The Great Equalizer
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”– Annie Dillard
The Great Equalizer
One afternoon, I noticed my partner, Mitch, had the number “1,440” framed on his wall. This was probably a decade ago when he was just starting his role managing Gary Keller’s family office.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s the number of minutes in a day. Every day we all get the same number. I may not have a lot of experience or whatever…but I can compete at that. I’ll just invest mine better. It’s the great equalizer.”
Success doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Instead of spending time, we need to invest it. And you don’t have to invest all 1,440 minutes well. Some of the most successful people in the world get by on a few hours a day invested well.
As uncomplicated as that may be, it’s still not easy.
Settled into your comfy chair to read for thirty minutes, you get a notification from your favorite TikTok creator. You’re meeting a friend at the gym after work, but a past client calls to see if you’re free for happy hour. You intend to make sphere calls but decide to check emails first. When the weekend rolls around, you wonder what happened to all your time.
Protecting your minutes comes down to three steps:
1) You time block your key activities early in the day.
2) You build a bunker to do them in.
3) And you protect your time blocks like a lioness guarding her cubs from a cackle of hyenas.
Follow these three steps long enough and it becomes a routine. Your routine.
In 1997, I ran my first marathon with just three months training. The longest race I’d run before was a 5K. In 2002, we wrote The Millionaire Real Estate Agent in about 100 days. None of us had ever written a book before. What both of these achievements have in common was a schedule that prioritized them above all else. A routine.
As we wrote in The ONE Thing, scheduling your activities is remarkably effective. That step alone makes us three times more likely to do something. Professionals are especially hard-wired to follow their calendars. Fifteen minutes before an appointment, our phones give us a nudge. They vibrate or chime signaling our busy minds that it’s almost time to transition. I’ve interviewed hundreds of the most successful real estate agents on the planet that share a common mindset — their primary job is to follow their calendar.
One of the best hacks for time blocking is to move your most important work to the morning hours. We tend to have the most willpower early in the day. There are fewer distractions. Everyone else is on social, asleep, or banging out emails. As MAPS VP and top agent Jen Davis put it at MegaCamp, “Win the morning. Win the day.”
When we were writing The Millionaire Real Estate Agent our days were planned. We’d meet in the morning to review the previous day’s work and brainstorm the next section. I’d retreat to my office with flip charts full of notes. My job was to convert those notes to manuscript pages. It was like writing a term paper five days a week. About a month into our first draft, I wrote “discipline is freedom” on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall. This was my “1,440.”
I’d noticed a pattern. In the beginning, I’d take breaks after our morning session. Those days I grew to dread writing. It would hang over me and the longer I delayed the larger it would loom. Later on, I’d bite the bullet and start writing immediately while everything was fresh. Often, I’d be done by early afternoon. I felt lighter. “Discipline is Freedom” may sound like a Stalin-era propaganda poster, but for me it was liberating. I learned that doing my most important work first was the key to feeling free.
Build Your Bunker
The second step is to find a bunker where you can work without distraction. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is as simple as setting your cell phone to “Do Not Disturb.” Untethering yourself from your digital existence, even for a few hours, unleashes your potential. Of all our daily temptations, perhaps email and social media are the worst. Think of them as randomized time machines. You step in and never know when you’ll emerge.
There is much more I could say, but that is the 20% for most real estate agents. The world won’t spin off its axis if you’re AWOL from your inbox and Facebook for an hour. I promise.
Protect Your Time Blocks
The last step is to protect your time block. When someone asks you to violate your routine, just say, “I’m sorry, I already have a commitment at that time. Could we do it at [this time] or [that time]?” No one will ask you what’s more important than whatever they’re suggesting. Just don’t volunteer the details. If you do, you’ll invite a debate about how their priority outranks your own.
At the end of the day, time is your most precious limited resource. Once spent, you never get a refund. You can only invest future minutes better. I’d like to think that the five minutes it took to read this was a good start.
Today is October 28, 2022. There are 65 days left in the year. It takes 66 days, on average, to build a habit. So with a tiny spill-over into 2023, you still have time to build a routine that is hard-wired as a habit. You work for the habit and then the habit works for you!
One question to ponder in your thinking time: What is the most important activity I could build a habit around to finish 2022 on a high note?
Make an Impact!