Shopping in retail stores around Christmas drives me nuts. I completely understand that you have a ton more people shopping than you normally would, so of course waiting in line to check out is going to take longer.
Here’s my frustration: The cashiers and baggers have little to no sense of urgency. I see most of them moving things along as if they have all the time in world. They don’t particularly care if you’ve been standing in line for what seems like ages and now you’re burning up because you’ve got your heavy winter coat on and all you want to do is go home and relax.
When there is a lot of people to help and a lot of things that need to be done, you simply must ratchet up your sense of urgency. Or at the minimum be able to detect the sense of urgency in the people you are communicating with.
If you come into the office on a Monday and over the weekend your agents put three buyers under contract and you have two sellers who are ready to put their homes on the market today, you’re not going to hang out in the hall chit-chatting with the other people in your office for an hour as you ease your way into the day.
Instead, you’re going to ask yourself, “What’s the bare minimum that has to get done today, and how I can best use my time to make that happen?”
Maybe that means you don’t attend the class or webinar you had on your schedule today. Perhaps you enlist the help of your agents and ask them to email copies of the signed contracts to the lenders for you. What if you called the sellers and explained to them that you’re a bit backed up and would it be at all possible if their house were to come on market the following day instead?
Once you know what must get done today, the next key is to just keep moving. I use this tactic at the office and at home too. When I get ready in the morning, I can’t pick up my cell phone because I’ll automatically start checking email and Facebook and whatever else and next thing you know I’ve wasted 15 minutes getting nothing else done. I have to remind myself to just keep moving.
At the office, this is where I find music is the most helpful. When I want to move quickly and efficiently, I listen to music with no vocals (I find them distracting) and I choose something with an upbeat tempo. Classical music works well for me as does things with a heavy bass line like dubstep. The beat reminds me to keep moving. If my work requires creativity, I’ll choose something more along the lines of something you would hear when you’re getting a massage. I guess the music is like a massage for my brain! Sometimes I’ll simply go to YouTube and search “relaxing water sounds”. The sound of running water is soothing to my brain. It helps calm any anxiety I might be feeling about not having enough time to get everything done and allows me to get into creative mode so I can finish the postcard or newsletter that needs to go out today.
To go along with your sense of urgency, you need efficiency. When I think of efficiency, I think about machines. They do the same steps over and over with no loss of energy. In this way, I think about how I work. If I have three buyer contracts, I’m going to process them one right after the other. I’m not going to start on one, stop to put a house on the market, and then start on the next one. That’s too many decisions that need to be made. Efficiency is minimizing decisions and getting directly to the action.
That’s why checklists are so important. I can run down my checklist and knock out everything I need to do because I’ve organized my checklists for speed. It doesn’t require much thought or decision when using a checklist. It simply requires a sense of urgency and the ability to bat away distractions with little to no loss of time and energy.
So let’s talk about those distractions. Our minds are tricky things. They don’t typically want to focus on one thing for too long. Especially in this age when we’ve trained them to hear every little cell phone notification sound and to remind us to pick up our phones or check our emails every five minutes. That’s why the music helps.
Now what about human distractions? Doesn’t it always seem like the minute you want to focus in on something and really crank out some work, the entire world gets lit on fire by some maniac and you get dragged into putting out everyone’s fires? Yeah, it happens to me too!
As you know, it’s impossible to fight fires and crank out meaningful work at the same time. It’s completely inefficient to go back and forth between the two. Which is why, if you are busy enough, you may just have to declare yourself unavailable to fight fires for a certain period of time.
If you need two hours of uninterrupted time, first tell your team what you are doing. It may be helpful to have a conversation about this scenario at a team meeting by explaining that there will be times when you need to crank out a lot of work and you simply won’t be available to them during certain times. Once they know not to expect a response from you for the next two hours, put your phone on mute and put on headphones if you don’t have an office door you can shut. Somehow you need a visual reminder for your teammates so they don’t interrupt you. Then, just buckle down and get busy.
As you progress in your position, you will be able to determine quickly which fires need to be delegated, postponed, put out, or ignored. Yes, I said ignored. Sometime people only think what they are dealing with is a fire when it fact, they are blowing things all out of proportion. If someone on your team is doing that, you’ll need to have a conversation with that person about what constitutes an urgent situation. If it’s a client you’re dealing with, you’ll do your best to reassure them that you are very comfortable handling this situation and then outline the next steps for them so they know what to expect. The majority of anxiety and frustration a client will feel comes from the fact that they don’t know how to handle something and they don’t know what to do next. If you can help them with those two things, you’ll look like a rock star!
For the record, you should be treating everything with a sense of urgency. You never know when someone will suddenly need you. If you have only one incoming contract to process, get on with it now instead of leisurely moving through your checklist and letting it take up your entire day. Practice being efficient with your time when you have time so that when your schedule gets compressed, you will have already mastered the process of being efficient.
And don’t think it hasn’t occurred to me that I could just bag my own groceries and get out of the store faster. I just think that would be rude, and I don’t want to be the crazy impatient lady who prefers to bag her own stuff.