Real estate can be an extremely rewarding career, both financially and for personal growth. You get a chance to help people navigate find out where they will call home. And you get a chance to help investors build their net worth.
However, being a real estate agent has a high degree of stress. Transactions can get complicated. Emotions can boil over. And on top of that, your income level is usually not guaranteed unless you are able to get deals closed.
It is also a job that can blur the lines between work and time off. A majority of real estate agents allow communication to continue well into the night, during vacations, during family time and more.
“Burnout” is a term loosely thrown around by real estate agents and others in the industry. But it is a very real thing, is common and can turn a potentially successful and happy career into wanting to quit entirely.
I have personally experienced burnout multiple times during my real estate career as an agent and investor.
Finally, I committed to getting better. This guide is a result of my own research, reading, experiences, review of studies and discussions with peers.
I wrote it with the hope of helping my fellow agents with strategies for preventing and addressing real estate burnout.
Hopefully, you can also take something from it to add to your business to make you more content with how you run your business day to day.
1. Diagnose The Problem
Burnout is more than just a buzzword for working too much for too long. It is also a recognized medical condition, studied by researchers and medical professionals more and more every year.
Here is the WHO’s definition of the condition in the ICD-11:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
(1.) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; (2.) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and (3). reduced professional efficacy.-World Health Organization
I have done extensive reading on burnout, recovery and optimizing performance. And I also have personal experience with burnout and recovering from it.
Signs of Burnout For a Real Estate Agent
If you are a real estate professional, these might be some signs that you are experiencing burnout. This is not a complete list, and you may have some of your own to add.
• Pessimism towards work. Maybe you start thinking every deal is going to fall through. Or maybe you begin to resent the time spent showing homes. Real estate agent burnout shows up differently for different people.
• Missed opportunities. For real estate agents, a symptom of burnout can look like not following up on leads, or not being mentally sharp enough to win over new clients.
• Tired no matter what. Even if you get a couple of nights of extra sleep, cases of severe burnout need more permanent routine changes.
• Feeling like you have no recharge time. The pace and constant problem solving of real estate can be fun and thrilling, but when you are burned out you feel like it is non-stop, and intrusive.
• Irritability. Sometimes, you are irritated with everyone involved in a certain transaction. Other times, it can spill over into other parts of your life (family, friends, etc.).
• Lack of creativity. Creative thinking and strategy is necessary to grow a business. In my experience, creativity is almost impossible in periods of prolonged burnout.
The good news is, there is a way to reset.
The rest of these are tactics to recover from burnout, and make things better once you start to get more energetic.
Burnout can vary in severity. You may want to try some of these, and the longer and more intense you have been experiencing burnout the more drastic steps you may need to take to recover.
2. Block Your Schedule For Recovery
As a real estate agent, you are encouraged to block your schedule to make time for winning business, going on appointments, showings and other income generating activities.
But some of the most successful real estate agents and professionals recommend prioritizing time off first.
Time-Block Your Time Off: Most successful people see themselves working between vacation (Time Off) to vacation. They need it. Take time off. Resting is as important as working.– Keller Williams Co-Founder Gary Keller in The ONE Thing
Why would he recommend you start with vacation? Because he knew the secret of taking time off. It is not just about having fun. Time off is rejuvenating to the mind, body, motivation and allows for reflection on business and life.
You should make sure to put in your schedule the time you will rest and recover. This might include a daily reflection time, time writing about your goals, time with family and, to be blunt, time to live life outside of real estate.
3. Prioritize Better Sleep
In a peer reviewed study by Stanford University of college basketball players, it was found that athletes that had their sleep extended to 10 hours per night were more accurate shooters and faster sprinters.
This is significant because these are highly trained and gifted athletes, many in the peak of their playing careers. So an improvement in these areas are a big deal and not easy to come by.
What does this mean for you, a real estate agent experiencing burnout?
Well, to put it simply, more sleep means better performance. There have also been numerous studies on the effects of too little sleep in the workplace that came to similar conclusions.
Now, 10 hours per night might not be realistic. But if you are constantly tired it may be time to change your sleep routine.
Spending time winding down before bed without screens has helped me. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine in the afternoon, meditation before falling asleep and just accepting that going to bed earlier is needed.
