How to Plan a Productive Week, Part Two: Managing Your Schedule

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at an office about how to become more productive, specifically how agents could better organize their day.  I wrote something up, and thought I’d share it here.  You can find Part One: Prioritizing Productive Work here. 

Part Two: Managing Your Schedule

Most real estate agents are not particularly productive.  Indeed, most professionals of all kinds struggle with maintaining high levels of productivity.  But it’s particularly challenging for real estate agents because we have so many disparate responsibilities.  We have to generate our own leads. We have to service sellers, who have a specific set of needs, and buyers, who have a completely different set of needs.  We have to stay on top of the market, go to meetings, keep transactions together – and you have to do all of that in what can be a stressful and difficult business.  Essentially, in any given week an agent is going to have to juggle a lot of balls in the air.

So how do you manage your time in a business that can be so demanding, stressful, and chaotic?  As always, it helps to have a system, and to be in control of that system.  You need to control your schedule, rather than letting your schedule control you.  The most productive agents in the business are constantly “busy” – after all, the top agents in our industry routinely do 50-60 deals a year, and have 30-40 listings at any one time.   But because they know how to manage their time they are able to get a tremendous amount of work done each week.

Think of it this way: we all have the same number of hours in a week.  So how is it that some agents can sell 40 houses a year, and others sell 5 houses a year?  It’s not like those productive agents have time warp machines that allow them to stretch out the day.  They have just as much or little time each week as unproductive agents do.  They just use that time better.

So what do we want you to do?  It’s very simple.  Plan your year, then your month, then your week, then your day.  Any plan is better than no plan, so set one up. If you have to revise it when things come up, then fine.  But you’re still better off if you have a starting point to work from, rather than live your life lurching from emergency to emergency without any structure or system.

Here are some suggestions for managing your time better:

First, spend five minutes each morning organizing your day.  When you get up in the morning, or even as you’re finishing your previous day, take five minutes to organize and schedule the next day.  You’ll find that it helps prioritize what you need to do, and makes you feel as if you are in control of your time.  Indeed, you should sit down at the beginning of each week, each month, each quarter, and even each year and plan out your schedule.  For example, sit down in January and look at your year, and decide in advance when you’re going to take some time off, go on vacation, go on a business trip, or whatever.  Set those times aside.  Do the same thing as you begin the new business quarter, as you start a month, and especially at the beginning of the week.

Second, give yourself a break when you don’t maintain your schedule.  Don’t feel you need to be perfect. Even the most tightly-scheduled professional is going to have a bad day, one where she has to break her appointments and handle an emergency.  If that happens, just move on and try to get back on schedule the next day.  Don’t let it throw off your week.  The key is this: days when you break schedule should be the exception, not the rule.  If you find that you have an “emergency” every day that forces you to break your scheduled appointments with yourself, then that’s a sign of a deeper problem in the way you’re managing your business.

Third, put important things on a schedule.  The really important parts of your job – generating new clients, and servicing your active clients – need to be on a schedule.  They can’t just be items on a “to do” list.  To do lists are great for cataloguing an array of tasks or errands, but they shouldn’t be used to itemize really important responsibilities like lead generation or client service time.  Rather, those important tasks should be set aside as committed appointments on your schedule, appointments that you will absolutely keep no matter what pops up during the week.  That’s the only way to ensure that you will actually do them, and doing them is crucial for maintaining and organizing your business.

So what goes on your schedule?  To some extent, it depends on your personal situation.  But generally speaking, you should set aside time each week for particular activities that will help you manage your business.  Below, we’ve set out the activities that should be on EVERY agent’s schedule, along with a suggested amount of time you should dedicate to those activities:

