How to stop wasting time and maximize productivity

Sometimes I sit with new clients at their computer and I want to jump through glass as I watch them fiddle around with their email.

Email is perhaps the single greatest time-waster and distraction in the business world.

Salespeople are the worst offenders; especially mortgage originators.


First of all, allow me to empathize.  Because there are so many damn fingers in the real estate transaction pie – and you, the originator, are at the center of it – the volume of emails for a producing MLO is staggering every day.

But that’s not going to change in our lifetime, so now it’s time to choose a solution to the email juggernaut instead of being a victim of it.

Empathy over.

The Four D’s

Next, please know that I am not the brains behind this formula.  I read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done and I thought it was brilliant.  So I’m passing on his wisdom in a super concise format.  But you really should go buy his book and read it cover to cover.

The most efficient way to manage email is to execute the “Four D’s” email strategy.

The most important question to answer first when reading an email message is: “is it actionable?” In other words, does something need to be done here?  If not, then:

Dump it (delete).  When in doubt, throw it out.  If it clearly isn’t actionable, then the chances of you ever needing the info in the email again are remote.  Delete it.

If the email does require action, then:

Do it.  The key to this is to determine if the “doing” passes/fails the two-minute rule: If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now and delete the email.  If it takes longer than 2 minutes, then you defer it.

Defer it.  This is something that you need to do (you can’t delegate it).  Decide its importance right now and based on the priority, go into your calendar and schedule an appointment to get it done.  Move the email to a relevant subfolder (create a new one if need be) and move on.

Delegate it.  Someone else on your team, in your office, in your business, in your life can do it.  Forward the email to that person, make the request to complete the task, give them a deadline, and move the email into a sub-folder called “Waiting for” (I call mine “ASAP Follow Up” so it shows up at the top of my sub-boxes and remind myself to check it multiple times throughout the day).

The volume of emails in your inbox will ebb and flow throughout the day, but your goal should be to have an empty email box after every email session.

The most productive people in the world actual schedule email.  Even if you don’t do this, when you sit down to check your email, set a goal to execute the Four D’s and have an empty email inbox when you’re done.

Your confidence will soar organically because you know you’ve got it all handled!

Supercharge Your Efficiency

Executing the Four D’s is a crucial strategy to stay efficient when you’re inside your email.  Coupled with that are the following two steps that will supercharge your efficiency and give you a freedom you never knew you had as a mortgage loan originator.

Step One: Turn off email during time-blocked appointments. 

Everything you do during your day should be done by appointment and be blocked out in your calendar, even if (especially if) the appointment is with yourself.  Prospecting, marketing, database work, submitting files – anything worthy of your time and focus – should be set up in a “time-block” – a block of time you mark in your calendar.

A task will always expand to the amount of time you give it.  Most people don’t put any boundaries around a task and that’s why one thing takes them the entire day.

Don’t be a victim of “time-suck.”  Time block your activities and while you’re inside that activity, turn off your email.  That’s right.  Shut that monster down, honor the boundaries you set up and watch your productivity fly through the roof, fast.

Step Two: Manage Expectations While You’re Away From Phone & Email

If you’re going to prospect for 2 hours, yes you need to shut down your email.  But don’t just turn it off; turn on your auto-reply.

Set up an auto-reply message on your email and deploy it whenever you’ll be away from email.  When realtors and customers email you, they’ll get an instant response saying you’re away from your desk for “x” amount of time and you’ll respond when you return in that time frame.

Now you’ve made people feel safe and secure and given them certainty as to when you will respond.  This is excellent service, but more importantly, it give you the freedom to be focused on whatever task you’re doing.

BONUS: Set up real time voicemail on your phone.  Create an outgoing voicemail message that manages expectations from your cell phone, just like your email auto-reply.

It might sound something like this:

“Hi you’ve reached the voicemail for Marc Manieri.  Today is Wednesday, October 30th and I’ll be in an appointment from Noon to 1pm, returning all phone calls between 1 and 2pm.  Please leave your message and I’ll promptly return your call during that time.”

Done.  Expectations managed.  Security and certainty given.  Freedom created.

(Note: don’t forget to change your outgoing message back to normal and be sure to return your calls during the time you say you will!)

So there you have it.  Efficiency and productivity outlined and delivered.

Need help remembering?  Download this 1 page reminder and post it next to your computer!

Please share your biggest aha in the comments and what you commit to implementing in your schedule today!

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