As Realtors we often don't take enough time for
ourselves – letting our business take over. The article below has some
great tips from agents and brokers, including myself, who have developed
systems that carve out space for everything they must do along with those
things they want to do.
Who Ya’ Gonna Call? Stress Busters!
Overcoming Stress by Staying Organized and Fit
By Michele Lerner
Time is money, particularly for independent contractors such
as Realtors®. Unlike salaried workers, agents won’t continue to earn money when
they take a day off.
Under those circumstances, Realtors® may be tempted to work as many hours as
they can until they collapse from the lack of sleep and pressure. Yet some
agents do manage to stay on top of their careers while maintaining a satisfying
personal life. How do they do it?
Spending a day at the spa or a week at the beach may seem like the ideal way to
de-stress, but many busy Realtors® find taking that much time for themselves
impossible. Some agents and brokers have developed systems that carve out space
for everything they must do along with those things they want to do.
Scheduling: The One-Two Punch For Fighting Stress
“There’s no one way to do business, and many agents have different systems that
help them, but I believe the best way to handle it is to be extremely organized
in your business and in your personal life,” says Maureen O’Hara, managing
broker of a Long & Foster Real Estate office in Reston. “I know that agents
have to be even more flexible than brokers, but they need to make a daily,
monthly and yearly plan, even if they have to change it later.”
O’Hara concedes that every day has to have an allowance for the unexpected, but
believes that certain things should remain consistent. She stresses the
importance of having something related to business development on a Realtor’s®
daily to-do list, such as working on lead generation by getting in touch with
past clients and potential new ones.
“The real estate business is stressful when you are not in control of your time
or your clients,” says O’Hara.
Staying organized and keeping a daily schedule with something planned for each
day to generate business can help agents feel less stressed.
“Anyone who tells you that you can balance your life is crazy,” says Derek
Blain, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty in McLean. “All you can do is
counter balance it.”
Blain uses time blocking and scheduling to handle stress. “I schedule lead
generation time and time for administrative tasks and vacations, too,” says
Blain. “I also schedule time for exercise.”
Scott MacDonald, a broker and owner of two Re/Max Gateway offices, including
one in Chantilly, says that setting goals should be the first step toward
“You have to know what you need to do to attain your goals daily, weekly,
monthly and yearly, and then you need to manage your time to get yourself
there,” says MacDonald. “I schedule my work time very tightly by meeting with
agents in the morning one-on-one, then doing other brokerage work from 11 a.m.
to 2 p.m., then working with clients in the afternoons and evenings.”
MacDonald also closes his door at the office when he isn’t meeting with staff
or clients so that he can focus without distractions.
Controlling your Clients and your Communication
MacDonald uses a BlackBerry for emails and sets priorities for the urgency of
every message so that he can set aside time to deal with each one.
“I recommend that everyone remove the ‘sent from my BlackBerry’ signature
line from their emails, because once you have that, everyone expects you to
answer every email immediately from your BlackBerry.”
MacDonald also pays about $30 per month for a service that automatically
turns every voice mail into an email.
“Instead of listening to my voice mails, which can take a lot of time, I
can read them quickly and then forward them to someone else to answer if that
makes more sense,” says MacDonald. “The great thing about this system is that
you can keep your own number, unlike [other systems], which [require] an 866
O’Hara suggests that agents take control of their clients and their
“Recently I left someone a message whose voice mail said they return calls
daily between 3 and 5 p.m.,” says O’Hara. “That’s a great idea, because then
you don’t get caught up in this cycle of constant calls.”
She suggests that agents attempt to have their clients work with them on their
preferred schedule whenever possible, which allows the agents to have some
control over their time.
MacDonald coaches two basketball teams for his children in addition to
maintaining a complex work schedule, so he schedules his practices and games as
“When I am working with clients and they ask to meet during a practice time, I
just tell them I have other appointments, and we schedule our appointment for
another time,” says MacDonald. “Actually, when you are working with clients I’m
not sure it’s so great to say you are wide open. People don’t want to work with
someone who doesn’t have any business.”
