Maintaining a work-life balance isn’t easy as a real estate agent, especially during the looming busy season. If you are your own boss, it is up to you to keep your work on track, which can be both a blessing and a curse. While you have the freedom to set your schedule, it can lead to your work becoming your life rather than just part of it. You also have the added challenge of people expecting you to be available 24/7, including nights and weekends when many other people (perhaps including your family members) are not working or at school.
Neglecting to balance your work life and personal life can easily cause stress, burnout, strained relationships, and an overall decrease in physical and mental well-being. Now is the best time to consider how you will manage your work-life balance during the busy season.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Become a time management master
One of the best places to start when considering your work-life balance is how you are currently using your time. Contemplate your whole day, both personally and professionally. What tasks do you accomplish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly? Is there a more efficient way to complete them?
You should also consider your professional and personal priorities. What things need to get done, what things should be done, what things could be done, and what things would be nice to get done? Consider prioritizing your tasks this way in a to-do list and knock them off based on importance, urgency, and level of difficulty. Depending on personal preference, you may even want to merge your personal and professional to-do lists.
Once you create to-do lists, consider if any of the tasks on them can be formulated into a routine. Routines are a great way to save time and ensure tasks aren’t forgotten. A regular personal morning routine helps start your day in a consistent fashion, so you are happily prepared for the day ahead. Professionally, a standard daily routine may be a bit more challenging since you are usually at the mercy of other people’s schedules, but you can make a routine for the office tasks that you complete daily or weekly. If you have tasks that are simple yet time consuming, such as organizing paperwork or responding to emails, consider a routine of carving out a distraction-free hour per day to complete these tasks.
Using a planner, whether electronic or paper, helps ensure deadlines, meetings, and family time aren’t overlooked. Make sure you are consistent with keeping your planner up to date and include both professional and personal events, so they don’t overlap. When scheduling events, space them far enough apart to give yourself enough time to comfortably get from place to place without rushing.
Set (and stick to!) office hours
If you don’t want your clients to think you are available 24/7, set office hours when they can contact you and expect a response. Be sure to communicate these office hours to your clients verbally, on your website, and in your pre-listing package. Clearly define an emergency and give clients special instructions for how to reach you if there is an emergency that occurs outside your office hours. Well-communicated office hours will let your clients know you are not ignoring them if they don’t get a quick response to a message sent outside office hours; likewise, you are not stuck responding to clients at all hours of the day.
Once you set office hours, it is imperative that you stick to them except in emergency circumstances. If you want people to receive a message from you outside those hours, try a chatbot or automated message that will let people know their message was received and when they can expect a response.
Book time off
Much like setting office hours, it’s important to schedule time off. Keep in mind that time off does not necessarily mean vacation. Time off also includes your offices hours (discussed above) and regular days of not working (like the weekend many other people get!).
Clearly communicate your time off to clients. If you are going on an extended vacation, try to schedule well in advance so clients are aware. Treat your personal time like your business time and put it on the calendar so nothing gets in the way of it. If people attempt to contact you while you are off the clock, try using the “do not disturb” feature on your phone or turning your phone off completely so you don’t get notified of these incoming messages.
It’s easy to feel guilty when you take time off, but it is necessary for a sustainable work schedule. Not taking these breaks could easily lead to burnout, which will ultimately harm your work performance.
Just say no
Real estate is a demanding business. You give mentally (there’s a lot of paperwork), emotionally (real estate is personal), and sometimes even physically (who has shoveled snow for a showing?). Eventually there comes a point where you just have to say no. It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, despite your best intentions and desires. Working 24/7 is not a healthy or sustainable option for anyone. When your relationships with friends and family start to suffer, it’s time to scale back a bit at work.
Ultimately, a work-life balance may not happen in the short term. With the busy season coming up, you will likely be putting in more hours and having less time off. The trick is to play work-life balance as a long game, knowing that while the next few months will be busy, a slower season generally follows. Throughout the year, remember the things that are most important to you and make time for them.