12 tips to keep your head in the game (even on the worst days in real estate)

Mindset & Motivation
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We’ve all had “those days” in the real estate business. You know the ones: when morale is low. When the nos seem infinitely more numerous than the yeses. When you’re just not sure you can pick up the phone to make one more call.

And let’s face it. Real estate is always one of the toughest businesses out there — definitely not a career path for the thin-skinned. Add in a seemingly endless string of uncertainties in recent years, and it’s no wonder it can be difficult for even the best agents to stay motivated.

We asked six top-performing real estate agents their favorite tips for staying focused, energized and productive. Their words of wisdom point to universal best practices every agent can live by. 

But you won’t find any secret sauce here. Ultimately, you’ll need to find the path to focus that works for you. With a healthy dose of great habits, thoughtful reflection and commitment to your core values, you’ll be back to boss mode in no time. 

Table of contents

  • Day in and day out: Forming the right habits
  • Remember what really matters
  • Staying switched on and tuned in
  • Evergreen reminders for every agent: How to hone your focus

Day in and day out: Forming the right habits

Believe it or not, avoiding burnout is a process that starts long before your motivation is flagging.

From your first day as a real estate agent, the steps you take to build your routine will go a long way to helping you stay productive when harder times hit. 

Rather than trying to recover your productivity in emergency mode, shaping your rhythms ahead of time creates momentum. And momentum can help you take the small but important steps that keep you going for the long haul.

Here are a few tips for building the momentum you need to get going when the going gets tough.

1. Turn power tasks into daily habits

On any given day, the list of tasks you could spend your valuable time and energy on is endless.

That’s why it’s so important to establish your daily must-dos and turn them into non-negotiable habits that stick.

“On the hardest days of real estate, it’s important to be very clear on why you do the tasks you do.”  
Mike Stott, Head Coach at Your Coaching Matters 

A licensed broker and real estate coach, Mike is still actively selling homes himself. He knows firsthand the power of habits to help hone your focus. “Focus is a product of the habits you create, so focus now and every day on creating the habits that lead to business,” he says.

When building daily habits, sustainability is key. Resist the temptation to take on massive, unrealistic to-do lists at a pace you won’t be able to keep up. 

Instead, find daily goals that you can commit to and stick with. Then, turn them into habits that last. Try using a proven tool like the classic SMART framework for goal-setting: make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This way, your daily tasks won’t lead to the overwhelm that inevitably leads to burnout.

2. Take care of five contacts first

“Today really got away from me!” “I can’t believe it’s already 5:00.” “I set aside time for that task, but I got pulled away.” 

Have you heard and/or said any of these statements? (Or all of the above?)

Who hasn’t, right? All too often, even our most fundamental tasks can lose their spot in our day when our schedules get packed. That’s why a “first things first” mindset is so important. When you take care of mission-critical tasks first thing in the morning, you ensure that those to-dos won’t get crowded out of your calendar.

Mike Stott coaches his clients to take care of their five contacts before they do anything else. (Yes, even before checking their email!) 

He also advocates for making some key swaps in the morning: listening to inspiring books and podcasts over watching the news. Checking in with an accountability partner over scrolling social media. 

Each team might approach their day a bit differently. For Eric Bramlett, Broker at Bramlett Residential, building a systems workflow is top priority — with a focus on quality over quantity. “We make the fewest recommendations we can, but we keep it very consistent,” Eric says. 

They ask their team to spend the first hour of their day focused on their follow-up workflow, key tasks, and Smart Lists. While they’re happy to advise agents who ask for additional help, this one-hour task always comes first and foremost. 

“If they’re not doing their daily follow-up workflow, then they shouldn’t think about anything else until that habit is 100% built.”
Eric Bramlett, Bramlett Residential

3. Think of your habits as investments

When you’re feeling burnt out or overwhelmed, it can feel tempting to skip those daily to-do’s. After all, what difference does one day make? 

But like any habit — saving money, working out, or eating healthier — every small, positive choice makes a difference. Added up over time, your “small” habits become hugely significant.

Shannon Milligan of RVA Home Team uses this analogy to stay committed:

“I remind myself of compound interest. What I do may seem small and insignificant, but, over time, the consistency adds up to results.”

This mindset is also an important reminder in times when the market is especially difficult. When demand is low, you might not see the impact of your daily contacts or follow-ups right away. But Eric Bramlett points out that agents who stay optimistic will see results. 

