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In any job, it is important to stay organized. In a rapidly growing company, things are constantly changing. New opportunities arise and priorities shift causing employees to pivot on a regular basis. In a constantly changing environment where your target is constantly moving, getting and staying organized – as an employee, as a department, as a company – can be even more challenging. Organization is crucial to setting priorities and keeping track. In my role, I have found a few key tools that are crucial to staying organized and moving goals forward. They are simple and fail-proof. If you do not already use these tools, whether you are in a growing and changing company/role or not, I encourage you to practice them so they become part of your routine. They will become the staples in your organization arsenal.

Manage Your Calendar

As last week’s post mentioned, time blocking is crucial. At fthe beginning of every week, I take time on Sunday evening or Monday morning before the work day starts to review my schedule for the upcoming week. I take a look at any deadlines I may have or reports that are due and make sure to include prep time for them on my calendar. I also see what meetings I have scheduled and I gauge whether or not they need to be shifted around. Is a coworker who I regularly meet with going to be out of town? Do my non-company meetings conflict with a team meeting or a 411? Thinking about these things and planning ahead for the week helps set me up for a healthy start to the week.

Of course, things come up each and every day that require you to shift your schedule. It may be a last-minute meeting with my supervisor, or perhaps a team members need some assistance and support in handling a particular situation. Someone may get sick or a client may need to shift a meeting to a different time. And so it’s important to move time blocks around every day so as to address these ever-changing priorities. At the start and end of each day, allow for some time to adjust your calendar so you can be prepped and ready for the rest of the week

Create Tasks using Technology.

When new tasks come up, consider the tools that technology provides in task management. The following three methods have become part of my everyday organization strategy: 1) Google Calendar; 2) Slack; 3) Zoho Sprints

Google Calendar is most useful for tasks that I need to accomplish. To create tasks in Google Calendar, click on CREATE, then TASK, and then input the information relating to the task. Tasks can be scheduled for specific times or you can choose ALL DAY so tasks all are listed at the top of your calendar each day. As priorities change, tasks can be moved from one day to the next. And, of course, it always feels good to check off a task on the list when it has been completed.

Slack is useful for updating team members or other coworkers on items that need to be accomplished. There are task apps that can be linked to Slack that help draw your eye to certain things or group items in a more visually appealing way. However, a basic (and free!) way to set up tasks via Slack is to use PINS. Type a task into the designated channel and/or tag the designated individual responsible for completing the task and post it. Then, click on More Actions and chose Pin to this conversation. Pinned items are much easier to see and they can be separated out so pinned tasks can be grouped and viewed together. items groups together. This can very much help with staying organized.

ZohoSprints is something that we use as a company to keep track of tasks. We divide tasks into Months and then they are prioritized further into August A and August B Sprints. Each Sprint is to be completed in a two-week time period. This helps ensure that each department is moving forward and making progress on important tasks. Sprint tasks can be assigned to different team members so at weekly Department or Team meetings, priorities can be discussed and tasks can be updated.

Develop (and USE!) Systems and Checklists

Systems are critical to keeping organized. For example, for meetings, having an Agenda prepped and ready to go helps keep things on track. I have a standard Agenda template I use for certain meetings. I open them up and revise them prior to each meeting.

For every client call, I follow a process that has been documented and saved so it can be used time and again by me or by anyone else. Prior to each client call, I open the process document, review it, and update it. I make notes on any additional information I may need to provide to this client. And then I take notes during the call. I store the agenda and notes in my Client File and it becomes easily accessible for me and for my team members as they begin to work with new clients.

Brain Dump

When anxiety strikes, it can be so helpful, even therapeutic, to brain dump everything into a speadsheet. I have a Google Spreadsheet set up with the following columns:

  • Date of Input
  • Task Name
  • Category (that each relates to from my 20% or 80%)
  • Description
  • Due Date
  • Notes

Inevitably there are times when my head simply cannot hold all the information (and it should not have to) so I go to my Brain Dump Spreadsheet and unload everything from the disorganized mess in my mind and into the document. I create a filter for all columns so I can sort the tasks based on the date the task is due, category, and input date. And when I complete a task, I simply remove the item from the list. I review and update this spreadsheet every day so I can prioritize and stay organized. It is a lifesaver.

