How to get more done in less time

Brokers are busy people. While the pandemic has brought forward the use of digital technology to streamline the loan application process, it has also brought a surge in loan activity and a thriving property market. But while many brokers are looking for a way to increase productivity and reduce their working hours, according to executive coach and founder of The Coach Place Global, Lisa Stephenson, we should all forget about the concept of “time management.”

“We can’t actually manage time,” said Stephenson. “It’s what we consciously choose to do with our hours that’s important.”

Despite the pressure of living in a society where busyness is seen as a marker of performance, going full steam ahead for hours at a time can be to our detriment. Several mortgage industry heads have warned of the risk of broker burnout recently, with Loan Market executive chairman Sam White labelling it as “the biggest issue facing our industry right now.”

Read more: Sam White: The system is breaking and we need a solution

“It’s well documented that most of us can only be truly focused for 90-minute sessions, and that to return to our optimum performance, we need to stop and rejuvenate for 30 minutes,” said Stephenson. “So why do we ignore what our bodies and brains tell us? Rest and disconnecting from everything for short periods is what we need and, by doing so, we can be more effective and sometimes work less.”

She offered four tips that could not only help busy people get more stuff done in less time but could also help them sleep better and have more down time.

  1. Be strategic in planning your day

A common misconception among Stephenson’s clients is that you have to work harder and longer when under pressure – when, actually, said Stephenson, the reverse is true.

“Work in a focused manner, be strategic and deliberate in how you map your day,” she said.

By structuring tasks around our natural daily physiological rhythms, we can boost productivity by “doing the right work at the right time.”

  1. Only say “yes” to the right tasks

Every time we answer “yes” to one task, we are answering “no” to another, said Stephenson. That could come at an opportunity cost for those with multiple things to do. For instance, saying “yes” to a meeting could mean saying “no” to getting home in time for a family dinner. She advises saying “yes” to the things that enable you to tick off high priority tasks, so that you can reclaim more of your downtime for the things that truly matter, such as an evening workout or spending more time with the kids.

  1. Take regular mental breaks

Just as our bodies can only go so far before running out of steam, so too must our brains switch off from time to time in order to recharge and recoup.

“Your body and brain need periods of time to disconnect, with studies showing that mental breaks alone can boost productivity, replenish attention and motivation stores, solidify memories and encourage creativity,” said Stephenson.

Read next: Why a little bit of stress is good for you

She recommended “going hard” on one task for 90 minutes before disconnecting with a break. She cautioned against multi-tasking during this window, explaining that “when your brain is focused on a task and then has to switch to another, it has to slow down to process all the different requests you are making of it.”

The rest could be as simple as making a cup of tea or going for a quick walk around the office, she said. If you skip this rest period and go straight into email mode, your brain won’t have the same chance to “reset and rejuvenate.”

  1. Make yourself the most important project

It’s important to invest in your own health and wellbeing by taking the time to figure out what is and isn’t working in your current schedule. You only have one you, and you only have this time to enjoy your life – so don’t compromise your own wellbeing just to get things done.

“Successful people think strategically about how they are living, working and getting things done,” said Stephenson. “They set deadlines and consult experts who will support their success. They identify blockers and review their progress.

“Working more hours is unlikely to make you more successful or productive.”

She recommended doing an audit on the way you get things done to identify any time or energy wasters as well as anything that is working well.

Kate McIntyreKate McIntyre is an online writer for Mortgage Professional Australia. She has a wealth of experience as a storyteller and journalist for a range of leading media outlets, particularly in real estate, property investing and finance. She loves uncovering the heart behind every story and aims to inspire others through the artful simplicity of well-written words.
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