The following excerpt is from Ron’s brand new book soon to be released. In this chapter Ron asks you to take an honest look at your time management system in order to ensure your real goals are getting accomplished.
TIME IS MONEY – HOW DO YOU SPEND YOURS?
I’m teaching students at least two or three times a month somewhere in America. When the discussion of getting things done comes up, the complaint always comes back to, “I just don’t have time, Ron.” My answer is always the same: “You have the same amount of time as Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, me, and everyone else you know.” The question is not, do you have time? It’s, are you willing to devote the time to do what you have to do in order to accomplish your goals?
Everybody is busy. Everybody has more to do than they really can get done. One has to make choices. If, in fact, your day is so loaded with minutia, you can’t make time to get the important things done that’s the reason I wrote this book. You’re not alone but something has got to give. Only you can decide what it will be.
I might suggest you start by asking yourself, “Is this task I’m about to do going to accomplish anything of value? Is it going to make me any money? Is it going to benefit me or my family in any way? Is it going to increase the size or the volume of my business?” If the answer is no to all those questions, then obviously, it should be removed from the list to make room for something of value.
The question is, will more time give you more money? The answer to this question is almost never yes. More time is not the issue. The issue is taking the time you do have and getting the important things done and delegating the rest to someone else. Once you do this, time is no longer an issue.
When I first started in real estate, I didn’t have any time either. I was working sixteen hours a day. Previously, I ran service stations and had the same problem. It seemed like I never had any time. Over the years, I realized it was because I didn’t make any time. I consciously started asking myself the same question I’m proposing you ask yourself at every turn: Is what I’m doing right now a valuable use of my time?
To get your time in order, you first need a system for managing it and making sure the things you want to get done actually get done. For this to happen, your tasks must be part of a daily plan and always in front of you until they get done. I use a simple planner to do this. Yes, I’m talking about paper – you know, the stuff made from trees, the material which contains the words you’re reading right now. Actual paper.
A planner not only helps me track the things I have to do, but also eliminates the need for a good memory. If efficiency required memory, I wouldn’t get anything done. A planner provides a place for me to write down ideas and notes and thoughts without ever losing a thing. A planner holds me accountable for keeping my promises. A planner holds others accountable for keeping their promises to me. A planner is, in short, a businessperson’s best friend.
I’m not exaggerating when I say a planner is the difference between becoming a person who others look up to and want to follow because he does what he says or becoming an unorganized mess who breaks promises, losing the trust of everyone around him. We are conditioned today that no one who makes us a promise is actually going to keep it. People and companies break promises to us every day. It’s normal.
THE WHOLE WORLD IS FULL OF CRAP
People ask me all the time how I get so much done. The answer is simple: I set it and forget it in my planner. Once it’s written in my daily to do list I can’t forget it because I look at it several times a day
You can buy a paper planner at any office store. Mine, like most, has several sections, and I’ll describe how I use them here, to help you if you decide to use a book. If you don’t, I’ll also discuss ways I use my iPhone to improve time management.
The first section of your planner is called one through 31, or your daily to-do list. I use a planner called “Time Keeper,” but any good one will work. Back in the ’80s I used a Franklin Day Planner, and those are still available. All planners have a place to put your to-do list and your daily activities, usually with a schedule of particular days, where you can write down your appointments and the like.
This is the easy part of your planner. Anybody can write down things to do and check them off when they’re done, as I do daily. Also, this is the most important part of the planner. Until an item hits this daily to-do list, it’s not going to get done. Tasks must be in front of you, written on the day when they need to get done.
When I say, “set it and forget it,” the goal is to get a task on my daily to-do list, so when I open my planner in the morning, it’s right in front of me all day. Over the course of the day, I systematically work to check off those to-do items and try to get them all done before my day is over. The challenge, of course, is I’m adding items as well as checking them off. Sure, its two steps forward, one step back, but putting items in the planner keeps them right in front of me, so I never neglect or forget them.
Most people know what a to-do list is, and have some version of one. These days, many keep to-do lists in their phone. The question is, do you keep your phone open to the to-do list, is it in front of you all the time? The answer is no, because inevitably, you’re using the phone for other tasks. A planner exists for one reason – for its owner to review throughout the day until all items are checked off.
Also in any planner is a monthly “calendar at a glance.” This is pretty valuable to me because my to-do list is only for the month in question. If we’re in the month of November, there will only be 30 pages in my to-do list because there are only 30 days in November. Hence, I can only work one month at a time on my to-do list. We also need a place to schedule things out which are not in the month we’re in and currently working on. This is where the monthly planner comes in handy.
The monthly planner is usually large enough to make small notes. For example, if I’m working in November and I want to write down something which needs to get done or an appointment which needs to be kept in December, then I can turn to my monthly calendar and put it in the December calendar. Then, when I get to December’s to-do list, the one through 31, I transfer the items from the monthly to the daily. From this point on, I can “set it and forget it” because they’re listed on the day when I intend to take action on them.
I know this all sounds a little trite and childish, but I can tell you, this habit alone will make or break your time management skills. Simple as it sounds, most people will not follow the advice I just gave. Instead, they try to remember everything. I don’t think I have to tell you how flawed this approach to time management is.
All planners also come with an “A through Z,” which is a place where you can keep contact information for important people, or at least those important enough to make it to your planner. It’s the equivalent of the “Contacts” button on your telephone but offers a distinct advantage, which I’ll explain below.
In the back of all good planners is a page called Information Manager or Contact Manager or Communication Recap or something similar. Almost no one uses this little-known item, which can really make you stand out as a thoroughly organized person. The information manager has a place for the contact information of important people in your life at the top, and it also has a place for you to make a note every time you have a conversation with that important person.
