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You Don’t Have Enough Experience or the Right Connections to Be in Real Estate: Overcoming the Obstacles of Being a Young Realtor®

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I entered the wonderful world of real estate when I was 26 years old (and Derek was 28) – almost half the age of the average real estate agent in the U.S., which is 51 years old now – and closer to 54 years old at that time.

Let me tell you… That is quite a hurdle to overcome! Not only did many “seasoned” agents feel the need to take on a condescending tone when they talked to us about … anything, but even potential clients did not know what to think when they met us for the first time. (And looking young for my age helped nada.)

How the heck could someone as young as I was actually help people buy and sell houses?
Mind boggling. Truly mind boggling.

(Is this where I bring up the fact that many doctors graduate and start practicing medicine around this age? Or should I save that concept for later?)

I have often brought up the “perception of real estate agents” in reference to how people distrust, dislike and flat-out “dis” them. Although similar, what I am talking about here is a wholly different facet of that perception.

The perception of real estate agents was/is one of an older, “Good ol’ Boys Club” persona … a persona of which I did not/do not even remotely resemble … in more ways than one.

I am now 33 and I am STILL overcoming this hurdle. And although I am still very young in the eyes of real estate, I am not alone and nor am I the youngest whatsoever. There are more and more people – people like me – (to include both younger, and young-minded older) – that are faced with an “industry perception” that can be difficult to overcome.

An interesting manifestation of how my age plays out in my career is figuring out how to overcome the perception that it takes decades of “experience” and “having the right connections” to sell a home.

Okayfine. Define “experience” and “connections” …

If by “experience” you mean: I have written a billion contracts and sold a billion homes and have a billion alphabet soup letters trailing after my name, then no – I do not have THAT kind of experience.

I have the experience that has taught me that no two clients and no two contracts and no two closings are EVER alike and that I need to approach each new situation with a WIDE OPEN mind and a desire and willingness to think “outside the box” to accommodate my clients’ needs in the best possible way. I have the experience that has taught me to surround myself with brilliant people who can walk with me into any situation and make it good.

If by “connections” you mean: I can pull some strings at the Title Company to get a closing date and time that you want, or I go golfing with the president of the country club, then no – I do not care about those type of connections.

I have the type of connections that actually bring home buyers and home sellers together. I have the type of connections that give my Buyer clients access to every home that is for sale that could meet their needs. I have the type of connections that places my Sellers’ homes in front of the maximum amount of potential buyers. I like to call it my “internet connections“.

I understand that the perception of real estate agents is misguided in more ways than one. Our industry HAS had our share of bad apples. Our industry HAS been dominated by the Good ol’ Boys Club for a looooong time. Our industry HAS been stuck in an Old School ways of thinking for longer than other service-related industries.

But, times are changing. Our industry is facing a paradigm shift.

If you are reading this, then you are already embracing this shift. But look around you… How many people in your office are still building their “Value Propositions” on things that are Ego-Friendly but not Client-Centric?

Until this shift reaches the tipping point, and more people understand the NEW face of real estate, I (along with my peers) will still have to overcome the hurdles of being young in real estate.

It is not an easy task, as it takes a type of dedication that goes beyond complete and total comprehension of contract law and local real estate market conditions. It goes beyond total fiduciary responsibility to each of my clients. And it most certainly goes way beyond the commission check.

I still have to, not convince, but educate each potential client as to what it really takes to be a competent real estate agent… TODAY. I have to educate my clients that it is not necessarily the designations that create a good agent (if the client even knows what they even mean …). I have to educate my clients that it is more important to advertise and market their home than to advertise and market myself. I have to educate my clients that because I am NOT a part of the Good ol’ Boys Club, I am forced to be innovative and always be looking for bigger and better ways to help my clients accomplish their goals. I have to educate my clients that being a part of the Good ol’ Boys Club just creates a false sense of security anyway, and it lets it’s “members” become lazy and justify their non-forward-thinking-behavior with pats on the back and another round of golf.

Fellow Genius, Matthew Rathbun, recently tackled the agent-to-agent side of this paradigm shift in his recent post “If you say that… it will ruin your career!” and also brings up an excellent point, in reference to the agent-to-client side:

Unfortunately there are far too many people who are trying to meet the consumer where they were 10 years ago.  I am leaving room for the fact that they maybe right and the talents of open houses and playing solitaire during floor duty maybe back in vogue… but I think it’s unlikely and only time will tell.”

After explaining the “new face of real estate” I am often “rewarded” with clients commenting, “Wow. You are really different (better) than I expected. Thank you.”

