My job in the real estate industry is quite demanding. There are no set office hours. I have to work, even on weekends and holidays; at times early in the morning or late at night. A regular day consists of tons of things to do, especially with new leads coming in every hour. The more customers I close, the more I have to take care of; and that list just keeps piling up every day. I’m in the process of creating a sales process & training and that requires a lot of brain work. On top of that, I equally attend to other aspects of my life: Exercise is part of my routine. I make sure to catch up with friends at least twice a week. My books, magazines, and notebooks (and pen) are always within reach. Spiritual activities still take priority among any others. I go on trips each month or two and personal care is certainly not the least of my priorities. And the best part is, I still get eight hours of sleep (and more) doing all of it. I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite taking at least one of the most stressful jobs in the market, I feel that there is time to do what I like and need. So, how do I do it?
There is no magic formula to manage time properly, though I believe there is a set of essential attributes one must keep in practice:
- Decisiveness. You won’t be able to get on with your schedule if you can’t say no and if you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to achieve. It comes with self-confidence, self-worth, and all other pre-requisites (I won’t expound on those here).
- Conscientiousness. If you’re not an obsessive freak to the slightest degree, you might not get plenty of things done. I’m not exactly talking about your desk or your car. I’m talking about your mind. You have to be able to categorize certain tasks; if not in a list, then maybe in your brain’s invisible storage.
So Here’s My Advice
1. Make time for not-so-urgent-but-important things, though they might not seem pressing at the moment. Imagine how many times you daydream about your next adventure, or wishing you got to catch up with a long-time friend, or come across room-design or scrapbook-design inspiration on Pinterest you hope to bring to life, or think about your ever-growing list of must-watch movies and must-read books. After which, your mind enters a more negative state, placing you through a questioning frenzy and an ungrateful mood, which translates to crappy work and decreased self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not healthy to focus on the have-nots; but at times and in moderation, you’ve got to give yourself more credit and do what makes you happy because it energizes, refreshes, and inspires you to do more excellent work.
2. Work in intervals. My theory is that the new-age workforce doesn’t fit well into the 9-5 schedule. Notice how start-ups don’t establish strict timeframes. They attempt to foster a more creative environment and flexible work hours. High-powered individuals with a lot of responsibility perform better when they own their time. These people know well when they undergo a stress attack and refrain from working the minute it strikes. Instead, they go for a walk, take a coffee break or move on to a more social setting to take their minds off the draining task at hand. When you’re confined in an office, constantly checking the clock in despair, it’s best to be resourceful with it. Alternate between the repetitive, the mentally draining, and the socially-engaging. Don’t cram everything in one sitting as much as possible.
3. Delegate menial, repetitive tasks. Administrative duties such as transcribing, encoding, tallying—those that can easily be taught and replicated can be handled by others so you can focus on more important jobs such as brainstorming, strategizing, and whatnot. The worst thing you can do is take up all the load as it results in burnout, frustration, and low motivation. You can also assign a less clerical task to lighten your load, but make sure to create a process and clearly assign it to a competent subordinate. After then can you turn to making important decisions; merely overseeing your assistants from time-to-time.
By the way, you don’t necessarily have to seek help in the form of a living thing. Your computer or smartphone might just be right (or better) for the job. If you’re troubled over doing repetitive tasks, do a little research and learn about the latest software that can help you out. Most services offer free trial so you can give them a try. For instance, I’ve been using basic free tools such as Gmail Labs (integrated email features), file-sharing applications such as Google Docs and Dropbox, email-marketing services such as AWeber or MailChimp, and desktop versions of mobile messaging apps. I’m constantly on the lookout for new innovation that can increase productivity in a shorter amount of time. In order to keep myself marketable, I have to always adapt to new technologies and ever-changing business environments.
This doesn’t only apply to work. I’m also talking about the routinary things you do every day. You might find ways to make travel, house chores, and other errands more efficiently by assigning someone to do them or by making smarter choices that cut your time doing them (unless of course, you take it as a means of rest or of utmost necessity).
4. Focus > Multi-task. In a world where things are ever-changing and where information is the sine qua non to competitive advantage, one can’t help but tolerate data overload and multiple stimulus from smartphone notifications. This possibly leads to shorter attention span and when not carefully restrained, lower levels of productivity. Because unless we’re a super genius, we’re not wired to be effective that way. Set an hour or two for certain tasks that require your full attention, such as writing and doing creative brain-work but make sure to avoid getting distracted in the first place. Create a time-block and cancel all meetings, lose the door, set your phone on silent, switch on some classical music. Sink into your own creative zen-mode in a time, place, and environment where your brain can thrive on one activity.
5. Leave less time for not helpful, unproductive, unimportant tasks. Out of all my advice, this might be the most painful one. Imagine what it would be like to delay watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones? What it means to forego checking your IG feed every 15 minutes? And the tremendous energy it takes to keep you from going on a shopping spree? It’s all a matter of mental strength. And believe me, there will be trying times. But if you’re a goal-setter and go-getter, you’d be willing to make this sacrifice. Cut the weeds to make room for the flowers to grow.
Famous Last Words
And so I leave you with five points I hope would mean something. I’m sure you’re aware by now that the future is entirely in your hands whether you like it or not—whether you acknowledge it or not. It all starts with what you really want to achieve in your lifetime. Stephen Covey was right when he said, ‘keep the end in mind’. Make life your art and garnish it with fine detail and meaningful living.
*This was a LinkedIn article published in May 2016.