By Toby Welch
Controlling your schedule – and not having it control you – is a huge challenge for most real estate agents. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, yet some agents seem to accomplish so much more. They have mastered their schedule.
Starting the day with a plan is essential. Taking a few minutes in the morning (or the night before, in preparation for the next day) will set up your day for success. With your long-term goals in mind, create your daily schedule with what you need to accomplish. Then stick to your plan.
Perhaps the most crucial factor in mastering your schedule is using a system that works for you. It doesn’t matter what you pick— a Day-Timer, index cards, a software program, sticky notes, anything – as long as it is effective.
What works for Shelly Coutu, a broker and mortgage agent with Revel Realty in Niagara Falls, Ont., is what she calls a trifecta approach.
“I have three ways to ensure I do not go off the rails, both in business and in my everyday approach to life. I am first and foremost still an old school kind of girl… using a hard copy Day-Timer, with an actual pen to paper. Second, I have given in to my iPhone calendar, setting the reminder with two reminder chimes. The third method is the trusted daily to-do list. Then I always reward myself with time to relax at the end of a busy and successful day.”
Without a schedule for the day and the gumption to stick with it, the hours tend to fill with the dozens of little things that inevitably crop up. Before you know it, the day is gone and nothing essential was accomplished, like a hamster on a wheel. Keep a tight leash on your schedule so non-critical interruptions don’t become the greatest time drain on your day.
That said, unplanned things do pop up. When creating your schedule, leave gaps to accommodate them.
Your schedule system doesn’t have to be complicated. Jamie Hooper, an agent with Re/Max Crest Realty Westside in Vancouver, only uses Google Calendar. That’s it. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. Without a schedule, Hooper finds it especially easy to put off things like doing video emails and marketing.
He says, “The biggest distraction for agents is phones. When people call, they just want to talk to someone. If I’m not available, I call someone else on my team and let them know I’m forwarding my phone to them for a couple hours. What one agent does is change his voice mail every morning to say when he’ll be returning calls.”
Coutu figured out how to keep the phone from dictating her schedule.
“Clients and friends may not be happy to learn that I will let nine out of 10 calls go directly to voicemail – admittedly while I am sitting directly beside the phone ‘watching’ it ring, or select the button on my iPhone that immediately forces the call to voice mail. That may sound unprofessional, unkind or arrogant, however I feel quite the opposite. I may or may not know why that individual is calling so I will let that person leave a message, so I can prepare both mentally and physically and ensure to be in an area conducive to returning that call. I am a very strong advocate for manners on both ends of a conversation, so a nice quiet area without interruptions is best, and most productive. My rule in the very same breath is to always return that call as promptly as possible… within reason.”
Karyn Filiatrault, a sales representative with PSR Brokerage in Toronto, shares a few tips on how she keeps control of her schedule:
“I don’t take days off, but I take hours off every day (whether that’s the middle or the end of the day).
“In prospecting, I focus on what I’m good at. I used to sit for hours pep-talking myself into making the cold calls. Same with door knocking. Instead, I now pour my energy into prospecting by writing blogs and producing real estate videos, which I love doing and have a talent for. I can do this kind of prospecting at night, too, while my son is in bed, so double win.
“I’ve got my buyer clients set up on instant prospect matches via the real estate app Collab – so instead of refreshing my browser to see what’s new every 10 minutes, the best prospective listings for each client get emailed to me the moment they’re listed.
“I refer business that is outside of my area of expertise. In my case, anything outside of Toronto’s core. That means I’m driving less, am more knowledgeable about the areas I do sell in and my clients are better served in the areas I don’t know as well.
“I have a fantastic support system in my son’s father and his fiancé. He’s a real estate agent too and so we have a special sympathy for the schedule some days.”
When mastering your schedule, focus on the things that are important for your career in the long term. And then lose the rest. In an industry where every day is different and usually jam-packed, it is critical that you control your schedule. Don’t let it control you.