Take A Break…Your Real Estate Business Will Thank You!

by | BiggerPockets.com

I am one of those people who hardly ever says “no” to a new project.  I love getting involved and being active in all sorts of ventures.  Unfortunately, the more hectic my schedule becomes, the more hectic everything in my life feels and the we all know what happens when we get too busy, right?  When we are being pulled in too many directions and trying to get more and more done is when we make mistakes.

Balancing Your Days To Be More Productive

There are many who believe that the path to being more productive is actually a path of doing less.  I am notoriously bad for being able to multi-task.  The very idea of trying to do more than one thing at one time makes my head hurt.  I am one of those people who hates to talk to someone else while they are checking emails or texting or any of the other handful of things that we do simultaneously to listening!  We all think that we can hear perfectly and do two things at one time.  Never mind the obvious fact that we may be acting rudely, how in the world can we remember details when we have multiple things going on at one time.  My younger brother, Brett Clothier may be the best multi-tasker I have ever met.  I think he intentionally refuses to look up from his computer while we are talking just to see if I will test him.  When I do, he always answers the detail questions correctly.  But just because he is good at it doesn’t mean the rest of us should try it.

Besides Brett, I do not know too many people who are good at doing two things at one time.  This is a problem I see often in the real estate industry.  Whether it is agents trying to sell homes while simultaneously trying to get new buyers, while simultaneously trying to find a house for existing buyers while simultaneously trying to get new certifications while simultaneously trying to learn how to do short-sales, while simultaneously trying to win a banks’ REO business, while simultaneously….you get the picture.  If you want to make the problem worse, try raising a family in the middle of it all!

Or how about the brand new real estate professional just getting started and thinking to him or herself that the old adage of eating an elephant one-bite at a time is old-fashioned.  They proceed to try to fill their plate with as many new things as possible only to find their plate toppling over, the mouth so full that their brain is confused and ultimately they haven’t become proficient at anything.  Too many brand new real estate professionals get clobbered by reality when they start trying to buy discount properties that they can fix and re-sell at a retail level.  While at the same time they are trying to build a buyer’s list, advertising for wholesale properties, registering for 4 Webinars a day and trying to figure out how to watch 6 courses on three different real estate topics to justify to money they spent on the learn at home courses.

All of this would be laughable if we did not know it was true.  And to make matters worse,  way too often we have multiple examples of investors taking the next step after their first deal into info-products lauding their “system” for making money.  This only makes for even more confusion for the new real estate professional turned teacher.  Focusing on teaching everyone else how little you know actually limits your ability to learn yourself.  It takes your eye off the most important thing you can be doing and that is securing your own ability to provide well into the future.

Tips On Staying Focused In Real Estate

Frank McKinney is an excellent writer.  He is also a very inspirational speaker and has created really his own niche of real estate.  He builds ultra exclusive homes on the East coast of Florida and has been in the business since the early 1990’s.  He also takes the time every year to get away from his business for a few days and not only re-charge his batteries, but he takes time to evaluate which direction he is heading in life.  He wrote a book – in fact, he has written several books.  But the one that I read every year is Make It Big.

Every year I pull this book off my book shelf and read it again.  It is one of those books that really helps me to stay centered and focused.  One of the ways it does this is by reminding me to Take Time For Myself, which is tip one for staying focused.

Taking time for yourself should not be a sometime activity or a once-a-year activity.  You need to regularly take time to put work down and live right in the very moment of that day.  Take a walk, take a nap, shoot baskets with your kids or throw bread to the fish in the lake.  Take a look at your over-crowded and busy schedule and block out two days to go skiing.  Block out two days on your schedule to take a cooking class or to go to a quiet cabin or for that matter book a room at the hotel down the street with the nice spa.  This is not about what you do with your time but about who you are dedicating that time to.  Work is important, but work will always be there and we owe it to ourselves and our families to be the best we can be while working.  In order to maximize our efforts, we have to build in time for ourselves as well.

I was reading the New York Times sunday edition last month and I ran across an article that inspired me to write this post.  It was written by Tony Schwartz, the CEO of The Energy Project and author of “Be Excellent at Anything”.  He had an interesting line early in the story “…a mythical and misguided assumption – that our resources are infinite”.  He was talking about how our more, bigger, faster mentality is grounded in this concept.  I liked the way he called it mythical and misguided because that is exactly what it is!  Filling Our Minds With The Right Resources is my second tip for staying focused.

