HR expert says it's more important to value your time than to tick off tasks
Most finance brokers would agree that time is a precious commodity. When it comes to the mortgage industry, time is crucial - not only for clients awaiting settlement, but for brokers working long and busy days to line up the best finance options for their customers.
Many in the industry have cautioned against broker burnout at a time when the property market is pumping and SLAs have been hit with long delays, which is why it is especially important for brokers to strike a healthy work/life balance and take control of their schedules.
Read more: Why brokers should be cautious about burnout
When it comes to effective time management, it’s not so much about getting more work done, HR consultant Rebecca Houghton told MPA. It’s more about carving time out of your diary.
“It’s not really about managing your time better, its actually about protecting your time more,” she said. “My position on time management is that it allows you to do more work, but people are already doing a lot of work at the moment.
“Why do we want to get more out of our day? Why don’t we want to get more day out of our diary instead?”
She said most professionals have an unusual relationship with being busy. Even though they complain about it, they secretly enjoy it and wear it like a badge of honour.
“It’s like it defines them, it makes them feel important and useful,” she said.
The other thing to note is that it’s additive. Houghton explained that “system 1 thinking tasks” such as responding to emails and having meetings are the sort of tasks that workers can complete without too much thought. This is in contrast to the deeper thinking activities that are ultimately more meaningful in a role.
“It’s the really curly problems, the really difficult relationships, the things that make you frown and rub your head,” she said. “We don’t like that stuff, it’s really tiring.
“A lot of the research shows that you bury yourself in busyness because it’s actually easier to be busy than it is to be thoughtful.”
Simple tasks such as hitting a notification or pressing send on an email give a fake sense of progress when we do them over and over again, she said. They also deliver a hit of dopamine, an additive chemical released by our brain that triggers a reward-response.
“A little hit of dopamine is a like a little whack of cocaine,” she said. “It makes you feel high.
“But when you are thinking strategically, influencing conversations, changing culture and doing much heavier, harder stuff, you don’t finish your day and go, ‘yeah did 300 of those.’ There is no way of measuring it, so you don’t get that high.”
Houghton recommended brokers change their mindset in order to get more time for themselves out of their schedule.
Read next: How to get more done in less time
“Start treating your time as the most precious thing, not the tasks,” she said.
This could include avoiding meetings when a quick phone call or well-crafted email could do just as well, or shortening the length of time you carve out for meetings and phone calls rather than blindly following the default settings in Outlook.
“We are already building in this level of fat into how we have conversations with people,” she said. “We’re assuming conservations take 30 or 60 minutes and almost all of us fill the gap with blah, blah, blah, so that it does take 60 minutes.
“If your time is more precious than the task you will always challenge the time that you’re offered, and that’s how you carve out space in your diary and how you start to control the pace of work - because a lot of it is buffer, a lot is extra time you don’t need to be using on that task, and a lot of it is us having a false relationship with busy as being productive, when actually the two are not the same.”