“Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst…” –William Penn
If that quote doesn’t kick you right in the gut, then congratulations — you’re among the tiny percentage of people who can comfortably look themselves in the mirror and honestly say they use their time as wisely and efficiently as possible. For the rest of us, it’s an indictment on how often we bemoan our lack of time — the most precious resource that any of us has — while not effectively using what time we DO have. I am not sure what all the readers of this article would say, but for me – Time is what I want most in life! Money for me is a product of time well spent. Fame, fortune, accolades…these are all objects that occupy us and make some of us feel successful. I use that word a lot in my articles – successful. It is one of those words that can have as many different definitions and meanings as the number of people you ask. For me, success is all about time!
While using one’s time wisely is important in any job, it’s that much more so in a vocation like real estate investing that rewards productive self-starters. The ability to manage your own time, as opposed to answering to a supervisor or punching a clock, is likely one of the things that draws so many to real estate investing in the first place. So if you’re going to be in charge of your own time, BE IN CHARGE OF IT. I have been in the real estate investing business for a long time and here are some productivity improvement tips to help you do just that.
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You have to decide what’s most important to you, both in large-scale and small-scale terms. Work from the top down: Long-term goals inform short-term goals, which give you a blueprint for what you need to do today. How important growing your real estate investing business is to you will help you to determine how many hours you want to devote to it. This is not just another “Write Your Goals Down” list. This is an everyday action plan list that says I need to get off my backside today and get this done! You should have two lists. One that says here are the things I want to accomplish. That can be a list of what-evers and when-evers, but they are important to you. From that list, you pull down the most important tasks for today. The most important actions you can take to move one of those items on your list to the completed file. Long-term creates the short-term which creates the “if I don’t do this today – then I don’t really care about being successful” task list.
Once you’ve decided how much time is to be allocated to your business, you then need to prioritize your tasks. Which items on your to-do list will make the greatest impact in your business? Make absolutely sure those get done. Which tasks take up more time than they’re worth? Push them further down — and in some case, eliminate them — from your list. That one action may be the best action you take when looking at your list. You will absolutely find items that will get you absolutely no-where today but you may have enjoyed doing yesterday. Well yesterday is gone and that item needs to go with it. It can be studying, researching, making calls to a list that is a dud, sending another mailer to a mailing list that has not produced a single lead despite all your efforts. Time killers and productivity wasters can come in all forms and you have to be smart enough to know when to cut something loose that is not producing results for you.
There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s such an important step. It sounds like such a cliche and yet it is so important. If you don’t have a clear idea of the tasks to be completed for the day, it’s just too easy to let trivial distractions stand in the way of you and your goals. Sure, you may MEAN to check out “X” number of properties and make “Y” number of phone calls, but if you haven’t made a step-by-step plan that works these tasks into your schedule, all that productivity may be swallowed up by Facebooking, daydreaming, and inefficient halfway efforts that are a result of not having all your ducks in a row. At my company, we plan everything and then check in on that plan daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. We are known for many things, but our core competency is that we have every detail covered for everything we do because we plan, plan, plan.
Since you’ve already prioritized what’s most important to you, you now need to organize those tasks that need to be done in such a way that you maximize your efficiency in getting them done. In other words, if prioritizing tells you WHAT to do, planning should tell you how to do it–and in what order. Make a step-by-step (and if necessary, hour-by-hour) schedule for the week, preferably at the end of the week prior. Knowing what you need to do and when you need to do it eliminates much of the time waste that is a by-product of a scattered mind. Get yourself and anyone working for you from assistants and virtual assistants (read this great article this week by Sharon on virtual assistants), to employees and partners moving in the same direction and with a purpose. There will always be some seepage through the gaps. Losing some productivity is going to happen as it is tough to be sharp and focused every minute. But, a well laid out plan built around the most important tasks you need to accomplish will minimize the amount of focus you lose each day.
3.) Write it Down
“Sure, all this prioritizing and planning sounds great,” I can hear you saying, “but can’t you give me something more concrete? What can I do — actively DO — that can make me more productive?”
Well, I’m glad you asked! MAKE LISTS! This is the same thing you have been told over and over and over and one more time…over again. Write it down, commit it to paper, read your notes, write them again and again. This is how we stimulate ourselves and remind our brains of what is important. When we focus our conscious and subconscious brain on the same thing, we will make decisions and take actions that lead us to being more productive. Now, where do we keep these notes?
Sure, you can go the pen-and-paper route, but the cloud has lent itself to some great organizational/note-taking apps. And since we’re so glued to our smartphones anyway, we may as well use them to do something productive, right? Evernote and Workflowy are two such apps that have gained traction. Check them both out to see which one works best for you.
Note-taking apps can help with more than just organizing your time; they can act as a receptacle for storing ideas, as well. Evernote, in particular, is great for utilizing various media for memory and brainstorming. Have a flash of inspiration in the middle of the day while running errands? Make a voice memo and save it. See a property while you’re out that you want to follow up on? Snap a photo and save it. In his book YOUR BRAIN AT WORK, David Rock uses a theatre analogy to explain the importance of making these kinds of notes. If thoughts are actors, we should have only a few on stage at a time so as to avoid clutter. Using note-taking apps helps to keep the majority of our thoughts “backstage” at any given moment. Doing so allows our brains to process information better so that it can send new, innovative ideas on stage to shine.
For me, it doesn’t matter if you use a pen and paper or a smart phone or tablet app. All I care about is that you are able to decipher the difference between what is and what is not important and then take actions that help you accomplish goals designed to take advantage of the important tasks.
4.) Take a Break
Give yourself time to relax — preferably a whole day out of the week. If you are going constantly without a break, fatigue will rob your working hours of efficiency. Take some time to recuperate, and the rested, rejuvenated YOU will be ready to conquer the other six days. I have written about the importance of this lately and I am a firm believer in keeping mind and body energized and healthy. When you give your body and brain some down time, it will help you make the up time much, much more productive.
Those are just 4 quick tips from me and I am sure that you have heard them before. Honestly, it does not matter. I could hear these tips every single day for the rest of my life and they will always serve as a good reminder of what has gotten me to this point and how I stay here. My time is more precious to me than anything else because I can dole it out to what is truly most precious – my family. And being more productive has given me the gift of time and I for one never want to lose that gift. What productivity improvement techniques do you use? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well!