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Time is a precious resource. Everyone wants to use it wisely, but how do you go about making the most of each and every day?

There’s no shortage of advice for improving time management skills. In my opinion, however, the best way to use time wisely begins with understanding yourself. With greater personal self-awareness, it becomes much easier to select among various tips and techniques, and apply them most effectively.

For example, I know mornings are my most productive time of day, so I prefer to concentrate on my “heavy lifting” priorities early, and schedule one-on-one staff meetings in the afternoon.

That said, I also recognize that self-awareness is a two-way street. If a member of my team has a strong preference for a morning meeting time, I’m open to compromise.

Beyond “When am I most productive?”, other questions to ask include:

Would I benefit from a regular routine? I’m a big fan of time-blocking. Each day, I schedule an hour first thing in the morning and another hour at the end of the day to review and respond to emails, and to tackle administrative tasks.

The morning session helps establish priorities for the rest of the day, while the end-of-day session wraps up loose ends and helps me prepare for the following day. By eliminating the constant distraction of incoming messages, this is also a great way to stay focused on my most important to-dos.

Of course, for many brokers and agents, it’s essential to stay on top of email. If you fall into that category, consider using time-blocking for other chores, like prospecting, managing transaction details or social media updates.

Instead of time-blocking, you may prefer the Pomodoro Technique, which promotes working on a single task for 25 minutes, then taking a five-minute break. If your work is interrupted, simply pause your timer, then get back into your flow as quickly as possible.

Do I tend to avoid certain tasks? Procrastination is a common malady, but owning up to this tendency through personal awareness is the only effective way to conquer it.

It’s also possible that some jobs don’t belong on your list. Delegate tasks whenever possible, but check back to verify the work is finished and meets your standards. Independent contractors and virtual assistants are another excellent resource for moving items off your list.

Am I overwhelmed by too many to-dos? Many real estate professionals feel like they’re juggling too many balls. Again, solutions begin with taking a moment to pause and self-reflect.

Is it possible to parse a big job into specific steps that feel less overwhelming? Can I create systems to simplify and streamline routines?

Consider implementing the system in Atul Gawande’s “The Checklist Manifesto.” Gawande promotes turning your work into a series of easy to follow, step-by-step checklists—a good system for recurring tasks, like transaction management.

To help execute your new time management system, there are dozens of apps (Asana, Todoist, Remember The Milk, etc.) designed for individuals and/or teams. Read independent reviews and see which offers the best fit for your needs.

These are just a few of my favorite suggestions for improving productivity. For more time management tips and related advice specifically for real estate professionals, please watch for the December issue of Today’s Buyer’s Rep—a member benefit for REBAC members.

Marc D. Gould is vice president, Business Specialties, for NAR and executive director of REBAC. A wholly-owned subsidiary of NAR, The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who work directly with buyer-clients.

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