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Left Behind

Nope, I didn’t go to Inman…I feel like an outsider. Unfortunately I had too many other commitments already and just couldn’t make it. Last week I had project deadlines, three days of teaching and none of it seemed to be in the same part of the state. From there I was home for one day and then off to Chicago to take some training of my own. All the while, I’ve kept up with my family by text messaging, Skype, instant message, twitter and occasionally the phone. I’ve stayed in touch with friends, by Facebook, Twitter and well… much the same as my family. My entire time of traveling, I couldn’t really enjoy it. Too many needs from the office, too many meetings that I had to stage for other people to deliver information I had, and far too little connection with my family.

What has this to do with Real Estate

I am starting to see a trend that is worse than what I say five years ago. Too many people in this business are loosing focus of what’s really important. During my trip, my wife asked on Twitter if anyone knew where I was (I was seeing the Dark Knight – which is really cool BTW – and had my cell phone off) that inquiry, as innocent and practical as it was to my wife, bothered me. I got to thinking and realized that there are many of us in this business, regardless of what your job is in the industry, have to be tracked down. Our connections online shouldn’t know more about us than our family or clients. Our offices have to hunt us, our clients, our brokers… and yes our family seem to be trying to locate us at all times. The tragedy here is that the information and communication overload that many of us are suffering and beginning to make us prioritize information as one single level. Communication is beginning to eliminate priority of things and individuals in our lives.

What’s Important

In watching some of us interact, I’ve seen that we’re taking our friendships online very seriously, and I’m not arguing that its not a good thing. Relationships are important. However, my connection with my family and my primary career responsibilities need to become a bigger priority again. My wife is an amazing woman, fun to be around and patient. She’s very supportive, but I can feel that I have not given her enough consideration and undivided focus. My kids have had to ask one too many times, as of late for me to play with them; and each time I’ve had to decline to work on some project or another to endless hours of the night. Many of you as agents, have expressed how many of your clients have had to track you down and get information, and that even in a slow market; you’re still too busy to balance all the balls in the air. Yes, I can Twitter and Skype while working on that project, but if I just turned it off…just for a bit…I could get the project done faster and perhaps have more time to invest into family.

Shift in Focus

I really want to challenge everyone to take some time and write (yes on paper with a writing utensil) out your priorities, match up the time commitment to each and see where you can fit in your social media addictions. Many of us see this platform for the great value that it really has and a wonderful marketing tool. However, many are putting a lot of time into “marketing” and not enough into other equally or more important tasks. Perhaps it’s just me, but I need to focus on priority and balance again. My wife and family are far more important than the job or farming of virtual friends.

Please excuse the indulgence, but I know that this issue is affecting many in our business, I’ve been hearing about for a few weeks lately and knowing that I’m not alone is important.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    July 30, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Interesting topic. See, I personally hear all ends of the spectrum from “I really need to use my Twitter more” or “I’m addicted to the Interwebs and can’t detach from the computer.” If you’ve made connections online like the ones Ginger recently wrote about, your chances of being online frequently increase.

    Priorities do have to be made though- we recently resolved to have a daily “shut off” time, @ResPres unplugs on Sundays (unless twittering pics of his travels) and others I’ve heard have a set time they spend online daily. I believe your time spent online directly correlates with your goals (for ex: my goals include local real estate, a mommy blog and AG so I am on quite a bit as I don’t have to have face time with clients since I’m new media, not a practitioner).

    Matt, knowing you personally, I can safely say that it sounds like you (and some of our friends) need Social Networking Rehab run by @sass (@andykaufman introduced us to him at SXSWi last spring)- he’s a great guy and he has a bed waiting for you….

  2. teresa boardman

    July 30, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Matt –

    I don’t have time for all the online social networking with other agents and don’t understand where other people find the time. I love talking to them but I have a business to run and a family too.
    Unfortunately no one every has to hunt me down, I am way too accessible and am learning to disconnect when I have had too much. I am finding that I am reaching the “too much” point much more often than I used to. I may have to disconnect for longer periods of time, like days or weeks.

  3. Matt Thomson

    July 30, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Probably the best post I’ve read on AG. I’ve been singing this same song in our office, as WAY too many agents seem to think real estate is a 24/7 job. To some, maybe it is, but at our company at least it is not meant to be…it is meant to be a business that you control.
    All of our online networking makes me worried what types of relationships my daughter (now 10 months old) will have as she grows up. I want her to play and interact personally, but it seems folks are moving away from that. Something my wife and I intentionally model.
    If you get a chance to attend a Quantum Leap seminar in your area, GO! It’ll be 2 days of reshifting your focus that you won’t forget. Yes, it is a KW sponsored event, but no, it has nothing to do with KW. It’s for any business professional who needs to re-prioritize.
    Thanks for a great post.

