Real Estate and Parenting: The Great Balance
Hello, my name is Evan Crawford and I love my wife, kids and career. Real Estate is the muse I call an occupation. All three of these cherished aspects of my life certainly overshadow the numerous hobbies and interests I once knew. I’m completely ok with that, as the process of building a business and parenting young children is simply that, a process. It’s an ever evolving blueprint of what works for the current stage of the process. The hobbies and interests will resurface in a new and amazing way, with those I love the most. So this brings me to the purpose of this article….Real Estate Career and Parenting: The Great Balance. This procedure is not always pretty and it’s not always easy to follow. With that being said, I do believe there are a few practices and mindsets that have helped me along the way. (Disclaimer: I do not believe I am the very best parent and/or the very best real estate professional, albeit I’m doing my best.) To put it in the easiest terms possible, the things that have helped me the most is acquiring a routine, fitting it in and embracing the chaos.
Acquiring a Routine
Acquiring a routine may be my favorite mantra for a real estate agent. Mostly, because it’s impossible and ridiculous, however every real estate coach in the world dwells on this idea. Let’s go ahead and wipe away the textbook dreams of having a set schedule in real estate and push back a little on the “it’s imperative you set a weekly schedule for yourself” lecture you are getting from your coach. It’s unrealistic and mostly frustrating. Now, to reign it back in from my “rebel ways” and explain my claims a little more closely. As impossible as a daily routine may be to accomplish, a calendar and time blocking can be your friend.
First off, the calendar. Live by it. Make sure every single thing you have to do on any given day is on your calendar. Things that are often added to my calendar look like this: Listing appointment, Coffee with client, OPELIKA CHAMBER Ribbon Cutting/Ambassador Meeting, Showing Times, Letting Appraiser in, Letting Contractor in, Kids Doctor Appt., Kids Sport Practice, Kids Dress up day at School, Lunch with Potential Investor, Team Meeting, Order New Marketing Material, etc. The list can literally go on and on and on in Real Estate. Everything on that list, I truly enjoy. This is by no means an article about how “busy” and “hard” a realtor’s life can be, instead its a collective attention to gratitude of the many things we get to do each day as a Realtor and a parent. There are many apps and calendar tools out there that can make this portion of your life easier. We have found that CALENDLY works the best for our team. This app allows you to send a prospective client, referral partner or recruit a link to your calendar in order to find a time that works for their schedule. The caveat? Making sure you are putting every little thing in your calendar when booked outside the app. Coming from experience, if you do not keep the calendar up-to-date, you will be leaving yourself open to double booking your time and adding more to your plate by needing to contact all parties for rescheduling. It also has follow-up and reminder options for all meetings. It’s a fantastic tool for time management.
Secondly, time blocking. Time blocking is a Real Estate agent’s only true hope of directing any remnants of a routine. With this, you will need to dedicate certain parts of your day for IPAs (no, not the sweet nectar that is India Pale Ales), or Income Producing Activities. (**Credit to Ryan Molt of the Crawford Willis Group for screaming IPAs every time he has a good conversation with a new lead or is heading out to show property.) By blocking out certain times of the day, you have a plan. A plan is good. This should be a non-detailed guideline of how you would like your day/week structured, consisting of “non-negotiables.” Non-negotiables are the actions you know have to be done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This should include both personal and career-based activities. When designing your time block, be sure to include mental health, physical health, family, friends and more. A few examples I have seen in the past with some of our agents are the following: workout, meditation, reading, journaling, monthly personal visits, stretching, going for a walk, lead generation calls, responding to emails, taking kids to school, soccer practice, and more. The time needed for each activity can and should vary. One of the worst things a real estate agent can do is to constantly be interrupting their “non-negotiables” with outside activities. Also, as a pro-tip, try not to time block your entire schedule, as we all know this is the easiest way to watch it come crumbling down. We need breaks between these actions to give us time to catch up to what that particular day has brought our way.
