Home & Garden

Selling? Plan your time carefully

Does your life involve a demanding boss, kids who must be pressed on homework and a spouse who travels a lot on business? Beyond all that, are you also planning to sell your house soon?

If so, Neen James, a time management expert and author of “Folding Time: How to Achieve Twice as Much in Half the Time,” says it’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed by the house project. After all, preparation for a home sale inevitably involves – among other steps – hours sorting through belongings such as kitchen gadgets, excess shoes and boxes of books.

Due to scarcity of free time, she says many homeowners need a strategic plan to accomplish all the must-do tasks necessary to make their place sellable.

Here are a few tips for home sellers:

1 Reduce the huge home sale project into small pieces. Frantic people trying to tackle all that’s involved in preparing for a home sale, or any other sizable project, would do well to break their work down into 15-minute increments of uninterrupted time, James says.

“I’m convinced you can conquer the world in 15-minute segments,” she says.

Suppose, for instance, that your bookshelves are bulging with excess volumes, including many you’ve already read. In just 15 spare minutes, for example, you could clear through a single shelf that contains your cookbooks. Then when time allows later, you could tackle other shelves that hold novels or a collection of art books.

2 Make sure you set strategy before tackling your home preparation project.

Stefanie Coleman, who’s taught time management and productivity seminars for more than a decade, says project planning should be done in several stages. The first is brainstorming and then itemizing all the possible tasks that could help move you toward your final goal.

Second, revisit your list, crossing out steps that sound impractical and highlighting those that will have the most impact.

Third, put all the remaining items on your list in order by priority.

3 Avoid overscheduling your time.

Though Coleman underscores the importance of entering all your steps on a calendar, she cautions against scheduling your time too tightly.

To allow for unplanned interruptions, she urges home sellers to allow an extra 20 percent cushion for unscheduled time. For example, suppose that one Saturday you hope to spend 10 hours cleaning out your garage. In that case, Coleman suggests you schedule just eight hours of work, allowing two hours to deal with the unexpected.

4 Seek out a support person.

Many busy people who could afford to hire a professional organizer decline to do so, James says. Still, she says it’s often smart to seek an organizer’s help when confronting a major project. (One source: National Association of Professional Organizers, www.napo.net.)

If your finances are too tight to pay for a professional organizer, James suggests you barter for services with a friend or relative.