How do you use this feature? Well, if, for example, I was hiring a contractor to renovate a house, I’d have an information manager listing for my contractor. Every time I had a conversation with this contractor, I’d make a little note in my information manager. The next time I was on the phone with him, I would refer back to notes from all the conversations we had. This allows me to hold him accountable for every promise he’s made – and to make him believe I’ve got the memory of an elephant.
Let’s say my contractor’s name is John Smith and he has a daughter named Melissa. Melissa is in a soccer tournament coming up the weekend after I last talked to John. I just made a note: Melissa soccer tournament. When next I get John on the phone, I’ll say, “Hey John, did Melissa win the tournament?” John will think I’m a genius. He will think I remember everything. In reality, I’m just reading the note I made from the last conversation.
By being the one who keeps notes on important conversations with important people in your life, you will definitely stand out. They will know you are going to hold them accountable because they think you have the kind of memory power very few of us actually have. This is where the “A through Z” feature, or contact log, is key to the system. For example, when it comes to John the contractor, I have a choice: I can file his information manager under C for contractor, or S for Smith, whichever I think I’ll get to the quickest. Either way, the next time John calls or I call him, I quickly flip to his information manager. Instantly, I’ll have access to all the conversations we’ve had – I don’t have to remember anything.
I use this same planner to keep track of important things. For example, every year we have a real estate event, The Great American Real Estate Summit. My planner has a note sheet which replaces the yellow pads many people carry around. One of those I’ve titled “Summit.” Actually, there are three called “Summit” because this is how much space I need for the ideas I have about the event.
When an idea occurs to me, I don’t have to remember it. I just turn to the S in my phone log, find the Summit sheet, and make a note on it. When I’m ready to take action on the summit sheets, I review them. Then the key, of course, is anything requiring action has to be transferred from my note pages or my information manager to my daily one through 31. I’ll put it down on the day when I think I’m going to get this task done.
When I open my planner on that day, there it is right in front of me. The task will get done before I leave my desk. If it does not get done before I leave for the day, I will have to write it in the next day’s to-do list. This forces you to complete the project because you grow antsy to get it out of your book. I know it’s a simple thing, but it really works.
Also in my planner, I have a page called Ideas. Sometimes you just get an idea and you don’t know what to do with it in the moment, but you don’t want to lose it. I never do. I open my planner, write the idea down, filed under “I” for ideas. Then I review the ideas from time to time. It’s just amazing how many of the items I see in my planner with checkmarks beside them . They used to be ideas but then became reality. Writing this book was one of them
Following this system will require a habit change. You must do things a little differently than you have been, but it’s not a major change. The largest habit you’ll have to adopt is to start writing things down. Most people simply won’t stop and do this. If you’re in a conversation with me and I hear or think of something worthy of writing down, I’ll stop the conversation and write it on something right then and there. I won’t let the conversation continue because I know if I wait, the idea is gone. The older I get, the faster the ideas seem to go.
Today, I also often use the Reminder app which comes with most mobile phones. Instead of writing something down, I just punch up Siri and say, “Siri, remind me to…blank.” The problem with this is if I don’t take the reminder note when it pops up and stick it in my planner, so the action gets taken, then obviously, nothing is going to happen with it. It will just be another reminder sitting on my app forever. It comes back to transferring everything you want done into your planner, and when applicable, transferring it to the one through 31.
In the old days, I carried a pen and paper everywhere. Today, you’ll still never see me without a pen, but I also rely heavily on my Reminder app. Sometimes it’s just not convenient to use a pen and paper.
Along with the Reminder app, I also use the Notes app included with my telephone. This is especially true since I discovered all I have to do is tell Siri to write a note for me, and she’ll do it while I’m talking into the telephone. Instead of me having to pull out a pencil and paper, I just tell Siri to either make me a reminder in my Reminder app or to write a note in my Note app. Again, for the system to work, I’ve got to make sure this info ultimately gets into my planner.
I also use the Calendar app included in my phone. All of the events I’m going to teach are in it. However, I find this inadequate to replace the calendar in my planner. In my planner, I get to make little notes on any day of the month I want to do something, up to three years in advance.
Another advantage of the book is it’s a lot faster than the cell phone. I can write something in my book faster than I can even get onto my cell phone. My daily plan is in front of me all day long in my planner, staring me in the face, while I have to roam around for such info on my cell phone. Typing a note into my cell phone takes far longer than it does to write it into my planner.
You’re probably thinking I’m archaic for carrying around a paper planner, but when you and I meet face-to-face I’ll show you why my planner far exceeds your cell phone in the art of time management. Yes, it’s a book. Yes, I have to carry it. Yes, I could lose it. I haven’t lost one since 1983, when I started using them, but it’s possible. However, I can also scan important items from my planner into the cloud anytime.
DO YOU KEEP YOUR PROMISES
Are you keeping your promises? Are you holding other people accountable for their promises to you by making notes in your planner to record them? Are you using your time productively by simply making decisions? Making decisions, I’ve learned, doesn’t really take much time. The minutia is what takes the time. Are you keeping track of your great ideas? Can you find them even after you write them down?
Of course, all of the planners in the world won’t help you if you’re not delegating the tasks you currently perform to others. We will deal with delegating in detail in Chapter 7 and with outsourcing in Chapter 8. If I can get you to think more about delegating and outsourcing and less about doing things yourself, and then perhaps inject some time management skills into your life, I’ve accomplished my mission in writing this book.