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We all have 24 hours in a day. So, why do some people accomplish so much more than others in the same amount of time? They are extremely purposeful with their time, they measure their day in minutes, and they learn to say “yes” to only one or two things and “no” to everything else. Simple, right? But not always easy.
I see many entrepreneurs, agents and business owners fall into a pattern of wake, work, sleep, repeat. They have a vision. They’re passionate, they’re ambitious, and they will do whatever it takes to succeed. They are the definition of “relentless drive.” And that’s generally a good thing. But not when it starts to rub up against what someone truly values.
It’s far too easy to get caught in the cycle of more, better, faster. Believe me, I’ve been there! Burning the candle at both ends is no way to live a truly meaningful and fulfilling life.
The phrase “if I only had more time” is the busy person’s easiest excuse to avoid making a meaningful change. Your lifestyle (and your success) will only change when you change your relationship to time.
Here are six tips for better time management so you can live a life of purpose and prosperity:
1. Get clarity on what you truly value
The length of my to-do list is always a direct reflection of my level of clarity. We live in a time when everyone has too much to do, and being busy has become a badge of honor. But a long to-do list is not necessarily something to tout.
In fact, when I coach agents who can’t tell me in one sentence or less what their goal is for the week, I know there’s a clarity issue. Are you having trouble figuring out what to prioritize? Does everything on your to-do list feel equally important? Then you need more clarity on your goals and the actions that will help you achieve them.
I always like to ask this question when teaching: “What do you value most?” Inevitably, people will say their kids, their health or their spouse. But I would challenge you to ask yourself if this is really true.
If you want to know what someone really values, all you have to do is look at their schedule (not the beautiful color-coded calendar, but the actual log of what they do each day) and their bank account. You will quickly see whether or not what they say they value is actually where they spend their time and resources.
All of this is to ask, “What do you value?” Are you clear on what is most important to you in life and your work? This is where we have to start before we can make any meaningful progress on better time management. Otherwise, we don’t know why we are trying to be more purposeful with our time in the first place.
From this place of clarity, you can more easily filter through opportunities and obligations and determine what one or two things to say yes to and then confidently say no to everything else.
2. Determine your non-negotiables
Once you have clarity on what is most important to you, figure out your non-negotiables. These will be the most important and impactful places you want to show up each day. Perhaps at home, this means dinner with the family at 6 p.m. every night. At work, this could be lead generating every day until you have set one appointment or meeting with two agent recruits per day.
Just make sure you are clear on the priorities of your non-negotiables. If dinner is at 6 p.m., but you still haven’t made your one appointment for the day, something has to give. Depending on your values, you may keep pushing for the appointment or pause for dinner and then get back at it.
The point here, again, is clarity, clarity, clarity. You must know what you are not willing to budge on and, at the same time, preemptively decide how you are going to handle conflicting non-negotiables because conflicts will happen.
3. Cut all of your meetings in half (or eliminate them altogether)
We spend way too much time in meetings that don’t serve a purpose or help move our business forward. One of the best ways to better manage your time is to get some time back in your day.
Take a look at your schedule. Which meetings are non-negotiable and require your participation? I bet there are fewer than you think. Which meetings can you eliminate completely?
Next, look at meetings that you might be leading or participating in that could be handled by someone else. Great, have them take them over. What’s left? I challenge you to cut all of those meetings in half and get as many meetings down to 15-30 minutes.
When you are clear on what you value and where you need to show up to make the biggest impact on your career and business, eliminating meeting mayhem gets that much easier.
4. Establish a morning routine
How you start your day sets the tone for your energy, focus, productivity and impact throughout the rest of the day. I suggest setting aside at least 30 minutes in the morning to get centered and clear for the day ahead.
Incorporating activities such as meditation, exercise, breathing, reading or journaling can clear your mind and prepare you for whatever may come your way throughout the day. You can also review your goals, future self, or vision or mission statement as part of your morning routine.
Knowing exactly what you need to accomplish that day and why you are doing it makes every “yes” and “no” throughout the day that much easier to make.
5. Create your ideal schedule
I recommend doing this exercise annually for the year ahead (and then reviewing quarterly and making adjustments as needed). Creating an ideal schedule is not a one-and-done activity. Priorities shift and things change. By reviewing your calendar regularly, you will always be maximizing your time.
Schedule your vacations, school activities, family time or other “life” obligations first. Decide what time you want to begin working every day and what time you want to be done.
I know, I know. We’re in real estate! Is that even possible? Yes. Everyone is different, and this goes back to your values and non-negotiables. But even then, yes, you can decide what “work hours” you want to keep, and it’s up to you to communicate your hours to your team and clients and hold yourself accountable.
Schedule your workouts and your morning routine time. Schedule any breaks or “white space” (thinking/reading time) you want to have each day. Do you only want to work four days a week? Great!
The point of creating an ideal schedule is putting parameters and boundaries in place (based on your values and priorities) from which you can then operate in the business world. It also gives you extreme focus and will increase your productivity when you know you have six hours to work because you have a morning yoga class with your spouse, dinner with the family at 6 p.m., and a 1-hour volunteer committee meeting at noon.
6. Maximize little moments
Think about where you can double-up on important things to maximize your time throughout your day. I’m not talking about multitasking here, but rather combining two activities that use different parts of your brain to get more done in less time.
For example, driving, getting ready for the day, folding laundry, or running or biking are great times to listen to a podcast or Audible for your personal and professional growth. I like to take client calls during either walking outside or on my treadmill. You can watch an online training while making dinner or sorting through the mail. Maximize these little moments for enhanced productivity.
Better time management takes, well, time! I encourage you to take time this week (yes, you can find it) to think about what is really important to you and start building a schedule that supports who you are and how you want to live your life.
Imagine cutting your to-do list in half and being twice as or five-times more effective? I promise — it’s possible when approached with intention and clarity.
Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies