Finally block some flextime

Flextime helps you to stay on track. It allows you to put out fires, make emergency calls, handle unscheduled but necessary tasks, and still stay on your schedule.

As you start out, block about thirty minutes of flextime for every two hours of scheduled time in your daily grid. You can always reduce or remove the flextime blocks as your skills and discipline increase. Most agents who are new to time blocking create schedules that are too rigid. The lack of flexibility causes them to be off their schedules before 10:30 in the morning. When they get off schedule early, they're then off schedule for the rest of the day.

Time-blocking mistakes to block out

Sales professionals in the top 10 percent of their industries share a common trait: They control, use, and invest their time more wisely and effectively than their lower-performing associates. Among sales professionals, time usage determines income.

The most significant challenge for most sales professionals is time control. Through years of study and coaching sales professionals, I've compiled the following list of challenges that most sales people experience when trying to master their time-block schedule.

Making yourself too available

The biggest error that sales people make is getting sucked into the interruption game. You need times in your schedule that are free of interruptions, during which you bar access to all but those to whom you grant exceptions. Follow this advice:

1 Use an effective gatekeeper to screen your calls. Have the gatekeeper redirect all minor issues, problems, challenges, and interruptions that can be handled by an assistant or some other person.

1 Limit the number of people who have unfiltered access to you. Create a short list of the few important people who can interrupt your schedule at any time of the day, and don't let anyone else in during time blocked for interruption-free activities. My short list includes my wife, my father, my attorney, and a few key associates. Period. As you make your own list, include only those who are extremely important to your personal life. Very few clients find their way onto the short lists of truly successful people.

Choosing the wrong office location and setup

The nature of your physical office has a dramatic effect on your time management and productivity. Give serious consideration to the following two issues:

I See that the size of your work environment matches the size of your practice. If you don't have enough square footage for yourself and your staff, your production will be stunted.

I had a coaching client a few years back who worked out of 150 square feet of office space with three associates. Amazingly, even as they were tripping over each other, they managed to do 150 transactions a year. However, when they moved into a new 500 square-foot office, they watched their production soar. Each team member could control time better, limit interruptions, access files, and hold meetings. The expanded space allowed for an increase in discipline, talent, skill, and production.

Don't let your physical space limit your growth opportunities. If you're crowded by your staff, you're in the wrong physical location.

I Your personal office must be private. Top-producing agents need to do too many focused activities in a day to be in the bullpen of activity. If you're surrounded by the buzz of staff members, inbound phone calls, problems, and challenges, it's easy to be tempted to jump in and help, tackling the service issues at the expense of new business creation. The only way to control your planning and prospecting environment is to house your practice in a private office away from distractions and staff.

Failing to operate on an appointment-only basis

Too many agents are willing to meet at all hours of the day and night and on a moment's notice. By time blocking, you can create appointment slots and drive prospects into those slots, just as your doctor, dentist, or attorney does.

Studies show that 80 percent of all prospects are willing to fit into the schedules of their professional advisors. But when prospects aren't alerted to an advisor's schedule, they take control on their own, dictating the appointment time and leaving an agent like you juggling your schedule to adapt to their needs. Real estate agents accept this knee-jerk scheduling approach as a necessary aspect of a service-oriented business — as if total availability equals service.

Operate as a professional on an appointment-only basis. Schedule all appointments during time-blocked periods when you know you'll be available, focused, and uninterrupted by any issue other than the one your client is sharing.

Bowing to distractions

Real estate sales is among the most interrupted and distracted professions on the face of the planet. Agents are distracted by the constant jangle of desk phones, home phones, and cell phones.

If the phone isn't ringing, you have the distraction of e-mail, which usually interrupts you with some unsolicited miracle offer or, less often, with a new lead opportunity. Here's a tip: Don't derail your day just because your computer tells you that you've got mail. The conversion ratio of Internet leads is less than 1 percent. If you're engaged in productive activities, don't stop what you're doing for a 1 percent opportunity. Control distractions following this advice:

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