How to snare the elusive work-life balance

Set expectations with clients early in the process to avoid long-term issues

“Work-life balance” is a phrase many of us hear every day. It’s no secret that being a busy real estate agent can strain our personal relationships because of the amount of time we put into our work.

That family birthday party on Saturday? Sorry, can’t make it; I have showings from 10 to 5. Big lunch plans on Sunday? Nope. My seller wants an open house from noon to 4. While it can be tough for agents of any age to achieve a work-life balance, figuring it out early in your career can lead to huge stress relief down the road as your business grows.

Here are some tips to help you find the right work-life balance:

1. Take one day off from work completely, either during the week or on the weekend.

I know this sounds difficult, but it can be done. Forming relationships with other agents in your office is the first step. The second step, and the key to making this work, is finding someone you trust to handle your business one day a week.

Want to take Wednesday off for “Daddy/Mommy day” with your kid(s)? Form a relationship with someone in your office whom you can trust to cover your business every Wednesday. Then you agree to cover their business every Thursday, or whichever day the other agent picks.

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This one day off isn’t a “work from home” day. It means no cellphones, computers or emails all day. Your body and mind need to recharge, and considering you may be working both Saturday and Sunday, the middle of the week is a perfect time to do that.

You can also try to work only one day a weekend. Sometimes it’s tough to make that work, but you’ll find that once you get into a groove it becomes second nature to let clients know ahead of time that Sunday is your day off.

2. Set expectations early.

This is something to add to your initial buyer or seller meetings. Once you’ve arranged your regular day off, set the expectation early with your clients that Wednesday is the day you spend with your family. Let them know that although you will be out of reach, your partner agent will be happy to help them with anything they need. Setting this expectation will mean fewer long-term issues, and letting clients know early in the process that you are unavailable one day each week also ensures that if something does come up on your day off, your clients remember why you are unavailable and know whom to reach instead.

3. No phone calls or emails after 7 p.m. Period.

Telling your significant other you won’t answer the phone or email after 7 p.m. (or maybe 8) is fantastic, but you have to follow through. There will, of course, be times when the job absolutely requires you to be on the phone or computer after making that promise, but those times should be rare, and you usually know in advance when that might happen. Most times you will know when a deal is messy in the morning and is going to go into the evening — so make sure you communicate that to your spouse.

You might be surprised by how many clients understand that after 7 is your “family time.” You can set up your voice mail to let everyone know that if they’re calling you after 7 p.m., you will get back to them first thing the next day (and then make sure you keep that promise). You also can set up your email to generate an out-of-office message starting at your desired time every night that lets clients or other agents know that you will respond immediately in the morning.

This requires a little time blocking on your calendar. You should set up a recurring time block at 7, 8 or 9 a.m. — or whenever you wake up and start your day — to return phone calls or emails. No perusing Facebook or Twitter. No reading the news. That’s for after the time block is over. Getting into this groove will help make your life much easier!

4. Don’t forget the little things.

Have showings at 7 p.m.? Add them to your digital calendar and then share that information with your significant other, or add your spouse as an invited guest. You can even put in the location so they can make an educated guess as to how long your appointment will take. This makes for fantastic communication back and forth. Also, make sure your family member reciprocates. Let’s say he or she just found out about a family function this Friday at 7. Have them send you an invite or sync up their calendar with yours so you know not to schedule appointments at that time. It sounds easy, because it is!

In this business, it’s easy to get burned out when the days are long and the transactions are messy. Trying just a few of these steps should help make your life and business that much better!

Josh Fellman is a Realtor with Edina Realty. He immediately jumped into real estate after graduating from college and hasn’t looked back since.