Real estate is a brilliant business to be in. There is always demand for our services, we generally don't have to chase late payment of invoices, there are very few barriers to entry and we get paid well for what we do!
It's a career that offers freedom, variety and connection. But success can be addictive. The first time we sell five houses in a month, we feel like a rock-star. The next time we achieve that same mark, it feels like we have simply 'met expectations'. As a result, three sales in a month suddenly feels like a let-down.
It's in these moments of hedonic adaptation when you need to step back and take a moment to appreciate how far you have come.
We get to help people through one of the most stressful transitions of their life. Isn't that cool?
When you care about your owners and care about your business, the pressure can be relentless though.
When the stress becomes too much...
There was a point in my sales career when I stopped feeling excited when a property sold.
Rather than fist-pumping around the office and high-fiving everyone like I should have been, I simply felt relieved. There was no rush to get the sold sign up. The celebration didn't matter. I was just glad I had gotten the job done and hadn't let anyone down.
There was also a point in my career when I got angry when the phone rang. It didn't matter what that person wanted, or how many houses they wanted to buy. I was sick of talking. Tired of being nice and tired of being at other people's beck and call.
As I look back on those feelings, I realise I was suffering a type of burnout. I think of it as expectation fatigue.
- Expectation that I should have called that person back already
- Expectation that I'm not working hard enough to get my client's home sold
- That my current vendors are probably pissed off at me (unfounded anxiety)
- That no one is going to buy that home and it would be my fault (always imagining the worst-case-scenario)
We all battle with negative thoughts and we all deal with them in different ways. Some of us turn to exercise or sport to relieve stress. Some of us turn to alcohol and recreational drugs. Some end up having affairs.
I never completely conquered stress. I'm still working on it today. But I did discover a number of ways to manage my business to reduce the mental load and find balance. I was able to carve out valuable time for my family and my own mental health while still performing at a high level.
If you can find strategies that work for you to help you minimise stress, then it will not only make you a happier person, it will make you a better spouse, parent, leader, employer, sibling and a better real estate agent.
Working on stress management improves every part of your life.
Rules to follow...
- It's not how much money you make, it's what you do with it that matters.
Every hour spent working has an opportunity cost. That's time you could spend with your partner, kids, or friends. What are you making that sacrifice for? Financial security? If so, define what that term means to you so you'll know when you get there. Many of us jump on the 'more-money, more-money' train and don't know how to get off once we become successful.
- Try using two phones, or at least turn your existing one off.
At the height of my sales career I had a personal phone and a business phone. At 6:30pm, the business phone went off. If someone rang and left a message, I returned it at 9am the following day.
At first I tried just not answering the business phone, but that doesn't work. As soon as I saw I had a missed call, I would fret about why they were ringing until I called that person back. I ended up so anxious that something major had gone wrong that I might as well have just taken the call in the first place.
- Hire an assistant before you get desperate.
Don't wait until you are so busy you can't keep up to put support in place. If you leave it too late, you'll be in a rush to hire someone and you could end up making a poor choice out of desperation.
Hiring the wrong P.A will hurt your business. Hiring the right one will make your life easier. Make sure you hire someone when you have the mental space to take your time and make a sound decision.
- Set rules around your availability.
If you decide you aren't going to work Saturdays (or Sundays), then stick to it. If you are good enough at your job, your business will be just fine. You are allowed to take one day off a week! Turn the phone off and just breathe. Get some fresh air. Do something that takes your mind off work.
- Use campaigns where possible.
Fixed-date sale processes like Auctions and Tenders allow you to have structure to your life and help you avoid situations where your days off get compromised.
It's all good for me to say 'take Saturdays off' until someone makes an offer on your listing on a Friday night which needs to be negotiated. You can avoid this situation by using campaigns that don't sell prior to the final date, and by hiring a buyer's agent who can cover your days off.
- Meditate every day (or as often as possible).
It took me 12 years of false starts to build a near-daily meditation habit but it was worth the persistence. It only takes 10 minutes a day and most of the time it will feel like an absolute waste of time, but the benefits are not felt immediately.
The practice pays off in unusual ways: By helping you stay calm in uncomfortable moments and not overreacting to a situation that would normally get your blood boiling. Essentially, after a few weeks, you'll notice your moods are more even-keel and fewer daily events manage to ruffle you.
Personally, I use the Calm app.
- Exercise (move your body) most days.
Working out is a positive trigger for me. If I do some form of exercise in the morning, everything about my day goes better. Even 10 minutes is enough for me and you don't need to go crazy. Personally, I don't even need to get a sweat up to experience the benefits, which include fewer mood swings, better self esteem and less anxiety.
Just moving your body around is often enough. If you don't know where to begin, start with a walk and some fresh air. Or if you are short on time, punch out 20 burpees and see how you feel :)
- Say no to bad business
I know you've heard this before but not all business is good business. Every bone in your body will tell you to take that listing with a dodgy vendor who you're pretty sure isn't being truthful with you. Especially if you're short of properties to sell right now. But if it doesn't pass the sniff test, don't take it on. It's not worth the stress. Listen to your gut.
- Fire the occasional seller.
If you didn't follow your gut and you listed that property anyway, you can always change your mind. It's ok to fire a seller if they are acting inappropriately, or are trying to put you in a position where you need to compromise your morals to help them sell their home. No commission is worth that.
- Avoid negative colleagues.
When you start being successful, everyone wants some of your time. Every office has agents who aren't that busy, who just want to spend the day gossiping and talking trash.
As soon as you have the clout, insist on a private office or work from home 2 days a week. Close your door and focus. You get out what you put in and every minute you spend talking with Johnny-no listings, is time you aren't spending getting closer to your own financial freedom.
- Beware of the spinning-wheel of sales success.
No matter how much success you achieve, there will always be those encouraging you to reach higher. Business and franchise owners are focussed on increasing sales. You need to be focussed on increasing sales AND maximising your happiness.
Chase bigger awards or higher sales figures if that's what you want. But make sure it's your goals you are chasing, not someone else's. Real estate is not particularly scalable and you only have so much time in each day. If you chase 8 sales a month rather than 5, some other part of your life is potentially going to suffer as a result.
- Manage expectation fatigue.
Decide on a standard of service that you follow for each vendor and release yourself of expectations to perform miracles beyond that standard.
- Schedule personal time.
This last point is probably the most important. You need to book appointments with yourself and stick to them as best as possible. Put your gym visit in your diary, along with half an hour to walk the dog and an hour to take your sibling or parent out to lunch. Don't forget to carve out time for date-nights too!
If you don't book these in your calendar, these slots will get taken up in a flash by other tasks.
Just like you need to pay yourself first, you need to schedule your personal time first too.