How should people in commercial real estate spend their time?

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OPINION: IN the first article about how people in commercial real estate should invest their time, I covered the risk in being too busy for learning and growth.

Today, I’d like to focus on top performers and high-volume deal-makers who are convinced the only alternative to being busy would be relinquishing their throne or reducing their production (and income) levels.

I’ll also argue that outworking everyone is not a sound strategy to achieve lasting success.

So, what if you don’t need help?

Some people feel they don’t need to find the time to invest in professional development. They don’t need to learn and growth. They’re doing just fine…often better than fine, in fact.

Here’s one thing to consider: have you ever noticed that there is more than one self-declared leader in many markets?

In commercial real estate, a healthy dose of confidence is generally a good thing.

However, overestimating your capabilities could lead to you underinvesting in yourself when you most need it. It can also lead to hubris, which is dangerous in any competitive setting.

If you feel you’re already at the top of your game, why not invest in upskilling your performance to ensure you keep improving and create as much distance between yourself and your nearest competitor?

Makes sense, I think.

Perhaps even if you don’t think you need it, you actually do.

And about the whole ‘time’ thing…

The CRE Success curriculum specifically covers time management…I have a whole module on it. With 20 years in the business, I know how busy commercial real estate professionals are.

However, because I’ve got 20 years in the business, I also know that our industry is not as efficient as it could be, and some of the people in it are doing things the hard way.

This is the case because some people don’t want to change, while others just don’t know any better.

There is also a desire with some to be busy… they take pride in long hours (or even satisfaction doing things the hard way).

Busy is good, right? So many people wear “I’m super busy” or “I work 60 hours a week” as a badge of honour.

Here’s what I’ve found: hard work – or working harder than everyone else – doesn’t guarantee success. I’ve worked with plenty of people who’ve worked hard without getting the results.

It is true that success often follows hard work; however, you can also find success by doing what matters and doing that really well.

Why not work smarter than harder?

Being focused and productive while working, and doing the activities where one’s effort produces the most impactful results, means not having to work soul-destroying hours – even while climbing the corporate ladder and bringing in more revenue.

What made the difference for me was knowing what mattered and focusing on that, while also (partly through trial and error, but also simply through hours learning through doing) figuring out how to do things faster.

If you can find a faster way to do a task that is just as good in terms of the end result, that’s a pretty good route to take.

When something can’t be delegated, and it’s not easy to systemise or make easier through process, you can do the task faster by avoiding cognitive switching penalties (i.e., make it focused, uninterrupted work).

This way, you don’t have to be the hardest worker in the office, or in the market, in order to be at the top of it.

Doesn’t that sound better than working so much that you risk neglecting other aspects of your life?

Aiming to outwork your peers is a bad strategy

If your success strategy is to outwork everyone, it may bear fruit for a while, but eventually you’re going to run out of hours in the day to help you keep winning.

Your competitors will innovate and work smarter, while you’re just working yourself into the ground.

Some people with a strong work ethic feel guilty if they’re not the hardest working person they know by certain metrics.

I know what that’s like; I like being in the office early (however I like it because I can get some uninterrupted work done, not because I get intrinsic satisfaction from working while others aren’t).

But here’s the thing: in this industry, we are not compensated based on hours worked. We are compensated based on outcomes produced.

Professionals in commercial real estate live and die by the numbers (and revenue), not by the work that it takes to produce them.

So, where to from here?

If you’d like to find out more about working smarter and not harder, register for Seven Keys to Success in commercial real estate – it’s a series of live and free webcasts I’ll be doing in June, and one of the keys I’ll cover is Time Management. In each of the sessions, I’ll be sharing a few ways you can level up in each of the keys. Hope to see you there:

By Darren Krakowiak. Darren is the founder of CRE Success. He exclusively serves the commercial real estate sector with coaching, corporate training and as an invited speaker at industry and company events. He also hosts CRE Success: The Podcast – season 2 starts in April 2021.

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