“Agents have to stay positive and know that these activities will turn into sales in the future,”

Eric emphasizes, “Agents who stay productive now will have a pretty good 2022, but they'll have the best year of their careers in 2023 and 2024.”

Consider those daily tasks you complete today as investments that will pay off powerfully in the years to come.

4. Remember what really matters

For professionals in any field, it can be easy to lose your way. But forgetting why you became a realtor in the first place can be a major factor in burnout. In fact, researchers refer to this as cynicism — one of the three key factors driving burnout.

Here’s how they define it:

The cynicism dimension was originally called depersonalization (given the nature of human services occupations), but was also described as negative or inappropriate attitudes towards clients, irritability, loss of idealism, and withdrawal. 

When you’re feeling the heat, it’s important to take a step back and remind yourself of the reasons you do what you do. (Note: This will look a little bit different for everyone and that’s ok!) 

Take stock of the things that energize you about your chosen career path. Then lean into the things that excite you about real estate — and come back to them on those difficult days.

5. Reflect, then re-engineer

Feeling stuck in a rut with your daily or weekly workflow? It’s ok to pause and reflect on your overall strategy and schedule. 

But be careful not to use that reflection time to dig yourself in deeper. Overthinking can be a trap that leads to decision paralysis — unless you use your reflections to take action.

“Reflection is good, but use what you reflect upon to re-engineer your next steps to improve and iterate.”
Nicole Beauchamp, Engel & Völkers

It’s not enough to simply identify what’s not working in your strategy. Positive changes come from taking steps to improve and resolve the problems you find. 

Does problem-solving seem overwhelming at the moment? That’s ok. 

Do what you need to do to reset. This might mean stepping away from your desk and going outside to clear your head, pouring another cup of coffee, or talking it out with someone. 

Just remember, once you’ve pressed that reset button, it’s time to refocus and reprioritize. 

Reevaluate your to-do list and consider which items are urgent and important, and which are not. (Nicole often uses the Eisenhower matrix to determine her next steps, but find the method that works best for you!)

6. Define and deliver excellent service

We’ve talked about identifying your daily goals and habits. But what about defining big-picture success for yourself? 

Eric Bramlett’s take is that defining agent success isn’t rocket science. In fact, he says, “We absolutely know what agents need to do to be successful.”

At the end of the day, great real estate agents are laser-focused on providing excellent service.

What does excellent service mean? “It means setting up awesome searches for buyers, sending awesome market analyses to sellers, and making yourself available for IRL meetings,” Eric says. 

The results of this mindset speak for themselves. In times of high market demand, service-focused best practices translate to shorter sales cycles and pretty immediate sales. (And for Eric’s team, this meant a volume of more than $350M in 2021 alone.)

7. Focus on relationships

Speaking of service, real estate agents who continue to crush it long term tend to be very focused on relationships — both in good times and bad. 

President of Southwestern Real Estate, Pat Roach, notes: 

“There are many ways to build a successful real estate career, but building a career that works by the referrals of our friends and past clients can go a long way toward defending our businesses against external forces.

Even when the market is rocky and demand is low, relationships will outlast these natural but unpredictable ebbs and flows.

“Relationships take time, energy, and care. But for those who are willing to invest in others in a meaningful way, they will grow an extension of their salesforce that will remember them when transactions are few,” Pat says.

“Building relationships is the heart of a high-functioning network and a recession-proof real estate career.”

What’s more, relationships are a deeper and more authentic approach to your sales and marketing, consistently outperforming any short-term marketing campaign. 

Simply put? One of the founding principles at Southwestern Real Estate is this: “If I want more business, I grow my network.” 

Relationships will not only increase sales, but keep you motivated and connected to the heart of what you do as an agent.

Staying switched on and tuned in

With all of the tasks, workflows, and unique clients you deal with daily as an agent, it can be easy to get distracted. And when distractions pull your attention from your motivations and productivity, they can lead down a slippery slope to discouragement.

These tips will help you to keep your eyes on the prize — even when it’s tempting to let stress,  burnout, or distractions take over.

8. Focus on the present

When you’re feeling discouraged or unmotivated, it can be easy to ruminate on poor decisions. On the flip side, you might feel yourself obsessing over the future. While there is certainly value to learning from past mistakes and building a plan to work toward, your top priority should be focusing on right now.

Considering that you can’t change the past or the future, focusing on the current moment is the only way to be truly productive.

“Work on bringing your mind to the present because it’s the only place you can actually participate with the world around you.”
Taylor Hack, HACK&Co

Completing one task at a time with intention lets you put boundaries around overwhelm and stay in the present moment where you can actually get things done.

