How to Add More Structure to Your Day

Having something new to do every hour of my work day is one of the things I really like about being a real estate executive assistant. It’s also one of the most frustrating things about being a real estate executive assistant.

Answer one email, and two new ones pop up. Finish processing a contract, and there’s a new one to take its place. Put the finishing touches on your listing checklist, and your lead agent decides to add another layer of customer service to it.

This is where your job can get out of control if you let it. When you respond to every email, phone call, and instant message the second it comes through, you are training yourself to be reactive versus being proactive. That’s when it starts to feel like you have no control over your time at work or what activities you’ll work on.

What can be frustrating too is that every day is different. Today it may seem like you’re getting non-stop requests from people. Tomorrow may be completely quiet and you only get a couple requests. So what do we do with that?

First, we have to accept it. I find it fascinating when I watch myself get frustrated by things I can’t change. Why do we do that? It’s like we have this expectation for how we want things to go and when things don’t go that way, we get bent out of shape. Nothing good ever comes from operating the admin side of a real estate business from the state of mind of frustration and annoyance! Accepting whatever situation we find ourselves in and being at peace with it is what gives us clarity and strength to deal with any situation.

Once we let go of being frustrated with how busy we are, we are free to focus on one thing at a time. There’s no such thing as multi-tasking. And switching rapidly from one task to another is a sure way to make mistakes on everything you touch. So focus on just one thing at a time. I know I’m guilty of opening an email with the intention of doing what I need to do with the information it contains and then finding myself chasing squirrels when I open our CRM and see a related task and start working on that instead of finishing what I started when I opened the email.

The good news is you can practice being focused on one task at a time and eventually get really good at it. It’s like meditating. You may find yourself thinking about other things instead of letting your mind be clear, but the repetition of noticing when you find yourself doing that and bringing yourself back to a clear mind is the whole point of meditation. Same with focusing on one task. Keep bringing yourself back to that task and soon enough your brain will understand what you want it to do!

When focusing on completing one task at a time, you are sure to be interrupted. There are a couple of ways to approach this.

I have times where I work on things and I’m mentally open to interruptions. I also have times where I work on things and I’ve done everything in my power to eliminate interruptions.

Most of my day, I’m open to interruptions. I understand that the people on my team need things from me as do clients, lenders, co-op agents, and title companies. When the phone rings, I answer it. When a text comes in, I respond to it. I keep my email open, and when I see a new message come it, I’ll handle it. And I work in between the interruptions.

If there are certain things that need to be done with accuracy or if there are certain things that absolutely have to happen today, I’ll block out all interruptions for a period of time. Sometimes it will be an hour and sometimes it will be until I’m done with what I need to do. For that time, I turn off the sound on my computer and my phone. I shut my office door. I block time on my calendar so my teammates know why my office door is shut. I can get quite a lot of work done pretty quickly when I’m free to think without interruptions.

I do this deep work as needed. There are times when I fall behind and I’ll go into the office an hour early or stay an hour later just so I can work without my teammates interrupting me at the office. That doesn’t happen too often though. But in order to add structure to your day, you have to be willing to do what it takes. As admin, we try to accommodate those we work with and be pleasant and helpful at all times. But sometimes we have to say no to some things so we can say yes to others. Remember, we can’t work on two things at the same time.

Plan your deep work time and make it known. Put an auto reply on your email. Change your outgoing voicemail message to let people know when you will be returning calls. Set up the auto reply in your text message app. The world will keep working without you, or they will wait for your reply.

My final piece of advice for adding structure to your day is this: Choose when to come into the office, when to take lunch, and when to leave, and make that decision ahead of time. On Sunday, look at your calendar and choose your times. Be adamant about those times. Don’t deviate when something comes up during the day and you think that working through lunch is an option for you. It’s not an option. If you’ve decided on Sunday that you’re going to take a lunch from noon to 12:30 every day, then that’s exactly what I want you to do. You’d be surprised at much better you can think clearly when your brain knows when it’s supposed to be working and when it can take breaks.

And remember when I said earlier that I sometimes go into the office early, or I stay late? I make the decision to do that the day before; not the day of. I prepare myself and my brain for that additional work time. I don’t stress myself out by getting to the end of my normal day and realizing I need to stay late to finish some things up. I know what work needs to get done and I know that by staying an hour late tomorrow that I can catch up. Not today.

What’s the one thing from all the advice I’ve given you here that you can implement today that would add even just a little bit of structure to your day? Choose it and do it!

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