  4. Benn Rosales

    July 30, 2008 at 8:49 am

    So okay, I know that anytime I turn off my phone, my professional world stops- therefore, I don’t do it. On occasion I might for a movie, but wouldn’t an addict twitter such an event and say “seeing batman!”

    It sounds to me like you personally just needed to shut down for a minute much like your phone and maybe there’s a deeper issue here we’re not seeing, but I’ll be honest- everything connected SM is funneled through to the phone, so if you wanted to disappear, you would simply turn it off. There are times to escape, and times you probably shouldn’t.

  5. Julie Emery

    July 30, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Great well thought out post. I’ll admit to struggling with this as well as with the overall balance between work and home. When I came into this business I had an agreement with Mike that for three years it would be heads down, work all the time to build a business. At that point I felt like I would have built something that would be sustainable with more normal work hours. And, that was just starting to happen and it felt great! Then the market came to a screeching halt and it felt like the only thing to do was to go back to all work, all the time.

    By the way, it’s not just the SM that sucks me away from real people. There’s the reading and research in order to have something pertinent to say in my blog. And, I’ve got lots of excuses, but you’re right, I need to focus on priorities.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    July 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Lani / Benn: The issues of priorities aren’t really new for me. I’ve nearly abandoned my family in pursuit of my career in the past and resolved not to do it again. However, I’ve heard from several agents recently complaining that they are so many places, that they aren’t anywhere. I’ve recently narrowed my activities in the social media world to just a few blogs and tools. Consolidation has been my trick. You’re right… I hadn’t “disappeared” in some time. I’ve been taking necessary steps this week.

    An example is that I am suppose to be preaching at church on Sunday and It’s Wednesday and I haven’t even picked a topic….

    Teresa – I’ve recently found that one day of disconnecting has done wonders for a week or two. I don’t get easily overwhelmed, but at times serving various masters starts impacting me.

    Matt – thanks for reading. I’ve never been big on coaching seminars, motivational etc. However, my wife is a fantastic encourager and motivator. That and my friends on-line help me keep up, but there are times when I feel that we all drift too far one way or another. Whatever anchors us is a great source of focus.

    Julie – I wanted to ramble more in the post about things other than just SM, but the post was lengthy already. I wanted to lump in just what you were saying about the research and other things. Social Media is just one small distraction from the real priorities. Fine tuning, yet one more training or presentation, when it really was OK has got my OCD firing on all cylinders…

  7. Dan Connolly

    July 30, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I have found myself in the same boat, having to work harder in this soft market and having more to do in the way of Social Media, blogging etc. The only way I can deal with the integration of family life and business life is to schedule the family commitments and hold to them as rigorously as I do to my business appointments. Generally when I am out with clients, I don’t answer the phone every 5 minutes, out of respect for their time, and I return the missed calls later. Why would I treat my family any differently than some client who may or may not ever buy something?

    I think part of the trick in keeping the respect of your clients is not acting like every request has to be answered immediately. An agent who used to dominate a high end market here, had a slogan “We aren’t just sitting around down here waiting for your call”. Another agent I know who sold several hundred homes a year told his clients not to bother him, he wasn’t calling them with feedback, he was too busy trying to sell their house.

  8. Kelley Koehler

    July 30, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I have a family? Oh wait – is that the dude in my bed every night? Ah yes. I remember him now. I think I had a conversation with him last week, something about not having any more clean clothes. Uh-oh, did I promise to do laundry? I’ll have to check my schedule, I may have that penciled in somewhere…

    A virtual hug is still a hug, people.

    (I’m only entertaining myself with that, aren’t I?)

    There’s some benefits to having and working with hubby at home, an arrangement that works well for both of us. Time together is always only 32 steps away.

  9. Eric Blackwell

    July 30, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Eric: Hi Everyone. My name is Eric.

    AG Readers: Hi Eric!

    …grin

    Eric

  10. monika

    July 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I can relate to what your feeling. I try real hard to limit my time and often find it overwhelming when there are so many new posts I want to read. For example this week alone there were several new posts on AG alone…multiple posts every day. I found it overwhelming so I just stayed away. I jump in and out of Twitter all day and follow links and then find myself invloved somewhere else. It’s all too much and I know it.
    I’m lucky as my hubby works with me and is as addicted as I am and we often sit together with laptops open at night…but we need to shut off more often. To that end I started limiting my on line time and prioritizing my real time. So far so good and you know what? I’m not really missing anything at all. Finding a balance is crucial.

