Have a Successful Career and Still Have a Life

Managing your priorities is the key to spending quality time with family and friends—and staying refreshed at work.

June 1, 2005

Selling homes while keeping your home life harmonious isn’t always easy, but successful real estate practitioners who do both say it’s a matter of setting priorities and sticking to them.

Work-life balance has always been a concern for Doreen Lewis, a salesperson with Prudential Tropical Realty in New Port Richey, Fla., who chose that topic for her for her management degree master’s thesis at National Louis University in Evanston, Ill.

“It’s a critical issue in today’s society,” says Lewis, the mother of two adolescents. “Road rage has come about because of the pace of life. People are so tense. With our schedules, it’s tough to have the family gather round a kitchen table at the same time, but we make it a point to manage at least two nights a week together, at home or at a restaurant for dinner.”

For some, maintaining work-life balance means limiting office hours and finding colleagues to cover for them when a vacation is needed. For others, it means hiring part-time help or using computerized checklists. The key is to find a solution that works best for you so that you can make the time to spend on family and loved ones, or to do the things outside of work that make you happy.

Here is how some practitioners have created more balance in their life.

Have Set Work Hours

Jolyn Crawford, a broker-associate with Prudential Premier Realty in Oak Park, Ill., is a mother of three who doesn’t answer any calls before 9 a.m. because that’s when she gets the kids ready for school.

Ron Leary, GRI, a salesperson with RE/MAX by the Bay in White Marsh, Md., typically works Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with appointments after 2 p.m. and on weekends only for clients who are ready and willing to buy immediately. Since a local homes magazine comes out with new listings on Wednesdays, he asks clients to go house-hunting with him mid-week, rather than on the weekends.

Norbert Huston, GRI, broker/owner of Huston Associates Real Estate Inc. in Stockton, Calif., closes his office on Sundays, legal holidays, and holiday weekends.

“When banks, escrow, and title companies close on legal holidays not much business gets done, so it was a prudent business decision on our part to do the same,” Huston says. “Our Web site tells people about our services and what we do in the community, so we always refer people to that first to save time.”

Establish a Buddy System

When taking vacations, Huston says he asks a broker friend to cover for him, and reciprocates for her when needed.


Mark A. Dalton, a salesperson with The Professional Realty Group in Lynchburg, Va., says he relies on an assistant to relieve some of the burden of long hours. “You don’t have to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Dalton, who’s been in the business for 16 years. “I have a part-time assistant, and I don’t take every client who comes along.”

Find Twofers in Time Management

Time management is the key to balance, says Walter Rein, ABR®, e-PRO, a broker-associate with William E. Wood at the Mall, REALTORS®, in Virginia Beach, Va. He recommends combining personal and professional goals whenever possible, like attending conferences in cities where you also can visit relatives or take a vacation.

“Some practitioners think more time equates to more productivity, and that’s not true,” says Rein, who has worked in real estate for seven years. “I take more time off than I ever took in my life and made more money last year than ever. Taking time off helps you to come back refreshed.”

Crawford has learned to incorporate her three children into her career, which helps her to get work tasks done while also being able to spend time with her kids. When her brood was younger, the kids would be rewarded for handing out fliers door-to-door for open houses, or stuffing envelopes and licking stamps when needed. “If their friends gave me a lead on a house, there’d be a special outing for them as a reward,” she says.

Put Technology to Work

Leary recommends setting up a checklist to monitor the status of all transactions, designing a tracking system for potential leads, and automating as much paperwork as possible.

“I learned how to use Microsoft EXCEL, and have done lots with it,” he says. “I have an engineering background, so when I transitioned into real estate, I knew how to use that mouse and spreadsheets.”

Don’t Put Personal Goals on Hold

Getting to the place where you realize the importance of life outside of work comes in different ways for everyone. For Dalton, it came on the threshold of his 40th birthday. He was walking outside one evening in Charlottesville, Va., when a helicopter flew overhead.

“I thought, I’m getting tired of wanting or wishing I could do things and am going to start doing the things I want,” Dalton says. He now is a helicopter pilot and owns two helicopters.

“I love the freedom of getting away from all the cell phones and going where I want to go,” he says. “I don’t work on the weekends. It’s important to spend your time as you would your money. Your time is your No. 1 asset, and you have to spend it wisely. If you’ve got some extra time, you should be spending it with your loved ones.”

Practitioners say that maintaining a good work-life balance ensures that you can enjoy a long and prosperous career by avoiding burnout and discontent. Figure out what approach to attaining balance works best for you and follow it as best you can.

“You decide how you’re going to live your life, and you do it,” says Roger Howard, GRI, a broker-owner with 1st Home Realty in Indianapolis. “I think we give too much importance to our jobs and too little to planning our lives.”

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