However, if after all the education they STILL choose to go with Hairsprayetta Lookatme Lookatmenow ABC., RBIT., LOL., then I say “go” …

And in my heart, I know that my business card (that they casually tossed in their desk drawer) will eventually resurface … when jaded by their initial decision, they realize that MY experience and MY connections may actually be just what they need to accomplish their home buying and selling goals.

Mariana is a real estate agent and co-owner of the Wagner iTeam with her husband, Derek. She maintains the Colorado Springs Real Estate Connection Blog and is also a real estate technology trainer and coach. Mariana really enjoys helping real estate agents boost their businesses and increase their productivity through effective use of technology. Outside of real estate, blogging and training, she loves spending time with her husband and 2 sons, reading, re-watching Sci-Fi movies and ... long walks on the beach?

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Hi Mariana!

    We are the shift that is happening in our industry. I brought up if “experience” matters the other day on our Trulia blog and have received some great feedback. Your point about educating your buyers and sellers about what it takes to be a competent agent is where I think we as an industry have a lot of work to do. We are changing with the times on a daily basis yet buyers and sellers are in the real estate loop only every so often. Keeping them abreast of the recent changes and trends that have occurred that better the real estate buying and selling experience and HOW you utilize them for their benefit is what can be communicated better . I have seen too many agents fail to do this properly and lose potential lifelong clients in the process.

    After meeting you and Derek last year, I understand why your clients appreciate you 🙂

    – Rudy

    “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

  2. Matthew Rathbun

    March 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Man, I love reading your writing! This is a great post and I’ll be referencing it in my trainings in the future! The experience of the newer group of Realtors may not be in real estate, but they can supplement that lack, by studying and using experiences they have from their own purchases. I think this is why we’ve seen an increase in the number of Realtors taking more classes in the past few years.

    Did I say GREAT ARTICLE?!?!?

  3. monika

    March 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Excellent post Mariana! I’m writing something very similar. A paradigm shift …is exactly what it is!

  4. Mariana Wagner

    March 15, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Matthew (RE trainer) – Thank you! I admire your approach to everything that you do and am glad that I can help you in your training.

    Monika (RE trainer) – Hi there! Thank you, and I look forward to reading what you write!

    You are both trainers for/of RE agents and it is awesome to see that the “future” is in hands like yours. Thank you.

  5. Russell Shaw

    March 15, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Excellent article. There have always been new agents entering the business. Some new and young. There have always been agents who have been in the business a while who are doing quite well. Those things are not going to change anytime soon (say the next 500 – 1,000 years).

    As home buyers (unlike home sellers) are seldom actually looking for an agent but only really looking for a house a new agent is just as desirable as a veteran agent to most of them. The newer agent’s challenge isn’t being “new”, it is being able to make contact with the potential home buyer in the first place.

    The attribute that the buyer is most interested in is never going to be, “is the agent certified” (GRI, CRS, ABR, E- Pro – or any of the constantly growing list of initials that even industry members have NO idea of the meaning) – but is the person honest. Can I be sure they won’t try and trick me? Can they be fully trusted? Get a “yes” on that one, have a lockbox key and access to MLS and you’re in. There is no other “requirement”. Even though they have to initial various clauses and every page of the contract, unless the buyer is a lawyer or a commercial broker, etc., in most cases, they have NO idea what any of it means. Most agents do not know the meaning of the word, “escrow”. But if the buyer has already decided that they are talking to an honest person they will sign the papers where told to and move along the process to “open escrow”.

  6. BawldGuy Talking

    March 15, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Mariana — As an agent who, as you did, started quite young (18 + 60 days) I feel your pain. What you’ve done to combat it is what your readers should really pull from this post: You produced for your clients — and that’s all you needed to do.

    Because you not only produce results but have obviously gone a near vertical learning curve, your 7-8 years of experience has proven far more valuable than most who’ve had the cliché ‘one year’s experience 13 times’. 🙂

    Don’t discount your exuberant behavior as a significant and taste enhancing spice, enhancing the flavor of the heaping plates of results you serve up.

    The other agents? Most of them are so worthless their actually props on your daily ‘set’ — put there to make you look good. 🙂

  7. BawldGuy Talking

    March 15, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Ignore the poor syntax and incorrect words, as I made the mistake of commenting before finishing my first cup of coffee after staying up past 2. 🙂

  8. Benjamin Bach

    March 15, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I received my licence when I was 22, and I’m a few months shy of my 25th birthday now

    The issue of my age was in my head, but that made it very real.

    Now that I perceive myself as a business owner, a professional and a valued consultant, I am.