Agents can easily lose control of their time by being constantly available for
phone calls or other communication with clients.
“I prioritize my emails and my voice mails, because some are urgent and some
are not,” says Blain. “Anything that can wait, I will leave for the morning,
which is a great time to catch up on less urgent emails.”
Outsourcing and the
“I share an assistant with other agents so that I can pay her on an hourly
basis,” says Blain. “I also outsource as much as I can, such as direct mail and
brochures, which can be streamlined through my office.”
Hiring part-time help as often as possible to help with routine administrative
items and things such as direct mailing works for Mike Malferrari, a Realtor®
with Avery Hess Realtors® in Springfield, who does not have a full-time
MacDonald works with a real estate team and a team of managers for his offices.
“I really believe that you should ‘do what you do best and then delegate the
rest’,” says MacDonald. “I’ve been very careful to hire people who work well
together, and this has increased our volume of business tremendously.”
MacDonald maintains that good time management begins with being able to
communicate well with everyone. All of his meetings have an agenda that is sent
to participants ahead of time, so that each meeting can be as short as 15
minutes if possible.
Diane Edwards, a Realtor® with Century 21 New Millennium in McLean, says she
relies on back-up support from her office, especially for brochures.
“One thing that helps me with stress is the ability to work from multiple
locations,” says Edwards. “I have a completely outfitted home office so that I
can relax physically while still getting work done. If I need help, I can get
online support from my regular office.”
Reaching out to your Broker and Colleagues
While some agents think handling the roiling real estate market of the past
few years may require professional mental health counseling, others rely on
their office mates for “talk therapy.”
“I work with all my agents to identify the problems that are causing stress and
possible solutions to the problems,” says Jo Anne Johnson, managing broker at
Westgate Realty Group in Falls Church. “For instance, recently an agent was
facing an extremely frustrating situation with a client, and we eventually
realized that they just could not get along. I took over the final steps of the
transaction instead of the agent, including the walk through and the
settlement. Agents need to see that one solution for stressful problems can be
turning to their broker.”
Johnson says that she tries to be available at every possible moment for her
agents, no matter the time of day.
“If someone calls and they are in the middle of a settlement or have another
urgent problem, I need to be there for them no matter what I am doing,” says
Johnson fosters camaraderie among the agents in her office with guest speakers
and frequent meetings. They know they can trust her and each other to help them
with difficult issues.
Edwards agrees. “We work hard to share our frustrations and problems because we
can help each other with solutions or just by listening,” she says. “We also
have an extremely supportive manager. No problem is too big or too small to
discuss with our manager.”
O’Hara says work can actually be a great stress-reliever for people with
problems in their personal lives.
“If you can get involved in what you are doing you can sometimes leave the
other stress in your life at the front door of the office,” says O’Hara.
Sound Mind and a Healthy Body
“Working out is very important,” says
Blain. “Your body is a multi-million-dollar-producing machine, so you have to
work at keeping it in the best possible shape.”
Malferrari runs three to four times every week, usually in the morning. “I find
that while I am exercising I am free to think away from the phone calls and
emails that normally interrupt my time,” says Malferrari. “I like to do it in
the morning because it helps me plan my day.”
Morning exercise seems to work best for many agents as a way to find time for
themselves physically and mentally.
O’Hara says, “I get up early and I am exercising by 6 a.m. at least five times
per week. While I am exercising, my brain gets in gear, too, and by the time I
am dressing for work I am working on my mental list of things to do.”
The Upside of Down Time
When it’s time to take a true vacation
rather than an hour or a day off, many agents opt to schedule a trip between
late October and early January to take advantage of real estate’s traditional
“Luckily my child isn’t in school yet, so we are able to take vacations at
non-traditional times,” says Malferrari. “We plan our vacations around the
quiet times in the market.”
Refreshed by time away from home, agents can begin the New Year with enthusiasm
and plenty of plans for a productive year. Whether it’s relaxing at the beach,
unwinding on the treadmill, or commiserating with colleagues, busy agents
should take advantage of opportunities to minimize stress. These personal
investments ultimately will yield positive business results.