Whether you’re working from home, with the team in your office, in your car, on public transit, or out of a hotel room, one of the most valuable skills that any successful person possesses is the ability to eliminate distractions.
Easier said than done, of course. When we have alerts popping up on several screens and notifications telling us about every missed call and text, it’s easy to be pulled away from the task at hand. But if you keep interrupting yourself every time something new comes in, you’ll never get anything done.
How can you be attentive and available while staying focused and productive?
Maybe the first thing you like to do each day return calls, or maybe it’s reviewing applications. Whatever that first thing is, do it for a set period of time before moving onto the next thing. If you’re ensuring that you have what you need to submit files, for example, don’t take a call in the middle of it. Before you know it, you’ll have spent half an hour answering someone’s question and that thing you swore you’d do “first thing” is still sitting.
Email is a perfect example of a distractor. While it’s necessary from a communications perspective, it can often avalanche; in the time it takes you to answer one email, four more appear in your inbox.
“I encourage guys in my office to close their inbox at times,” said Joshua Jablonski, branch manager, Private Mortgage Banking at Wells Fargo. “You’ll lose half an hour or an hour because you get pulled in, sucked into stuff, and don’t get things that need to be done, done. So time blocking sometimes [helps]; close the inbox, put your phone on the table next to you, and focus on what you’ve got to get done and get through it because then you’ll be a lot more productive the rest of the day.”
Accessible versus available
One of the tricks of the trade is how to balance the need to be available without letting that availability become a liability.
Originators pride themselves on always being available, always answering the phone or responding to text messages, and bank on that as being an example of stellar customer service. But if you’re always stopping mid-task to respond to an inquiry, to answer a text or phone call or email, that also means that you aren’t giving that task the attention it needs. And if your clients think they’re not important enough to demand your full attention when you’re with them, that’s the opposite of stellar customer service.
One way to avoid this it to check in at set intervals throughout the day to make sure nothing gets missed. Set a timer or an alarm if you have to. Depending on your office, you might have the luxury of having a receptionist be your gatekeeper. Use that to your advantage.
Each contact could be an opportunity so it can be hard not to respond to everything immediately, especially when hustling to get new clients and partners. Focusing on doing what’s right in front of you and doing it well, however, will ultimately benefit your business. Partners and clients alike will respect your dedication and respect for your own time, as well as theirs.
It takes being disciplined, but you can make yourself accessible without always being available.
Timing is everything
One of the best things about being an originator is the flexibility that comes with your schedule. You can work as much or as little as you’d like, but that also means working with—or against—the ebb and flow of the day.
Industry veteran David Jaffe, senior mortgage consultant with the Jaffe Team at On Q Financial, found success with starting work earlier than anyone else.
“Probably the biggest impact is starting super early in the morning when there’s no distraction,” he said. “If you get up at 5 and you’re working by 5:30, it’s amazing at how much you can accomplish in the three hours before the phones ring.”
Not everyone is an early bird, of course, but discovering your most productive time of day will allow you to plan and structure the rest of the day accordingly. Some people like to hit the gym first thing in the morning to shake off any grogginess and energize their body before getting to work. Some people do all of their communications during the day and paperwork after hours. If you’re a night owl, use that you your advantage and end the day with a clean slate instead of tacking everything when you get up in the morning. However you work best, find the timing that suits your body and your workflow.
Don’t let distractions sidetrack you. Organize your time and own your days.
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