  • Lead Development and Follow Up (Six Hours).  If you want to keep a steady stream of new lead opportunities flowing into your business, you need to dedicate part of your week to lead development.  We suggest that you set aside three two-hour blocks of time for lead generation and follow-up.  That could be a four-hour session one day and a two-hour session another day, or could be spread out more during the week.  This does NOT include time you spend at open houses.  Rather, this is the time that you set aside to call your sphere, follow up with internet leads, put together mailings, contact FSBOs or expired listings, and the like.  Most of the time should be spent on lead generation, with the rest going toward following up with existing leads that have not yet ripened into active sellers and buyers.
  • Weekly Active Seller Followup (Two Hours). You need to allocate time each week for regular follow-up calls with your active sellers (i.e., your listings).  Our suggestion is that you set aside at least two hours every Monday afternoon to contact all your current sellers to give them an update on what’s happening with their listing. Monday is a good time for that, because you’ll have some weekend activity to report and also because the email reports on market activity and property traffic come out on Mondays – giving you something to discuss.  The amount of time you need depends on the number of listings.  Figure you’ll need an average of five minutes per seller.  Note that if you spend other time during the week working on a listing, that doesn’t count toward this time.  This is specifically time set aside for updating your sellers on the status of their listing.
  • Weekly Active Buyer Followup (Two Hours). You also need to allocate time to follow up on all your active buyers.  These are the people that you’ve actually taken out to look at homes, not “leads”.  What you should do is set aside a two-hour block every week, maybe on Monday when you’re already doing seller updates, and call each of your buyers to give them an update on the market, any new listings they might want to see, and ping them about what they’re thinking.  Again, this is NOT time that you spend taking them out, or time that you spend during the week answering their calls or whatever else might come out.  This is just dedicated, reserved time for taking out your list of existing buyers and following up with them.
  • Weekly Office Meeting and Tour (Three Hours).  As part of your professional development time, you should be going to your weekly office meeting and going on tour to see the inventory.  That is when you find out about new office policies, programs, tools, and systems that can help you in your business. And with so many agents working outside the office for their everyday needs, it’s the one time each week when you’ll see most of your colleagues and get a chance to share information and get updates on what’s happening in the market.  
  • Weekly Educational Opportunity (Two Hours).  Each week, you should do some kind of educational activity to help you broaden your understanding of the business. This could be an online webinar, a live class, or even just two hours each week dedicated to reading a business book.  Whatever it is, you need to spend some dedicated time each week – on your schedule – focused on your own professional growth.

These are activities that should be on a schedule.  Why? Because they’re important, and if you don’t schedule them you might not do them because you’ll be working on “urgent” matters.  But these activities are important for maintaining a steady flow of business and ensuring a smooth flow of communication with your existing clients.  You can’t skimp on this time and hope to be successful.  You have to schedule it, and do it.  

All told, if you add all that up, we’re talking about 15 hours out of a 40-hour week.  That’s roughly three hours a day.  Now, that might seem like a lot, or it might seem like a little, but think about how much you’re getting accomplished in those 15 hours:

  • You’re doing all your lead generation activity for the week, which helps keep a flow of new business coming in.
  • You’re dedicating time for specific follow up with your buyers and sellers, which helps keep your clients happy and connected to you.
  • You’re getting to office meetings that will keep you updated about what’s happening with the company.
  • You’re seeing the new office inventory on tour.
  • And you still have time for some weekly training to help educate you about something you need to know about the business.

If you think about it, doing all that is really the cornerstone of a successful week.  Just getting those scheduled 15 or so hours locked in, you’re guaranteeing yourself a productive week in which you generated new business, handled your clients, and helped foster productive growth.

So what’s the rest of your time spent doing?  Well, outside those 15 hours, you have about 25 hours in a 40-hour week.  That’s the “unstructured” time that you spend doing everything else: it’s when you have your buyer appointments, and do listing presentations, and attend inspections, and manage your transactions to closing.  All that is “work” to, but it’s work that tends to pop up during the week and can’t be assigned to a particular place on your schedule.  You wouldn’t, for example, set aside Wednesday at 6PM for your listing appointments – rather, you tend to take your appointments in conjunction with your clients’ schedules.

And that’s the difference. If you don’t, for example, schedule your lead generation and client followup each week, what will happen is that the transactional work will swallow up all your time and you’ll never get to it.  That’s why those things need to be on a schedule, so that you shorten the amount of time you otherwise would spend dealing, say, with inspection issues.  That helps ensure that you prioritize work that generates new business and ensures quality service to your existing clients, but also helps keep you focused and efficient in managing the daily grind of your business.  Your transactional work will otherwise just expand to fill the time you leave for it, crowding out everything else.

 

How to Plan a Productive Week, Part One: Prioritizing Productive Work

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at an office about how to become more productive, specifically how agents could better organize their day.  I wrote something up, and thought I’d share it here.  This is Part One: Prioritizing Productive Work. You can find Part Two: Managing Your Schedule here. 

Part One: Prioritizing Productive “Work”

First, let’s talk about what “work” is.  The problem most unproductive agents have is that they’ll spend the day at the office as if they are “working,” but they’re not actually doing real “work.”