So now that we have decided we need to include mental and physical health into our daily endeavours, we can dive into this portion a little deeper. For me, mental and physical health are very closely related. I personally love and need to be completely physically exhausted to be in the correct mindset. Nowadays, I typically achieve this through Jiu Jitsu at KAGEFIT ACADEMY. In the past, it may have been training for a marathon or playing a few games of pick-up basketball at our local Rec Center. The goal? Having your mind clear of “work” and “family” hurdles for a short period of time during your busy schedule. In real estate it is extremely easy to let your job creep into every aspect of your personal life. Realtors commonly see their personal and professional lives fade into one. We feel the need to be consistently reachable as well as always promoting ourselves and our business. Not only does a gym, rec center or running group expose us to more of a sphere (great networking tool), it also allows us to focus on something outside of work when the time comes to exercise. Give your brain a break, it deserves that much. I have found when I am so focused on the movements and exhaustion of my body and physical health, my mind is free from real estate shackles. Your brain is a muscle, give it time to heal. Try it, maybe this will work for you too.
Now that our mindset has been adjusted and we are ready to go to work for our clients, let’s talk about the cell phone. What an amazing tool, right? Yes. Our phones are now a way to search the MLS, open lockboxes, email, text, call, take photos, video marketing, virtual touring and much more. They are also always on our person and can be a huge distraction for each and every one of us. Since we are always reachable to our clients, we feel the need to over indulge in screen time activities. Put the phone down. (Another Disclaimer: Easier said than done) Since this article is geared towards the balancing act of parenting and real estating (maybe not a word, but I instantly dig it), I want to mention how we can better serve our clients as well as kids with our usage and non-usage of our cell phones. I have often thought I fail miserably in this category of both home and work life. Frequently I have found myself accidentally ignoring my children in an effort to respond via phone to a client and/or co-op agent. I’ve heard the comparison being made to the “new-age alcoholic parent”. This visual is both depressing as well as seemingly accurate. Sad to report, my kids have said “Dad! Watch this!!” with uncontainable excitement only to look back and see that my eyes never left the phone screen, more than once. Truly, it’s unacceptable. It’s like the parent who won’t put the drink down long enough to shift the attention of their hazy eyes to their child who may be seeking a connection. I know, I know, it’s very dramatic but the lesson being, the human/phone relationship can easily slide into this type of neglect.
So how do we control our hunger for staying connected? Start by designating a few time slots during the day that you will set your phone down, face down, and not touch it for a predetermined amount of time. Start with dinner time. This creates an atmosphere of balance. This can act as a stepping stone for giving our families the attention they deserve. What activities do you wish you could share with your family, during which you give them your undivided attention?
One way I have found this to be achievable is to set the expectation up front. When meeting with your client at either the Buyer Consultation or the Listing Appointment, let them know the times and/or activities that are important to you and your family. Let them know that you will be unavailable at that time and that you will get back to them as soon as possible. You want to give them the same 100% attention that you are currently giving to your children. It’s only fair to both of them. You may be very surprised to find that most clients, especially the ones you actually want to work with, will respect this decision as well as your time. Not only does this assist in a work life balance, it also creates a sense of balance between the agent and the client. If you have been in real estate long enough to have felt the warmth of a closing table, you have most assuredly found yourself in a situation where you have felt completely out of control of your own day. Oftentimes, this leads to tension between you and the person who may be on the other end of your confusion, your client. As someone who believes you and each one of your clients should form a team bond, this is no good for a winning culture. A strong bond with your client will lead to more referrals and a stronger business. The opposite is also true.
Now, for some of the best advice I have ever received. COACH THOMPSON, HEAD COACH OF AUBURN BASEBALL, once told me “Dominate the first five minutes.” Five minutes, that sounds easy enough. Coming from someone I admire to no end, I could not wait to hear what those five words had in store. He went on to express that the first five minutes you spend in your house, after a day at the office, are more than crucial. These five minutes set the tone for the afternoon. Historically, it was easy to let frustrations from the day carry into the home. I would often ignore their warm welcomings and excited attempts to tell me about their day. Instead, take those five minutes and ask all about their day. What did they do? How did that make them feel? What about their day are they most proud of? We adopted a game called “Rose, Thorn and Sunshine“. The Rose represents the single best part of their day, the thorn being the one thing that made them sad or mad that day and the sunshine is something they did nice for someone else. This allows them to express their feelings as well as answering the follow up questions to each aspect of their day. Seeing them work through these situations and reflecting back on their day is truly magical. Half of the time they cannot even recall one thing from their day so they make up something trivial. This is always a great conversation started for small kids. The bonus is when they really do have something on their mind from the day, it comes pouring out.
