When I worked in real estate in Manhattan, I noticed a pattern among my fellow agents: The people who complained about working 80-hour weeks weren’t closing very many deals. There’s a simple reason why: They never learned proper time management techniques for Realtors. Time management is one of those soft skills that most agents put off learning until they realize that the more stressed they are, the harder it is to sell real estate.
You want to know what stresses most people out more than anything else? Working more than 40 hours per week. In fact, a study from Stanford showed that working more hours won’t even make you more productive, so why do it? Thankfully, there’s a better way. In this article we’ll show you actionable techniques to help you work less and accomplish more in 2023 and beyond.
Time Management 101: Learn to Stop Worrying & Love the 40-hour Workweek
OK, I know what you’re thinking. You have to work 70 hour weeks to get ahead, right?
Believe it or not, there are 150 years of productivity research behind the 40-hour workweek.
More to the point, it wasn’t designed to help workers, but to boost productivity, and it applies to people working from home too.
In fact, study after study has shown that productivity falls off dramatically after working more than 40 hours per week for a month. If you or a coworker needs a reminder to take a break, print out this graph from game designer and essayist Daniel Cook and pin it to the wall:
Long story short? You CAN work 60 hours a week, but after an initial boost, your productivity falls off a cliff.
OK, OK. I know what you’re thinking. “I have too much to do and not enough time to do it as it is. How can I get MORE done by working fewer hours?!” 😡
Well, you’re going to have to embrace yet another real estate cliché that turns out to be true: Work smarter, not harder.
Ready to give it a shot? Here are nine ways to become a lean, mean, selling machine that still has time to take the dog for epic walks and spend a week (or two) at the beach every year.
9 Crucial Time Management Strategies for Realtors
1. Master Your Morning Routine (With Science)
Remember those stressed-out, low-producing agents in Manhattan I was telling you about? Most started their mornings by obsessively checking emails in bed and then rushing to the office with a bagel in their mouths. There they would actually brag about only getting four hours of sleep the night before.
Of course, top-producing agents know that how you start your day is almost as important as what you do during the day. That’s why we recently interviewed high-performing agents from Douglas Elliman, Compass, and Coldwell Banker Warburg to get a peek into their morning routines. As you can imagine, checking emails in bed and rushing to the office were not popular answers.
Here are five science-backed tips to help you start your day working smarter and not harder.
1. Wake Up at the Same Time Every Morning
A study from Harvard published in the journal “Nature” showed that medical students who had irregular sleep patterns had lower GPAs than students with regular sleep patterns. Now, you might love the freedom to sleep in that being a real estate agent gives you. But waking up at the same time every day of the week will help make you more alert and productive, and make it far easier to manage your time effectively.
2. Don’t Touch Your Phone
Studies show that levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are highest first thing in the morning. Throwing more stress into the mix by checking your phone as soon as you wake up will sap your energy before you even start your day.
3. Get Moving
A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercising in the morning improved attention, visual learning, and decision-making throughout the day. So get moving in the morning to help get your deals moving in the afternoon.
4. Get Some Sunshine
Stanford neuroscience professor Andrew Huberman discovered that getting just a few minutes of direct sunshine each morning can boost alertness by raising cortisol levels by as much as 40%. If you’re having trouble sleeping (and who isn’t these days), this morning sunshine routine will also increase melatonin levels at night, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.
5. Drink Coffee Like a Neuroscientist
Caffeine is a drug. Like any drug, dosage and timing are crucial to getting the best results. That’s why neuroscientists say that drinking coffee first thing in the morning, when cortisol stress hormones are highest, can hurt performance during the day. Instead, move your coffee break to between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. to maximize the alertness boost.
The Morning Routines of 12 Rock Star Agents (+ 8 Tips to Start Your Day Better)
2. Time Block Each Week & Set Goals Every Morning
Many agents make the mistake of micromanaging their schedules day to day. While many argue that “no two days are the same,” that’s simply not true for 99% of agents. If you pull back and look at the bigger picture, your goals for your weeks, months, and years should all be aligned.
Wasting time creating a new plan each day is not only exhausting, it can lead to you focusing on whatever happens to be worrying you that day instead of your long-term goals. It’s easy to veer off track.
Instead, real estate coach, top-producing agent, author, and speaker Sean Moudry recommends time blocking your week instead of your days.
Here’s what his typical week looks like:
Monday: Meetings, contracts, paperwork
Tuesdays: Lead follow-up and second showings
Wednesdays: Time off and appointments
Thursdays: Lead generation and appointment setting
Fridays: Lead generation and appointment setting
We’ll cover this in more detail in step five, but the basic idea is to put goals in place for each day, estimate how long it will take to achieve each one, and dedicate blocks on your calendar to achieving them. By planning out his week instead of micromanaging his days, Sean can more easily set achievable goals each morning by asking himself a simple question:
“If I could only accomplish two things today that would make me feel proud, what would they be?”