So what is “real work?”  We define it as follows: (1) servicing active clients, (2) developing new clients, and (3) professional development.  That’s what work is.  That’s what your job is.  That’s what we mean by “productivity.”  If you’re not doing those three things, then you’re not really “working.”   You’re just frittering away your day.

Let’s break that down a little. Here are some examples of what constitutes “work” under this system:

1.  Servicing Active Clients

The main bulk of your daily and weekly routine is all the work you do to service your existing clients.  This includes everything you do for your listings, all the showings you do with your buyers, and all the transactional work you do to put deals together.  It also includes, of course, the time you spend in your initial conversion meetings with sellers and buyer: the consultative presentations you do to turn them into active clients.  This is the heart of your business.

Here are some of the examples of activities that would constitute “work” because they involve servicing active clients:

  • Weekly followup calls with active listings.
  • Weekly followup calls with active buyers.
  • Preparing for listing and buyer presentations: preparing CMAs, for example.
  • Giving consultative listing presentations to seller clients.
  • Giving consultative buyer presentation to buyer clients.
  • Marketing your listings: taking pictures, video, writing up descriptions, putting the property in MLS, staging and detailing.
  • Showing your listings.
  • Holding open houses.
  • Setting up showing appointments for your buyers.
  • Taking buyers on showings.
  • Doing market analysis for your clients.
  • Presenting offers.
  • Negotiating deals.
  • Attending inspections.
  • Handling inspection issues.
  • Handling transactional issues with attorneys and mortgage professionals.
  • Attending walkthroughs and closings.

How much time should you spend servicing active clients?  Figure about 60% of your time.  Basically, a little more than half your week should be spent taking care of your existing clients.  And this INCLUDES the dedicated “Weekly Followup” calls that you’ll make every week to your sellers and active buyers.

2.  Developing New Clients

Obviously, one of the most important responsibilities you have is to work to generate a fresh set of lead opportunities for your business.  So part of your day, and your week, and your month, has to be dedicated to client development.  That could be any sort of lead generation activity, whatever you think will help you generate new business.

Here are examples of the activities you could do to develop new clients:

  • Contacting your Top 100 clients.
  • Contacting people in your Sphere of Support (outside the Top 100)
  • Preparing courtesy packages for FSBOs and Expireds.
  • Making courtesy calls to a neighborhood
  • Holding an open house.
  • Sending out direct mail.
  • Sending out promotional email.
  • Sending out R4L mailings
  • Posting information on social media for your client base.
  • Checking our your sphere’s activities on social media, and “liking” and commenting on them.
  • Professional networking.
  • Responding to internet inquiries (i.e., Leadrouter inquiries).
  • Following up with active leads.

How much time should you spend?  Figure about 25% of your week should be spent in lead development and cultivation.

3.  Professional Development

This is a broad category, but it basically refers to anything you do on a daily or weekly basis that helps you build your professional base of knowledge, but which is not dedicate to a particular client.  For example, you need to keep track of the inventory on the market, not for a specific buyer or seller but just because it’s your job to know what’s going on in your area.  And you need to work on developing and expanding your skills if you want to be a successful agent.

So here are some examples of productive “work” activities related to professional development:

  • Going to office meetings.
  • Going on tour.
  • Previewing active listings.
  • Reviewing new listing hot sheets.
  • Professional reading: news, blogs books, etc.
  • Attending training classes!
  • Reading market analysis.
  • Learning how to use technology.

How much time should you spend? Well, any time that you are not spending servicing active clients or generating new clients should obviously be dedicated to your own professional development.  We recommend 10-15% of your weekly time.  You should obviously be spending more time generating and servicing your clients, but you need to allocate a part of your week to building your own skills and knowledge.

So What’s NOT Productive Work?

Which obviously leads us to the question of what activities do not constitute “work” in our system.  It’s actually pretty easy.  Just ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I servicing an active client?  If “yes,” that’s work.  If “no,” then go on to question #2.
  2. Am I generating new business?  If “yes,” that’s work.  If “no,” then go on to question #3.
  3. Am I developing my skills or knowledge? If .“yes,” that’s work.  If “no,” then go on to the conclusion.

Conclusion: Why am I doing this activity if it’s not really “work?”