Each and every afternoon is a potential connection with your children that you may never get back. Someone once bummed me out and motivated me at the same time by saying “by the time your child is 10 years old, you may only have 8 more summers to spend with them before they are out from under your roof.” So, those days we allow a failed inspection, low appraisal or even a lost client dictate our mood at home, we lose a day. Again, easier said than done. Then, Coach Thompson gave me a pro tip. He told me if I pull into the driveway and my mind still is not in the correct space to dominate the first five minutes, I am better equipped to reverse out of the driveway and stroll around the neighborhood until I can gain control. This may sound theatrical, but in reality, this may happen more than it doesn’t. Once you have shaken off the stressors of your day, it is time to pull back up to your house, walk in that door and dominate those first five minutes.
Fitting It In
The kids are in the car or at your house breaking the sound barrier. You have a phone call with clients to go over an inspection report. What do you do? You go with it. You embrace the chaos, explain the current situation to your client and you plow ahead. Because honestly, what other choice do you have? I know, I know “But Evan, you said to put your phone down when the kids are around so you can give undivided attention to them…” Yea, yea. Ideally, having the undivided attention of either your kids or your client is the goal. Those of us who are real estate agents as well as parents know this is about as realistic as selling ocean front property in Colorado Springs. So you embarrassingly try to quiet your kids, preferably with the “be quiet eyes”, and you tell your client you are in the car with your kids and you take the request. Obviously this is done via headset or with your car’s bluetooth capabilities. Be safe, it’s not worth handling the phone and juggling driving alone, much less with kids in the car. After you have worked through it with your client you can always say “ok now if you don’t mind texting or emailing me the stipulations we discussed, this will ensure I am able to relay everything we discussed without leaving anything out.” Always better to be safe than sorry. Once you park, you now can relay that message to either your client or the co-op agent. Honestly, this is good practice whether your kids are around or not.
Sometimes we must take our kids to showings. Is this fun? No. Is it the most professional way to show a house? No. Is it sometimes completely necessary to do so? Yes. Again, you do what you have to do. Real estate is an industry and a career that many times morph into your personal life, as if you have not picked that up by now. With that comes the morphing of parenting while working. Have I mentioned that this is widely considered working two jobs? If the client does not appreciate, or at least be able to look past, this aspect of your “hustle”, then again, maybe they are not worth working for. This is obviously exacerbated by the fact us realtors often work in the afternoons and weekends, when traditional childcare like school and daycare is not an option. So take those kids, do your best and show your clients the houses of their dreams, with the slight chance of some disruption.
All of these scenarios sound like a big circus juggling act, I know. It is. Let me explain my theory of why this is ok. I strongly believe this gives your kids a great peek behind the curtain of what hard work looks like. Let me be clear, this is my personal assumption and not coming from a “self help” or “how to raise kids” book, but instead through my own, not studied, assessment. What could be better than bringing your kids to work with you to show them how a dedicated worker gets the job done? They are getting a front row seat to the work ethic seminar. All the while, we get to spend this time in their presence rather than clocking into an office that doesn’t allow you to bring your kids with you. Being an agent is beautiful like that. So spending time with your kids and periodically ignoring them to further your business is not all bad. In fact, I clearly believe it to be a net benefit. Of course, everything has to be viewed through a lense of moderation.
Embrace the Chaos
Now for the last piece of this parenting and real estating (I did it again) puzzle. Just embrace the ensuing chaos that both of these jobs, which can be equally stressful, bring your way. We all know that disarray is the norm during a busy real estate season or year, so keep that as your expectation. This should be seen with excitement, not as a hurdle, hence the “embrace” aspect of the sentiment.
To sum this section up in a short and sweet manner, let me say this. It’s ok. It’s ok that your kids are yelling while you are on the phone. It’s ok that you sometimes feel like you are neglecting your work and/or kids. It’s ok that your personal home is a complete mess because you are working on reaching a deadline for your client. It’s ok that your car has 8 month old chicken nuggets in the seats when a client gets in your car. It’s ok that you have a gross stain on your shirt when meeting a client because your child had an upset stomach after you left the house. It’s ok that you had to reschedule a meeting with a client because your child has a doctor visit. It’s ok to bring your kids to a property showing in a pinch. Lastly, it’s ok to neglect your client in an effort to support your own mental health. Take care of it.
I hope all the rockstar parents and real estate agents out there take solace in the fact that they are doing their best, and that’s good enough.