9 Ways to Boost Your Productivity at Home

Home sweet home — is it an ideal place to work, or a barrage of distractions just waiting to happen? Find out how to create a home office that works for you, not against you.

July 1, 2007

Working in the real estate industry, you’ll most likely find yourself working at home from time to time, regardless of whether your broker supplies a workspace for you. But as you probably already know, home isn’t always so sweet for working. Interruptions, temptations, and timewasters await, and they can easily prevent you from getting your job done.

To be productive from home, you need to lay out some house rules. After all, when your surroundings are conducive to working and you’re in the right mindset, you’ll get a lot more done. Here are nine tips:

  1. Claim a private spot. Designate an area of your home as your workspace. Consider a spare bedroom or — if you have limited space — a hutch in the living room or dining room where you can work on your computer, but conceal your paperwork when you’re done. The goal is to create a dedicated office space so that you can more easily separate your work life from your private life. Mixing your child's homework and household bills with your marketing pieces can cause something to get overlooked or lost, so don't allow clutter to accumulate. Also, make sure you have lots of light, a comfortable chair, a calendar, a filing mechanism, and adequate tabletop space.
  2. Keep regular hours. Minimize distractions by letting family, friends, and clients know your working hours and availability. "If you have clients in different time zones, make them aware of your hours," suggests Hugh Siler, a self-employed public relations and real estate specialist. "If not, they'll assume that 8 a.m. their time is your time."
  3. Dress for success. Even if you don't have appointments scheduled, you'll feel more professional if you’re showered and dressed for work than if you’re wearing your PJs and slippers. You'll also be ready for impromptu showings and client meetings, or if you’re quickly needed at your broker's office.
  4. Be on call. Have a phone designated for your business calls and try not to blend it with your personal life. If you need to step away for awhile, don’t leave your clients wondering where you are. Keep your voicemail updated with a message that reflects when you will be returning phone calls. For example, "I'm showing homes today, so I'll be returning calls between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m." Or, forward your work phone to your cell phone if you’re expecting an important call.
  5. Don’t be a hermit. Even though you’re working from home, you still need to drum up new business and get your name out there. Make sure you attend MLS meetings, broker sales meetings, and sponsored networking events. While others may skip MLS tours in favor of learning about housing inventory from photos and virtual tours, nothing takes the place of seeing a home for yourself and meeting the listing agent to establish a professional rapport. Also, being around other people will help you make up for not having co-workers to talk to during the day. "The itch to be around people and chat with others can be tough,” Siler says. Another way around that: schedule regular business and social lunches and dinners that force you out of the workspace.
  6. Schedule your day. You’ll get sidetracked if you don’t stick to a schedule, dividing your time between prospecting, education, marketing, and client services. Prospecting may include making phone calls to people you know. For more education, consider taking a continuing education classes or distance learning, such as taking the e-PRO® designation class online. Marketing may include creating fliers, buying newspaper ads, updating your Web site, or inputting data into the MLS. For client services, you might help stage a seller’s home, clean and stage an out-of-town seller's home, create a feedback report, or search listings for a buyer.
  7. Don’t forget to take a break. Stand, stretch, or grab the leash and take your dog for a walk around the block. Short breaks will help you feel refreshed. But don’t be tempted to use a break to plop in front of the television — you may never get back up!
  8. Stay focused. Some people do better with a boss nearby to crack the whip, but as a self-employed salesperson or broker, you have to motivate yourself. Try not to use your office for any other activity except working. If you need some help focusing, hire a coach. Delegate tasks that you don’t want to do yourself to a virtual assistant. Reward yourself when you find faster, less expensive, and more efficient ways to do things.
  9. Have a life, too. One of the dangers of working from home is that you feel guilty when you return to your personal life. It’s important to set boundaries and stick to your work schedule — but be flexible, too. After all, one of the advantages of working from home is that if you need to pick the kids up from school or to watch a sports practice, you can do it. So, make time to work, but don’t forget to make time to play, too.

(c) Copyright 2007 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.