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Work Smart, Not Hard: How to Maximize Your Productivity

Written by Karch Schreiner,  Associate – Agency Leasing

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“How am I supposed to complete all of these items in the same day?” This is a common question that I have asked myself countless times over the past nine months while working in the commercial real estate industry. As a leasing agent, I find my to-do list(s) constantly adding up. That list on Monday morning can look vastly different come lunchtime later that same day. Before I know it, I have a brand new to-do list that doesn’t even take into account the original items I had on my list that morning.

Luckily, I work with leasing agents who know how to control their time. They are able to manage their tasks instead of letting the list control of them. I have been forwarded numerous articles on how to save time throughout the work day-allowing me to not only get all of my tasks checked off the list, but become a better leasing agent.

When I first started in the industry, I figured that being “busy” meant that you were doing your job well. It wasn’t until two months ago that a coworker told me, “It’s better to be productive than to be busy.” By working efficiently, not only will you not be as busy, but you could increase your odds of success. So, how do you do this? I have compiled a list of tips that should not only help you save time, but hopefully help provide a higher conversion rate when it comes to closing deals.

Qualifying:

I have always been a fan the phrase, “work smart, not hard.” I feel like this mantra is clearly defined when it comes to qualifying tenants. Not every business is the right tenant for your office building. By presenting to office tenants who can’t afford your space or who don’t meet certain requirements, you are simply wasting your time.

When qualifying tenants, consider the following:

  • Suitability: Begin your qualification process by eliminating the types of tenants that ownership would prefer not have in the building. If the tenant name is undisclosed, have the tenant rep share more about the client’s industry.
  • Lease term: If a prospective tenant is only looking to sign a short-term lease, the vacancies in your building need to lay out well for the tenant and not be in shell condition. For a three-year, or even a two-year lease, owners are normally looking to make minimal improvements to the space. Showing a client who wants a shorter lease a white-box space, or even a space where glass, walls and plumbing would need to be altered, could potentially be a waste of time for both you and the tenant.
  • Commencement date: Always know the desired or approximate commencement date of the tenant. Some deals in the marketplace are three years out or more, or require the landlord to pay for the termination option fee at their current location. Also, don’t give a sales pitch on a space that doesn’t become available until September when the tenant needs to move into the space in May.
  • Budget and creditworthiness: What is the tenant’s monthly budget? This is a question that you will need to ask yourself for smaller tenants. Breaking this out in your initial quote email helps to put total rent numbers into perspective, especially if the tenant is operating without a broker. Knowing the tenant’s credit, as well as their willingness to pay a security deposit, will also allow you to gauge the level of risk in the tenancy. Know whether ownership is risk adverse with this topic to be able to weed out underperforming tenants early.

There is no rule of thumb or exact approach when it comes to qualifying tenants. The idea is that it is far better to qualify a tenant before wasting the time giving a site-tour or a sales presentation. By adequately qualifying prospects, you can increase your productivity and spend more time focusing on closing real deals.

Focusing:

Multitasking is another way that to-do lists and time management can get out of hand. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is necessary to multitask and it could potentially get you out of some sticky situations. But, when it comes to actually getting work done in a productive manner and producing your highest quality work, multitasking can actually become a detriment.

There will be mornings when I come into the office, sit down at my desk and start working on a task that needs to be done by EOD. By the end of the day, I have received 30 new emails (17 of them actually requiring my attention), been asked to print off 4 copies of a specific document, received multiple phone calls inquiring to lease space at one of my buildings, given two tours and hopped on a client call.

Some of these distractions are uncontrollable. Some, however, can be managed so that additional work does not get in the way of the primary task.

According to an article written by Kevin Loria for the Business Insider, multitasking is actually a large problem when it comes to getting intended work done in a budgeted amount of time. Loria goes on to quote Cal Newport, the author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by saying, “taking your limited ability to focus and spreading it thin between multiple tasks at the same time, you kill your productivity.” Newport also says, “to produce at your peak level you need to work for extended period with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.”

This is why it is so difficult to perform at your maximum productivity level in today’s work environment. Our mobile phones give us never-ending access to email and phone calls throughout the day. But because we are now more able to accomplish our work on the go, we are not actually focusing on a single task at any given time. This produces what Newport calls “attention residue.”

“The idea behind this is that when you switch from your original task to helping a colleague to responding to an email, ‘your attention doesn’t immediately follow – a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task,’ according to Newport.”

There have been multiple researchers who have found that it takes approximately 20 minutes to re-establish focus on the original task after a small distraction like checking an email.

Some practical steps to improve focus and productivity include:

  • Shutting down email or any notification programs that could distract you multiple times throughout the day;
  • Allotting time on your calendar each day to focus on single tasks;
  • Only booking tours/calls during certain times of the day.

By implementing these practices, completing focus-intensive projects in less time should become the norm. Shutting out the world around you can be difficult, but in the long run, should increase daily productivity significantly.

Environment:

Finally, the environment in which you conduct your business can truly be a factor. Buzzwords like ‘collaboration’, ‘open-space’, ‘group think’, ‘assisting’ and ‘collectively’ have become very popular with many companies. The open-plan office has become the rage for companies wanting to promote collaboration and synergy among employees. While all of these features can be positive and productive staples of the workplace, they can also become extremely costly when it comes to actually getting work done.

Coming from the advertising industry, I understand what it is like to work in this type of environment. I did have my own desk, but I was surrounded by 25 other employees with no barricades or walls to provide a sense of privacy. I was also constantly being pulled into conference/meeting rooms to discuss anything and everything.

While many people may feel like they thrive in this type of office setting, I have seen a clear increase in my productivity since making the switch to commercial real estate. While I don’t have my own office, I work in cubicle near only three other colleagues. My ability to concentrate and focus on tasks at hand has changed dramatically and I am accomplishing more than I thought I could in a given time.

The Lesson:

At the end of the work day, the goal was to be as productive as possible. I have learned that productivity is a measure of how much you accomplish – not how busy you are. Busy does not reach your goal – production does. But while implementing these steps can sometimes be easier said than done, I’ve learned that even taking just one or two can still be considered a step in the right direction.

 

Karch Schreiner is an Associate in our Dallas Agency Leasing team.Karch_Schreiner

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