If you find yourself saying things like “There’s not enough time in the day,” know that there’s a better way, and it starts with being proactive. Being proactive is time-blocking, whereas being reactive is like playing whack-a-mole all day. Here’s how to take back your day and get it all done.
I’m all about continuing education. I am a conference junkie, and I love a good workshop. I also have had quite a few coaches, and I highly recommend that you hire one if you want to level up in a specific area of your life.
However, maybe a coach or a workshop isn’t in your budget right now. You need results and you need them fast.
I have one simple question you can ask yourself every night that will profoundly change your business (and your life), and it won’t cost a dime.
Here it is:
“How can I plan to be proactive tomorrow?”
Being proactive is planning ahead. Being reactive is putting out fires. Being proactive is time-blocking, whereas being reactive is like playing whack-a-mole all day. When we are proactive, our lives feel full, but not out of control.
When we are reactive, we hardly ever do our best work.
The hard part is that real estate is in many ways a career that is wired for reactivity. We have deadlines that are real, and if we don’t meet them, our clients face serious consequences. We are in a highly competitive industry where response times truly matter. We get more texts than anybody we know, and our email inboxes overflow.
All this to say, it will not come naturally to you as an agent to be proactive, but it can be done. Just think about your day so far.
Have I been more proactive or reactive?
I have found that the most sustainably successful people I know are exceptionally proactive. They aren’t just proactive about work or their health, but also about things that we can often forget like date nights and self-care.
I don’t think I have ever heard someone say about someone else, “I wish you would stop being so proactive,” and I bet you haven’t either.
Plan your day
If you struggle with being reactive, the best thing you can do is plan out your day the night before. Here are some ideas, as you look at the day ahead:
1. Identify unassigned time blocks
Look for pockets of unused time that you could use for something proactive. Perhaps you wait in the car to pick up a child from an after-school activity and often arrive 10 minutes early.
What if you used that 10 minutes to text or call one or two past clients? Maybe reach out and thank someone for a referral? How about listening to part of a podcast? If you do that three times a week there is 30 minutes of important work and the chance to reach out in a meaningful way.
I want you to see that we all have way more time at our disposal than we think, but it is often in such small portions that we overlook it.
In addition to work, I often use those itty-bitty time spots for listening to music I love, calling my dad or reading newsletters from people who have inspiring messages.
You don’t have to work all the time. In fact, you need to plan to be off task from time to time, giving your brain a break from the demands of our industry.
2. Make your list
Identify your top one to two priorities from a work perspective for the day ahead. I usually do this by writing down everything I have to do. I do this by using a full size legal pad.
On the left-hand column I list things I must do tomorrow. These are pressing things. Then I highlight or circle my top few priorities. On the right hand side, I put the next day and list things I want to do then, also knowing some non-essential tasks will spill over.
Then at the bottom in the middle, I have “later” and list everything else. For the day ahead — in addition to identifying those priorities — I also put a letter “D” beside anything I can delegate to anyone else on my team or in my family.
3. Rescheduling is your friend
If you already know the day will be crazy tomorrow, go ahead delegate when you can, and then delete or reschedule anything that isn’t truly pressing. This is the best way I know to get some margin back in your day, if it is already slammed.
4. Weekly opportunity check-in
For those of you who are chronically over-scheduled, I recommend that when people reach out to ask you to do something, maybe from your kids’ school or the board you are on, you do this simple thing: Wait until the end of the week, look at all these “opportunities,” and decide if you want to say yes.
By waiting, you’ll have more clarity on which ones are the best use of your time and energy, and by seeing how many there are, it might also help trigger you to say “no” more often. I have a simple filter I run through to decide if I want to say yes or no.
Here is my filter:
- Does this sound really exciting?
- Does this fit my goals for this year personally or professionally?
- Will this truly get me more business or create meaningful relationships, or is this just an ego boost? I never want to make a decision from the “people-pleaser” part of my brain. I want to make it from that of a woman who runs two businesses, who deeply values her time and the time of others.
- Is this a once in a lifetime opportunity, or could I say yes in the future if I wanted to? In almost every volunteer experience you have ever been asked to do, you can count on the fact they will ask you again.
- What do I have to say no to, to say yes to this? Am I OK with that trade-off? You can come up with your own, but if you follow some line of questioning like this, you’ll find yourself saying “thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t commit” more often than not.
Tonight before you hop (or crawl … depends on the day, right?) into bed, think about tomorrow: How can you be proactive?
Do you need to reschedule or delegate some tasks first thing in the morning? What are your top priorities? Are there some itty-bitty time pickets in your day you can better leverage?
I hope by asking yourself these questions, tomorrow will turn out to be one of your most productive, proactive and rewarding work days, ever!
“Being successful requires being proactive and not waiting for life to come to you. It means you’re on offense, not defense. You’re active, not passive.” — Benjamin Hardy, author of Personality Isn’t Permanent
Stephanie Lanier is the founder and CEO of Lanier Property Group, a boutique real estate firm in Wilmington, North Carolina.