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Burnout. It happens to the best of us — especially in the real estate industry, where agents with the luxury clients, properties, and prices also contend with the highest pressures and expectations. Is it possible to beat burnout after it settles in — or, even better, before?
That’s a question that both Julia Martin Frazier, REALTOR® at Monument Sotheby’s International Realty, and Robert Radcliffe, Luxury Market Specialist with Sotheby’s International Realty – Pacific Palisades Brokerage, have grappled with firsthand.
For Radcliffe, burnout struck him for the first time in his career after working in real estate for fifteen years. “I was simply working too much — six and a half days a week, ten to twelve hour days,” he recalls. “I was no longer enjoying the work and seriously thought about quitting to become a yoga instructor…though at the time, I did not practice yoga.”
Yet for other real estate professionals, the possibility of maxing out their effort and energy may be a periodic, even predictable experience related to the market and its phases.
“Whenever the busy season really begins to ramp up, I can feel overwhelmed, and sometimes I fear that I won’t be able to keep up,” says Martin Frazier. “I wake up to a day packed with appointments, deadlines, emails, and phone calls, and it doesn’t stop until I go to bed. Being someone who really needs to find time to recharge, I can feel like burnout is coming, because I’m giving my all, every minute of the day, to complete all the tasks that need to be done, and to take care of the needs of my clients.”
Deterring burnout: Make a plan
When your workload seems like it could become overwhelming, Martin Frazier recommends creating a sense of balance and order through rigorous organization. “I need to have systems in place for contract management, scheduling, and communication,” she explains. “I depend on checklists and automated reminders to make sure I’m not missing deadlines or important tasks, because my brain can’t possibly handle retaining all the details of every transaction all at once.”
Defeating burnout: Take a break
If your internal battery completely runs out, the best thing you can do is recharge. “When I burned out, I took an entire month off to clear my head,” says Radcliffe. “After the month, I came back to my business rejuvenated and prepared to make a big change. That change was, I decided to take as much time off as possible during the weekends — and to also reward myself and surf those great south swells.”
Incorporating rest periods into your professional practice
“Dr. Stephen Covey once wrote, ‘We must never be too busy to take time off to sharpen the saw,’” notes Radcliffe. “What that means is, if you do not take time off to rejuvenate, your saw — in this case, your mind, wellbeing, and stamina — will become dull.”
For many agents — Radcliffe and Martin Frazier included — starting and punctuating the day with exercise and meditation practices provides stress-free moments to take their minds off work, while also cultivating the stamina to thrive under pressure. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in real estate, so staying rested and clear-headed provides me with inner strength to stay grounded,” says Martin Frazier.
Methods for staying motivated, productive, and inspired
In the digital age, having the right apps and tools to support you can make all the difference. “I rely on Trello for checklists, task reminders, and notes for each file,” says Martin Frazier. “Having everything in one place is essential, and I can pull it up on any device because it’s in the cloud. I can easily share information with my clients too, if they want to follow along. I use Headspace every day for meditating, and even for clearing my mind before going to sleep.”
But sometimes, the solution is less practical and more personal. “Long before my experience with burnout in real estate, I had been through some hard times in life, and I got a lot of comfort and encouragement from motivational speakers and spiritual leaders,” says Radcliffe. “Now, I try to be a guide and mentor for other agents. I share my journey of creating my real estate career, going from being homeless to being a workaholic to finally finding a work-life balance.”
When you’re worried about being overwhelmed and burning out, you may not feel like you have the time, let alone the energy, to take care of your own needs — even though this is an effective long-term solution. Everyone should have the opportunity to step back and rebalance. Be sure to communicate these needs with your team, as burnout is real, widespread, and something that the industry as a whole must come together to conquer.