9. Control what you can control

Similar to focusing on the present, remember that you cannot dictate what will happen outside your business. External forces will come and go — good, bad and indifferent — and you can’t control those forces. You can only control how you prepare and respond to them.

For Pat Roach, your responses to these forces can make or break your business. “Our ability to stay in business or grow our business will be determined by how we prepare for those uncontrollable forces and sometimes how we need to react to those forces,” he says.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed when you consider all of the things that could happen in the market, start by deciding what steps you can take right now within your sphere of influence to strengthen your business. 

Take specific and actionable steps to respond to the unexpected, one small but necessary decision at a time.

10. Maintain a mindset of abundance

Shifting tides in real estate can make you feel like scarcity is everywhere you look. Every rejection or lead that doesn’t convert can feel like a blow, especially when they’re the latest in a series of no thank yous.

Pat Roach reminds us that real estate is a sales career. And like sales professionals, real estate agents will see some seasons of feast…and others that feel like, well, famine (2008, anyone?). 

“There are…days where all the forces of nature seem to be pushing against you,” Pat says. But the key is to not let those forces detract you from your consistent daily habits, relationship-building and other core tenets of your business.

“A mature salesperson has learned that two things are critically important: self-talk and a mindset of abundance,” Pat explains. “How you talk to yourself about what you are experiencing is key to how you’ll process reality and have the ability to move forward.”

How do you reinforce that abundance mindset? Pat recommends his agents remind themselves: “No one deal makes or breaks my year. I work hard all year, and there is always enough.”

Telling yourself a story focused on abundance and optimism, rather than anxiety or scarcity, will keep you grounded and on track to that next big win. It’s important to stay level-headed and committed so that you can continue to deliver for your clients.

Evergreen mindset reminders for every agent

Many of the age-old reminders for real estate agents are considered tried and true for a reason.

At the end of the day, your training and experience have brought you to this exact moment in your career. So you can trust your gut and lean into your values, even when you’re missing that extra boost of motivation. 

Let’s close out this expert roundup with some timeless tips for getting it done.

11. Compete against yourself, not others

In a performance-driven field like real estate, comparison is a tough monster to combat.

It’s easy to look around at how others are doing with a competitive mindset, rather than a supportive one. But no one has your exact strengths, skill sets and network. And trying to compete with others as a motivational factor is a no-sum game.

Shannon Milligan is very clear: “Put your blinders on and focus on your race. Winners don’t look back to see where the rest of the pack is; winners compete against themselves.”

Top performers use their own performance to keep leveling up.

So how can you improve upon your performance from one, two, or five years ago? How can you do better today than you did last week or last month?

Keep track of your own progress (rather than others’), and use it to propel you forward as you keep climbing.

12. Remember the big picture

We’ve already discussed how external forces can impact the real estate landscape. And when you feel bogged down by the day-to-day, it can be easy to lose sight of how you play into the industry as a whole.

But don’t forget that at the 10,000-foot view of real estate, there is always opportunity. Nicole Beauchamp reminds us, “People need places to live; they will either need to buy or sell or rent.” 

Independent of the changing tides around you, the real estate business isn’t going anywhere.

But staying in touch with both the big picture as well as how current market factors may be impacting the industry helps you be the best realtor possible. Nicole explains:

“Understanding what is going on in the economy and the impact it will have at a macro- and micro-level will help to position you to truly be a holistic advisor to your clients and be of service and value beyond the immediate transaction.”

This advice goes back to the tenets of excellent service and relationship-building. Leverage your expertise and industry knowledge to help your clients feel confident throughout the homebuying process. 

Providing this kind of support will lead to happier homebuyers, better reviews, more referrals, and a healthier business overall.

Lastly, trust your systems

Once you’ve built strong habits, reconnected to your values and renewed your focus, it’s time to lean in and trust the process. Now that you’ve done all you can to reset and motivate, you have the tools you need to dive back in and execute.

Pat Roach puts it this way: “We must trust our systems and channel our stress toward controlling the controllables that will work over the long haul.”

Here at Follow Up Boss, we can’t control what will happen around you or single-handedly relight the fire that got you excited to help your customers find their dream home. 

But with a solid foundation and airtight systems to help you connect with your next incredible client, we know you’ll have everything you need to go back out there and crush it, today and every day.

We all need one less thing to worry about. Follow Up Boss makes lead management a breeze, even on the wildest days in the game. See for yourself with a free 14-day trial.

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