes
There is no point in tracking results if we don’t learn from our mistakes. Just as a student studies the marks his teacher makes on a paper to see what should be improved, you, as a Realtor, should study results — even the not-so-great ones — to learn what to do and what not to do in the future.
QUIZ: Are you inefficient?
Uncertain about whether you make the most of your time? Ask yourself these questions to find out if you're spinning your wheels without creating movement.
Give yourself 0 points for no, 1 point for sometimes and 2 points for always.
Do loved ones say they don't talk to you or see you often enough?
If your spouse, children and close friends have expressed they don’t see you enough lately — or, worse, if they’ve given up and stopped reaching out — that’s a good sign you aren’t using your time wisely.
Is your email or voicemail inbox clogged with an overwhelming number of unanswered messages from clients and colleagues?
Are you ashamed of how many unanswered emails you have? Are people attempting to leave you voicemail messages and receiving the “Mailbox is full” recording? Better time management means more breathing room to respond to people.
Are you grouchy, tired, or short-tempered?
When we don’t have enough time in our schedules dedicated to sleep and relaxation, it has a negative impact. If you find yourself in a bad mood and unable to decompress, you probably need to rethink your schedule.
Are you missing out on fun weekends or evenings to continue working?
No time to take long bike rides on Saturday morning or attend picnics on Sunday afternoon because you’re engulfed in work? This is a recipe for a miserable life. You shouldn’t have to work your fingers to the bone seven days a week to have success.
Do you just feel as though you aren't getting enough done?
Despite the all work and no play lifestyle, are you dissatisfied at how much you’re getting done or where your business is headed? That’s a surefire sign that you’re working too hard and lacking efficiency.
0-4 You might need a tweak or two to achieve optimal efficiency, but you’re almost there. Good job.
5-7 Slow it down. Step back, try our tips for becoming efficient, and establish a better work-life balance before it gets out of hand.
8-10 Take a break right now — you, my friend, are working too hard and suffering from a lack of balance. It’s time to reassess and become efficient for better business and a happier life.