I hope these tips have been helpful. As I mentioned earlier, they are simple and straightforward. They are easy enough to implement into your everyday routine. Like anything else, to get the most out of these tools, it takes practice. Add one of these strategies to your routine every week for the next four weeks and see how much more organized you feel!

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When you work virtually, it can be hard to get to know the people on your team. At Your Realty Leverage, our staff members live all over the United States and the Philippines. We have “offices” in a variety of cities and states such as St. Petersburg, FL, Clarksville, TN, Durham, NC, and Baltimore, MD. And in the Philippines, our staff works all across the country from Cebu City to Negros to Manila. As the company grows, more people from more states and more cities join the team. Yet when there is no water cooler to gather around and no common area to relax in for break time, it can be challenging to get to know each other and to create meaningful shared experiences.

As we continue to both serve our clients and build our team, we recognize the importance of intentionality in creating opportunities for coworkers to connect in ways beyond department meetings and 411s. There are several things we do at YRL that I personally have enjoyed being a part of and have found value in in terms of getting to know my coworkers in a deeper way. I have made a list of these activities and am sharing them here in the hopes that your virtual team can benefit from them. Remember: being intentional is the key!

  1. Daily Stand Ups: Each morning, the entire company gathers on Zoom at the same time for a daily check-in meeting. This is a time and space we have intentionally created so that staff members have the opportunity to 1) share what they are thankful for/give gratitude for something in any aspect of their life, 2) offer shout outs to team members who have been helpful in a certain way, have a birthday or noteworthy occasion, 3) make general announcements, and 4) share an activity or information on a designated topic depending on the day of the week. We have created routine around bringing everyone together and starting the day with a common, unified experience. It makes me smile to see all the talking heads pop up on my screen as my coworkers join the Zoom room for our call.

Some Daily Stand Up experiences are simpler than others. We move through the agenda for the day and then continue with our workday. However, there are very special moments that come out of these meetings which help us connect in different ways. We learn about each other’s lifestyles, families, friends, challenging situations, personal growth and development, new ideas, travel experiences, and so much more. It can provide a new perspective on a coworker or situation that resonates with you personally. And it helps create stronger bonds and a greater understanding of everyone on our team.

  • One-On-One Meetings: It is common for our team members to schedule a variety of one-on-one meetings each week, typically with the focus on moving a specific project forward or gaining the skills and information needed to complete a given task. While those meetings focus on work, there is an opportunity to get to know each other by interacting in these moments. I encourage everyone to take some time in one-on-one meetings to pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues, to ask questions and build rapport with each other. We are so regularly focused on getting the job done that we can forget sometimes the human experience involved in getting us to reach a goal. Take time to learn about and from each other as you interact through your work

  • Ice Breakers: At one of our recent Daily Stand Ups, a coworker led the team through an activity that really got us talking and laughing. It was a simple activity requiring that everyone comment on different categories and align ourselves with one side/option or another. Are you a dog person or a cat person? Do you prefer vacationing at the beach or in the mountains? Do you prefer sleeping in or getting up early? We were encouraged to respond via Zoom chat and, as we did, we commented on and went deeper with our answers. It created conversation and laughter, people joked with each other, others asked questions. We all got to be a part of the fun and we really enjoyed it. Incorporating ice breakers into your weekly routine can help contribute to breaking down barriers and aligning people in different ways.

  • Happy Hour: On a Friday afternoon after a week of focus and hard work, it can be relaxing and enjoyable to gather with coworkers to debrief and transition into the weekend. Bring your own snack and a refreshing drink. Take off your blazer. Kick off your shoes and put your feet up. Let your hair down. Think about the challenges and the successes from the week. Recognize the accomplishments. Talk about plans for the weekend. And enjoy the company of your coworkers. Simply providing a chance for people to unwind and enjoy each other’s company can help build rapport.

  • Culture Committee: Recently, we formed a Culture Committee to establish intention and structure around our company culture. We have not yet reaped the benefits of creating such a group. As time goes on, we will have different activities and there will be more opportunities for people to get to know each other. As the committee develops, I hope to write about how our culture has shifted and strengthened as a result of their work. Stay tuned for further blog posts with updates on being intentional with your team around getting together.
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I like to work. Working brings me joy. I like being productive and making a difference through the work I do. Over the years, I have found that I’m more productive when I’m busy. I get energy from putting in the hard work and seeing results. It means I’m contributing! Every now and then, I am tasked with something that I don’t know how to do or, more likely, that I don’t enjoy doing. And I have to make a choice on how to handle it. For years, my default has been to set aside the task and move on to something else. By doing this week after week, day after day, I inevitably reach a critical point at which the task is staring me in my face and there is no way to avoid it. This situation puts me in a state of frustration and panic. I get anxious. I may even feel a little uneasy due to the uncertainty around completing the task by a given deadline. I become frustrated with myself for procrastinating… AGAIN. And I vow to NEVER PROCRASTINATE AGAIN. I make a promise to myself that I will avoid the dark shadow of procrastination when presented with the next important, but unfamiliar task. And yet the vicious cycle continues.