That’s what you need to ask yourself.  Why are you doing that activity if it doesn’t service your clients, build your business, or help you develop skills or knowledge?  The answer is that you’re likely just engaging in “work avoidance” because you have some generally difficult, complex, or even just unpleasant things to do, and you’d rather just take it easy.  Well, that’s fine.  Take the whole day off if you really want.  But don’t spend the day wasting your time and think that you’re actually “working.”  Because you’re not.

Here are some examples of things that do not constitute work, but which take up a lot of time in the average agent’s day:

  • Coffee klatch conversations with other agents.
  • Browsing facebook.
  • Personal emails.
  • Surfing the web.
  • Personal errands.
  • “Organizing your desk”
  • Complaining.

Now, some of those things are activities that you have to do (i.e., like your personal errands), and some of them are perfectly harmless (i.e., chatting with agents). And it might be that spending time in these types of activities helps you focus the rest of your day – after all, we all benefit from taking a break now and then.

But the key is this: they’re not “work.”  So don’t spend your day doing them and think that you got actual “work” done.  After all, your whole day should not be a “break.”  A break from what?

Go to Part Two Here.

 

Rules for CORE Agents #36-1/2: The Blockbusters You Need to Break Through the Blocks That Are Keeping You From Taking the Steps To Reach Your Goals Are _______________

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ve been counting up the rules from #1 to #36-1/2 for almost two years, and we’re now at the end — where you can find out why there’s a “half-rule”.   You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

 

Setting goals is important.  But it’s not enough.

We’ve all become too reliant on the power of setting goals to change our behavior. All these trainers telling us to write down our goals every day and post them on our mirror.  All these people who read The Secret and set up their dream boards convinced that the universe is going to send them a lottery ticket.

Now, goal-setting is an important part of making significant changes in our life, since the very act of sitting down and writing out a goal tends to focus the mind on what you want to accomplish.  That famous “law of attraction” is really just a way of saying that our thoughts tend to affect our behavior: the more we think about the goal we want to achieve, the more we’re likely to act in a way that will help us achieve it.

The problem is not that people set goals, it’s that they ONLY set goals.  Then they just sit back, keep doing things exactly the way they always have, and just wait for good things to happen.

But you have to do more than just write down a goal – you have to actually identify the steps that will help you achieve that goal.  For example, let’s say that you goal is to lose 25 pounds.

  • Goal: Lose 25 pounds.

Go ahead and write that down on your bedroom mirror all you want, you’re not going to lose 25 pounds unless you take the specific steps that will make changes to your diet and exercise routine.  Here are some sample steps you could take:

  • Step 1: Cut out all bread and pasta.
  • Step 2: Eat a hearty breakfast every morning.
  • Step 3: Go to the gym three times a week.

So now you not only have the goal, but you’ve identified the way you’re going to achieve that goal.

But you’re not yet done.  Even identifying the steps you want to take is not enough to help you achieve your goals.  You know why?  Because the steps you’ve identified are probably things that you’ve tried to do before, and you’ve failed.  This probably isn’t your first attempt to lose weight, and in your previous attempts you might have laid out the steps you were going to take to achieve your goals.  Maybe you tried to eat breakfast every morning, or go to the gym more, but you got busy and dropped out.

In other words, you have “blocks” that are keeping you, and have always kept you, from taking the steps you need to achieve your goals.  So it’s not enough to set goals, and it’s even not enough to identify the steps that will help you achieve the goals.  The key to achieving the results you want is to go to the deeper level of identifying the obstacles, those blocks, that keep you from taking the steps to achieve your goal.

Let’s unpack that.

  • First, you have goals.
  • Second, you have steps that will help you achieve those goals.
  • Third, you have obstacles – the “blocks” — that will keep you from taking those steps, which will thereby keep you from reaching your goals.

Thus, if you eliminate the blocks, you’ll then take the steps and increase the chances of reaching your goals.

Going back to our weight-loss example, we identified three steps that would help you lose weight.  Now, let’s add some sample obstacles that might keep you from taking those steps:

  • Step 1: Cut out all bread and pasta.  Blocks: (1) there’s a lot of pasta in your house, (2) pasta is a cheap and easy lunch.
  • Step 2: Eat a hearty breakfast every morning.  Block: you’re always rushing in the morning.
  • Step 3: Go to the gym three times a week.  Block: you never have the time.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.  We have our goal, we have our steps, and now we have the blocks that we think are likely to prevent us from taking those steps.

