IC Elesson: Your “Not to Do” List

The longer I run a real estate business, the more I “get” how easy it is to stress yourself out with an endless to do list.

There are soooooooooo many things that you could be, or even feel like you SHOULD be, doing at any given moment that there is literally no way you’ll EVER get to all of it.

If your reaction to the statement I just made was pain (“Please don’t say that…there HAS to be a way…maybe better time management!”) or denial (“Of COURSE I can do it all. I just ordered some new software that’s going to fix it for me!”), you might just be living in an entrepreneurial fog. You know, the one where you spend every day trying to get just one more thing done before you fall into bed exhausted, or until those pesky kids/hobbies/spouses get in the way of all the cool, exciting work you have to do.

If you were more clear-headed—and few of us are, where it comes to our businesses—you’d remember that you got into real estate for the freedom, not for the money. You’d recognize that 20% of your efforts (though you might not know which 20% at the moment) give you 80% of your results, and that the other 80% takes up humongous amounts of time and energy while yielding nothing other than the the pleasure of checking them off your to-do list.

If you were as devoted to creating a great life as you are into creating a great business, you’d put some real thought into how to REDUCE your stress, increase your leverage, and discipline yourself to actually do only the 20%.

Which, by the way, is difficult and painful, because it’s easy to decide that if doing something in the 80% might…just might…put another $5,000 in the bank this month, it’s worth it. Which it’s not, because it probably won’t.

If you can think about it, objectively, you can probably find dozens of things that you do (or intend to do) that are exciting, or fulfilling, or interesting, or would make your competitors jealous, that are likely to have such minimal effect on your bottom line that if someone offered to pay you a similar amount to work similar hours, you’d turn that job down flat.

And maybe your things are different than mine, but since I work with dozens of students on a weekly basis, I’m guessing not. So here’s a starter list of things to STOP doing, without guilt or remorse or wondering whether it was a mistake to delete these from your daily activities. Because it’s not.

  1. Spending any significant time with unmotivated sellers. When a seller tells you he’s not in trouble, not in a hurry, and only willing to sell if he gets close to full price, believe him and get him off the phone. Don’t research his property to see what he CAN sell for, or whether he maybe just maybe thinks his house is worth a lot less than it actually is. He doesn’t. Move on. You didn’t lose a deal, because there wasn’t a deal there to lose.
  1. Spending more time researching than you are marketing. Hey, I get tempted, too—when there’s a list of estate properties, and I see one in a really nice, expensive area, I want to get on the computer and see when the deceased bought it, and whether it has a mortgage, and for how much. None of which really matters, because until I’ve talked to the heirs, I don’t even know that they WANT to sell it, much less that they want to sell it cheap. Researching before you’ve heard from a seller that he’s motivated to sell is very time-consuming, and completely useless. The hour you spend on this would be better spent putting those names from that list on those letters.
  1. Ruminating about mean people. Am I the only one who, when I get one of those oddball hostile calls from sellers or from tenants, tends to spend hours over the next few days rehearsing what I SHOULD have said to them, wondering what I did wrong, and having long conversations in my head with them? I’ve learned to control this tendency, but before I did, I bet I spent 200 hours of my life and endless mental energy trying to “fix”, at least in my head, mean and crazy people. Stop. Just stop.
  1. Getting obsessed with returned mail. You can spend 3 hours trying to track down 20 owners whose mail was returned (and you’ll find about 4 of them), or you can spend $2,000 paying someone else to do it—yes, $100 per is the actual cost of getting a REAL skip trace done—or you can spend 20 minutes and $15 finding and mailing 20 new prospects. Remember, all that finding the right address means is that you’ve gotten a piece of mail into the hands of a suspect, NOT that he’s going to sell to you
  1. Doing easy-but-time-consuming, menial work. I recently got an unsorted list of over 17,000 suspects in my area. From prior experience, I knew that over ½ of these would turn out to be vacant lots, commercial properties, and properties in warzones, and that another 25% would be duplicates of one another. In the past, I’d spend 2 hours refining the list by hand. This time, I sent it to a VA who understands MSExcel better than I do, and who sent me back a list that was 90% “fixed” in one day. For…wait for it…$12. If you have nothing better to do than sort your own list, find something better to do. If you can’t find something better to do, take a walk or spend some time with your kids
  2. Surfing.  All of the recent neuroscience research says that willpower—the stuff you need to call sellers back, address another 100 postcards, tell owners that you can only give them ½ of what they want for their house, etc—is a limited resource. Every decision you have to make drains it a tiny bit, leaving less for the things you really need it for.

One of the biggest drains on our decision-making capacity, and thus on our focus and willpower, is the easy with which we can stimulate our brains (giving them the same pleasure as eating a Godiva truffle—for real) is the easy availability of neat-o but useless information and entertainment.

That time you spend clicking the links on Facebook, or Youtube, or surfing the cable channels, or falling down the rabbit hole of “research” of strategies or gurus, is not only time that would be better spent doing what you need to do. It also drains your focus and willpower, so that even when you make yourself stop, you have no energy to get back to your job.

Do yourself a favor and try a 30 day “no browsing” challenge. If you’re looking for a specific piece of information on the web, search it, get it, and no link-clicking. If there’s a TV show you like, DVR it and watch it intentionally, not as part of a 2-hour nightly marathon of trying to find something interesting.

Avoiding these 6 traps will go a long way toward making you more productive in your real estate business in less time. What do YOU find yourself wasting time and mental energy on, that you and others should add to your not-to-do list? Comment below.

3 Comments on “IC Elesson: Your “Not to Do” List

  1. Genius! I *love* to do #3 above. It is foolish. In fact, I did it again this week just to make sure it was a foolish waste of my time, energy, positivity, and brain power. Mean people suck. I will accept that – and move on. And think on them no more. Thanks, Vena! Your way of articulating concepts is awesome.

  2. I have been guilty of ALL of these. I found that if I start the day with ONE thing (time block one hour to call, etc) I can get more done without a lot of stress. It is still sometimes a struggle.

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