I love information technology! The impact it has had on our personal and professional lives over the last few decades is undeniable. Never have we had such a plethora of information available to us at any given moment.
Sometimes it still amazes me that I can search any subject on the Internet and within a second have page after page of information at my fingertips.
We can trade stocks, pay bills and file taxes online. Online education has added a new dimension to professional development. For commercial real estate professionals, vast amounts of information regarding research, listings and much more from around the world are available with a few clicks of a keyboard.
As much as technology has changed our personal lives, the business world in general and commercial real estate in particular, have been revolutionized. As the Internet and infrastructure allow information to travel faster, the world has become smaller, allowing even the smallest real estate-related business to operate on a global level.
Most businesses today store information on computers and in the cloud rather than file drawers and bankers boxes. Email provides the instant transfer of files anywhere in the world. Wireless Internet makes it possible to work from home, a hotel, a coffee shop or the beach.
We are all tethered to cellphones, iPads, laptops and other devices. Some may argue that the lines between our personal lives and professional lives have been forever blurred.
Although our job requirements are different, those in the commercial real estate field can relate to technology overload. Here are a few tips I’ve adopted to manage the abundance of emails and texts I receive to work smarter in the noisy world of sales to the real estate sector.
1. Create new habits: Do you habitually check your cellphone looking for the latest text, email or social update? Do you sleep with your cellphone by your bed or reach for your phone the second the alarm clock goes off? Do you feel the need to respond to every email or text the second it comes in? Is your inbox your to-do list?
Try having a cup of coffee or breakfast before checking email. Allow yourself to set your intentions for the day without being thrown into a tailspin before you’re out of your pajamas! Try keeping your phone in another room at night. If your phone is your alarm clock — like mine was — buy a real alarm clock. Yes, they still make them!
2. Stay focused on people: As great as email and texts are, nothing trumps face-to-face communication. We all understand this, but it’s easy to fall into the habit of hiding behind email or text.
Whenever possible, take the extra time to pick up the phone to make a call or schedule a meeting. This will add value to your relationships. When in meetings, refrain from checking messages and be sure to maintain eye contact. We all bring laptops to meetings. Be careful not to position yourself to where you’re hidden behind a screen.
3. Establish no-technology time: Statistics show that 51 percent of professionals check their phones continuously during vacation, 75 percent check within an hour of waking up and 48 percent check on the weekends.
Email is a necessity for business and the truth is sometimes it is the best way to communicate. However, email can also be a huge distraction. Statistics show it can take up to four minutes to refocus on a task after checking email. Checking email constantly may be an effective way to manage your inbox, but it can dramatically lower your productivity.
Try establishing a “focus hour,” preferably in the morning or when you feel your energy and creativity are at their best. Use this time to focus on high-priority tasks without interruption. Turn off audible and visual notifications for email and text. Put the phone on “do not disturb.”
Another useful tip is to check email at only certain times of day. If you’re worried about the delayed response, you can put an auto responder on your email letting people know that you don’t check your email constantly and provide an alternate way to get service if there is an emergency.
4. Power down daily: This tip may cause you to panic! It may not be realistic for some of us to completely shut down. While business may require you to stay connected 24/7, it is important to set limits as much as possible. When we are connected 24/7, it is hard to get the time we need to unwind and reset.
If you absolutely can’t shut down, try keeping your phone on a charging station or in another room after hours, and check messages only at set times. If you’re unable to set a time to disconnect during the week, consider disconnecting at least one day on the weekend.
Technology enhances our personal and professional lives. The key is finding the right balance and never forgetting the value of the human connection.