I’ve started doing something I have never done before.
Every week I travel for work, from one property to another, sometimes an hour away, and I drive across every patch of prairie in between because that’s the life of a real estate professional. I have no problem with that. I actually love the drive, the —
Sorry, that was my phone. Hang on a sec.
Okay. There. We’re good. Where was I?
Oh yes. The drive. It’s so peaceful! I love the scenery! There’s something about the tall blue sky and the wide open —
Sorry. That will —
Sorry. That will keep happening unless —
Excuse me. I have to take this.
Just like I’ve done many times in the past, I pull onto the shoulder, make time for my client or a fellow agent, all of who have very time-sensitive requirements, and the one-hour trip to somewhere takes 90 minutes.
That’s pretty standard for real estate agents. The phone, with its hundreds of people one click away from us at any time, constantly hollers for our attention.
And it’s not just incoming calls either. I’ve viewed those commutes as the perfect place to catch up on phone calls. A real estate professional has two miles of emails to send and phone calls to make each day, and about two feet of time in which to do it. It can feel panicky and harried. So… when I get an hour of travel time, sometimes I use it to respond to those 3 voice mails and 7 texts (via headset and voice command of course. Let’s keep it legal.) But even with that, calls still come in, and I know even while I’m driving there are 3 MORE voice mails and 10 MORE texts being sent that need tending to. And I haven’t even looked at my emails yet. Even while I’m driving forward, I feel like I’m falling behind.
But it’s not the phone or clients or other agents or the
busyness of life that’s the problem.
No. That’s just life.
The problem is that I have not created boundaries around sacred, refreshing moments that could refuel me for all that busyness, and instead let the busyness ransack my rest. What could be a tranquil, refreshing drive from one place to another is instead crammed with demands like every other moment of the day. I arrive just as harried and hurried as I felt when I got in the car, and am no better for it.
So I’m making a big change. A scary change.
I’ve decided to not answer my phone when I’m driving somewhere. I will make use of the do not disturb feature on my iPhone. I will not call when in the car I will not take calls near or far. I will not do it, Sam I Am. I will resist it if I can.
The Possibly Stupid, Possibly Genius Risk I’m Taking
Every time I don’t answer the phone, a shock of fear goes through me as I remember two urgent truths about this industry.
First, real estate agents do actually have important, highly time-sensitive messages to communicate. There are strict deadlines on a lot of our work, many of which are directly tied to legal contracts that affect us our clients, and about five other people per contract. Quick communication matters. A lot.
Second, people expect real estate agents to respond to texts at the speed of light. I’m not kidding.
Someone once called me to look at one of my listings, but they already had and agent. When I suggested they arrange the showing through their own agent, they said “I can’t get a hold of my agent”
“When did you call them?”
“An hour ago,” they said.
They were ready to ditch their own agent because they had been unavailable for sixty minutes. On a Sunday morning. How long do you think they would have waited to hear back if that agent was a stranger they were making first contact with? I’ll tell you – they’d wait exactly ten seconds. I know, because that’s what they tell me when they text.
“Gosh, Tina! You’re super responsive!” they say when I reply to their text three seconds after they send it. Then they add something about the last person they texted hadn’t replied at all, and that was five minutes ago.
They didn’t wait to move on to the next agent.
I think of all this when I’m shutting my phone off for a 60-minute drive somewhere, and realize I’m taking a big risk.
I risk my clients ditching me for another because I didn’t
answer them inside of 60-minutes.
I risk losing new clients who would have hired me, but golly, I wasn’t responding in 60 seconds, so too bad.
And it’s scary.
But I accept the consequences.
Why It’s Worth It Either Way
There was one particularly text-heavy day when it hit me that something had to give.
I was doing a deal with an agent who was texting me excessively. My phone was overheating from all the activity. And, of course, like most days, I was on my way somewhere. Still, this particular person was such an aggressive texter and would absolutely not abide waiting a single solitary second for a reply that I ended up pulling over in three different parking lots so I could respond, finish the conversation, and have three minutes of peace from the *DING* *DING* *DING*
It was actually difficult to get where I was going because of the constant texting. It was ridiculous.
That day I realized I was making a choice.
I chose to let that person slow me down on the way to work.
I chose to let that conversation disturb my own work flow.
And I chose the consequences of that which, that day, were stress, frustration, and arriving later than I planned.
But it was an empowering realization because it meant that I could also UN-choose it.
Whatever I choose will have consequences.
So, risking the consequences of lost business, I choose to use my frequent work travel as a time of refreshment in my work day. Instead of panicked catching up and rapid-responding, I will click off the phone and click on the worship music. I will belt out tunes and feed my soul. I will watch the scenery and think life-giving thoughts. And, because I’m me and love strategizing, I’ll probably plan things for work. But I’ll do it because it’s restorative and energizing to me, not because I’m under the gun of someone else’s demands.
It won’t be easy.
The pressure is there, and I still give in to it sometimes.
But this is my goal – to invest in me, filling myself up with life and energy so I can give to others – clients, colleagues, family and friends – out of a place of fullness and contentment.
Maybe it will yield painful consequences and some loss.
Maybe it will bring energy and life and be the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Either way, I accept the consequences of my choice.
How do you refresh and get energized during your work day?