Am I a failure? No. Am I a horrible person? No. Do I need to make better choices about prioritizing my time? Absolutely. I NEED TO EAT THE FROG.

“Eat the frog?,” you may ask. Ewww. Yuck. And what does that have to do with procrastinating anyway?

In 2017, Brian Tracy, a U.S.-based productivity coach, wrote and published a book called Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. If you distill the book down into one very basic idea, it’s that you need to focus on completing the most important, challenging, uncomfortable task first and foremost, and then move on to other tasks. And you have to do this day after day to achieve your highest level of productivity.

This notion of eating the frog did not enter my world until a few years ago when I found myself leading a team of agents and operations staff members. I would mark my calendar with meetings to manage and tasks to complete. I would tackle my routine tasks like inputting the “scheduled, kept, taken, pending, and closed” units for my agents, prepping slide decks for weekly meetings and presentations, planning for and meeting with team members to conduct their 411s, and yet I always found myself with a list of things I needed to accomplish that I kept putting off. As I analyzed the list, I realized that every item remaining on my list was something new to me. I needed to take more time and focus to complete the tasks on my list than I did for other more routine tasks. At the advice of my MAPs Coach, I listened to the book Eat That Frog. And it has been at the top of my mind ever since.

I decided to focus on implementing Tracy’s advice on a Monday in May. Our team had prioritized re-structuring our listing intake system for the past month or so. Our current system was not well-defined. Everytime a listing came in, we handled information-gathering, listing prep, and going live in a different way. We had a checklist, but we sort of kind of followed it. We had forms, but we had no email templates prepared to use when sending the forms out to the seller. We had talked about changing our method, perhaps using an electronic form to collect information instead of handling it all over the phone and writing it down. And as our team grew and we took on more and more listings, it became more challenging and time consuming to manage each listing. I knew that by focusing on updating and streamlining our process our team would function better, our clients would be happier, and we would improve our quality of service. But I had never worked on updating a listing intake system before, so I just left it on my list and continued to avoid it.

Well, it was finally time to eat the frog. It was 9:10am already that Monday, though I had planned to begin at 9:00am. I was uncomfortable. My thoughts wandered. I looked around the room. I grabbed a glass of water. Picked at my fingernails. But I knew that by focusing on updating our listing system, we would be a better, stronger, more successful team. And I had read Brian Tracy’s book and was committed to eating the frog. So I sat at my desk and focused. I began to type. I searched on Google and pulled up websites for different real estate teams, and I learned about their processes. I gathered information on different electronic forms and methods of collecting information. I created a spreadsheet to document our system and listed some new ideas. As the morning went on, I realized I was making progress. By noon, I actually had a draft of a new listing intake process workflow to present to my team. I was able to improve our system by streamlining our intake process. I had followed Brian Tracy’s advice and I was able to accomplish my goal!

This was an important lesson to me. There had been so many hours and even days when I simply chose to avoid the task because it was unfamiliar to me. Yet when I took the time to prioritize this task and DO IT, it took me just a few hours to accomplish my goal. And it felt good!

Now, every time I have a task in front of me that is unfamiliar or that I do not enjoy doing, I think about frogs. Does this mean that I have completely stopped  procrastinating and that I don’t put things off? NO WAY! But when I realize what I am doing, I think about how much time, energy, frustration, and anxiety I save by identifying the most challenging tasks first and tackling them head on. And I get to it and make it happen.

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The world is ever changing and many of us find that our version of, “Going to Work” has changed a bit from how things were years ago. Some of us no longer have to take that car ride or train ride stressing over traffic or delays while heading to the office. For many of us, our workplace is now wherever our computer is. There are many great aspects of having the option to work remotely, however a big concern of not only employers but employees is perfecting the ability to stay connected in a remote workplace. Employers want to be sure that their team is staying committed and working together. They want to be sure that employees can brainstorm on projects and streamline communication so everyone can stay updated and grow as a team. Employees want to know that they can receive a response to a question within a reasonable amount of time or receive guidance when necessary. They want to know they aren’t alone in their workplace even though physically we may be far apart. It may not always be easy to find a balance- the great news is, it is possible!

