Hold your eye rolls, please. This is not an attempt to sell you on “having it all,” which I’m pretty sure is a mystical concept that only exists in the Twilight Zone.
But here on earth — more specifically, in the real estate industry — there exists a problem that spans genders and generations, made increasingly complicated by our never-ending connection to technology and therefore, work.
The struggle is real, you could say. And it’s a topic that nearly broke the Internet on the Lab Coat Agents Facebook group: how to maintain functional (and even better — loving!) relationships with a highly demanding job.
If there’s one thing that real estate agents aren’t lacking in, it’s passion. With that as your foundation, sometimes all it takes is a dash of mindfulness to create a sweeter life.
Here are 17 recommendations for doing just that, as revealed by fellow agents.
1. Reframe your perspective
In a recent podcast, real estate coaches Tim and Julie Harris discussed 30 life lessons you don’t have to learn the hard way. Their No. 1 piece of advice? Balance is a myth, so don’t seek it — doing so will make you feel constantly unstable.
Eileen Rivera of The Rivera Group expressed a similar sentiment in a Facebook comment: “Stop thinking of it as a balanced ‘work life’ and commit to designing and living a great life,” she said. “Balance implies equal weights on a scale; that’s not the answer.”
The podcast also reflects on five areas of life worthy of your attention:
You’ll never achieve perfect balance in all five categories (I would add red wine and Netflix as Nos. 6 and 7 for good measure), but each will demand your focus. Embrace the ebb and flow when one area is stealing the majority of your time, and then recalibrate.
2. Treat your significant other like your No. 1 client for the day
This idea came from Nancy Daniels Leirer at Keller Williams:
Your top clients earn VIP status because they’re helping you get paid the big bucks. Your family deserves the same dedication — just because. So during certain time blocks, roll out the red carpet for them.
Would you ever cancel on your million-dollar seller? Of course not. You’d reschedule everything else instead.
Set aside opportunities each week when your family gets the same drop-everything, million-dollar royal treatment.
3. Systemize personal time like you would business meetings
Seth Campbell, a regional director at Keller Williams, has each of his kids write down one thing that they’d like to do with dad on 12 different index cards, whether it’s see a movie, go to the playground or ride on an airplane.
On the first Saturday of each month, Campbell picks a card from each stack without looking. Whatever gets pulled is that month’s “date” activity.
“I’m not a systems person,” Campbell said. “I choose to override my natural behavior and be systematic with these relationships because they matter more to me than staying in my comfort zone.”
It’s tempting to think about fun outings as being spontaneous, but diligent planning is often the only way to guarantee time off — and that seems to be the consensus among agents.
“If it’s not in your calendar then it doesn’t exist,” Jennifer Brand Higgins said in the Facebook thread.
4. Invest in a planner that inspires you
Google Calendar is a smooth and functional option for scheduling, and sharing your datebook virtually with family members allows for more collaborative planning. But some agents might seek a little more sparkle and pizazz in an item they’ll be staring at all day.
“This might sound crazy, but I found this inspirational day planner that helps you set goals and maintain a balanced life,” Jenna Marshall Osborne said. “I’m so excited to give it a whirl. It’s called The Inner Guide.”
5. Make five-minute phone calls to your favorites
What’s the biggest reason you fail to reach out to lifelong friends who live across the country, the aunt who has never once forgotten your birthday or your significant other in the middle of the day? Time.
In our minds, there’s no such thing as a “quick” conversation. Ending a call gracefully requires a certain finesse.
One solution is to make calls during brief moments of idleness when you’ll be forced to exit the conversation for a legitimate reason:
- At the airport close to boarding
- Toward the end of your lunch break
- While you’re waiting for Uber to arrive
- Between sessions at a conference
You’ll feel more connected to your most important people near and far, and they’ll take note that you remembered them.
“You can’t control every minute of every day with 100 percent success,” Jay Pitts, broker at Re/Max, commented. “Plan to use a small amount of time consistently investing in what means most to you.”
6. Missed the gym? Do a 10-minute YouTube video workout at home
The CrossFit and SoulCycle culture we live in pays homage to exercise as though it were a religion. Indeed, there’s no better feeling than leaving the gym awash with endorphins, but working irregular overtime hours will squeeze the energy from even the most dedicated fitness followers.
I like to give myself a couple guilt-free days per week to exercise for less than half an hour without leaving the house. It might be 7 in the morning or 10 at night, but all I need is some empty floor space and my iPad mini.
I invested in a couple of five and 10-pound dumbbells, and sometimes I persuade my boyfriend to workout next to me (before remembering that he makes me look bad).
Here are some of my go-to videos and DVDs:
- FitnessBlender’s Abs and Obliques (10 minutes)
- XHIT’s Total Arm Workout (12 minutes)
- Gaiam’s Intro to Core Power Yoga (20-minute sessions)
- POP Pilates Crazy Abs, Butt & Legs Workout (12 minutes)
Just pick something that’s 20 minutes or less so you’ll come back next time, even on your busiest days.
