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The art and science of getting organized.

During the business day, a great variety of duties and responsibilities are required of a property manager. Information flows to and from clients, co-workers, vendors, and other business professionals through face-to-face conversations, phone calls, letters, and the almighty fax.

Some quip that "The business day is a series of interruptions, punctuated by occasional work." Sometimes this seems all too true. Hopefully, most responses to these interruptions can be quickly completed. However, even the experienced and efficient executive can be overwhelmed at times.

Consequently, all managers need to develop some system of information organization and time management to order and prioritize tasks, while maintaining flexibility.

The following system has been used in our property management company for the past six years and may be of assistance to you as you develop your own personal method.

Getting organized

A time management system should be suited to an individual's personal style. As a first step, visit your local office supply store to examine the many brands of commercial time organizers available. Choose the one that appeals to you. Most organizers have separate yet inter-related sections which divide work into its component parts.

The particular brand of organizer our firm uses has several sections in addition to those related to time management: a directory; a one-year calendar; a daily list of things to do; a checkbook register; memory, expense, and ideas sections; and a plastic zippered bag for miscellaneous papers and a slip jacket for membership cards and other wallet stuffers. Because the binder is a three-ring notebook, we occasionally create our own pages for inclusion as well.

Keeping it straight

The backbone of the system is what we call "project pages." For each project, property, or area of responsibility, insert a page in the organizer with the appropriate title and date on top. On that page, record all of the responsibilities, ideas, and assignments which pertain to the topic. Note the date of the entry and, if appropriate, a target completion date.

We also rank the entries in their order of importance, assigning numbers to each item and writing them in the boxes provided. Our priorities are:

1 Must be done immediately 2 Should be done quickly 3 Should be done as soon as possible 4 May be done as time permits 5 Should be done at an appropriate time

The last item is for projects which can only be done at a certain time of the year or can be postponed.

We check off items as they are completed. Twice a month any item not completed is moved up one rank (for example, a 4 item becomes a 3, a 2 becomes a 1). Rewrite the list when you have completed 75 percent of the items to keep things neat and make room for new items. Save completed pages to use for preparing action reports for the appropriate party (client, supervisor, etc.).

When a duty or task is assigned or an idea occurs, simply write it on the appropriate "project page."

Preparing for action

From your "project pages," you can create a "Weekly Things To Do" list. Review the project pages, and select items of the highest priority. Transfer them to a separate sheet and prioritize the list. We use a five-level prioritizing of A, B, C, D, and P:

A will generate additional fees for the firm B may result in a fee in the future C will make the company grow D will serve the interest of the clients P is for personal items

Some may find this an odd system, perhaps even backwards. However, time is of the essence in real estate. Opportunities may be lost without quick action. You owe it to yourself, to your fellow workers, and to your clients to prosper. A prosperous company can afford better equipment, more education, and better people, all of which will lead to better service for clients and tenants.

The system allows for altering priorities by using some additional notations:

* Do before anything else D Delegate Q Can be accomplished quickly

The "Q" notation is to get the small items out of the way. These can be done quickly and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Getting it done

Each day, select the most important items from your weekly list and put them on your daily things-to-do list. Then prioritize that list for the day, again using a 1-to-4 hierarchy.

In addition to your weekly things to do, make a weekly phone call list from the "project pages." Include the phone numbers at the time you prepare the list in order to save time. Prioritize calls using the same number and letter system.

By always carrying your organizer, you can update your schedule at any time. When waiting for an appointment in someone's office, you can revise and update your project pages, look ahead to tomorrow's calendar, and prepare for upcoming meetings.

Avoiding some pitfalls

Those inexperienced with using an organizer may have a tendency to list everything they would like to accomplish during the week. Avoid the urge. Select only enough items to comfortably fill your day. Fourteen-hour days will quickly lead to burnout--a disservice to everyone, including yourself.

Another useful productivity technique is fitting the task to your own rhythm and schedule. Analyze yourself. Everyone has a creative time. Schedule the appropriate chores for the time of day you are most alert. A morning person should not be writing ads at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Do not let paperwork pile up. Use a system of two "in" boxes, one marked "quick" and the other "slow." Encourage co-workers to place only the items which require a glance or a signature in the "quick" box. In this way checks, contracts, letters, and other important papers do not get buried. Discipline yourself to empty the boxes twice a day, during late morning and late afternoon.

Reserve one afternoon a week for heavy paperwork. Hold your calls, and dig in. It will go faster, and give you a greater sense of accomplishment, if you work on these items uninterrupted.

It is also important to not let the system become an end in itself or a means of organized procrastination. At the same time, do recognize that we are all human. There are days when you will plan and reflect and other days when you will act and accomplish. An organizational system should provide the method and means for both.

Louis A. Danzico, CPM|R~, is president of Management Enterprises, a full-service real estate firm in Scranton, Pa., that specializes in operating multi-unit properties. He has taught real estate management at the Dunmore campus of the Pennsylvania State University.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Danzico, Louis A.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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