Most people have that aunt, uncle or childhood friend that lives or moved to another state or country. Don’t we find ways to stay connected to them? We call, text, reach out via social media, or hop on a video call. So why do some people find it so difficult to stay connected in a virtual workplace? Nowadays people talk more in the virtual world than having a face to face conversation. Social Media allows ways to stay connected to the masses. Just because we don’t see everyone in person doesn’t mean it is impossible to get to know one another and form lasting relationships. So how do we stay connected and engaged? What is the right answer? Simply, there is no one answer. There is no one size fits all solution. We need to remind ourselves that what is a good form of communication for one person may not be the best fit for another. We need to try different methods until you find what works best.

There are multiple opportunities and tools we can use to stay connected. You can use an app for your communication platform such as Slack, Staff base or Google Chat. You can manage tasks with programs like Monday.com, Smartsheet, or Asana. There are an abundance of tools at your fingertips to use to keep in communication throughout your day. Poor communication in a workplace is not due to the lack of programs available to utilize. In order for people to stay connected each employee must accept that a part of working remote, especially when on a team, is to commit yourself to staying connected and add in the extra effort to do so.

You can add fun ways to stay connected such as celebrating team birthdays. If your team does not already document when all birthdays are, take it upon yourself to make note in your calendar the next time it is someone’s special day. Then you can reach out, send a funny card or simply send a quick text to let them know you care. In the workplace a common gathering area is usually wherever the coffee is located. In the virtual world we may not be able to share a pot of coffee however you can set up a coffee break with a co-worker and pick up the phone and chat for your break. Try and keep the conversation away from workplace topics and stay focused on giving yourself the break you deserve.

Forming relationships is an integral part to ensure we are improving communication.
Teams can set up weekly or daily calls and have specific topics to discuss. By alternating topics (not all business related) you can get to know one another, on not only a work level, but get to know more about your coworkers’ personalities and interests. Teams can set up gatherings which can be done virtually or in person. If sticking to the virtual world there are many different classes that you can provide as options for employees to join. These options can be suggested during work hours but also as after work functions. You can suggest classes to improve different skills related to the job or find fun classes too, such as learning a new hobby. Virtual events could include painting parties, a virtual game show or trivia nights. Offering options such as these allow for great team building opportunities.

Each person in a company holds individual importance to the functionality of a business as a whole. If one part is missing or lacking the whole group does not succeed. You can avoid this by making sure your teams communication skills are constantly improving and evolving. There are so many different ways we can stay connected but if you do not stick to the 3 C’s no number of apps, classes or events will help. The 3 C’s are: Create. Consistent. Communication.
We need to work on each of these items as a whole and Create Consistent Communication while also working at these three items individually.

Create: We all look to create the next best thing in the workplace. Whether that is creating a goal, creating a new product, creating a better way to systemize or a way to make a company succeed or improve. It is important to push ourselves and always be raising the standard of what success is to us. This can only be done by creating an environment for success. By opening the doors for communication to flow freely.

Consistent: It is important to stick to what you say you will do. Make sure you reply within a timely manner when someone reaches out. Setting clear and concise structure on expectations in regards to communication responses is important to maintaining consistency. Not only is it important to stay consistent with your timeliness and dependability you must stay consistent with your quality of work. Working in a remote world it is always great to reach out and have someone give their feedback. This is an excellent way to get a chance to engage with your team one on one and strengthen communication.

Communication: Communicating does not have to be done only in a verbal manner. You can reach out to coworkers by emailing, texting or by setting up a video call. Find what suits you best, and also utilize all of the options available to us in this modern world. There is no reason that reaching out and communicating should be difficult.

Each employee holds their own unique importance but together it means so much more and we can achieve so much more. This is the same as these three simple words. It is a choice to stay connected in the outside world as it is in the virtual world. You can be an introvert in either situation but it is the sole responsibility of every remote employee or employer to dedicate yourself to finding a way that works best for you to let your personality shine and create memorable conversation.
It is your job to Create.
It is your job to be Consistent.
It is your job to Communicate.