3. Prioritize Your Daily Tasks With the Eisenhower Matrix
Once you time-block your week, you can prioritize tasks within your day. After all, every agent has fires to put out, and surprises are the norm in this industry.
The trick is to decide early on which tasks should be prioritized. This allows you to tackle your most urgent tasks when your energy levels are highest, and save the rest for when you’re feeling sapped later in the day.
Like most great ideas, the Eisenhower Matrix is actually pretty simple to use. Make a list of all the real estate tasks that you do on a daily basis and put each one into one of four categories:
1. Do First
As the category name suggests, you should do these tasks first. Joshua also suggests blocking out time in your day to get these tasks done. More on this later.
Proactively schedule important, but not urgent, tasks like researching a new customer relationship manager (CRM), networking with listing agents, optimizing your website, blogging, and segmenting your leads.
Here’s where it might get a little tricky for some agents. Delegating tasks is great if you have the help available. If not, we have tips for finding quality, affordable help in this article. Can you delegate social media? Hunt for email addresses? Screen cold leads? Yes, yes, and YES!
4. Don’t Do
It’s also important to identify the tasks that aren’t helping you at all. For most people, these will be social media-related. For example, have you been spending an hour a day on Pinterest for six months with nothing to show for it? Probably time for a new strategy.
4. Automate Outreach & Lead Nurturing With a Good CRM
There is a dirty secret in real estate no one talks about: Most agents at the top are kind of cheating.
No, they’re (probably) not committing Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act violations or hoarding pocket listings, but they’re using robots (!) to automate many of the tasks you might still be doing the old-fashioned way.
Their robotic secret weapon? A good CRM that helps them reach the right lead with the right message at the right time.
Right now you might be squeaking by with Excel, but what’s going to happen when you have five times as many leads to deal with? How are you going to remember all their birthdays, closing anniversaries, move dates, preferences, and so on?
Chances are, you’re not. You’re going to just push ahead and let leads, deals, and most importantly, potential future referrals, just slip through the many cracks in your system.
A great CRM can save you hours of work each day and help you nurture leads long enough for them to become clients and closed deals.
Choosing a Real Estate CRM
Which CRM you choose matters a whole lot less than how and when you use it. That said, picking the right CRM from the start can save you a lot of headaches down the road. Here are a few good options to consider:
LionDesk is an affordable and easy-to-use CRM that offers advanced features like artificial intelligence chatbots.
Another option would be to sign up for an all-in-one IDX website that comes with an integrated CRM. The benefit here is that your CRM and website work together right out of the box. If you’re driving leads to a website (or want to start doing so) then this type of system is your best bet. Propertybase is an excellent option here for teams. They have great websites and a Salesforce-based CRM.
The only downside here is that these systems can get pricey quickly. For a good IDX website with a CRM, you’re looking at around $150 to $250 per month at a bare minimum. More sophisticated sites and CRMs can cost $1,000 per month and up. To find a site that works for you, check out Chris Linsell’s guide here:
The 6 Best Real Estate Lead Generation Websites
5. Use Time Strategically
Another crucial step toward working fewer hours per week is to be more strategic about how you use your time. In practice, this means adopting techniques that have been proven to increase productivity for most people, such as time blocking and the Pomodoro Technique.
As noted in step two, Sean Moudry swears by this approach. Instead of sitting at your desk and attacking a million little tasks at once, you block off large chunks of time and tackle one goal-oriented item at a time. Time blocking should be done first at the weekly level but can be used effectively on a daily level too.
If you’re skeptical, check out his decade-long study at Stanford University that found that people who multitask ended up with reduced memory and lower performance. The study didn’t measure stress levels, but I think you can work that out for yourself.
Let’s say you identified cold calling as one of your important tasks to schedule. Instead of sprinkling calls throughout the day, set aside two hours every morning just for cold calling.
Keep doing this until you have your entire week blocked out so you’re spending the most time focusing only on your most important tasks.
Don’t Let Your Schedule Become a Tyrant
The fastest way to throw your schedule out the window is to refuse to ever deviate from it. S&%t will happen. Your days and mood will change. Think of your schedule as more of a strong suggestion rather than a command.
Remember to Schedule Time for Relaxation
Another way to ensure you abandon your new schedule is to overbook yourself. Real estate coach and Close contributor Beverly Ruffner calls this “overtasking.” Almost all of her coaching clients are guilty of it. That’s part of the reason they call her.
Instead, remember to schedule time to grab a coffee, chat with coworkers about anything that’s NOT real estate, or just take a walk.