Now comes the final part: identifying the solutions to the obstacles, which are the “blockbusters” that are going to break through those blocks and let us take the steps to achieve our goals. As you can see, some steps have many obstacles, so the challenge is to find a solution for each one.  Here are some more examples:

  • There’s a lot of pasta in the house.  That’s simple.  Throw it out, or give it away.  If you have kids or a spouse that eats the pasta, at least try to get them pasta that they like but you don’t.  Alternatively, try finding something that’s a reasonable but healthier substitute for pasta (like quinoa or whole wheat), or just resolve that you’re going to eat less of it.
  • Pasta is a cheap and easy lunch.  Find something else that’s just as easy or cheap, or realize that if you’re eating less you’re going to save some money and can afford, say, a salad or something healthy like that.
  • You’re always rushing in the morning. Every night, cut up some fruit and put it in a ziplock in the fridge.  In the morning, grab it and eat it in the car.
  • You never have the time.  This is a pretty common problem, and one way to solve it is to hire a personal trainer.  If you don’t have the money, try to find someone in the office that you can go to the gym with, and make an appointment three times a week to go together.  The appointment, just like an appointment with a trainer, will help you keep that resolve, because you’re less likely to break a commitment to someone else than you are to yourself.

You see how it works.  Maybe those solutions don’t work for you.  That’s fine.  Find a solution that does.

The key is to keep breaking down the goal into steps, then into blocks, then into blockbusting solutions, remembering the following:

  • If you find a blockbuster to the block, you’ll overcome the block.
  • If you overcome the block, you’ll take the step.
  • If you take the step, you’ll achieve the goal.

The problem most of us have is that we write down the goals, and then never actually figure out the steps. And even if we figure out the steps, we never actually identify the block to taking those steps.  And, finally, even if we identify the blocks, we never come up with the way to break through those obstacles.  That’s why most diets, and most self-improvement programs, fail.

The Half-Rule

So that’s why this final rule is only half a rule.  The biggest obstacle that’s keeping you from taking the steps to achieve your goals is…….what?  I don’t know.  You have to figure that out.  I did my half, you need to do yours.

Here’s your process:

  1. State the goal you want to reach.  The goal could be anything: doing more lead generation, closing more deals, making more money, finding a spouse, losing weight, etc.
  2. Identify the specific steps you need to take to reach that goal.
  3. Figure out the specific obstacles that will likely keep you from taking those steps.
  4. Come up with the blockbusting solution to each obstacle.
  5. Start implementing those solutions, then taking the steps, and commit to continuing to work to achieve your goals.

It’s not easy.  You still need to be committed, you still need the will power to succeed, you still have the same challenges you always had for achieving your goals.  All I’m giving you is a process, but it’s a process that will give you a much better chance of achieving your goals than simply writing them down and wishing that they come true.

 

 

Rules for CORE Agents #35: Self-Improvement Plans Fail Because They Don’t Work, Or Because They Do

We’ve all been through it.  You go to some sort of coaching or training seminar, and get inspired to make some changes in your business. You’re going to set up a whole new system for developing your sphere, or engage in two hours of lead generation a day, or join a bunch of new organizations, or whatever.  You’re going to make some changes that will completely transform your career.

A month later, you’re back to “normal.” Those training manuals?  They’re in a drawer somewhere.  The follow-up classes? You had to skip them because you had an inspection that day.  No change. No transformation.

One of two things happened.  First, maybe the program didn’t work.  You tried it, gave it a little time, didn’t get any results, and so you stopped doing it.  Let’s put aside whether you gave yourself enough time for it to work, and stipulate that if you don’t get results from the program, you’re not going to continue to put time, effort, and money into it.

More interestingly, the second reason that self-improvement programs fail is because they actually DO work.  Let’s say that you started doing the program, and you really started to see the results.  You’re making lots of new contacts, a whole bunch of new leads, and you’re almost giddy with excitement.  You had your doubts, you were worried that it all sounded good but wouldn’t actually succeed in practice, and now you’re seeing it pay off.  It really works!

But now something very strange happens – you get a little over-confident.  You marvel at how simple it was, how easy it now seems.  You can’t believe that you didn’t start doing it years ago.  But now that you’re a little busier, you start to cut corners.  Those two hours of prospecting calls?  That follow-up campaign? You don’t really have time for it, because you have so much new business already.  So maybe you’ll just take this week off to “catch up” with everything else. Just a short break.  After all, it’s so easy, you can just turn it on anytime you need to jumpstart your business.  So you’ll get through this backlog, keep that great program in your back pocket, and pull it out anytime you need it.