    The largest property I ever sold was bought by someone one month older than me. He isn’t 25 yet either. The seller’s didn’t care 🙂

    BenjaminBach.com

  9. Annie Maloney | Sevierville Real Estate

    March 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    AWESOME Articel!! It was as if I was the one writing it, or you were writing about me. I have, and continue to deal with, the same things. Now 33, I became an agent when I was 29. Being a youngster in a market that was comprised of older Good Ol’ boys, it was hard to get motivated in the beginning. Now I love it. I love being part of Generation X as it allows me to be unique in my market and advertise/market properties in ways that are not traditional , so to speak. Whats that you say, You have been doing real estate for 30 years and you know what works and what doesn’t. Individual Porperty what? Search Eng..huh? OK, Mr. Being Phased Out. You go right ahead and take that ad out in the paper for your new listing. I love it! In May I will become Managing Broker of my office and I suspect that I will continue to have to deal with these issues at an all new level. Oh well. I love it when other agents ask me how my listings and sites always come up high in the SERPs. With exposure like that and attitude that is young, fresh and confident there aren’t too many listings that I don’t get. It has also allowed me to pick and choose the ones that I really want. Great Article and Good Luck.

  10. Mike Farmer

    March 15, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Age definitely doesn’t matter, except in real cases where clients have a perception of age mattering, but online efforts help to overcome that for the most part, because you can show what you know and who you are. I do think this “I have the experience that has taught me to surround myself with brilliant people who can walk with me into any situation and make it good” is the most critical part for new, young (or old) agents to realize — when dealing with skepical clients it pays to help them understand that you may not “know” everything, but you “know” that, and you “know” who to consult that does “know”.

    From my experience, many buyers, who sense a young, inxperienced agent has something on the ball and is intelligent enough to make things happen and not make stupid mistakes, want to give the agent a break and help them along in their careers. It all boils down to the individual — it’s difficult to make blanket statements about “experienced” or “inexperienced”, and you don’t have to frame the experienced as “good ol’ boys” although I understand that system and its weaknesses — you just need to be you, the rest will follow.

  11. Angela Clark Graviss

    March 15, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Mariana, I became licensed at 23 years old in 1997, and have had many simliar experiences: I may have felt discouraged, but I have never given up! Age does not magically give expertise, or knowledge, or the ability to market to today’s changing markets. Today, 11 years later, I’m a little older, a little wiser, but I still have that energy that helped me in the beginning. Just FIDO it: Forget It and Drive On to the NEXT client who needs you now!

  12. Mariana Wagner

    March 15, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Rudy – You are right … We are each swimming in the pool of the real estate on daily/hourly basis, and because our clients are NOT, we MUST be able to educate our clients to the most up-to-the-minute accurate information as possible. It was great to meet you last Summer!

    Russell – Thank you. Home Buyers are less inquisitive than home Sellers, and are more likely to choose someone on gut-feeling than Sellers are. And with good reason. Hopefully this market will separate the wheat from the chaff and create more agents (than not) that really DO understand the industry.

    Jeff – I love that: “one year’s experience 13 times” Sometimes that is how I feel people define “experience” … And I can’t help but laugh at your “there to make you look good” comment, but those are the same agents that are out there helping buy and sell real estate… scary.

    Benjamin – Age really doesn’t matter, but there are those who choose to make it matter. Ultimately, it is an obstacle that we ALL have to oversome at some point in our lives. Confidence, though, can make all the difference.

    Mike – Thank you. My intent was not to lump all “experienced” agents into the Good ol’ Boys Club … just a large handful of them who refuse to embrace a much needed change in the industry, and look down on those of us who do. And you are right. It DOES boil down to the individual. 100%.

  13. Mariana Wagner

    March 15, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Annie – Thank you for your comment and good luck to you, too!

    Angela – FIDO … Great!

  14. Blue Ridge Mountains Cabins For Sale

    March 16, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Doogie Houser sold me a house. Why should it matter if at any point they were not sure they could decline service. I find young people motivated and creative and I much prefer them to a seasoned person who does all there work from the office and thinks the internet is a nusiance.

    As with any job a skill can be learned by all and experience comes with time. It doesn’t make you better just known in the community to have experience.

  15. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    March 16, 2008 at 9:03 am

    This is one that rings true with me. Kari and I started at 24 and 23, respectively. Other agents looked at us like we had three eyes when we first started. As we progressed in our careers, we learned that one of the reasons for this is that many of the other agents felt threatened by our mere presence. Overcoming hurdles with clients is much easier, since you get to meet them one-on-one, and we have always been forthright and honest, which goes a long way to establishing credibility.

    In the end, we just keep doing what we do, and stay committed to our clients. We are just trying to carve a career out for ourselves, just like most other agents.

