Manage Your Time by Setting Limits on Interruptions

Services for Real Estate Pros with Nurturing Your Success

phone callCindy called her husband Danny at work. He was busy but answered. She could tell he was irritated but since he didn’t say anything she went on to tell him about her situation. It wasn’t an emergency or anything, just typical day stuff. But he was only half listening. Frustrated when he had no reply for her, Cindy told him she would talk to him later.

How often does this happen to you? And not just in your personal relationships, but with colleagues or your boss. Often, people are too lenient with interruptions when clearly their mind is elsewhere.

Better to focus your attention on what you are currently doing, schedule a time for the conversation later, and manage your time and interactions for maximum productivity and communication.

In addition to planning your day and setting priorities, time management really means managing what you are doing in that moment. Whatever you decide is of greatest value or importance in this moment, is what you do. When you allow interruptions, several things happen to decrease your productivity and increase your stress:

  • You don’t get done what you intended. By allowing the interruption, you move onto another topic which leaves your project incomplete. You may not have more time later to complete the project which means you have to schedule it in for another day, throwing off other deadlines for other projects. This can add to feelings of overwhelm with new things being added to your plate without finishing the old. Having unfinished projects is a huge source of stress.
  • If and when you do return, it may take some time to remember where you left off and what your thought stream was at the time. This wastes precious time and energy that could have been better utilized if you had only completed the project when you had started it.
  • You become frustrated by the distraction. This can cause an increase in emotional energy making it difficult for you to focus your attention either on the person or on the project. This not only impacts your stress level but also your relationships.

timeBy taking your time seriously, you begin to set boundaries around your work. Create a healthy environment for getting your work accomplished. This includes having rules around interruptions.

Turn off your phone and email notifier, close your office door, and set up guidelines with your receptionist or assistant - or family - for disrupting you.

When you are engaged in a project, the only thing that should interfere or interrupt is something that is actually of greater value than what you are doing at that moment.

One person’s emergency may not be YOUR emergency so you need to decide that in that moment whether it is of greater value to shift to a new activity or to complete the one you are already working on.

Whatever you decide, you need to communicate this to that person. If you are willing to take a break, let them know how much time you are willing to spend on this new activity. If you are not willing to take the time right now, then schedule time for later or refer them to someone else for assistance.



Communicating is a hallmark for setting boundaries on your time. Don’t assume the person knows what you are working on or what your schedule is or what’s on your plate.

Defining your boundaries can be a challenge if you are accustomed to frequent interruptions and distractions. For many people, however, the difficulty is in speaking up. When you are more concerned about how other people feel or what they think of you, then this can interfere with your productivity and accomplishing your tasks. This is a function of your self-esteem. Learn to identify what works best for you. This is the first step.

Til next time, think good thoughts!

Your partner for success,

Coach Julie

Comments (51)

Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

Lot of good comments on a good post. For me I block out two hours in the morning to dial for dollars (pprospecting) and one hour in the evening, other than that I am on the phone.

Mar 10, 2009 12:51 AM
Cheryl Johnson
Highland Park, CA

Amen and AMEN!   My business more often than not is a constant stream of interuptions interrupting the interuptions!!

And don't even get me started on all those telemarketing telephone calls that create even more interuptions...!!!!

(You folks that telephone prospect... does it ever occur you that you are probably INTERUPTING what the person receiving your call is doing !??)  :-)

And yes, when I am the customer, as often as not, I will keep dialing until I hit someone who answers their phone.

Mar 10, 2009 02:40 AM
Julie Fuimano

A lot of great comments! This is such a hot topic because we all have to deal with managing our time. Either we are effective at managing it and we are able to find peace, balance, and enjoy our day, celebrate our accomplishments and forgive ourselves when we don't accomplish something. Or we are stressed, constantly worried that we should be doing something else, fearful of making the wrong choice, and beat ourselves up consistently. Doing things for the right reasons, capturing the power of focus, being in charge rather than allowing the whims of the moment or fear dictate how to spend your time is what we strive to achieve. There are not hardfast rules, no right/wrong; there are more like guidelines to follow and each of us has to develop our own. Thanks for the comments! Lots to ponder -


Mar 10, 2009 03:37 AM
Tim Monciref - Austin, TX
Over 2,000 homes sold…..

Nice post.  We have been thrown too many gadgets and widgets and blogets (I made that one up to catch you) and we are all losing our focus on time management.  Shut off the cell the email and block your time for calls....meeting with someone, etc......

Mar 10, 2009 11:10 AM
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

Julie,  I totally agree with you and I vow right now to follow your advice.  When I first started in the business I was much better about time management and therefore more productive and happier.  Thanks for the reminder.  Now if I can figure out a way to convince my husband to refrain from calling me constantly, I'll really get organized.

Mar 10, 2009 12:29 PM
Tim Bradley
Contour Investment Properties - Jackson Hole, WY
Commercial Real Estate Expert in Jackson Hole, WY

I agree. Blocking out time is the best way for me to work efficiently. The risk is of losing contact with the customer who has no patience, but as long as I return calls within an hour or two, that's a risk I can accept.