And you never do it again.  In other words, it worked, so you stopped doing it.  I know it sounds nuts, but it happens.  We go on diets, lose 10 pounds, and start cheating because we figure we can go back on the diet whenever we need to lose weight again.  We go on a lead generation campaign, develop a bunch of leads, and stop because all those leads need our attention. Then a month later we wonder where all our leads went.  Don’t let that happen to you.  If you start a new program, you need to give it time to work.  And if it does indeed work, then realize that you would be absolutely crazy to stop doing it.

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #34: Only Embrace New Technologies That Replace Old Tools With Better Tools

Consider the plight of the poor “Realtogeek” – real estate agents who embrace new technology so tightly that they leap into every new trend and buy every shiny new gizmo that hits the market.  While the Realtosaurus reacts to the intimidation of new technologies by shutting down and ignoring them, Realtogeeks respond by elevating them as centerpiece of their business in the smug belief that all the “old school” ways of doing things are dead.

But Realtogeeks make the mistake of thinking that they’re in the technology business, not the real estate business, and so they spend too much of their time doing things that don’t actually help them acquire clients or sell homes. They don’t see the point of cultivating a sphere, or contacting FSBOs and expireds, because they’re going to generate all the leads they need from their blog, their Twitter feed, or that new online system they just bought.  They don’t pick up the phone, since, well, NO ONE talks on the phone anymore.  New technologies become important for their own sake, a security blanket that tricks the Realtogeek into thinking that he had a productive day if he spent three hours posting a great answer on Trulia Voices that is generating a lot of online buzz.

Now, I’m not saying that technology is a bad thing. You need to find a happy medium between the Realtosauruses who reject all new technologies and the Realtogeeks who embrace all of them for their own sake.  The key is to recognize that technology is just a tool, and differentiate between the tools that will help you and the tools that are a waste of your time.

Here’s the key: if a new technology allows you to do something you were already doing, but to do it faster, cheaper, or easier, then it’s a productive technology and you should learn how to use it in your business.  That is, good technologies are just tools that are better than the old tools you were already using:  smartphones are better than dumbphones, online MLS systems are better than shoeboxes full of index cards, emailing is better than mailing, scanning better than faxing, a GPS is better than a map, digital photography is better than film.  All these new technologies are great because they are just tools that give us a better way to do something we were already doing.

Conversely, non-productive technologies are tools that seduce you into spending a lot of time doing things that you never did before, like blogging and tweeting and answering online questions from people who are not, and will likely never be, your clients.  You have to avoid technologies that give you that false sense of productivity because you spent a lot of time in front of the computer without actually accomplishing anything that will generate business or service a client.

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #33: You Wouldn’t Trust a Doctor Who Still Used Leaches

Consider the plight of the poor “Realtosaurus” – real estate agents who are increasingly falling behind because they stubbornly resist learning how to use modern technology.  They’re so afraid of these new technologies that they’ve overcompensated by making it an “old school” point of pride that they don’t know how to use a computer or a smartphone or the internet.  They do business the “old fashioned” way!

I think we all have to acknowledge that the time has passed when someone who doesn’t know how to use a computer is charming or colorful.  It’s just silly to stick your head in the sand and pretend that you can still be as effective and efficient without taking advantage of new technology that’s available to you.  Imagine an agent 30 years ago refusing how to use a copy machine, insisting that the “old school” way of mimeographing was good enough.

Moreover, it’s not fair to your clients. Why should clients trust an agent who can’t perform some of the basic requirements of the job – taking and enhancing digital photos, pulling comps online, creating and sending PDF documents, staying in touch through email and text?  Would you trust a doctor who trumpeted the virtues of his old school approach to using leeches and boring holes in your skull to release all the evil demons?

The reason so many of us are afraid of new technologies is that we give them too much credit.  We’re too intimidated by them, and many of us respond to that intimidation by just shutting down.  It doesn’t help that the real estate industry keeps treating “technology” as some awesome, unfathomable, omnipotent force that is segregated out as its own discrete category – we have whole conferences just devoted to “real estate technology” and whole training courses dedicated to teaching “technology” as a standalone subject.  Having a whole conference dedicated to social media is as ridiculous as a conference 25 years ago devoted to teaching people how to use answering machines, copiers, and the white pages.

