When I was a new agent, I wanted to succeed so badly. I devoured business and personal development books, dove into blogging and did all the activities a newbie is told to do, such as holding open houses for a plethora of agents, door-knocking, farming and the list goes on. But what I truly needed was a little work-life balance and to take charge of my life pillars.

  • You are only as strong as your weakest pillar; audit each area of your life regularly to ensure nothing slips.
  • Creating a life by design does not mean being No. 1 or bust. It's mapping out a future that's just right for you and your goals.
  • Establishing boundaries for yourself, as well as others, is the first step to a successful career, even before your first sale.

When I was a new agent, I wanted to succeed so badly. I devoured business and personal development books, dove into blogging and did all the activities a newbie is told to do, such as holding open houses for a plethora of agents, door-knocking, farming and the list goes on. But what I truly needed was a little work-life balance and to take charge of my life pillars.

On the surface, it looked as though I was an overnight success — going from selling three homes in my first full-time year to 30 in the next. Fellow agents whom I admired were now colleagues, and my family could finally afford the comforts in life.

One of my team leaders had urged me to secure an assistant, but I chose to be a star agent instead. Do you know what a star agent is? It’s not awesome. It simply means I was running myself ragged all over the place — 18-hour days were the norm.

The pressure, self-imposed, to keep up the pace was something like the Jessie Spano caffeine pill episode on “Saved By The Bell.” All of the sudden the pillars of a truly stable life were crumbling.

The four pillars

There are four pillars to a happy, balanced life: health, wealth, family and faith. When one of these is out of alignment, your foundation is in jeopardy.

1. Health

Neglect your health and nothing else matters. Nothing. Need an example? Steve Jobs. What new technological heights will we miss out on because he turned to modern medicine too late? Do you think that can’t happen to you?

I didn’t think so either until I experienced a mini-stroke last summer at the age of 38. Your health is no joke, and you can’t take it for granted. You usually only get one shot in this game of life; I am fortunate I have the chance to rebound. I can’t afford to miss.

Every day I make sure to eat a healthy meal and prioritize thoughts into three mental buckets: the first is for the items I have total control over, the second is for what I can influence and the third is for what I can’t do anything about. I worry a lot less about the items in those last two buckets.

2. Wealth

One wouldn’t think this pillar would be out of whack with the commissions of 30 homes a year, but it was. My husband and I have never spent over our means, yet we would spend right on up to our limit.

The wake-up call came one morning when I read an email of our credit card balance. Why were we even using a credit card when we had all that cash coming in? Because that is what we have been conditioned to do since we were young.

You can’t go to a college campus without a company offering you a $10,000 line of credit when you make all of $7 an hour.

I truly believe the right people and resources are put in front of you when you need them the most, and we were blessed to have been friends with a former Realtor-turned-Dave Ramsey Financial Coach.

Within a week, our coach had us on a monthly budget, and within a year, we had no debt. Student loan? Paid off. Cars? Paid off. The only debt we now carry is a mortgage.

Now, many hear the word budget, and they think imprisonment. I am here to tell you it is the exact opposite — it’s freedom. It is astonishing to me how much more we do together per month and still have money left over.

Also, it’s now fairly easy to see that desperate people do desperate things. Whereas I used to drop my fork at the dinner table to run and show a Zillow lead property, I now run my business, (gasp!) like a business.

When you have the luxury to say “no,” you then say “yes” to things you never thought possible. When you are not a slave to a commission, the world is your playground.

3. Family

This one breaks my heart. Many of us claim to work so hard in the name of our families, but then we are never there when our family needs us most. How many little league games or dance recitals have you missed in the name of building a life for you and your children?

There are too many to count for me. At the height of my success, my children were begging me to be present, not only at their activities but in their lives.

I had checked out. If I am being completely honest, I wasn’t working in the name of bettering my family. I was working for my ego. That’s hard to admit, but it’s true. I was so worried what others would think of me if I wasn’t the leader on the sales board that I neglected my husband and kids. I am proud to say I don’t do that anymore.

4. Faith

No matter what your religion, or lack thereof, we all believe in something, even if it’s a deep belief in ourselves. For me, I lost my way a bit in the faith department. I never stopped believing; I simply downgraded its importance in my life.

I would skip church to show properties, or worse, I was answering phone calls during the service. Inappropriate doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This pillar is one of the hardest to put back in place, in my opinion, because you can’t see it. You can’t see it like you can see the changes in your body, your bank account growing or the smiles on your kids’ faces. Faith takes courage. Faith takes confidence and trust in something that can only be felt.

Fixing your pillars

When my pillars were crumbling, I simply ran away from my business. Everything I had worked so hard to build — I left it. I left the business for eight months. The good news is I am fixing those pillars to be so strong that it will take an act of God to move them.

As painful as it has been, I needed to go through this to grow. They don’t call them growing pains for nothing.

Find yourself in a similar boat? Try to implement the following tips.

First, create your life by design. Take a few hours, with your family, and map out your WDYWFY. (What do you want for you?) My husband and I want to travel with the kids, we want to retire at age 55, and we want to give back to our community. Knowing where you are going makes it that much easier to plan out what you need to do to get there.

Second, time block. I heard this over and over, but I never listened. Now I’m all ears. I bought an at-a-glance calendar, and I schedule the non-negotiables — in pen.

Church? I block out an hour and a half each Sunday. Kid activities you need to attend? Mark it. Then, go in and block off time for your most important business endeavors.

For me, I have four days a week of lead gen time blocked off from 9:30 a.m. until noon. The fifth business day is for networking. So if a lender or someone wants to take me out to coffee, it has to be that day, or I won’t do it. Guard your schedule like your life depends on it — because it does.

Finally, find yourself an accountability partner, and set expectations with clients. I can’t stress this enough. I have an all-in personality, and I won’t shut off unless someone makes me. My husband is in charge of taking away my phone and computer in the evening.

I used to think I had to take that call at 10:30 p.m. because the house could be burning down. You know what? Even if the house is burning down, there is nothing I can do about it. They need the fire department, not me.

Remember, you train people how to treat you. If you tell clients upfront that you don’t take calls from 9:30 a.m. to noon because you are prospecting to find a buyer for their house, they are happy with that.

I recently told a seller to fine me if I answer the phone during non-specified times. He laughed and appreciated it.

Take control of your business, and your life, now. The adage is true: if you don’t run your business, your business will run you.

Shannon Milligan is a Realtor and associate broker with RVA Home Team with Keller Williams Realty. Follow the RVA Home Team on Facebook or SnapChat: RVA Home Team.

Email Shannon Milligan.

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