I recently spent a week with my family in Florida. I hesitate to call it a vacation for a number of reasons, but to those of you who have young kids, you may understand when I say I sometimes find vacations to be just another form of work. That being said, I really wanted the time away to truly be a break. I haven’t had a real vacation since 2008, when my wife and I decided to travel around Italy in a car for a few weeks. The thing is, back then, everything was different for me: no dog, no kids, no iPhone. When we traveled, it was just the two of us, with only the scenery to distract us. Eight years later, what I’ve realized on this most recent extended time away from work, is that productivity is more important than ever and, like most skills, it can be honed. More important, it needs to be honed, as our lives change, shift and advance. Here are three quick tips I have learned about how to be more productive and how it translates to the mortgage industry.

1. When You’re Present, be Present

This may sound obvious to most, but it wasn’t to me. My wife put this concept on my radar awhile back, primarily after the birth of our first child. She revisited it on our vacation together with the kids last week. I’m a busy guy, but who isn’t nowadays? I’m even more ambitious, and that ambition can cloud other areas of your life, like the personal aspect of it. I am no exception. What she helped me realize was the big picture — what really matters at the end of the day, which is family. Meaning, I needed to focus on the people right in front of me who craved my attention, and not divert it to my phone. Because of this, I have been saying to myself more and more, “Enjoy the moment when you’re in the moment, because these are the good ol’ days.”

To be more productive, I found it helpful to set my phone on Airplane Mode. This allowed me to focus on the events that were going on right in front of me for a given amount of time, in particular, during family-related activities. By choosing to set my phone on Airplane Mode, I was better able to connect and engage with family members. I could still snap pictures, take videos and listen to music with them, but I was not being constantly interrupted by my notifications. As a result, I was able to provide the attention to those around me.

Work Translation: As a busy mortgage professional, being present when you’re present translates to improved productivity at work. Next time you are with a customer, really try to be engaged with them. Turn the phone ringer off. Listen to what they have to say, pay attention to your body language and thoughtfully address concerns they may have. Be responsive and receptive. The effort you put forth when face-to-face will pay off with strengthened relationships that can help grow business.

2. Answer Emails in Chunks of Time

Emails, texts, phone calls — all are probably notifications from people other than the ones you are with right now. These notifications can also take you away from what you are focused on at a given time. While on vacation, I made a resolution to only answer emails at mid-day and in the evening. I would allow myself 30-45 minutes to go through messages I had received throughout the day. This enabled me to better focus on family when it mattered, and I was also able to prioritize the time I allotted to be engaged with work.

Answering emails in chunks of time allowed me the ability to be more focused on the immediate tasks at hand. I liked this approach, specifically on vacation, because it works in conjunction with my previous productivity suggestion. Similarly, at work, I have always found I am most productive when I set out to complete tasks in 90-minute increments. For those 90 minutes, I put my phone on Airplane Mode. This allows me to hone in on the completion of tasks without interruption. After my 90-minutes, I take a 15-minute break to regroup and evaluate the progress I have made, to prepare for the next items on my list and to address any emails received. This method forces me to hold off on responding to emails and notifications, essentially completing those in various designated chucks of time, rather than immediately.

Work Translation: This concept of productivity transcends all industries. It is more about allocating the time to complete what needs to get done within the confines of a given workday. Next time you schedule out your day, try balancing uninterrupted work sessions with chunks of time to address email and other notifications. You may find increased success with customers and business partners by providing more clear, complete and concise responses to those opportunities that can grow purchase volume.

3. Find Quiet Time for Reflection

The last of my productivity discoveries builds on my first two suggestions and is probably the most important. What I realized, specifically while on vacation with a 10-month-old and 4-year-old, is that quiet time is very hard to come by. This lack of silence has hampered my ability to reflect on personal and professional aspects of my life. One way to combat this recent development on vacation was to trade-off mornings with my wife, where we each were able to get up extra early and walk or run along the beach, alone. Even just 30 minutes with silence has proven to be priceless in increasing my productivity and creative process.

Additionally, I thrive at odd hours of the day. I am not always most productive during the traditional 9-to-5 time slot. As a result, I often work into the early hours of the morning, usually because it is quiet then. This need for quiet reflection is not new. I value my reflection time so much that I regularly block time (every Thursday afternoon) on my calendar where I cannot be scheduled for meetings, take calls or lead webinars. This is my time I carve out to be more strategic, creative and free. It’s time just to think at a high-level and in granular sense about our industry or ongoing projects or simply just to have time to myself  — to use however I choose.

Work Translation: Being a mortgage professional can be stressful. Stress or general job fatigue can hamper productivity. Consider blocking an afternoon each week to take a more relaxed and focused approach to how you can better yourself. This might mean an afternoon jog or walk, taking a class focused in an area of interest, or just spending time away from the immediate needs of work. In turn, you may find improved business growth, especially if the activities you participate in entrench you in the community you serve. Some of the most valuable relationships are the unexpected ones.

The goal to increasing productivity is to make small adjustments to what you already do. Learning how to be more productive is a skill, and self-awareness is imperative to success. You can make personal changes to improve your productivity; you just need to start somewhere simple. Try the three suggestions above and see what happens.

Over to you now, how are you finding ways to be more productive in your everyday life — and has it positively impacted your mortgage career? Share in the comments.

Ben Smidt, MA

Ben Smidt - MGIC Digital Strategy Manager

Ben Smidt serves as MGIC’s Digital Strategy Manager. He leads corporate development and management of MGIC's digital marketing strategy across the enterprise. This includes establishing a clear vision for all digital marketing initiatives and providing strategic direction for the company's digital and social media marketing efforts. His primary goal is to increase brand awareness and improve user experience (UX). Additional responsibilities include PPC budget strategy and management of ad spend.

In addition to the insurance industry, Ben has a combined 10 years of experience in computer software, education and publishing industries. His focus has always remained in the area of education and digital marketing for media and technology.

He holds an MA from Marquette University in media channel effectiveness and digital communications, as well as a BS from UW-Madison focused in communications. He resides with his wife, daughter and son in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Tags: , ,