By Stephanie Sievers | Associate Editor
You know the scenario. You step out for a 45-minute meeting only to find 40 new emails waiting in your inbox when you return. How do you weed out the junk, process the high priority messages and organize what you need to keep without consuming too much of your day?
For many Illinois REALTORS® the key is organization, organization, organization.
“I don’t keep my email as a to-do list. I’m either reading it, putting it in a file or answering it,” said REALTOR® Sandy Andry, a broker with RE/MAX Town and Country in Aurora.
That means not allowing emails to pile up in her inbox. Andry manages the inflow by processing the emails and then filing them in designated folders or labels. She makes a folder for each buyer and seller she is working with, identifying buyers by their last name and listings by the property address. Every time a relevant email comes through, she adds it to the appropriate folder.
“I try to do my negotiations through email so I have a written record of it,” she said.
Andry has used folders for two years and finds it to be an effective way to track and save the correspondence for every transaction. She’s even set up her voicemails to come through to her email as an audio file so that she can file those away. When the transaction is finished, she archives them in her “past seller” or “past buyer” folders.
REALTOR® Jan McNulty, a broker associate with RE/MAX Suburban in Mt. Prospect, is another proponent of email folders as they give her a way to organize conversations, documents and even text messages for each transaction. She also emails herself copies of the signed contract, home inspection and legal letters, which she burns to a CD and gives to her buyers and sellers at closing.
“I use my (Microsoft) Outlook email like it is my filing cabinet,” she said. “If there is ever a question of what I did with a client, it’s in my Outlook.”
The idea of limiting the amount of time you spend reviewing and processing email each day may strike fear in the hearts of many real estate professionals, but REALTOR® Maria Radwan, managing broker with Baird & Warner’s Palatine office, said that restricting it to three times a day works for her.
“Our industry, as a whole, is very reactive, not proactive when it comes to keeping track of daily tasks,” she said. “Learn how to say no. What’s on your calendar? What’s on your task (list)? Be true to that.”
Radwan recommends checking email three times a day: 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and again at 2:30 p.m.
Why 2:30 p.m. and not later in the day?
Radwan says that by checking your email at that point in the afternoon agents still have time to take action whether it is to pull a market analysis, schedule an evening showing or just reach someone before the end of the work day.
“There are so many emails that come at you today, that if you don’t (set limits) all you will be doing is checking your email,” Radwan said.
But that doesn’t mean you should be ignoring your email the rest of the day. Agents get online leads from Zillow or other sources that they don’t want to miss during the day. Radwan suggests setting up different alerts for different lead sources so agents can stay connected.
With about 70 percent of his business coming from online leads, REALTOR® Matt Laricy, managing broker and partner with Americorp in Chicago, is leery of limiting how many times he checks his email or with adding too many blocks to his spam filters.
Instead he has chosen to hire an assistant to help monitor incoming emails and prioritize them. Laricy credits much of his success with his prompt and personal response to email leads. His assistant makes the process easier by weeding out the junk email.
Laricy also has a goal of keeping his inbox as clean as possible, ideally at no more than one page. He too uses folders to organize and store his email as most of his correspondence is electronic.
“Filing has been one of the great things in my life,” he said. “I literally start sweating and stressing out when the inbox is too full.”
Some may not work for every REALTOR® but finding a few to incorporate could help you get a better handle on your email.
A few more tips to consider: