Curbing Burnout in the 24/7 Salesperson

The key: staying in touch with your dreams and emotions

July 1, 2000

It’s been a wild ride these past few years in real estate--rapid appreciation, multiple offers, and escalating competition in every direction.

People are making money--no doubt about that--but they’re also working longer and harder than in the past.

It’s the kind of market that can quickly lead to burnout, a condition that most salespeople--especially the high-energy types--will experience at some point in their careers. The symptoms are universal: You stop being excited about your work. You feel directionless and tired.

Years ago, when my kids were young and I was cranking out 100 houses a year, I got to a point where it seemed the only people I talked to were clients and eight-year-olds. There was no social life. There was no recreational life. After several years of that routine, I began to get warning signs that something was wrong. For example, I found myself crying over seemingly insignificant things. The smell of cut grass, of all things, could get me going. Or, I’d drift off into daydreams about long-ago fun times with friends.

I’ve had some wonderful mentors over the years. One of them during that time told me it was time to play catch-up with the parts of my life that I’d been putting on hold. So I started doing something I hadn’t done since I was a child--writing letters to myself.

When I was a kid, the letters were usually about something I wanted that was so far removed from my family’s way of thinking that I was afraid to share it with them. I thought they’d laugh at me.

The letters I wrote during my burnout period were both more thoughtful and more purposeful. I focused on what I felt were the six most important areas of life--spiritual, physical, mental, family, work, and social--and wrote about what I wanted to accomplish in the next year and what I needed to do to achieve those results. Sample: “Dear D, Only 30 more credits--less than two years--and you will have your college degree. This is the year to go back to school, so go sign up immediately.”

Among the changes I made as a result of those letters: I replaced my noon fast-food lunch with a 30-minute walk. By the end of the year, I’d lost weight and gained a lot of energy. The exercise also helped me sleep better. One night a week I attended a writing class. And I started playing in REALTOR®golf tournaments, a major social move for me.

The burnout eventually went away, as it does if one takes the necessary steps to get back on track. But I’ve continued to write myself letters once a year on those subjects. Letter writing activates my imagination. It’s a great way to get back in touch with how I really feel about the important issues in my life. (For more of Kennedy’s letters, go to realtormag.realtor.organd click Online Contents.)

If you’re experiencing burnout, don’t do anything rash such as quitting real estate or filing for divorce. It’s easy to blame your job or partner, but the problem is usually a lot simpler: You’re either doing too much or letting your life become too narrowly focused.

Burnout is an occupational hazard for salespeople, but it’s treatable. Start small. Pick the most important area of your life that needs attention. Adjust your daily schedule.

And write those letters.

Danielle Kennedy is a consultant and speaker on real estate sales and marketing topics. She is the author of three books, How to List and Sell Real Estate,Seven Figure Selling,and Workingmoms.calm: How Smart Women Balance Career and Family.

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