I got one of those emails last week that makes your day. It was a thank-you note from one of my clients, and in it she wrote, “The business is doing so well, and I have a personal life for the first time in 18 years.”
I have to repeat that: I have a personal life for the first time in 18 years. Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that her business is doing great; we worked hard together to grow her sales and develop her employees. But she came to us during a hard time of life, having lost her husband and trying to run a business and raise three kids on her own, so the fact that she now has a personal life is what touches me.
Trish came to property management early: She was 25 when she helped an investor buy four homes; when he asked her to manage them for him, she said yes without having an idea what that meant. Fast forward a few years, and she and her husband started a property management company that grew so fast, they didn’t have much time to spend on strategy or planning. Then suddenly she found herself on her own.
“Unfortunately, it took me losing my husband to realize we are not guaranteed time with our loved ones,” Trish says. “Business is important, and we all need a source of income. However, we also all need to live, and living is more than just working all the time.”
How did she get from letting her business run her to having a life?
Have a Vision for Your Life
If you want to go somewhere, you have to know where you want to go. It sounds simple, but many of us go through life without exploring what it is that we really want out of life. As part of our work together, Trish put together a vision board, a collage of photos that represent the dreams and aspirations she has for her life. Her vision board, below, included local, daily things like going to sporting events with her family and painting ceramics, as well as more expensive, planning-intensive experiences like travel to Germany and the Cayman islands, seeing New York City at Christmas time, flipping a house with her mom and teaching a class on how to be a better investor.
Having your dreams and aspirations down on paper is a great motivator: If you hang your vision board above your desk or where you will see it every day you will be reminded every time you see it of why you’re working so hard, especially on those days where things aren’t going so well.
Delegate—and Mean It
“I used to have a problem with giving a task to someone and then taking it back if it was not completed to my perfection,” Trish says. If you can’t delegate, you can’t get things off your plate, and if you can’t get things off your plate, you’ll never have time to do the big picture strategic work of your business— and to live the life you want to live.
It’s easy to believe that you’re too busy to figure out what to delegate or that you’re the only person who knows how to do what needs to be done, but the truth is that you’re too busy to not delegate. The key is to delegate and mean it. You do that by knowing the when, what, who and how of delegating:
- When to Delegate: You need to delegate when you’ve hit growth capacity, when you’re struggling to get your daily work done and you can’t continue growing without having someone else’s help.
- What to Delegate: Delegate tasks you don’t enjoy (because you’re more likely to put off doing things you don’t enjoy), tasks that make money (which helps you pay for the person doing them) and tasks that someone else enjoys (happy employees are productive employees).
- Who to Delegate to: Everyone has different strengths, skills and interests, so match the tasks you want to delegate with someone who has the right set of strengths, skills and interests to do them.
- How to Delegate: Don't just turn the work over and move on. Provide clear instructions, follow up, answer questions and provide guidance. Yes, delegating requires work upfront, but if you prepare your employee to succeed at a task, they will.
Block Your Time
We all think we’re great at multitasking, but science shows that our brains aren’t actually capable of focusing on multiple things at once. When we focus on solving one problem or accomplishing one item at a time, we work more creatively and with more accuracy. We also work faster, so we have more time in our day to get more things not just done but done well.
I encourage all my clients to do this through what I call block timing: categorizing the tasks you need to accomplish each day and setting aside blocks of time to get them done in. You might dedicate two hours in the morning for following up on prospects, two hours midday for paperwork and three hours in the afternoon for client appointments.
Here’s another example of how you might block your time:
The most important part of block timing is making sure you block time for life, too. “Blocking my schedule was a huge skill I learned,” Trish says. “I am now painting and going to football and basketball games with my family. I take time in the afternoon to pick my son up from school and spend time talking to him about his day. I even joined a health spa where I work out three days a week.”
Build a Support Team—and Follow Through
Maybe you’ve noticed a theme in all of the things Trish did to get the life she has now: other people. Her vision board includes spending time with her family and giving back to others. By delegating to others, she shares the load and gets the work of her business done faster and more efficiently. By blocking her time, she focuses on the task and the people at hand instead of spreading herself too thin.
Even when Trish was at that hardest point of her life, she was not alone. She had her children. The other property managers in her community rallied around her, and as she empowered her employees, they brought solutions and growth to her business.
Support can take many forms, whether it’s a paid coach, a mentor, other colleagues or a small group of like-minded professionals. Wherever you choose to get your support, Trish has some advice: “Make yourself follow through, even if you’re trying something new and different. It is amazing how much you can grow when you allow yourself to listen to others with an open mind.”
Trish has accomplished so much, but she has more she wants to do. She’s saving for a visit to Germany, and she and her mom are hunting for a house to flip together. She never would have done any of this, though, if she hadn’t taken action. “I would still be coming to work stressed every morning,” Trish says.
Living is more than just working. Start living your life today.