If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the real estate industry has been busy during the past few years.
The housing supply has been limited and interest rates have been at all-time lows, making for a competitive and fast paced market. As a mortgage lender, life has been busy — to say the least. If you’re a mortgage lender, real estate agent or at a fast-paced job in a different field, it’s likely you multitask daily.
I’m guilty — I’m a perpetual multitasker. My day consists of toggling between five programs at once and about 30 Google Chrome tabs. As studies have suggested, women’s brains are wired to multitask. But is it the most effective way to work? Maybe not.
Here are my favorite tips to calm my multitasking brain and stay organized throughout the day:
Time-Blocking is Key
I used to balk at time-blocking. Why would I time-block? I’ve been multitasking for years and I’m great at it. Ability to multitask or not, studies have proven that multitasking can be less effective and result in more stress than when you concentrate on one task at a time. That’s where time-blocking comes into play.
Time-blocking doesn’t necessarily mean that you shut down your email entirely or send calls to voicemail — although that’s OK. There are people who swear by only responding to emails or voicemails one or two times per day, but time-blocking to that extreme doesn’t work for me. That might not be a feasible solution in many jobs, although I understand the benefit. I will be the first one to admit that if I allowed myself, I could spend my entire day responding to emails.
Time-blocking can help with becoming more proactive with our tasks, rather than reactive. If we go through our days being reactive, we feel less in control of our day, leading to burn-out and stress. Being proactive can help you be relaxed, prepared and in control.
I time-block by using my Outlook calendar, as it gives me the ability to “snooze” the task in case I need to finish something first.
Let’s say I start the first hour of the day returning calls to clients. I get an urgent email that needs taken care of right away. It’s OK to pause to take care of an issue if you return to the task at hand after completion. I’m now of the mindset that if something isn’t on my calendar, it doesn’t happen.
Keep a List
Making a list of the tasks for the day can seem overwhelming, but the ability to cross items off your list can be a stress reliever. Let’s say you start out with 10 tasks. They can be calls to return, emails to respond to, reports to write, etc.
As you’re returning a call, you’re keeping an eye on your email and thinking about that report you need to write, among other things. All these tasks are taking up space in your brain, while none of these items are getting fully completed. By keeping a physical list, you can check these items off and move on to the next.
This can go hand-in-hand with time-blocking. There are days when I skip making a list and enter the items in my calendar for certain times during the day. Does it always happen at exactly that time? No. But it provides me with the ability to organize my tasks by importance and I know I won’t forget to do something.
Another interesting study surrounding multitasking and organizing your day is called the Zeigarnik Effect. Named after Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, it occurs when an activity that has been interrupted might be more readily recalled. This theory maintains that people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. When you start working on something but do not finish it, it can take up more space in your mind leading to even more stress about the unfinished task. There have been some interesting studies surrounding the Zeigarnik Effect that I’d recommend reading if you’d like to know more.
Eat that Frog
There was a book that a colleague of mine had suggested many years ago called, “Eat that Frog!” by Brian Tracy. There is an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re done with the worst thing you’ll have to do all day. Of course, we’re not talking about this in the literal sense.
According to Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task first — as it might be the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. Let’s say you have a task that you loathe doing. It’s important for your career but keeps getting pushed down your list. By doing this task first, you can start your day feeling accomplished, and relieved that the “worst” task of your day is completed.
For years, I’ve started off my day — as often as I can — doing the tasks that I dislike the most. It’s been a game changer for my business and productivity. It’s remarkable the amount of space negative thoughts can hold in our minds, and by completing the tasks we dislike first, the more space we have in our minds to grow.
All this being said, am I guilty of multitasking? Yes. It’s ingrained in me. But time-blocking, making lists and “eating frogs” has helped me feel much more organized and less stressed throughout the day. Hopefully some of these tips will work for you as well.