Monday, February 19, 2007

“Time Management for the Real Estate Investor”

by Dennis J. Henson

Time is important!!

Whether you are the world’s richest person or broke and out of work- time is your most valuable asset. By eating right, exercising and driving carefully, you might increase your time on earth by a few years, but only a few. So in order to achieve the things you want to achieve in life, it is important that you manage the time you have wisely.

The foundation of a time management program is daily planning.

Over 30 years ago, at the beginning of my business career, I read books and listened to many tapes on how to be better at sales, motivation, negotiating, etc. On one of those tapes I heard a story that has had a great positive impact on my life. Within that story was a time management technique that impressed me so much that I immediately adopted it for my own use and have continued to use it to my advantage to this day. It’s called…


The story took place around the turn of the last century—about 1900.

At that time the..

Average yearly income.........................................$703
DOW Average......................................................49
New Home (median price)...................................$2,200
New Car (average cost)......................................$1,157
Milk (quart).........................................................7¢
Bread (loaf).........................................................4¢
Steak (pound).....................................................15¢

Around 1905, Charles Schwab was President of the then fledgling Bethlehem Steel Company. The small steel company was struggling due to its inefficiency and poor sales.

Mr. Schwab was of course a very busy man and had little time to waste with sales people. One day Mr. Ivy Lee (a business consultant) made a call on the company and asked if he might have a few minutes of Mr. Schwab’s time. He was met with reluctance but persisted and was granted a short interview with the busy business executive.

“Ok” Mr. Schwab said “What do you have in mind?”. The optimistic Mr. Lee told Schwab that he would allow him to spend only fifteen minutes with him and each of his managers he (Lee) could increase the efficiency of his entire company and that Schwab and his managers would learn to “manage better."

The indignant Schwab said, "I'm not managing as well now as I know how? What we need around here is not more "knowing" but more doing, not knowledge but action! If you can give us something to pep us up to do the things we ALREADY KNOW we ought to do, I'll gladly pay you anything you ask."

“By the way, what do you propose to charge me for your services?" asked Schwab. Mr. Lee replied, "Nothing, unless it works. I will provide the service and in three months you can send me a check for whatever you feel it was worth to you." Mr. Schwab, thinking he had little to lose, shook Lee’s hand and the deal was made.

Lee indeed spent only about fifteen minutes with Schwab and each of his executives. At each meeting Lee asked each manager to do the following:

At the end of each day they were to:

• Write down the six most important things for the next day.

• Mark the most important item with a number one the second most important with a two and so on until all were marked.

• First thing the next morning, begin working on the task marked number one and upon completing that task, check off the completed item and immediately start on the next number until all the items were completed.

Only a few weeks passed when Mr. Lee received a letter from the Bethlehem Steel Company. Inside the envelope, Mr. Lee found a check in the amount of $25,000.00 and a note from Schwab saying the lesson was the most profitable from a money standpoint he had ever learned.

Do you think that possibly efficiency and sales had increased at Bethlehem Steel? In the five years that followed, Schwab turned the unknown Bethlehem Steel Company into the largest independent steel producer in the world and Schwab became a millionaire a hundred times over. Charles Schwab became the best known steel man alive at that time.

Wow, was I impressed when I first heard this story. thought if Charles Schwab, one of the smartest businessmen of his day, was willing to pay so much money for this advice then why shouldn’t I use it also and I’m in good company.

When I was doing time management research in the early 1990’s and living in Carrollton, Texas, I was searching for the "$25,000.00 Idea" story but was having a difficult time finding it. At that time the internet was not available to me but a friend told me that Mary Kay Ash often told that story in her speeches. The Mary Kay Company was just a few miles from my apartment and I passed by it every day going into Dallas. So I picked up the phone and called Mary Kay’s office. I did not get speak to Mary Kay but I did get to explain my problem to her assistant.

Mary Kay was kind enough to fax me a copy of her notes about "The $25,000.00 Idea". Years later in her book “You Can Have It All” Mary Kay referenced the story and stated the following:

"I decided I would follow it, too. …Each night, I put together my list for the following day. If I don't get something on my list accomplished, it goes on the next day's list. I put the hardest or most unappealing task at the top of the list. This way, I tackle the most difficult item first, and once it's out of the way, I feel my day is off to a good start." Not only did Mary Kay use this time management system but she encouraged her thousands of sales people to put it to use also.

Using a time management system is only one way to make better use of your time. Here is a top 10 list of time saving techniques.

Dennis’ Top 10 Time Savers

1. Use a time management system
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate
3. Do time management study & training
4. Just say—No! To things that do not move you toward your goals
5. Get organized. Office—clean desk, file system, your car
6. Use Speed Systems—keys, storing phone #’s, etc.
7. Learn to type faster & use micro keys vs. mouse
8. Do preventive maintenance—car, home, work
9. Improve communications–-cell phone, radios, conference calls
10. Always look for new ways to save time
– Coordinate colors of clothes
– Use check cards rather then checks
– Scribble your signature fast—neatness doesn’t matter but time does!

Below is the outline of another great system that is more complicated but could yield even more benefits.

The “It’s About Time” Self Management System

• Capture with a recorder or note pad ALL
•• Things to do
•• Ideas
•• Reference information
•• Goals & projects

• Create and maintain computer files

• Lists
•• Master List
•• Goals/Projects Lists
•• Reference List
••• Phone numbers
••• Addresses
••• Quotes
••• Contacts
••• Codes
••• User names & Passwords
••• Committees
••• Any other information you might need for future reference
••• Check lists that can be reused—example: trip packing lists
••• Team Lists

• A Calendar

• A Daily List

• Unload notes pads and recorder daily to the "Master List" file

• Sort tasks and assign a day
• Delegate as much as possible
• Move projects to a project/goals file
• Move reference items to a reference file
• Plan each day on the daily list file

• Do Weekly Reviews and re-prioritize
• Goals
• Projects
• Low priority tasks

If you want to do more research into managing you time, the best book I have found on the subject is “Getting Things Done Fast” by David Allen. You can find it along with other support products for the real estate investor by clicking the "TRAINING MATERIALS" tab at

One final note

Dr. Robert Schuler had a simpler version of time management that simply says… "Ask yourself what is the most important thing you need to accomplish, and what are you doing about it today?"

Good luck with your real estate investing.