Mar 10, 2009 12:39 PM
Ann Cordes, Keller williams Waco Tx

My office just came up with a GREAT solution to co-workers wanting to interupt and visit. When you go to the movies, you turn off your cell phone and ignore EVERYTHING right? We made a bannerr, had them laminated and attached them by string and velcro to hang in front of the opening to our cubicles when we are lead generating.

     The sign says" SSSHHHH, I'm at the movies"

When we have that in front of our cubicles, others know not to interupt us. We have only been doing it 2 days and it has already made a big difference! And it forces the office slackers to concentrate on being more productive.

 Another good sign we considered is " I'm lead generating, Why aren't you?"

Mar 10, 2009 12:54 PM
Roland Carrillo, PhD - Mortgage Consultant
Cary, NC

Some good points, its easy to get distracted and lose time.  At the end of the day those little minutes add up... not to mention over a month!

Mar 10, 2009 01:36 PM
Tim and Pam Cash
Crye-Leike (Sango) - Clarksville, TN
Real Estate Professionals - Clarksville TN

Some very good points.  Some that we all can learn from.

Mar 10, 2009 01:54 PM
Jim Lee & Janet Holt Edmond Oklahoma Luxury Home Realtors

Time management is the number one killer of real estate agents.   They never really get started because they "never really get started".  So many folks coming into our industry, come from other industries where they punched clocks and waited from the word on high as to how their days would be structured.  Then they come to real estate and all that pressure is gone and they learn too late (after all their money has run out) that the pressure didn't go away it multiplied.  The big difference was that it was all now their responsibility. 

I learned a technique several years ago called segmenting.   You right down everything you intend to get done in your day.  Best written the night before.  Then you order the tasks.  They can be ordered in anyway-by importance, how long they will take, how close they are geographically etc...   Then you stop and visualize each task before you do it through out the day.  Visualizing each step of the task as clearly as you can in your mind before you ever take action.  See it going well and see yourself being happy during the task and then see a successful ending.

At first it takes a bit of time, but soon it saves you a ton of time and you find yourself enjoying the parts you use to hate. 

It works really well for me!!

Mar 10, 2009 02:55 PM
Mike Henderson
Your complete source for buying HUD homes - Littleton, CO
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848

Nice post.  I'm still trying to get a handle on how to manage my time for optimum effectiveness.

Mar 10, 2009 04:47 PM
Gina Zimmerman
North Eastern Group Realty - Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne Real Estate

My kid brother encouraged me to develop five disciplines each day.  I asked him what his were (he did 1 billion in commerical realestate last year) but he told me I had to get my own.  He was right!  If I consistently do those five things on a daily basis, I am more productive and happier.

Mar 10, 2009 07:13 PM

I know it's difficult to schedule things in the real estate & mortgage industry but it is possible. A lot of time we get those interuptions that seem like they need to be taken care of ASAP but it's not true. I went to a time management class that taught me how to ask " when do you need this by" and 95% of the time it's not ASAP. You come across more professional by scheduling a time to call them back and devote your full attention to their needs.

Mar 11, 2009 12:55 AM
DeAndrea "Dee Dee" Jones
Found It, LLC - Manassas, VA

This is important when you work from home.  I do not answer my home phone during the day.  Most of my relatives no Im home and think Im able to chit chat so I do not pick up unless I am not working.  I then screen my cell because they will hang up and call that next but Its away for them not to bug me all the time.

Mar 11, 2009 01:07 AM
Joetta Fort
The DiGiorgio Group - Arvada, CO
Independent Broker, Homes Denver to Boulder

I also think the example you use is a bad one.  If I call my husband at work - guess what, I know he's busy.  So I still want to talk to him.  If he can't answer that's fine, but if he answered only to re-schedule me, I'd be ticked. 

Mar 12, 2009 06:36 AM
Sonya Loose
Modern Realty - Beaverton, MI
Helping Buyers & Sellers of Waterfront Property

Coach Julie....distratctions and interruptions are terrible but a fact of life.  So, learning how to deal with them is key!  I love your tips and will try to implement some of them soon!

Mar 13, 2009 05:27 AM
Kelsey Barklow
Hurd Realty - Johnson City, TN

I'm always doing everything at once and not doing any one thing particularly awesomely (is that a word?), each distraction is a distraction. Thanks for the post and reminder.

Mar 15, 2009 11:10 AM
Ervin Alston
EMA GRAPHICS - Virginia Beach, VA

Great points.  I also read some of the comments.  It is understandable to see the comments and concerns about answering the phone all the time.  It may help to use an answering service for $60 to $80 per month to do the task for you just in case you are busy, specifically if you are in a meeting with a client.  Thanks!



Mar 15, 2009 03:34 PM
John Rossi
RE/MAX West Realty Inc., - Woodbridge, ON


I work from home, and it's sometimes tough trying to explain to children daddy needs to do things concerning his business. I'm getting there though....good points!!


Mar 19, 2009 01:40 AM
Winter Baserva
Seasons Realty Group of Atlanta Communities - Atlanta, GA
Realtor -Homes For Sale, Atlanta, GA

Since real estate is such a "reactive" job, this is one of the things I need to focus on, by blocking out time frames to get it all done.

Apr 08, 2009 04:52 AM