Taking care of your mental health is one of the top ways to ensure productivity at work. Mental health influences one’s ability to maintain productivity. According to Psychology Today, “poor mental health, manifesting most often as depression, anxiety or burnout, can severely decrease motivation and production while increasing stress.” The term mental health might feel a bit like a buzzword nowadays. However, it’s one of the most important components of maintaining optimal health, and we’re just now starting to talk about it, let alone understand it.
In an ever-changing industry like real estate, taking care of yourself first means being better able to manage client needs, pivoting when necessary and stay up-to-date with changes. It can be easy to put your client’s needs above your own. After all, real estate is a relationship business, but every healthy relationship has healthy boundaries and makes space for self-care. That might make you cringe. You might feel like you absolutely have to hustle and put your client’s needs above your own to succeed, but if you don’t have some kind of practice in place to take care of your mental health, you could end up burning out quickly. In fact, 80% of real estate professionals burn out in about two years.
The real estate industry is a stressful one. Start the journey of taking care of yourself with these five tips.
Take Breaks During the Day
Did you know that both your brain and body need regular breaks to function the way they’re supposed to? Research shows that small breaks throughout the day actually lead to higher levels of productivity.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”
“No rest for the weary”
“Hustle all day”
All of these phrases are born out of hustle culture and can lead to burnout or elevated stress levels really quickly. In real estate, you might feel like you need to be available all the time, and that mindset makes sense. The transaction doesn’t adhere to a normal timeline or schedule, and you do need to be available, but taking a break doesn’t have to be complicated.
A short 3-5 minute break between activities say every 30 minutes or every hour, makes a world of difference in physical and mental health, according to the VA’s whole health library. Cardiovascular health increases and the chance of physical health issues like type 2 diabetes decreases. On the mental health side, regular breaks are known to decrease stress levels while improving productivity. Feelings of burnout are lessened, and your brain gets a much-needed break.
As a real estate professional, it’s up to you to set the time to take breaks. That might look different from one day to the next, and that’s okay. The point is to take them, even on your busiest days.
It’s also important to take a break that actually leaves you feeling revitalized. As the University of North Carolina’s learning center states, if you take a break only to scroll social media or check email, you might run the risk of a “prefrontal cortex overload.” Scrolling and checking email requires decision-making, so it isn’t a break for your brain. You might actually come back to your work feeling worse. Instead, you might consider a few deep breaths, getting outside for a moment or taking a quick walk.
Set Small Objectives
Looking at your work as a huge single object is daunting. Breaking work into smaller tasks works well for many. It helps stave off that feeling of dread, which is important since dread can turn into anxiety or make you feel stuck. One method to managing time is The Covey Time Management Matrix, which was developed by Stephen Covey, author of the book and creator of the course “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
His time management approach places tasks and to-do items into four quadrants with specific categories:
- Urgent and important – unforeseen events, upcoming deadlines, important client issues. etc
- Not urgent but important – smaller tasks that won’t affect your deadlines, like scheduling social media and marketing efforts, filling out paperwork that’s not time-sensitive, etc.
- Urgent but not important – meetings, phone calls that are not client-urgent, and checking social media for leads are examples that fit into this quadrant
- Not urgent and not important – this refers to those tasks that are maintenance-related in the business. Essentially, anything that takes time but isn’t time-sensitive and won’t detract from the business of helping your clients goes here.
This kind of compartmentalization could work well for someone in real estate. It helps give shape to your day and prioritizes what needs to get done first. This kind of compartmentalizing is also helpful for neurodivergence. Within each category, it would be pretty easy to create a checklist, which is great for maintaining momentum.
Having another positive and safe person to offer perspective is useful for lowering stress levels. It’s important to foster connections in real estate so that you have a few trusted partners to bounce ideas off of and talk with when things are stressful. If you’re struggling with a transaction or a client, rather than go at it alone, find someone you can talk to about it. They might help you come up with solutions you hadn’t thought of, and by just talking about it, you reduce your internal stress levels.
You might consider your broker or team lead. If you’re not on a team or don’t have access to your broker, an office manager, fellow agent or mentor would work as well.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Proper sleep is one of the easiest and most effective ways to manage your mental (and physical) health, and yet, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 Americans don’t get enough. Though the amount of sleep you need as an individual will vary, it’s recommended that people shoot for 6-8 hours. Prioritizing restful sleep on a regular schedule is another of the most important things you can do to manage your mental health and increase productivity.
When looking at factors like decision-making and cognitive function—which are incredibly important in the real estate world—a look at multiple studies concluded that lack of sleep caused great impairment in these areas. Lack of sleep costs time and money when it comes to work.
In today’s culture though, where access to round-the-clock stimulation is abundant, settling into a state of rest so that you can get good sleep might feel daunting. You might consider setting yourself up with a nighttime routine to help ease into a restful state. Consider powering down electronics at a certain time, taking a warm bath or shower, practicing some mindfulness or reading a book.
In order to be successful in real estate, you have to take care of your needs just like you would your client’s needs. Start by assessing what you might need, and take steps to ensure you’re addressing your mental health needs regularly.