Residential Magazine

Single-Minded Focus

Don’t let these distractions derail your momentum

By Carl White

Two kinds of activities, reactive and proactive, keep mortgage originators busy. Reactive activities are all about putting out fires. When you’re in reactive mode, you’re playing defense. 

Proactive activities are the things that bring in the money — generating leads, converting them into sales and building long–term relationships. When you’re in proactive mode, you’re working on what you think is most important. In reactive mode, you’re busy doing what someone else deems most important.

The top producers in the mortgage business are the people who have figured out how to operate primarily in proactive mode. But the tricky part is learning how to stay in proactive mode.

To understand this, consider the concept of “reactive activators.” You’re moving along proactively, and these triggers trip you up and send you right back into reactive mode. You want to avoid these things at all costs, at least during your power hours of productivity. Let’s say that’s from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday. You have to be in proactive mode faultlessly during this time frame if you want to meet your goals.

Four big reactive activators that can really mess you up are email, inbound phone calls, people and your mind. Let’s go through these one by one and make a plan to beat them at their own game.

When you’re making outbound phone calls each morning, you need to have a winning mentality in your head — unicorns, rainbows and puppies.

Email pitfall

You’re sitting at your desk on a Tuesday morning, making calls and generating leads. A notice pops up on your computer screen: “You’ve got mail!” This is absolute poison to your productivity. Emails are usually about putting out fires, e.g., “this thing isn’t right and what are we going to do now?” Even if you don’t read the email, you’re going to wonder what it says. And if you do read it, that’s even worse. 

When you’re making outbound phone calls each morning, you need to have a winning mentality in your head — unicorns, rainbows and puppies. There’s zero chance that you’re going to make an effective sales call while you’re thinking about Mrs. Smith’s missing appraisal. Now you’ve lost two loans — Mrs. Smith’s and the one associated with the phone call you can’t make because you’re thinking about Mrs. Smith.

Don’t check email at 6 a.m. when you wake up. This negativity will be in your head when you start making calls at 9 a.m., and you don’t need it. Wait to check email until after your morning hours of proactive phone calls are complete. 

Turn off email notifications by going into the settings on your computer and your phone. Or take the email app off your phone completely. Out of sight, out of mind.

Phone risk

One of the best things you can do for your origination business is to remove your cell phone number from your business card. When you first start out, you’re begging for the phone to ring. Before you know it, however, your phone is ringing so much you can’t get any actual work done. 

Create a new cell phone number and notify your partner, kids, parents and good friends that your number has changed. Then forward your old cell number to your office phone and hire someone to answer these calls.

You don’t want to ignore inbound calls. Some might be fires to put out, but some might be leads. So, what’s the solution? Have someone else answer the call on your behalf. This can be a team member during office hours and an answering service on nights and weekends. Hire an answering service that will immediately send an email or text transcript to the person who needs to see it. This isn’t you — you’re not the switchboard. 

You also can download an app to your cell phone that allows you to use your office number as your caller ID. When you make outbound calls to real estate agents on your cell, your office number shows up. If you have to leave a voicemail and they call back, the call is going to your assistant, not you.

People peril

You’re probably a people person. Most people in the mortgage business are. But people are huge distractors, even if it’s just someone stopping by your office on Monday morning to say, “Hey, how was your weekend?” This simple question can turn into an hourlong conversation before you know it. And there goes your block of productivity.

This got a little easier in 2020 with most people working from home. But then you’ve got another set of distractors: your family. Family is family, but work time is work time. These are separate, unless your kid gets an award or you go out to lunch with your spouse. Don’t let your family interrupt your proactive work hours (except in an emergency) and don’t let work interrupt your family time.

So, what can you do? For starters, have a candid conversation with your family, your coworkers, etc. Tell them this: “Listen, you are super important to me, but for these two hours, I have to do this proactive activity. I’m in the zone. I’ll talk to you at 11.” Say it kindly but firmly. You also can say things like, “If you see anyone coming to talk to me from 9 to 11, please tell them nicely to go away,” or “if you see me at the water cooler at 10 o’clock, call me out.” 

Second, shut your door and put up a sign. No-body will be bothered by it. The sign can say whatever you’d like: “Do not disturb,” “I’m in the zone” or “I love you, but go away.” A third thing you can do is go somewhere else. Offices can be noisy, so a low-rent nearby suite with a desk, a phone and zero interruptions can pay for itself 10 times over.

Don’t achieve a goal and fall into the trap of checking your email ‘really quick.’ Your mind might be telling you this is a good idea, but your mind is lying to you. Don’t fall prey to your own thoughts.

Mind trap

Unlike your email notifications, you can’t turn off your mind. (Wouldn’t that be great if you could?) Wherever you go, your mind goes with you, for better or worse. Many have to consciously work at getting into — and staying in — the right mindset. But it absolutely can be done.

The first three tips help — no email, no inbound phone calls, no in-person interruptions. But sometimes sitting at your desk and making yourself do what you know you need to do is still a challenge.

Commit to 50 minutes of proactive activity. Make calls and do other essential tasks without stopping. Then take a 10-minute break. Get up, stretch your legs, walk around, grab a glass of water or go outside and breathe in fresh air. But do not check your email or voicemail, get on the internet or interrupt someone else in the office.

After that, it’s back to that winning mindset of unicorns, rainbows and puppies. Don’t achieve a goal and fall into the trap of checking your email “really quick.” Your mind might be telling you this is a good idea, but your mind is lying to you. Don’t fall prey to your own thoughts.

Even when you feel like quitting, push through. Then you take a 10-minute break, followed by 50 more minutes of work. It gets increasingly easier the more you do it. 

Ultimate reward

You want to be a top producer. Engaging in proactive activities and avoiding reactive activators is what top producers do. If you do this consistently for two hours every morning, then you can celebrate the win by taking Friday off. You’ll have a three-day weekend every week and you’ll make more money.

It takes practice, but the reward is incredible if you simply push through and do it. If you think this is hard, put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. Picture being a roofer in Montana in freezing cold weather or a road worker in Florida in the August heat. 

A mortgage originator’s job isn’t hard. You should call up whoever told you about this career and thank them profusely. All you have to do is talk, type and think. If you can simply stay focused and remain in the zone for a couple hours a day, you’ve got it made. And that, my friends, is the secret sauce. ●


  • Carl White

    Carl White is founder and CEO of Mortgage Marketing Animals, a successful mortgage marketing training program. White is also a branch manager at one of the top mortgage branches in America and the host of the No. 1 podcast for loan officers, Mortgage Marketing Animals teaches the strategies that originators in White’s own branch use today to close more loans in less time. Learn more by visiting

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