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Lykken on Leadership: Seven Tips for More Effective Time Management

David Lykken
Jul 14, 2016
Civilization has come a long way over the last century, especially over the last several decades

Civilization has come a long way over the last century, especially over the last several decades. Our technological advancements have made it possible to accomplish things that generations before could not have even dreamed. We've turned space travel into a routine activity. We've made it possible to have real-time, face-to-face conversations with people on the opposite side of the planet. We've cured diseases that once wiped out entire populations. We've been able to do all sorts of great things, but there is one thing that has remained exactly the same. And, no matter how sophisticated or powerful we become, we'll never be able to change it. Despite our technological prowess, we still have precisely the same amount of hours in a day as we've had throughout all human history. Try as we may, we cannot manufacture more time.

In the mortgage industry, as in much of the business world, time constraints are felt especially strongly. We've come up with all sorts of ways to make businesses more efficient. Technology continues to be a central focus of contemporary organizations seeking to gain a competitive edge. And, the best organizations have adapted the latest technology to improve their operations and squeeze as much out of their days as they can. Nevertheless, we still face that same good old-fashioned constraint of time. The sun rises and the sun sets, regardless of the technologies we employ. So, the question is this: How can we, as leaders in the mortgage industry, best take advantage of the time that we do have? Here are seven tips for leaders in the mortgage industry to manage time more effectively …

1. Keep track of how you spend your time
When we start to measure something, we are often surprised by the results. For example, when people go on diets and start counting calories, they realize that they've been eating much more than they had thought before they started keeping track of it. Something amazing happens when we start measuring how we spend your time—we realize just how wasteful we've been! When we're busy in the hustle and bustle of everyday activities, the high stress and flurry of motion can make us feel that we're accomplishing more than we actually are. When we actually start keeping track of how our time is spent, we start to understand that being busy isn't the same thing as being productive.

When you have a firm handle on how your time is being spent, you'll be able to make positive changes that align your time allocation more closely with your priorities. All too often, we allow things that aren't as important to us to take up too much of our time. Measuring how we spend our time can help us focus more of our time and attention on what really matters.

2. Get up early in the morning
It's probably true that some people are "morning people," and some people just are not. I've met some people who sleep in as late as possible and simply have more energy late at night. Nevertheless, I think there is some truth to the saying, "The early bird gets the worm." When you get up early in the morning and start preparing your work day before everyone else is even out of bed, you'll be much less likely to be blindsided by unforeseen events. Extra time in the morning allows you to collect your thoughts, plan your day, and think strategically about where your organization is headed. Besides, in the modern world, breaking news happens overnight. If you can at least get the headlines before getting into the office, you may be able to make some important spur-of-the-moment decisions with the information you receive from having gotten up early enough to review it.

3. Take advantage of idle time
When you first start keeping track of how you spend your time, what will probably surprise you most is how much time you spend accomplishing nothing. Of course, there are many things throughout the course of your daily life that you must do in order to meet some sort of end, but these everyday activities can sure feel like a waste of time. These include your daily commute, mowing your lawn, walking your dog, waiting in lines, riding on the plane, and so on. You can probably name a specific activity in your life that falls into this category. What if, instead of writing this time off as lost time, you did something more with it? You could, for example, use this idle time to catch up on some of the latest news, do some strategic planning, or make some key phone calls. In short, there is probably a significant portion of your time that you can use to accomplish multiple things at once. Use all of it that you can.

4. Pay attention to diet and exercise
This may seem like something that doesn't below in a leadership article, let alone leadership in the mortgage industry. And I'm not a nutritionist or a fitness expert, but it does seem pretty clear from decades of research that diet and exercise does influence productivity. You know the old adage, "You are what you eat." Eating well and staying active can prevent us from becoming sluggish and enable us to have more energy in our work. Making the most of time isn't just about having more time, it's also about having more energy to use that time effectively. Diet and exercise, I think, can certainly help.

5. Pay attention to your sleep schedule
Another thing related to your physical well-being that can impact your performance in the workplace is your sleep schedule. I don't know what the right amount of sleep is, and it probably depends on the person. Most experts say you need more sleep, but you also hear about highly successful people thriving on just a few hours each night. One thing that I think is important, though, is consistency. Go to sleep at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Doing so will get your body used to a certain pattern and prevent you from becoming too tired or, worse, getting sick. When you're trying to squeeze out every hour in a day, you really don't want to lose a week due to illness.

6. Be more cautious with your commitments
It's hard for a person in a leadership position to say, "No." But, when you start to measure how you allocate your time, you'll realize that you're probably committing to things you shouldn't be. Obviously, you want to be as giving as possible with your time. The best leaders go out of their way to serve others and aid them in their success. That being said, we've got to realize that time is a zero sum game. Time spent in one area is time deprived from another. Commit to the things that matter the most, and don't be afraid to say, "No," when something more important deserves your attention.

7. Schedule leisure time for yourself
One last thing to keep in mind is what often gets neglected … your personal time. With leaders in the mortgage industry, as in many others, we often place too much of an emphasis on work and not enough on our personal lives. We can become neglectful of our families, friends, religious organizations or other commitments that comprise who we are as human beings. But, if we really want to have the kind of integrity to which great leaders aspire, we'll take commitments outside of work just as seriously as the ones we do in the workplace. If we wouldn't miss that 10 o'clock appointment at the office, then we shouldn't miss that seven o'clock appointment at our child's school. Leaders are people too. And, if we don't take care of ourselves personally and socially, that neglect will inevitably sooner or later bleed itself into the workplace.


David Lykken, a 43-year veteran of the mortgage industry, is president of Transformational Mortgage Solutions (TMS), a management consulting firm that provides transformative business strategies to owners and “C-Level” executives via consulting, executive coaching and various communications strategies. He is a frequent guest on FOX Business News and hosts his own weekly podcast called “Lykken On Lending” heard Monday’s at 1:00 p.m. ET at David’s phone number is (512) 759-0999 and his e-mail is [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

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