7. Rearrange your day
Accommodate your personal life without compromising your passion for work by embracing an unconventional schedule. You might not be able to take breaks at normal times — but do take breaks.
Plan to exercise during lunch so you have more energy to work into the evening. Give yourself a little extra time in the morning if you stayed late. Make plans with your kids for Monday after school if you were at the office on Saturday.
Missed breakfast for a morning meeting? Sounds like a great excuse to have pancakes for dinner.
8. Disable notifications on your most beloved Facebook groups
I’ve never seen such robust online discussion groups as the ones that cater to real estate agents. Best women’s shoes for going door-to-door? There’s a thread for that, and because of it I will have happier feet at Inman Connect New York.
However, these groups still count as work. Resist the power of FOMO (fear of missing out), and don’t be a slave to the little red flag.
On Facebook, it’s as simple as left clicking the Notifications button and selecting “Off” from the drop-down menu.
You might temporarily miss a hilarious post about the most absurd names found in real estate databases, but you can always catch up on this breaking industry news later.
9. Flip the sign to “Do Not Disturb”
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Do Not Disturb door hanger for your cellphone?
Oh wait, there is one — you just never use it.
On the iPhone, DND silences calls, messages and alerts (but not alarms or vibration). To activate, swipe up on the home screen to launch the Control Center and tap the moon icon, or for more advanced use, launch Settings and select “Do Not Disturb.” From here, you customize the mode by allowing calls from certain contacts or accepting repeated calls that come within three minutes of each other.
Take a page from Quinntonia Glover of Realty ONE Group: “I set aside Sunday as a total family day — no work allowed. I turn my phone on Do Not Disturb at 7 p.m. on Thursday nights because that’s date night.”
10. Go read “The One Thing” by Gary Keller right now
Jay Wakefield, a Realtor at Bland to Grand Home Team, summarized his take on the book:
“A work life balance actually does not exist,” Wakefield wrote. “[Keller] talks about how the great things happen on the ends of the teeter totter, not in the middle where balance is. The key is learning counter balance. You must plan your family life and trips for the entire year and have a discussion with family about when work happens and when life happens. They will become your cheerleader.”
11. Hire an assistant
If your immediate response was — “Can’t. Relinquish. Control.” — you’re not alone. It’s not easy to delegate tasks that you know you could do yourself.
But think about it like this: How much is an hour of your time worth? If you could pay someone else to do a task for less, then it’s probably worth it.
“You can always make more money, but you can’t buy back time,” said Gloria Commiso of Keller Williams.
12. Plan vacations way in advance
You’ve talked a big game about going on short weekend getaways or snagging tickets to a concert with your husband or wife, only to completely forget as the calendar date silently rolls by. Sound familiar?
Avoid missing these opportunities by sitting down with your significant other well beforehand, booking every detail and scheduling out your vacations — even the small ones.
13. Manage client expectations based on your personal boundaries
If you’re available 24/7 to clients at the beginning, prepare to be available 24/7 until the end.
“The world will not end if we don’t answer email in the second,” added Michael Oden, chief marketing officer at New Horizon Financial Services.
If this kind of nonchalance poses to give you an ulcer, maintain peace of mind when you put your phone away by hiring backup. Implement a live phone answering service to ensure your business is in good hands even when you’re off the clock.
14. Don’t put your tech to sleep during family time — shut it down entirely
Adding that one extra degree of separation between you and your work just might preserve the moment.
15. Say “no” more frequently
A simple and vastly underrated word. What usually forces us to say “yes” is our fear of disappointing others. We save our “no’s” for the people who will love us regardless and overextend ourselves elsewhere.
Give your clients some credit in knowing that they, too, have boundaries and probably understand more than you realize. “I’ve never had a client be upset about respecting my time set aside for my family,” said Lee Arnold, president/broker at Benchmark Property Management.
16. Curb interruptions at dinner with The Phone Stack
For those who are unfamiliar, The Phone Stack game requires everyone to put their phones in the middle of the table during a meal. Whoever checks their device first loses — and pays the bill. Or forfeits their allowance. Or sleeps on the couch. Point is — you don’t want to be the tech addict. It’s embarrassing.
17. Encourage your spouse to get a real estate license so you can work together
This was a surprisingly common (or maybe entirely predictable) response from the group discussion on work-life balance.
“Anyone in my life, including friends — I try to convince them to come over to the dark side (and get licensed),” commented Realtor Tracie IE Miller Godri. “So far I’ve got four taking their exams in January!”
A last resort, or the perfect solution? I’ll let you professionals decide.
What are your hacks for a better life balance? Is there such a thing? Tell me in the comments!