A time-blocked schedule reserves and protects slotted time segments for pre-planned, pre-determined activities. The objective of time blocking is to increase the amount of time you can invest in direct income-producing efforts.
In more than 20 years as a business owner, I’ve yet to run across a more reliable method for seizing control of time and boosting productivity than time blocking.
Many people have heard of time blocking, but few master its use. The challenge isn’t in creating the schedule; that’s the easy part. The challenge is keeping on the schedule. That’s the hard part, because most people set their time-blocking expectations very high, reserve large portions of time, and then can’t maintain the schedule. The good news, though, is that even if you need to compromise your time blocks a little, you still come out ahead.
One of my coaching clients, Sheila Gunderson, increased the number of units she sold by over 100 in one year, at the same time increasing her sales volume by more than seventeen million dollars; pretty amazing performance. I asked her how much of time she spent on her ideal time-blocking schedule. Her answer: “About 50% of the time.” She is proof that even maintaining half of your blocked-out time you can produce incredible results.
Good time blocking starts with a schedule grid. In the beginning, create a grid that breaks your schedule down into 30-minute segments. As your skill progresses, you might shift to a 15-minute grid format.
As you complete the grid, I strongly suggest that you block your entire daily schedule, not just your workday. Follow these steps:
- Block time for your personal life first. If you don’t, you’ll be hard pressed to squeeze in personal time after scheduling everything else.
Decide what are the most important personal activities in your life and block them out before you allow any other obligations onto your calendar. Set aside a date night with your spouse or significant partner. Block time for working out, quiet time, prayer time, personal development time, and family time. If your daughter has soccer games on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, then put those in your schedule. If someone wants to see you during those times, say you are booked with a previous appointment.
For my personal schedule, I reserve a weekly date night with my wife, Joan. I block workout times. I set 30 minutes daily of floor time – time to play on the floor with my son, Wesley. I set aside Friday mornings for breakfast with my family.
- Decide which full day you will take off each week. No ifs, ands or buts. You must take at least one off. The reaction of new Agents is, “Oh! I couldn’t do that.” Give me a break; God even took the seventh day off.
A few words on the definition of a day off: It means no real estate calls, no answering your cell phone, no negotiating offers, no taking ad calls, no taking sign calls, no meeting with clients or prospects. The minute you do any business activity, it’s a workday, even if it’s for five minutes. Honor yourself and your family with one day a week away from real estate. The 24/7 weekly approach to the real estate business leads to family frustrations and burn out. It’s hard to receive the love you need from a pile of money.
- Decide which evenings you will and will not work. Again, set boundaries. I suggest that you make no more than three or four nights a week available to clients. Designate them during the time-blocking stage and then move prospects only into those evening time slots. I limited my own evening work to Tuesdays only. Every other night of the week my wife could expect me home no later than 6:30 for dinner if I had a 5:15 listing appointment.
- Then begin blocking time for DIPA,or direct income-producing activities.
- Block time for prospecting and lead follow-up first, and preferably early in the day. I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t more people home in the afternoon and evening?” Probably so. But will you prospect consistently when you have to do it in the evening? After nearly two decades in real estate, I know for a fact that the answer is no. The fact that more people are home at night doesn’t matter if that’s not when you’re picking up the phone to call them. Schedule calls for morning hours when you can and will make the contacts.
- Schedule time slots for appointments next. Determine how many appointments you need to hold and how long they need to run. How long do you need for a listing presentation? How much time do you need to show a Buyer homes in a specific area?
I scheduled appointment slots in one-hour increments, which worked because after my second year in the business I didn’t work with Buyers. When you work with Buyers, you need to plan on longer-lasting appointments. With Sellers, I figured that my typical listing presentation lasted about 30 to 45 minutes. The hour block gave me at least 15 minutes of drive time to reach my next appointment.
I scheduled appointments in the afternoons at 3:15, 4:15 and 5:15 Monday through Thursday. Tuesdays I worked late, and I scheduled appointments at 6:15, 7:15 and 8:15. Whenever I didn’t have a 5:15 appointment, I transferred that block to prospecting time, so I could catch up with people after work.
Once you block appointment slots, you can know exactly when to ask people to meet with you. You can emulate a Doctor’s nurse or Dentist’s receptionist, saying, “I have an opening at 5:15 on Tuesday or 4:15 on Wednesday. Which would be better for you?”
- Schedule time for administrative tasks: Phone calls, office meetings, company property tours, and the like. Make a list of your regular, necessary activities and then put them into your time-blocked schedule.
- 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.
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. From that point, they are then off schedule for the rest of the day.
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.