How to avoid 'zapping' your time

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The first step in managing your time is to create boundaries that keep unnecessary tasks from robbing you of valuable working hours. Because, after all, when you fail to complete enough work during business hours you can easily rob yourself and your family of quality personal time.

When it comes to checking and responding to e-mail and voicemail messages, if you're not designating specific time slots - for instance, once during each morning and afternoon - you're simply spending too much ad hoc time at these tasks.

Think about it - if you look at your cell phone or computer even half of the time you're receiving an alert your concentration levels are suffering considerably throughout the course of a day. And we all know that even the best mortgage professionals welcome distractions on days when they don't feel like drumming up new business or working on their business in other productive ways.

If you assign specific times of the day for these tasks and let your clients, referral sources and business partners know when you've set time aside each day to get back to them, you're taking a step in the right direction to freeing yourself up for more important tasks such as generating ongoing business.

Customizing your voicemail recording and e-mail auto responder with timeframes in which those contacting you can expect a response is key. And if you're consistent with these messages, your clients, referral partners and business partners will soon memorize your schedule. As a result, people will eventually begin contacting you when they know you're available.

Instant time-saving strategies
By implementing the six strategies below, you will be able to save yourself a considerable amount of time each day. Imagine the added prospecting you could undertake and the extra business you could generate if you could only maximize each workday.

First, do not give out your business number or e-mail address to friends, family and other nonwork- related personnel. Before you know it, your best friend, sister, spouse, Mom and doctor's office can eat up a lot of time in your workday. And if they do have your work number, advise them to only use it in an emergency.

Second, avoid checking your personal e-mail or making personal calls when you're at work. A 'quick call', after all, can easily result in a 30-minute conversation when you connect with someone who wants to talk your ear off.

Third, turn off your instant messaging and e-mail alert functions on your computer and cell phone. Some people even go so far as to put black tape over the flashing red indicator light on their Blackberry. Turn off the vibrate/chime function that goes off every time you are receiving a call, e-mail, text or voicemail.

Fourth, don't answer your phone unless you're expecting a call. If your voicemail message 'smiles' and you've set out specific times in your recording when you'll get back to people, you're giving yourself the gift of focus and concentration. You'll be amazed how much more you can get done in a single day without this common distraction.

Fifth, create sub-folders within your Inbox so that all e-mail does not flow into one main folder. This way you are already organized before even checking your email. Categories for folders can include: lender information; referral partners; clients; personal. This allows you to know which folders are the most important to check in a timely manner. For instance, you know you can check your lender folder for things like rate reports, product changes and updates each morning to remain up-to-date for that particular day.After that, anything else that comes in throughout the day will at the very earliest apply to tomorrow.

And finally, another fabulous time-saver includes planning your day the night before. Although this is not rocket science, it's very easy for mortgage professionals to get caught up in time-zapping tasks simply by not planning ahead. Before you know it, morning has quickly transitioned to afternoon and you have little to show for your efforts.

Gary Mauris is president of Dominion Lending Centres. He can be reached at: gary@dominionlending.ca

Easy ways to save valuable time

1. Don't give out your work e-mail address for personal use. If you've already done this, provide your personal e-mail address and advise contacts that you do not check your personal e-mail during business hours. Average Daily Time Savings = 30 minutes per day.
2. Don't give out your business phone number for personal use. If you've already done this, provide your home number and advise contacts that you do not return personal calls during business hours. Only use your business line as an emergency number for personal contacts.
Average Daily Time Savings = 30 minutes per day.
3. Don't answer your phone unless you're expecting a call. If your voice mail message advises callers of specific times during which you have designated throughout the day to return calls (such as 1-1:30 p.m. and 5-5:30 p.m.), it's not necessary to answer the phone every time it rings.
Average Daily Time Savings = 60 minutes per day.
4. Turn off phone and e-mail alerts. Although these functions are often built into your e-mail program and cellphone, they can be disarmed. It's completely unnecessary and extremely distracting to be interrupted every time you receive a call, e-mail, voice mail or text message - not to mention that these alerts tempt you to check your phone and computer each time they go off. Average Daily Time Savings = 15 minutes per day.