Technology is not our job, it’s just a tool that we need to use in our job.  And like any tool that’s important for our business, you need to learn how to use it if you’re going to stay relevant.  Refusing to learn how to use a computer is like refusing to learn how to use a fax machine.

So stop being intimidated by new technologies. Learn how to use them, not for their own sake, but so that you can figure out how they can help you do your job.

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #32: Spend Five Minutes Each Morning Organizing Your Day

If you can carve out five minutes every morning to organize your day, you’ll save yourself many, many more minutes.  I know you’re busy.  We’re all busy.  But we’re only talking about five minutes.  300 seconds!

I’m not talking about anything elaborate, just sitting down and thinking about what you want to accomplish that day, and how you’re going to do it. You’ll find that just the act of sitting and thinking for a few minutes every day will make you more organized, disciplined, and productive during the rest of the day.

Here’s why it’s important.  Very few people start each day with an organized plan  They have a general idea of what they need to do, usually built around the appointments they’ve set up or their “to do” list, but they don’t have a firm structure.

So what happens?  They start with all sorts of energy and enthusiasm to get things done, and then something unexpectedly comes up that dominates their day: a problem with a deal, an angry call from a client, an email with a request.  Whatever it is, it wasn’t even on the schedule, but it ends up becoming the main focus of their day, and they never actually get to any of the items on their supposed “to do” list.

Now, sometimes emergencies come up, and will throw even the most disciplined person off their game.  But here’s the key: someone who actually has a schedule set up is MUCH more likely to get able to get back on schedule after a disruptive event than someone without a plan.

Put it this way: you’re much more likely to get back on course if you actually HAVE A COURSE to get on. If you start the day with only a general idea of what you want to accomplish, it’s a lot easier to end up getting distracted and disrupted.

It’s like sailing a boat.  Sometimes, the wind is going to pick up and throw you off course.  But the sailor who has set a firm course about where she wants to go is going to have an easier time recovering than someone who was just “sailing around.”

So plan your day.  You don’t need to spend half an hour doing it.  You don’t need to hyper-organize your day into 15-minute increments.  Just spend five minutes gathering yourself, setting your goals, structuring your appointments, organizing your thoughts, and committing yourself to what you want to accomplish.

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #31: Never Talk to Another Real Estate Agent For More Than Five Minutes

I love real estate agents. I work with them every day. I am even married to one. You probably like real estate agents, too.  They’re your colleagues, your co-workers, your friends, and the people you spend most of your time with every day.

But you should stop talking to them so much.  Why? Very simple: they’re almost certainly never going to buy or sell a house with you.  You need to spend more time with people who actually might.

Unfortunately, a lot of real estate agents spend an inordinate amount of time every day talking to other real estate agents.  We get pulled into these never-ending conversations where we complain about the market, gossip about other agents, and share war stories.  Obviously, that’s all largely wasted time, and you should do your best to extricate yourself for those traps as much as possible.

But even the “productive” conversations you have with other agents can sap your time and energy. When you’re putting together a deal with other agents, you’re likely to have long conversations with them about negotiating the offer, dealing with inspection issues, scheduling meetings, and so forth.  Those conversations are obviously important, since they help you complete transactions that are the foundation of your income, but they often take too long as you both go back and forth without ever getting to the point quickly and directly.

So here’s the rule you should follow: never talk to another agent for more than five minutes.  Anything you need to discuss – an offer, an inspection, a transactional issue, listing feedback – can be done in five minutes or less. Any more than that, and you’re just wasting time.

A great way to limit your phone calls is to use “I only have a moment” trick, which goes like this: “Hi Bob, I just wanted to call you to go over the inspection, but I only have a moment.”  Or “Hi Sue, I only have a moment, but I wanted to see if you had any feedback on the listing.”

Why is this so helpful?  Because you’ve signaled to the other agent that you need to make the conversation quick, which encourages them to get to the point quickly. It’s not rude, it’s almost flattering: you’re indicating to them that you have a busy schedule, but you’ve carved out time for this call because it’s so important.

Indeed, the other agent will probably appreciate it.  Don’t flatter yourself: she’s probably thrilled if she can get you off the phone in less than five minutes….

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #30: Better a Holiday Than a “Hollow Day”

You ever come to the end of the day, exhausted in that satisfying way that reassures you that you’ve had a good, productive day?  And then when you review what you accomplished, you realize that you spent the whole day getting a whole lot of nothing done?

