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.
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%)
- Due Date
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!
Trust me, I know people roll their eyes when they see this topic, because I used to be one of those people. The understanding of time management and time blocking is truly an art and is something that you must master to advance in your role.
I feel like I need to pause here and address a key supportive subject… The 80/20 Principle. The 80/20 Principle derives from Pareto’s Principle: 80% of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20% of the input. In other words 20% or your activities will yield 80% of your results. For example, an Agent’s 20% should be Scripts, Lead Generation, Lead Follow Up, Appointments, and Negotiations. What must happen or the business may lose money/clients? The 80/20 Principle is important to understand because it can help you identify which tasks or activities to prioritize in moving the business forward.
Ok, let’s continue… Time blocking is simply the act of blocking out sections of your calendar to reflect your daily and weekly priorities (your 80/20). If we don’t put the most important things first, unimportant things can easily fill our time and distract us. Time blocking is a tool that, when used effectively, can aid you in accomplishing your goals and tasks consistently. – If it is not on your calendar, it does not exist. BOLD LAW
A few tips for Time Blocking:
- “White space” or empty space on the calendar is ok, but you don’t want too much of it. No more than 20% of your day should be white space. When you block each section of your day you’ll never wonder what you should be working on next. In an average 8-9 hour workday, this would look like leaving about 1.5 hours of white space at a maximum, and during this time you would follow up on any outstanding items that could not be completed while you were working at other times blocks.
- Color coding your calendar is an important way to see at a quick glance how high priority an item is, if it’s something that can’t be moved, or if it’s personal time (like lunch or appointments). A calendar that is all one color is not as effective as a color-coded calendar. You should have a minimum of 4 colors on a properly time blocked calendar – one for personal, one for 20%, one for 80%, and one for agent/team-related meetings/events.
- Stay Accountable to your time blocks! Don’t allow others to interrupt your time block. Make sure you share your calendar with your team to ensure they know what your priorities are. You also need to respect your OWN time blocked calendar.
If you find that you’re working more than your agreed-upon hours, or you’re not getting everything done in a typical day, your calendar is likely the culprit and not your activities and to-do list. Time Blocking and managing time effectively is one of the most important skills that separate good Admin and Agents from great ones.
“Time blocking is transformational for salespeople. It changes everything. When you get disciplined at blocking your time and concentrating your power, you see a massive and profound impact on your productivity. You become incredibly efficient when you block your day into short chunks of time for specific activities. You get more accomplished in a shorter time with far better results.” — Jeb Blount
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!
- 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.
How often do you come into work in the morning, look at your calendar and think “there is no way this is all getting done today.” While this is one of the easiest mindsets we can fall into, it is limiting what you can achieve during the day by setting yourself up to not get it all done. What you did was form a limiting belief towards your workload and your calendar. Are we all guilty of this? Absolutely! But are you limiting yourself from your true potential? Absolutely. But here’s how we can practice limiting our limited beliefs.
Limiting beliefs often happen when we are kids, but some are preconceived ideas we create in our head with a story. “I don’t have enough time today because…” Telling ourselves this story makes it validated in our minds because you believe you have a reason why this can’t happen.
When you are going through a training program or within your first 90 days in your role, there are a lot of additional tasks that need to be completed to build the foundations for your role. There are assignments, large projects, training calls, etc. that can often feel overwhelming, especially when you are ready to own your role. It may be easy to form the belief that “I don’t have time for training because.” And we go back into story mode, creating the perfect picture in our mind of why that task did not happen or why we do not have time for this today.
By limiting your thoughts and creating stories that align perfectly with your reasoning, you are limiting the true potential you have in your role. To change these beliefs we have to shift the way we think about ourselves and what we are capable of. We have to switch “I don’t have time today because” to “my calendar is pretty full today, what is a high priority to accomplish? I’ll do that first.” This switches your mentality from limiting to unlimiting. This gives you more control of what tasks can be moved around on your calendar and allows you to protect your time in completing those tasks.
Remember that you are the only person who can determine what you are capable of. There is no one stopping you from achieving the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year or reaching for that job promotion have been wanting! Create goals, stick to them, and remind yourself that you are capable of accomplishing what you set out to do.
“There are no limits for what you can achieve with your life, except for the limits you accept in your own mind.” – Brian Tracy
“In many ways, effective communication begins with mutual respect, communication that inspires, encourages others to do their best.” -Zig Ziglar
Communication is defined as giving, receiving or exchanging ideas, information or messages to someone else. Team Communication is especially important during the training period for new Team Members to allow them the opportunity to ask questions (Clarify and Verify), express their ideas and thoughts, and to create accountability around Team expectations. Here are a few ways to communicate effectively.
Team meetings are essential collaborative sessions for businesses. They serve many purposes: making decisions, brainstorming, sharing critical news, or even teaching. They build camaraderie, create connections, and identify direction for your team. Unfortunately, sometimes, we lose track of their purpose. One way to ensure a successful Team Meeting is to create a “Meeting Agenda”. Team Members can also take turns conducting the Team Meetings weekly to allow everyone the opportunity to lead.
Some Meeting Agenda suggestions could be: Wins/ Accomplishments, Progress on Team Goals/ Numbers, Upcoming Events and Announcements, and Training/ Value.
Daily Huddles/ Stand Ups are meant to be short and impactful, so depending on the size of your team these meetings should be between 10-30 minutes max to connect with the team first thing in the morning and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Some Daily Stand Up topics to cover could be: Big Rocks (Priorities) for the Day, Team Member Shout-Outs, Listing/ Closing Updates, questions on outstanding projects, or Goals
One-on-one meetings are a dedicated time for the Team Member and their Leader to connect on work, career development and growth. One on one meetings should be held every week for a minimum of 30 minutes. This is the perfect time to discuss the Team Members 4-1-1 or 1-3-5 goals.
Pro-tip: Each week there should be time blocks on your calendar Team Meetings, for Daily Huddles/ Stand Ups, and One on One meetings.
“If it is not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist.” -BOLD LAW
For new Team Members or Trainees, there is also the Daily Priority Report. The Daily Priority Report allows the Team Member or Trainee a chance to be more detailed in their daily communication with their Agent/ Leader. The Daily Priority Report should reflect what your true priorities are for the day. This is not a To Do List, but a priority list. What MUST get done today. At the end of the day, you will evaluate the list and mark through what you did get completed and notate what needs to be moved to the next day if necessary.
If your Team does not already have Weekly Team Meetings, Daily Huddles/ Stand Ups, or One on One Weekly meetings, schedule time with your Agent/ Leader to discuss adding them to the calendar.
Learn more about our Training Program at https://yourrealtyleverage.com/training/
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.