Recently, while listening to a real estate panel, I grew frustrated hearing two agents promote working 24/7 as a habit for success. The agents were saying that they never stop working and largely credited this tactic for growing their business.
A few years ago, I thought the same way. I rarely took breaks. I was always connected — and utterly exhausted. As a managing partner of a boutique real estate agency in Chicago, I’ve hired and managed dozens of brokers over the years and witnessed so much agent burnout.
The fact is that hustle culture is rampant in real estate. Looking at reality TV agents, social media influencer agents and agents within our own companies — hustle culture has become the presumed method of how to succeed in real estate.
I want to argue as to why it isn’t sustainable and promote something I’ve been practicing as a recovering hustle-harder-type agent: work-life integration.
Why isn’t hustle culture sustainable?
One word: burnout. To share a personal story, during the height of my always-working, never-unplugging phase, I went on a short trip to Mexico to recharge.
I spent the entire first day asleep. My body and mind were so exhausted that I sat down in my room’s balcony chair and didn’t wake up until the next day. My mindset at the time was — if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t winning.
I was operating from a scarcity mindset. I was afraid there wasn’t enough. Then I burned out and realized there had to be a better way to operate.
Adopt work-life integration for long-term success
From starting a family to founding a brokerage firm, life changes with time, and priorities shift. I realized I needed a sustainable approach to professional success that also left room for my personal life and well-being.
Enter work-life integration. According to the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, work-life integration is “an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define ‘life’: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health.”
I do not subscribe to the idea of work-life balance. Balance indicates an even distribution. Anyone who has tried to manage their personal and professional lives knows nothing is ever equal — especially for those of us in the real estate industry.
By practicing work-life integration, you’ll create a mindset centered around being intentional with your time, having a real passion for what you do professionally and operating from a place of abundance where there’s enough business to go around.
Here are a few examples of being intentional with your time. Go for a walk to clear your head between phone calls. You’ll achieve personal activity goals while focusing on the person you’re speaking with.
Another habit I recommend is taking an hour in the morning during which you don’t pick up your phone, check email, text or look at social media. Start your day on your own terms. Make sure to take breaks. Working through lunch is something most of us do. Use lunchtime as an opportunity to step away from your desk, computer and phone to focus on the meal.
How can agents make the switch?
When making a change, it’s always best to start small. I encourage agents to start by delaying picking up their phone for an hour after they wake up. If the first thing you do is grab your phone, your day is already off to the races with a flood of incoming information you need to process.
Start the morning slowly with meditation, reading for pleasure, journaling or getting a quick workout or stretch in. More than anything, work-life integration will help you prioritize yourself over everything else. Once you start showing up for yourself, the success will come because your life will flow more fluidly.
There are many things we can’t control due to the pandemic and life in general, but we can control our own schedule, boundaries and where we spend our time. Taking back your day and building a schedule around work and life moments will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling existence because you’re making what’s important to you a priority.
Let’s stop perpetuating hustle culture because it’s not a great habit for long-term success — personally or professionally. My hope with this article is to change the narrative about what makes a successful broker and empower real estate agents to consider a more sustainable, well-rounded approach.