I mean, you were AT work.  You were in the office. You were doing work-like things such as making photocopies and sitting in front of the computer and drinking coffee and all that.  It certainly felt like work.  But then you really take a hard look at it, and you realize that you frittered away a lot of the day.  Maybe it was because you had something really difficult to do: a call to an angry client, some paperwork drudgery, some “prospecting” that you were dreading. So you ended up spending much of the day “warming up” to the hard task.  You cleaned the desk, checked your Facebook page, meandered around the office.   You were at work all day, but you didn’t actually work.

I call these “hollow days”: days that you spend at the office working hard but accomplishing little or nothing.  The worst part of the “hollow day” is that you basically stole a day from yourself, and your family, and your life.  You could have taken off for the day and enjoyed yourself, recharging your batteries for a more productive day later in the week.  Instead, rather than take a holiday, you took a “hollow day” (you have to read that out loud to enjoy the clever wordplay).  .

So make a simple commitment to yourself.  When you’re working, work.  Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the comfort zone of feeling that you had a full, satisfying day unless you actually got real “work” done that day: (1) servicing existing clients: taking out buyers, preparing listing presentations or CMAs, negotiating deals, completing paperwork, etc., (2) developing new clients: working your sphere, following up with leads, preparing mailings, etc., or (3) learning: training, weekly meetings, reviewing inventory, doing market analysis.

Nothing else is “work.” Chatting with other agents? Not work.  Picking up laundry?  Not work.  Surfing Facebook?  Not work.

And to be fair, make the reciprocal commitment: when you’re not working, don’t work!  You’re entitled to have a life.

The point is this: working is fine.  Playing is fine.  Do one or the other.  But don’t try to do both at the same time, or you’ll do both things terribly.

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.

Rules for CORE Agents #29: Wednesday is the Enemy of All Diets

You ever go on a diet? I’ve been on lots and lots of them, and they all go kind of the same way.

I wake up Monday morning, full of enthusiasm to start the new diet.  I have that all-important first meal of the day, something with lots of fiber and all that.  I eat fruit.  At lunch, I have a salad.  I don’t snack.  At dinner, some lean chicken or fish and some steamed vegetables. I go to bed proud of myself.

Tuesday, same thing.  Fruit, salad, lean meats, steamed vegetables. I go to bed fired up about putting together two great days in a row.

Then comes Wednesday.  I get a late start, so I skip breakfast.  At 10AM, starving, I grab an egg sandwich with cheese, and some hash browns, which are most definitely NOT on this new diet of mine.  Come lunchtime, an odd thing happens: I decide that I’ve already “blown the day” with that bad breakfast, and so I figure that I might as well take the rest of the day off and start again on Thursday.  So I have a pizza.  Not a slice of pizza.  A WHOLE PIZZA.  And then at dinner, I go completely off the rails with whatever taste of heaven I’ve been denying yourself all week: steak, cream sauces, whatever.

Now it’s Thursday.  The weekend is looming, I know I’m going to want to go out to dinner or drink or do something that’s not on the diet.  And, after all, I’ve already “blown the week”!  Soooooo……..more pizza, burgers, whatever I can stuff down my big fat pie-hole.

Bottom line: Wednesday is the enemy of all diets.

Okay, so maybe it’s not ALWAYS Wednesday. Maybe it’s Thursday.  Maybe it’s the weekend.  The idea is that anyone who has ever gone on a diet, or started some sort of self-improvement program, has at some point had a bad day. You were all full of energy and enthusiasm for making the change in your diet, or work routine, or personal habits, and got “on a roll.”  Then you had a bad day that killed your momentum.  For some reason, in your mind, you decided that you had to be PERFECT.  And if you weren’t perfect, you just threw out the whole program and resolved to start again at some point when you could be perfect.

Stop doing that.  If you want to make a change in your life, then you have to accept that it’s going to take time. You’re going to have good days, and you’re going to have bad days.  The key is to have more good than bad, and to recognize that every day is a new opportunity to start a new streak.

Stop trying to be perfect.  Try to have more good days than bad days, especially if the bad day is just another Wednesday.

 

This post is part of a series of what I call the “36-1/2 Rules for Client-Oriented Real Estate Agents,” a collection of short takes on the CORE concept that I’ve developed over the years of discussing and teaching the system.  We’ll count up to the 36th rule over the next few months, and then the 1/2 rule.  You can get the full list of rules by clicking on the “36-1/2 Rules for CORE Agents” category on the blog – scroll from the bottom if you want to read them in order.