4. Get Exercise
This has been huge for me. There are times when business gets very hectic that I have not been able to get regular workouts in. My stress level is always noticeably higher during these times.
The effect that exercise has on stress is well documented.
Your exercise does not need to be extremely difficult and do not put too much pressure on yourself to do a certain type of workout.
Next time you feel prolonged stress, go outside and take a walk for an hour. Then note to yourself how you feel afterwards.
The first few workouts after a long break are always the most difficult to start. If you are putting them off, join a something that involves a group. Yoga, pilates, group strength classes, etc.
I have found getting fit in a community is always more effective in my case.
5. Days Off
As a real estate agent, often during the day you are working to find new business. Then, nights and weekends we spend time helping those clients because they are off of work.
This can create a cycle of working for many days, sometimes weeks or more, with no defined day off.
The myth is that you cannot take time off, because you have to keep going to be successful. But the truth you can be a real estate agent and step away for atleast 1 day per week.
It is documented in many blogs, podcasts and books that some of the top performing agents in the US take weekends or other days off, consistently.
You may think that to be successful you have to keep working all the time. But in reality, the opposite may be true. By not recharging, you are headed towards more periods of prolonged burnout and less growth in your business.
6. Quiet Time
The pace of society has made quiet reflection less and less popular. But spending time to focus on your breathing and organize your thoughts is essential to fighting the effects of burnout.
Here is an example of a study synopsis that showed the benefits that mindfulness meditation had on nurses and practitioners in a hospital setting. Healthcare is notorious for its rate and length of burnout.
Meditation, writing, prayer, reflection or just sitting quietly in nature are many ways to refocus and reconnect into the moment.
If you are a real estate agent, try to find time in your schedule to do this as often in possible to avoid burnout. Use tip #2….find time in your calendar and consistently block it off.
7. Spend Time On a Hobby
If you are like me, you love real estate. I love working with others, writing about real estate, researching market trends and comps and closing deals.
But If that is all I am doing, I start to feel stagnant.
Picking up a hobby, whether a new one or something you just have not done recently can keep you sharp. It also will help to give you an outlet to take a mental break from selling real estate.
This could be building something, joining a club, learning a language….you have tons of options.
8. Take Time Away From Your Mobile Devices
With the explosion of popularity of the smartphone in the 2010s, the era of constant connectivity began. It has evolved since then, but the result is the same: we are more connected than ever.
You may get pinged at any time of the day or night. And often as a real estate agent we get the idea in our head that we must respond immediately to everything, which is a quick road to burnout.
Connectivity has made business easier, faster and more efficient. But it also has made it hard to step away and shown an increase in stress and other mental health issues.
This paradox is covered in this study, and there are many more well documented studies about the darker side of being constantly connected to technology.
If you find yourself checking your tech constantly, habitually checking email, responding immediately all the time (to things that are not urgent) and feeling you are addicted to entertaining yourself with your device, you may want to set some limits.
It is likely not reasonable for you to put your device away for days at a time. You will need to check it from time to time to keep your business going.
But even taking a few hours away, especially when time with friends and family, can go a long way.
And you can also later plan, on a vacation or a retreat, to take an extended period away when you have someone to cover for you (see the next step).
9. Vacation Or Retreat
Sometimes, I have experienced burnout and pushed through it. For me, this has only the delayed the inevitable: eventually I must rest.
And the longer the period of burnout, the more rest is needed for me to come back with a clear mind.
The first option is to go on vacation. This is a great chance to spend time with family and friends. I like to have a good combination of staying active and unwinding on vacation.
Since I have gotten into real estate, I have been to Panama, Costa Rica twice, Hawaii, Italy, England and a bunch of mini trips to places on the east coast of the US.
It takes me a solid 3-4 days to start to really get into the trip and stop thinking about work. I do check in at least once a day, but I am also fully into enjoying whatever the vacation brings.
The other option is much more intense, but also more rewarding. There are many different kinds of retreats to choose from. Yoga, meditation, silent retreats, therapeutic workshops and a lot more options to choose from.
The effects of a vacation are (hopefully) relaxing and insightful. The resulting effects of the right retreat can be absolutely transformative.
However, some retreats can be very difficult. I have done 4 silent meditation retreats. It was actually very difficult. But the effect it has had on me, both immediately after and long term, were profound.