  16. Mariana Wagner

    March 16, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Daniel – You are right. Overcoming hurdles with clients IS easier than with other agents, and eventually it will all even itself out.

  17. Benjamin Bach

    March 16, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Let me float this out there . . .

    Who cares what other real estate salepeople think? Spend time with your clients, not in the office 🙂

  18. Mariana Wagner

    March 16, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Benjamin – I am more concerned about my clients – yes. However, the agent across the “deal” from me is the other facet of my obstacle.

  19. Ines

    March 16, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    One frustration I still have that goes beyond age and 30 years experience in the business is for clients to fall for the “image” and what monika calls “glitz and glitter” – the fact that they know you will get the job done, you will go above and beyond, but they fall for the trap of the other agent talking down about their competitors.

    I like the shift, now the consumer needs to open their eyes.

  20. Ines

    March 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Oh – I forgot, and the yound thing happens with any profession. I remember opening my own architectur firm at 25 and having to overdress to meet clients – the suit (in 90 degree weather), heels, make-up and they woud still say, “you are so young!” – My expertise was easy to prove as an architect, not so easy as a Realtor.

  21. Cat

    March 16, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    “However, if after all the education they STILL choose to go with Hairsprayetta Lookatme Lookatmenow ABC., RBIT., LOL., then I say “go” …”

    AMEN to that! I totally relate to this. 🙂

  22. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Ines – I will NEVER talk down about my competitors – even the ones that have done me and my clients horribly wrong. I may re-state pertinent facts, but I keep that to a minimum. I cannot stand that political **** that some agents feel that they need to participate in.

    Also, it DOES take a bit longer to prove expertise as an agent, as opposed to other areas. I agree.

    Cat – Thanks! Me too…

  23. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Blue Ridge – Experience is very important, but not the be-all-end-all, in my opinion. And it definitely depends on what kind of experience you are talking about.

  24. Jeremy Hart

    March 17, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Mariana, SUCH a good post – of course, you didn’t need me to tell you that, everyone else has thought so as well. I started my career in real estate when I was 26 … my first clients? First-time buyers, and about my age. I was terrified to tell them it was my first deal, and so I didn’t tell them. Why would anyone want to entrust their first home purchase to little ‘ole ME? The closing attorney, however, thought he’d have some fun at my expense, and told them at the table. I couldn’t believe that they thought it was awesome – I was floored. Still am, in some ways. But you – and the commentors – are right, it’s all in our head. We are all at the leading edge of the shift, simply by the fact that we’re trying to find new ways of doing business. Someone here said – I think it might have been Benjamin – that we are the professional we think we are, or something like that, and I truly believe that. This is a very timely post, thank you for sharing it.

  25. San Diego real estate lawyers

    March 17, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Mark my words, either Obama or Clinton will win – and the legal changes they bring will force a more equitable distribution of wealth AND risk. First, rebuild the social safety net, shredded by decades of rightwing mismanagement. Second, better govt regulation will bring more centralized control back over the markets. As time goes on, the federal govt will reassert its rightful authority over more sectors of the economy, and we will march together into a brighter future for our children! I read an interesting article called “The number one question in San Diego real estate.” you can check it out at: http://www.brokerforyou.com/brokerforyou

  26. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Jeremy – Thank you. It IS all in our heads, but it still is also in the heads of those who choose to be judgemental.

  27. Mark Hendriks

    March 19, 2008 at 12:53 am

    I too started at the age of 23, I had a hard fight, it took me a full year before I signed my first listing, It was such a harrowing experience, but I felt like I was doing something that I could be happy doing for the rest of my life.
    At 30 yrs of age I still get the curious remark from potential clients about my inexperience and now that I am in a new market, it is as if I have turned back the clock to 23 again, But I have the fundamentals and stay abreast of technology, so I will soon traverse these growing pains. The Ol’ boy network is bound fall, I think we can see that already from the exodus of ads from the newspapers to the web.
    My hope is that, as the ol boys network falls, I hope in turn the ol boy clients will go away with them. I am tired of clients asking If I will put their listing in the paper.

  28. Sue

    April 12, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Great post. I don’t think age matters, knowledge and keeping an open mind for new and better more effective ways to do things is important…progression. The harder part will be educating clients on the value that this brings..

  29. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 1, 2008 at 5:08 am

    I started in real estate at the ripe old age of 20 (well, ok, I was 1 month away from being 21). It was extremely difficult getting started. I had recently moved from my home in Indianapolis to Louisville Kentucky, and didn’t know anyone beyond my husband’s family. I was young, & inexperienced so I had to work doubly hard to prove that I was good. I’m now selling homes to the children of my earlier clients.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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