Yes, You Can Achieve Work-Life Balance

Are all the demands of a successful real estate business dragging you down? Get better control of your schedule so you can have a life outside of work too.

June 6, 2013

Sales associate Diana Baylor juggles her real estate responsibilities with the demands of carpools, school schedules, and extracurricular activities.

While a career in real estate can offer some flexibility in your schedule, many practitioners say it can be a difficult balance to squeeze in a family and social life when you’re expected to be available 24/7. Between clients demanding immediate responses to their inquiries and the relentless evening and weekend appointments, your time can disappear in a flash.

“You’re always on call,” says Baylor, a sales associate with RE/MAX Masters in Covina, Calif. “You have to be flexible and find the perfect balance. Everyone’s balance is a little different.”

How have you been juggling it all? Suffering through sleepless, work-filled nights? Missing out on family events? Well, it’s time to shift strategies. We asked real estate professionals and time management experts to share ideas for how you can take better control over your schedule.

The Team Approach

Baylor, the mother of two children under 5 years old, devotes about 40 hours a week to working on her real estate business. How does she do it all? She embraces a team approach to real estate, even with agents outside of her brokerage.

Baylor and her partner, Javier Guerrero with RE/MAX Masters’ Quiroga Team, decided to work with sales associates at a separate real estate brokerage called Westside Estates Agency in Beverly Hills. Baylor and Guerrero work with two other agents from the brokerage, so that all four can cast a wide net over the Los Angeles area.

The two teams swap referrals but also assist each other’s sellers and buyers in some cases. For example, if Baylor has a client who is interested in seeing properties in downtown Los Angeles or the Hollywood area, she’ll have an agent based there with Westside Estates meet with her client to handle the showings there. Baylor will still handle the contracts and do the behind-the-scenes work if the client finds a property to purchase. The relationship works the other direction if Westside Estates Agency has clients interested in the Covina area. The two agencies work together, handling showings and contracts, and then split the commission.

The clients benefit from the arrangement by getting an agent knowledgeable about each area. Plus, they have more agents working on their behalf. Agents get to split up the workload, reach a wider audience, and avoid long commutes to and from appointments.

Partnering could help you better take control over your schedule. Also, divvying up some of your responsibilities may bring you more sanity.

Some agents use the services of a virtual assistant — personal assistants who work off-site to assist you on an ongoing or temporary basis with any number of tasks, fromblogging, web design, writing listing ads, coordinating your marketing, and more. You can find virtual assistants through many channels, such as the International Virtual Assistants Association, REVA Network, or Virtual Assistant for Real Estate, among others.

Sorting Out the ‘Productivity Puzzle’

Does this sound familiar? You start your day checking e-mail, posting to your social networks, and responding to messages and before you know it, it’s already after noon and you haven’t delved into any of your top priorities.

To strike a better work-life balance, you may need to carefully evaluate how you’re using your time. Time management is an essential skill for successful professionals, yet it’s rarely taught, says Sara Caputo, founder of Radiant Organizing, a consulting company.

“You are never going to be productive and successful if you can’t manage your time,” Caputo says.

Caputo, author of the e-book The Productivity Puzzle, has done extensive work with clients to address organizational and productivity-related time zappers. Through her work, she’s identified where time management skills can help.

1. Identify your priorities.

“You can’t chase everything that you have in front of you,” Caputo says. “You need to be crystal clear about what your priorities are.” Identify your “core four,” she says.

Try this exercise: In the middle of a piece of paper, draw a big plus sign. In each quadrant, write one of the four core areas of your life — for example, business, family, health, and spirit. Maybe one might be a specific hobby or passion. Ask yourself how well you are focusing your time and energy on these four areas. Try to write down the percentage of time you spend in these areas. For example, if 75 percent of your time is spent on work, you may not have 20 percent to devote to an extracurricular activity if it’s outside your core four without sacrificing in the other areas you identified, Caputo says.

2. Organize your physical workspace.

A cluttered workspace can stifle decision-making. Set up your workspace to help you focus, particularly if you work from home, Caputo says.

If you work from home, dedicate a space away from the rest of your house for your work, such as a corner of a room, guest room, or home office. Make sure you designate a separate space away from the day-to-day activities of your personal life.

Map out your workspace using these four main areas: in, out, pending, and working. Where are each of these areas in your workspace? The pending area should be all active items you need to do, whereas the work area is where you sit down and complete those items. Keep the work area clear unless you are actually working on something.

Use a warm-cold system to organize your workspace, keeping what you need and use most often close to you — the “warm” zone. Cooler items that don’t require as much use or immediate response can be kept further away.

3. Create more than one to-do list.

Caputo has three: a to-do list that focuses on today, one for this week, and a master list (or a “10,000-foot view” list) of what’s coming in the future. When a task comes at you, you can then plug it into one of the three to-do lists. Caputo recommends having meetings with your family and spouse so that you can plug family events into your to-do lists as well.

4. Take an “hour of power.”

Unplug from all your technology and carve out time to work at a deeper level. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done, Caputo says. Schedule a 59-minute time block several times a week that will serve as optimal concentration time. Break away from your e-mail, phone, social networks, and meetings. Accomplish the most difficult and time-consuming and least enjoyable tasks first. If you have multiple tasks to accomplish, set a timer and then move onto the next-highest level task when it dings. People tend to work more efficiently when under deadline pressure, Caputo says.

5. Plan ahead and maintain.

Set yourself up for success tomorrow by looking ahead at the end of each day. “One of the biggest challenges for many people is not telling yourself how to spend your time. You allow your clients to dictate it, instead of you,” Caputo says. “You need to control your time.”

Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to tie up loose ends, so that you can have a clean break from your work life to your personal life. “Define two or three things so you can press the reset button for the next day,” Caputo says. This can be anything from taking the time to clear out your e-mail inbox at the end of the day to cleaning up your work files to writing your to-do lists for tomorrow or next week.

Maintenance is the strongest piece to the productivity puzzle, Caputo says. If you don’t maintain your processes, everything will fall apart again. “The worst thing is that four months later you haven’t done any maintenance of your systems and then you have to devote an entire Saturday to cleaning out the trunk and filing bills,” Caputo says.

Do the best you can—for now.

You can’t do it all. But if you find your stress level or even your health is beginning to be effected by your massive list of to-dos, you may need an intervention. Whether that’s finding ways to better manage your time, staying focused on more high priority items, or soliciting extra help, like Baylor did.

“We live in a world that says everything has to be perfect,” Baylor says. “But you just have to do the best you can. I’m still trying to find that perfect balance. I try to carve time each day to do certain things to move my business forward. But sometimes I have to say ‘no’ to my clients and reschedule things. That’s hard to do. But my children come first. I try to do the most I can. I may not be No. 1 in my office right now, but I know one day I will be.”