  11. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Matthew,

    I equate RE, techtoys and stuff to riding a bike. Too slow, you fall off. Too fast you crash. The space in between is what makes for a nice ride.

    Being somewhat irreverant I have found that Nothing, Absolutely Nothing in real estate is that urgent or more important than your well being. If the buzz of RE messes up your ride just stop, leave all the toys in the basket, go for a walk and refocus on life. If this causes some folks to get cranky, well TFB!

    Real estate comes and goes. You got one life and there is nothing like sunshine, wine, cheese and your main squeeze that will make it more pleasant.

  12. Chuck G

    July 30, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Larry — Nicely said 🙂

    Matthew,

    I look at this from another perspective. I came from the high-tech industry before I made the jump into RE. This is what I do NOW that I could NOT do before:

    1) Drive my kids to school every day (with very few exceptions)
    2) Go on all of their field trips( ditto)
    3) Have dinner with the family every night (ditto)
    4.) Occasionally go home and have lunch with the “squeeze” as Larry puts it.
    5.) Coach an occasional soccer team
    6.) Dictate my own schedule.

    You get the point. I feel the same pressure to stay on top of the information tidal wave and produce results as the next guy (or gal.) But don’t ever lose site of the fact that you have the power to “re-connect” as much or as little as you want. What you do with that power is entirely a matter of C-H-O-I-C-E.

    I’ve been on the other side, and you have no idea how lucky we all are to have that choice.

  13. Matthew Rathbun

    July 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Eric: I took me a full minute to get the reference…LOL

    Monika: Jennifer and I aren’t unique?!?!?! Darn it… Yep, we do the whole laptop side-by-side thing almost every night and skype all day. It’s cool when we’re watching a movie or the in-laws are over, so that we can share without interrupting. Luckily, she’s just as geeky as I am 🙂

    Larry: VERY COOL! That’s a great analogy and perspective.

  14. Eric Blackwell

    July 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    FWIW- Matthew, I totally agree with you… i just had to have a little fun with our generations info-addiction. I also had to admit that I am as hooked as anyone.

    The first step is admitting that you have a problem…(grin)

    Great post.

    Eric

  15. Vance Shutes

    July 30, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Matthew,

    I believe it was one of the brilliant writers here at AG that once wrote how important it is that we look at ourselves in the mirror sometimes. You’ve captured the essence of the “man in the mirror” with this post.

    >”…write (yes on paper with a writing utensil)”

    This is a great suggestion. And yes, we joke about it, but it’s true. Nobody ever put on their gravestone “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Thoughts like that should make it a bit easier to write out our priorities. No matter the impact on our business income.

  16. Ginger Wilcox

    July 31, 2008 at 8:27 am

    I am a social media addict. I will stand up and admit it! I love my twitter and my countless blogs, and clearly I feel passionately about the relationships that I believe can develop online. With that said, there is definitely something to say about focusing and shutting it off. When I am do stuff with my kids, I need to shut it off and focus my attention on them. When I am with clients, I also need to shut it off. (although I find sitting around waiting at things like inspections are a great time to catch up my tweets!)

    Most of my social networking tends to be early in the morning or late at night because I do have to focus on what I need to do in my business during the day. It is ok to turn your twhirl off during the day, and I think setting personal boundaries is the key step..

    I spend a lot of time networking off the computer through various organizations that I participate in, and again, that is the time to focus.

    Balance is the key. I schedule “appointments” with my children that are uninterrupted- no twitter, no telephone, no crackberry email just as I do with my clients. It is all about boundaries.

    No I have to go tweet about this.

  17. Rich Jacobson

    July 31, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Your wife was tracking you down on Twitter? Wow! My wife is still just trying to figure out the whole ‘blogging’ thing.

    Matthew: Your point here is painfully accurate. I must confess that I spend entirely way too much time with social networking, in part because of my role with AR, but just in general. Add to that the responsibilities I have with my clients, it leaves very little time for the relationships that should be a higher priority. I’m reaching for my yellow pad as soon as I finish this comment….thanks for the attitude adjustment!

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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shopping bags

In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to be a quick process

(EDITORIAL) Minimalism is great and all…but how do you get started if you’re not sold on getting rid of basically everything you own?

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minimalism desk

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix last year. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1 Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2 Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3 Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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