Being a busy landlord can at times feel like you’ve become a therapist, landscaper, facilities manager, scheduler, photographer, marriage counselor, event planner, and the list goes on. Because each task consumes energy and conserving those limited resources of time and money is important the following may help to juggle all the responsibilities in a manner more like an enjoyable sport and less like a crazy three-ring circus act.
Prioritize Goals and Tasks
Everything that calls for your attention will take time and time is a commodity that once spent cannot be recovered or renewed which points to the necessity for goal setting analysis and mastery. Busy property managers and landlords will benefit from taking the time to reevaluate objectives and goals.
- Begin by listing every goal that aligns with your objectives; from the long term planning to the overarching company and portfolio needs.
- From that master goal list, create a master task list of every activity needed to accomplish those goals.
- Then, quantify each task by how often it needs to be accomplished (yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily, as-needed).
Once complete, you need a good prioritization system to put into practice.
There are countless systems for deciding what gets our attention and no right or wrong way if it works for you. At the very minimum, determine your objectives and focus on the important. Otherwise, without a system in place, you will be at the mercy of anyone and everyone else’s agenda.
A few popular methods to consider would be:
The Eisenhower Matrix created by Dwight D. Eisenhower and featured in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Put First Things First”. The core objective is to assign tasks to one of four quadrants of a box and then focus the most energy on the tasks within the important-but-not-urgent quadrant as they contribute the most to your goals and objectives.
The ABCDE method developed by Brian Tracy, a productivity expert, is a system to analyze tasks by importance. The ranking system ranges from the letter A for the MUST do item to letter E noting a non-significant on no consequence task to eliminate.
The Ivy Lee method is a simple six-item list of tasks that need to be accomplished the next day, in order of importance. Work the list from top to bottom; moving any uncompleted to the following day’s list.
Sometimes in a busy property management office, you may find you have many important tasks to accomplish and they all have the same priority. Consider handling those by tackling the:
- The most important task(s) with the most significant consequences.
- The most difficult task(s) that have the most work and effort involved.
- The least desirable task(s).
Research other methods of prioritization and switch it up. Try something new if your current system isn’t giving you the most productivity or directing you towards your goals.
Now that you have your priorities, goals, and tasks aligned, you will want to incorporate some time management tricks geared to help you switch hats smoothly and make the most of your day.
Batch Similar Tasks Together
Humans are not designed to have a high level of divided focus. When attempted, there is room for error, omissions, miscommunication, accidents, and the like. Instead of spreading yourself thin, consider opportunities to group similar type activities.
Errands and Shopping
Bank deposits, market research, supply shopping, etc. can be accomplished on the same trip. Select the time of day carefully to avoid traffic congestion and long lines. Plan the trip in a logical, circular manner to limit backtracking. Ensure you have all the items needed before leaving the office as returning or making a separate trip is counter-productive.
Whether you live on-site, make routine property visits, rental inspections, or are overseeing a repair, there are always opportunities to batch observational activities. Be ready to take notes regarding structural concerns, rules & regulation violations, safety issues, landscaping needs, project ideas, etc. while onsite. Be sure to snap a quick pic and jot down or use your property management software to add a quick note for future reference.
Create Chunks of Time for Important Tasks
Set aside chunks of time to handle communication. Constantly checking and replying to emails or letting the phone interrupt important work not only costs in terms of productivity but also adds stress. People will respect boundaries when clear and consistent so set expectations and boundaries upfront for handling communications.
Bookkeeping, creating leases, writing up violations, vendor and applicant screening, drafting notices, and other admin tasks can be done in chunks of time; and preferably uninterrupted. Because these tasks require more thought and less distraction, if possible for your situation, consider closing your office periodically.
For example, if your office hours are 8-5 consider posting available or walk-in hours of 9 to 11 am and 1 to 4 pm giving you three quiet hours at three different intervals. Notice this schedule also carves out a much needed and likely often missed lunch hour to hang your hat and take a break.
Outsource, Delegate, and Automate
Let’s face it, some of the hats you are juggling are too small or large and should be worn by someone else. Outsource and delegate as much as possible so you can focus on the big picture.
- Students make great part-time help and perhaps you can offer them an internship or minimum wage (check with state and local employment laws).
- Consider paying Independent Contractors for bookkeeping, data-entry, yard maintenance, etc.
- Invest in a good property management software to automate data-entry tasks such as posting rent due and late fees, emailing rent notices, track lease renewals and rent increases.
Limit and Avoid Distractors
Perhaps you have no control over your office hours or distractions have become pervasive and you need additional tools. Here are a few ideas to help you achieve more by doing less.
Tossing the hats up as quickly as possible does not translate as productivity. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in busywork that seems urgent, but likely it is either unnecessary or not aligned with your priorities or agenda; remove the busywork hat from your wardrobe.
Warren Buffet uses a two list system to produce extreme focus and avoid busywork. First, create your goal list as outlined at the beginning of the article. Then, note which five goals are the most important which becomes your to-do list. All other items become the ‘avoid list’ until those first five are accomplished.
As Thomas Edison once said, ‘Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.’
Limit Internet Time
Social media and the internet, in general, can be a huge benefit to marketing your properties, keeping current on real estate and management trends, connecting with colleagues and communities, etc. Conversely, it can also be a massive distractor in a busy office.
Being aware of the time spent online can help refocus your attention. Facebook has a usage tracker built-in and provides a programmable popup timer that alerts the user when they’ve reached a certain amount of time a day. There are a plethora of other apps, plug-ins, and tools available to keep internet activity controlled.
Organization of your office, systems, tools, and data is as vital to your sanity as planning your day. Searching for information, keys, or files steals the time you could be using to further your business objectives.
To put it succinctly, property management can either be an invigorating, rewarding marathon or a crazy-hectic stressor based on how well a landlord manages their time and resources. If you are ever pushing important tasks forward or lack the time and energy to get it all done, dropping important hats, it’s time to reevaluate priorities, resources, and distractors; the excellent care your property portfolio and your sanity may be at stake.
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