A real effective retreat also will involve turning off your phone for long periods of time (or the whole time).
So you will want to plan to have another agent handle anything that comes up. You would be surprised how effective a good away message and voicemail are. Business will be there when you get back.
If you find yourself returning repeatedly to periods of burnout, you should research different types of retreats.
10. Set Expectations
When I was a new agent, I was listening to a podcast of a top producing real estate agent. He was talking about how he turns his phone off every night at 7pm when he gets home.
The interviewer asked, “what if a client has a real estate emergency”?
The agent answered “What am I going to do at night when the title company and banks are closed that cannot be done in the morning?”. He had a point.
This is an example of an agent who decided he would be more effective and happier having separation from work at night. He also said he tells that to his clients up front.
Setting expectations with clients about work hours is something common in other professions. But the average real estate agent touts that they will be there anytime, night and day, which can for some be a quick road to burnout.
11. Read & Listen
Reading books has been a huge part of my career. Many successful business people have healthy reading habits.
If you find yourself in the midst of burnout, many times a really good self development book can be the spark to bring you back on track.
I occasionally read books at night, but even more often I use the time driving in my car to listen to audiobooks.
Listening to books opens a whole new world if you are not an avid reader. More and more people prefer listening to books rather than reading.
If you are looking for some good books to read, I have compiled a list of the best books for real estate professionals here.
There is also a great read specifically about burnout and recovery in the list called “Peak Performance” that inspired me to write this guide, along with my own experience.
12. Ask For Help If Needed
If you are having extreme stress, or believe that something more may be going on than just burnout, then make sure you get help from a mental health professional. There is no reason to suffer alone.
Counseling can actually be helpful for burnout as well. If extended burnout has you in a state where you feel stuck and can’t make decisions then scheduling sessions with a licensed counselor might be the way to go.
13. Rethink The Stress
Over the years of being a real estate agent, I have found that changing my relationship to work problems has helped me avoid burnout.
I take a deep breath, and ask myself if I have done everything I can to address a problem. If I have, I resolve to take action in other parts of my business (for me, usually creating content that adds value to others).
If there are things I am putting off or avoiding to deal with something, I write them down and start to tackle them as soon as I can.
This is an example of how I change my mindset, there are 100s of ways to use stress to your advantage rather than working against you.
Sometimes, stress is useful and might be trying to push us towards action.
14. Re-Write Your Purpose
Why are you selling real estate? What does your ideal lifestyle look like in 3 years? 5 Years? What do you want to accomplish, where do you want to go, who do you want to be surrounded by?
If you do not know the answers to these questions, it is going to be very difficult to be inspired to do what it takes to be a successful real estate agent without getting to a burnout state.
Maybe you know the answers, but have not put them clearly defined on paper. Or maybe you have not written them down since you were a new agent.
Writing down a mission statement, a purpose or a “why” is essential to success. I rewrite my mission statement every year as things change, goals are accomplished and I value different parts of my life.
Taking the time to put pen to paper can inspire a spark to give you perspective on what you do day in and day out.
15. Focus on Your Strengths
What are you really good at in your business? What do you really dislike?
If you can spend more time focusing on your strengths, and hire help or find a partnership to address your weaknesses, it could change the way you feel about working.
I started to focus more on my strengths, and partner with other agents to do the things that I am simply not built for. It changed my whole business, and I am also a much happier person now.
This is different than avoiding things that are outside of your comfort zone. In fact, allowing yourself to focus more on what you are good at and giving up other parts of your business can be scary in itself.
This means allowing your business and yourself to grow by using your strengths and mastering them, and finding someone else to help with the rest.
16. Talk With Colleagues
Something special happens when you share your issues with another human being. Most of the time, they have had a similar experience and can offer their view. Suddenly, you do not feel like you are alone anymore.
We are meant to live in community, neuroscience and social psychology alike have proven this in many different ways.
I spent 2 years working from home at a real estate brokerage that was virtual with no physical offices, and the lack of consistent connection with other agents had a negative effect on my business.
If you are holding in stress, get together with colleagues.
As a real estate agent, burnout can happen to you at anytime, for a number of reasons. It may last a day, a week or sometimes even longer.
But there are ways to prevent it, to address it and to get back to that feeling of being excited to wake up in the morning and work hard to win the day.
Have a question? Reach out to me.