Are You Suffering From ‘Brain Drain’?

A busy job in real estate can lead to burnout. Here’s how to keep yourself sharp.

January 15, 2015

You’ll probably never be as smart as you are at age 42. That’s when your brain’s frontal lobe and problem-solving abilities are most developed, according to research by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Does that mean your critical-thinking skills are doomed to die after 42?

There is growing evidence that the brain is like a muscle, one that needs frequent workouts to stay sharp, counter deterioration as you age, and maximize cognitive performance. Just like an exercise plan to maintain physical health, you need a workout plan for your brain.

In real estate, your brain likely already gets plenty of daily activity as you navigate difficult relationships and tense negotiations, or manage an exhaustive to-do list, from marketing duties to showing appointments. You must think fast, react fast, and recall lots of information quickly.

But certain habits you’ve picked up in order to be successful in real estate may actually be your brain’s worst enemy. One example is always being tethered to technology: Feeling the need to instantly reply to every e-mail, phone call, text, or social media post prevents your brain from focusing for long periods of time and thinking deeply about a thought or task. Information overload makes it harder to master the ability to separate the relevant from the irrelevant, and it can even decrease your work efficiency and performance.

Other habits, such as sticking closely to a work routine or relying on memory rather than critical reasoning skills, can also lead to “brain drain,” according to a Center for Brain Health white paper.

“Real estate professionals are always on the go, and they think they have to multitask to be good at their job,” says Jennifer Zientz, head of clinical services at the Center for Brain Health. “But when you do multitask, you actually become slower and less efficient. You can overuse it and lose it, so to speak. Certain habits are toxic to our brains. You’re better off doing tasks in isolation.”

All that multitasking you do in your day-to-day job as a real estate agent could actually be making you stupid. Researchers at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry recently found that multitasking can lower your IQ more than smoking marijuana or missing one night’s sleep.

But training your brain to focus isn’t easy. Taking steps to improve your brain health is much more than “just doing your Sudoku puzzle for the day,” Zientz says. “It’s a lifestyle change and a new way of thinking.”

So how can you give your body’s most complex organ a workout to sharpen your game in real estate?


The Center for Brain Health has developed a brain training program called Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training, a series of seminars and workshops that shows professionals how to maximize their cognitive performance.

SMART relies on enhancing three core areas of brainpower:

  • Strategic attention: the ability to block out and filter irrelevant details and distraction so you learn to hone in on the most important information.
  • Integrated reasoning: the ability to synthesize ideas — taking in facts, filtering them, and combining them with your existing knowledge to create broader concepts.
  • Innovative thinking: the ability to generate and exploit new ideas to solve problems and create something that’s original.

Testing the SMART strategies, researchers found that study participants saw an improvement in the frontal lobe cognitive functions and brain blood flow by up to 12 percent. In normal brains, total blood flow starts decreasing each decade beginning at age 20. Therefore, increasing brain blood flow can help build a healthier brain that paves the way for more complex thinking. Researchers also have found through testing SMART that the brain’s white matter can be strengthened, which can lead to higher reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Now find out the 8 ways to supercharge your brainpower.