The best way to work relaxation into your schedule is to use something called the Pomodoro Technique. Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:
The Pomodoro Technique
Named for the tomato-shaped timer the system’s inventor used, the Pomodoro Technique is a simple time-blocking strategy to increase productivity.
The idea is that your brain can only truly focus on one task without wandering for around an hour. That means getting up and taking a quick break every hour or so before returning to your work will make you much more productive.
Although the evidence for productivity increases is anecdotal, one workplace experiment found that the most productive 10% of employees tended to take 17-minute breaks every 52 minutes. They were using the Pomodoro Technique without even knowing it. This tactic may also improve work quality; a study at Cornell found that subjects who were given reminders to take breaks were 13% more accurate in their work than subjects who had no reminders.
In order for it to work, you need to set a timer with a gentle alarm to remind you to take a break. Oh, and no, it doesn’t have to be shaped like a tomato to work.
6. Spend More on Lead Generation
This one may seem a little counterintuitive. You might ask, if you’re having trouble managing your time, how will having MORE leads help you? The fact is, the increase in raw data that comes with a wider pool of contacts allows you to make better decisions and focus your time more effectively.
For example, let’s say you got a 20% open rate for an email campaign you sent out to 50 leads. That means out of 50 people, only 10 opened your email. Now, if five of those people missed your email for reasons entirely out of your control, your open rate would go down by 50%.
With such wild swings in performance from pure chance, it is nearly impossible to correctly diagnose problems with your marketing and lead nurturing and decide how to manage your time.
Now let’s say you sent the same drip to 500 leads and got the same 20% open rate. The odds of 50 people missing your email by pure chance are much, much lower. If you tweak subject lines or rewrite copy, you can be more confident that your work, and not random chance, is responsible for the improved performance.
There are a million places to get leads these days, but since almost everyone starts their search on Zillow, it’s a great place to snap up leads before they’re in your competitors’ databases. Click below to see if Zillow Premier Agent is available in your ZIP code.
7. Hire an Overseas Virtual Assistant
This one will take care of the “delegate” section of the Eisenhower Matrix without breaking the bank.
Since not every agent can swing a full-time, U.S.-based assistant, hiring from overseas is usually a great starting point.
In fact, many large brokerages hire overseas virtual assistants (VAs) for more mundane tasks like updating listings, social media, finding contact information, qualifying leads, appointment scheduling, and graphic design.
Here at The Close, we’ve had great results hiring VAs from the Philippines. Like India, remote workers in the Philippines speak great English, and many even have real estate industry experience.
You can hire part-time or full-time workers and browse profiles to find the perfect match for your budget and specific workflow.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 per hour for a qualified, hardworking virtual assistant in the Philippines. Learn more about hiring an overseas virtual assistant here:
Hire a Top-notch Virtual Real Estate Assistant
8. Hire an ISA
If qualifying and nurturing cold leads is a time suck for you, then you might want to think about hiring an inside sales agent (ISA). Not a cheap option, but for many growing agents, a necessary one.
The idea behind having an ISA is that they can spend their time qualifying and nurturing your leads so that you only end up interacting with the cream of the crop.
While ISAs can be an amazing advantage to your team, keep in mind that in many states, they will need to be licensed. That’s because their work is so closely tied with what it takes to help a person buy or sell a house. And licensure means higher salaries and more difficulty in hiring and retaining talent.
Hiring and training ISAs can be tricky, but luckily real estate coach and Close contributor Beverly Ruffner wrote up an amazing guide to building out your ISA team. Her results speak for themselves. They don’t call Beverly “the Conversion Queen” for nothing.
How to Hire & Train an ISA for Cold Calling & Lead Nurturing (+ Scripts)
9. Start or Join a Team
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost a decade of working in real estate, it’s that no real estate agent is an island.
Or, to use an even cheesier cliché, it takes a village to sell lots of homes.
Think about it. What top-producing real estate agent do you know who doesn’t have an assistant, an ISA, a closing coordinator, and a few junior agents running around showing for them?
The answer, of course, is almost none. There’s a very good reason for that. Teams allow team leaders to delegate.
That means they can work on small parts of the business that they’re great at, like pitching homeowners or negotiating deals, while a whole crew of other people work on what they’re great at.
If you want to get ahead in real estate, start a team. If you want to work in real estate with access to tons of leads, lots of support, and a whole lot less chaos, join a team.
Not sure where to start? Check out 26-year real estate veteran, real estate coach, and top Keller Williams recruiter Sean Moudry’s guide to real estate team structures here.
Key Takeaways for Real Estate Agents
Working a billion hours per week is not going to make you rich and famous. In fact, if you use time strategically, hire help, use a great CRM, or optimize your ad spend, you will actually close more deals working fewer hours per week.
Have a great tip regarding time management for Realtors that we didn’t cover? Share your best advice in the comments!