Time management is a skill that every independent agent must develop. It’s all too easy to let the hours slip by when you work for yourself, especially from home. Poor time management can be insidious – how many of us have kept ourselves “busy” with work that wasn’t urgent just because we didn’t want to make calls?

Most of us.

Don’t be fooled by the feeling that you’re working hard and keeping your nose to the grindstone. Activity isn’t enough – you need to constantly focus on profitable activities if you want to cultivate long-term success. A great way to go about doing this is by making those activities the cornerstones of your schedule. Schedule these activities in stone, then set the remainder of your week around them.

For the vast majority of us, the most profitable thing we can spend our time doing is prospecting. Consistently seeking out new clients to keep our pipeline topped off is crucial – without that, it doesn’t matter how good we are at case design or how well we know our products. We won’t have anyone to sell them to!

Make prospecting a cornerstone activity each and every week. Many successful agents set two or three days a week as “prospecting days” and another two or three as “appointment days.” This works especially well when prospecting via direct mail. You can run through your returned cards on prospecting days, setting appointments as you go for your appointment days. That way you’re consistently setting appointments in the near future, which is important for time sensitive leads that come from sources such as direct mail or the internet.

Even then, it’s still easy to let yourself slip into busy work during your prospecting days. Making social media posts and writing blog articles feels like work, and it’s true that these things are important, but they can be done after hours – not during prime prospecting time. Grabbing some ink and paper for the printer is work-related, and it’s tempting to run to the store during the day when it’s less crowded. While that’s something that needs to be done, it’s not something that needs to be done instead of making calls. Constantly focusing on profitable activities is how you cultivate long-term success. Study your product brochures and keep your office tidy, but don’t do that when you should be calling prospects.

The best way you can go about scheduling for success is by getting brutally honest with yourself about your current time management skills. Keep a legal pad at your side for a few days and religiously document every activity you undertake. Write down the time, to the minute, that you start making calls, when you get up to go to the restroom, when you take a lunch break, when you stop for four minutes to read Facebook, everything.

At the end of the day, take a look back at your logs and find where you’ve fallen short for the day. This requires a lot of honest self-examination – a skill that’s just as important for you to cultivate as time management. You’ll find time here and there that’s been wasted in one way or another. Use this information to better understand your own habits and how you can refine your day to become more and more efficient. Eventually you’ll find yourself engaging in your most profitable activities on a consistent basis, and the rewards will be obvious.