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There’s always something to howl about

In which I find more focus and dump the hocus pocus

Disclaimer: If your business is humming along, I doubt you will get much useful information from this post, however, please do feel free to share any productivity hints in the comment section. Thanks!

I made a public commitment, and so I thought I share where I was and where I’m going. To Jeff Brown: I have yet to do one single 6 hour prospecting day. Haven’t done one. I’ve gotten to the point where I can do 3 hours most days of the work week, but even that isn’t consistent, so that’s still a goal, and I’m still committed to hitting that goal, and I will, but it’s a tough one for me. Which brings me to my first point: Real estate is not an instant gratification business. And the church says, “Duh!” Right. Old-timers are laughing their arses off right about now and I am too. I really like instant gratification, but unfortunately, I can’t use it to pay bills, so if you are seduced by that, as I often am, be careful. Don’t lie to yourself about what is “working”.

Working requires thoughtful planning and focus. If you want to brainstorm an idea, give me a call, drop me an email. I am very very good at brainstorming. Making a goal, making a commitment to that goal, doing the basics, this focus comes less naturally to me, but that’s where the money is so that’s what I’m learning to do.  Know thyself: Hands down, best thing I’ve done to help me focus was to secure a private office. I had been “working” out of a desk in our family room. Oh, I know, my broker supplies a desk at the office, I could use that but my stuff is at home. Unfortunately, so are our dogs, our cats, our kids, the laundry, food, you get the point. Here’s my solution: My broker owns our office building and this being the Rust Belt circa 2010, we have a few empty suites in the building which he has been trying to lease. I’ve taken over an office on a month-by-month basis. If he finds a tenant, I get kicked out. I moved into this new office in September, and it took me about a month to weed out paper, organize for efficiency, and learn how to maximize time at the office- more about that in a bit.

Working from an office has done a few things for me. The drive to a separate building allows or forces me to make a mental shift in attitude: I’m driving to work, I’m there to work. I don’t have all day to spend there so I must stay focused on accomplishing what I’m there to do, and I am very proud to say that I’ve learned to do that. Took awhile, wasn’t easy, but I can do it. And an inexpensive office is probably easy for you to find as well. My Plan B for securing an office was to offer a nominal fee on a month-by-month basis to any number of vacant offices in town. Someone will prefer something to nothing and giving the owner the ability to continue to search for a more permanent tenant sweetens the deal.

The fact that there is an entire industry devoted to organizing calendars and To-Do lists shows how difficult it is for most people to get things done. My husband Jamie is an engineer and project manager, his boss is an off the charts D personality, they share a secretary who is amazingly organized. They all use spiral bound notebooks- you know, the kind you can buy for .10 cents during the back-to-school sales? They each use cheap spiral notebooks for their To-Do lists. As I mentioned before I’m an idea-generator which means I’m a note-maker. I write stuff down, doodle, etc, all day. Writing all this on a spiral notebook To-Do list makes for one big mess at the end of the day. If I write these bits and pieces on scraps of paper or sticky notes, they end up all over the place, which sometimes means lost. Now, I’ve taken an idea from Rands in Repose and use both a To-Do list and what he refers to as a Parking Lot. I use a steno pad for the To-Do list. Its smaller size is convenient and prevents me from writing notes all over it, keeping it clean and easy to read. The Parking Lot is a legal pad that I keep just to the right of my computer– I’m right-handed– with a pen on top. That’s the place I can make notes, doodle while on hold, write down phone numbers and names, dates, etc. Each page is dated so it’s easy to track down notes later, and at the end of the day anything useful or important gets transferred elsewhere- my To-Do list, a calendar, my files. I have yet find a calendar that is useful to me. Suggestions?

I’ve just this past week created a spreadsheet for tracking numbers. No more guess work for me, but also, there’s no way to lie to myself about what is really happening. Yes, I’ve lied to myself. I’ve got a whole bundle of bad habits to undo. Numbers can’t be improved if you don’t know them, but the added bonus of tracking numbers is that they are just numbers. I’ve removed the emotion- it’s just numbers. This is important- it’s crucial for me. So I’m tracking number of contacts and the sources, as well as work in and work out. What do you track that’s improved your productivity?

For the past year and a half I’ve been referring business out, so in one sense, I’m starting over. I’m starting from a stronger place, but it’s a very new beginning. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m any different from any one else in the business. I’ve been listening to Floyd Wickman, and he said something that really struck a chord with me: “Every day in this business, we wake up unemployed.” Once that sunk into the gray matter, it put things into perspective. I wake up every morning thinking to myself: I’ve got to find a job today. And to be honest with you, instead of a frightening thought, it’s kinda where I get my kicks. How many other jobs hold so much opportunity?

I have a favorite quote from Ohio president William Howard Taft,

“Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.”

Combine that with the thrill of the job hunt? I got it bad. No other career is going to do it for me. I’m going to make this work.

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