While we all know our time is finite, so is our energy level and ability to absorb new information.  I see more and more real estate professionals clamoring for the latest and greatest.  Whether it is a new certification that really tells no one outside of others with that certification anything at all about your business or spending untold sums of money on the newest time-saving technique that has nothing to do with your core competency, more time, energy and money is wasted trying to fill our minds with useless information.  I will sum this up a little better.  I get inundated daily with emails about the newest craze in social media or mobile applications.  Many of them are on the peripheral of what I do and while some may help, spending my time on most will only crowd my day and mind and ultimately…well, make me dumber.  Instead, knowing that I can only devote so much time to learning, I choose to surround myself with topics and opportunities that are directly related to my core competency and that I know will benefit me the greatest.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to put time towards many other things, but I have learned that I cannot.  This one tip alone can help you start relaxing immediately.

Lastly, what about the all important concept of taking a vacation.  I know I know, many reading this are either going to laugh because they do not believe in vacationing or they say they take three to five vacations a year.  Of course, if you asked the spouse how those vacations go they will gladly tell you about the cell phones by the pool, the computer set up on the desk in the room and the portable printer that fits right in the suitcase!  That is not a vacation.  Building Time For True Vacations is my third tip fo staying super focused on your real estate business.

I’ll just throw this our there before going any further…your spouse will thank me later for your following this advice.  Vacations are not a time for work.  They are a time for total relaxation and 100% attention spent on yourself, your spouse, your children or any other loved ones you happen to bring along.  According to Tony Schwarts’ article, a 2006 study by the accounting firm Ernst & Young found that employees who took an additional 10 hours of vacation a year scored an average of 8% higher on their year-end reviews.  They also found that more frequent vacationers were more likely to stay at the firm longer.  Ask any accountant and they will tell you that this is a business with high burnout and fatigue…especially at a firm like this one.  So there study could teach all of  us a little about the virtue of spending time vacationing.  Happier and more productive are the two adjectives that I think probably describes people who enjoy and take more vacations.

Now I have heard all of the reasons to not take vacations.  If you say you cannot afford to leave town for a week with your family, then put together a plan where you save for a time when you can.  Then schedule your business around that time and get out-of-town!  If you tell me that your business will fall apart if you go on vacation, then I will tell you to invest your time learning about being a better manager instead of the latest social media craze.  If your business will fall apart without you then you do not have a business to begin with.  Concentrate on building trust and accountability and then you can talk about having a business because the sign of a great leader is not what he can do, but what his team does when he is not around.  If you want to truly enjoy your time and increase the productivity of everyone, figure out how to get yourself out-of-town on a real vacation.

Everything about today’s world is filled with hustle and bustle.  Our schedules are loaded to the brim.  Not only do we have our schedules at our fingertips daily on smart phones, we now have smart cars, portable offices and the ability for anyone to reach us 24/7 anywhere in the world.  We have conditioned ourselves to never turn our businesses off.  I have embraced the idea over the last couple of years that there is a time for work…and I have to be turned on and tuned in 100% during that time.  And then there is a time to take a break and I have to be turned off and tuned in 100% to me, my family and anything that will make me better when I return to my busy schedule at work.  I would love to read your thoughts or go back and forth with anyone who has found a way to be more effective and more productive in the real estate business! 

Photo: Mark Fischer

About Author

Chris Clothier

In 2005, Chris Clothier (G+) began working with passive real estate investors and has since helped more than 1,100 investors purchase over 3,400 investment properties in Memphis, Dallas and Houston through the Memphis Invest family of companies.


  1. Chris –

    I really love this post. It out what so many of us have trouble doing; stop working. I am really guilty of this. It has become the “norm” to be available to everyone all the time. Why is it so hard today to find the balance that we all crave when deep down we know just how essential that it is four our health not to mention our sanity?


    • Chris Clothier

      Sharon –

      Thanks for taking some time today to read and comment on the article. I agree with you that it really is hard to truly get away from the business and recharge. Unfortunately, it is really easy to fool ourselves about being in control and what we need to be great at what we do!

      Take care – Chris

  2. Glenn Schworm

    Great article Chris. I am laughing to myself because it is 1:15 in the morning on a Monday and I am catching up on emails so I am ready for the next blast of emails tomorrow! I need a vacation brother!! LOL, thanks for the well written article and the reminder.

    • Chris Clothier

      Glenn –

      What made me laugh about your comments is that I took a late night flight to Los Angeles. I am out here for a quick meeting and I sat down and opened up my computer to check email and prepare for the next day. It was 2:00 AM at home!!! I should have already been zonked and resting and there I was checking email and running across your comments.

      I will tell you – I have 4 beautiful children and a dad who just had a health scare. This life is way too short and each day is a gift so i am making sure that no matter how much work i do, I am laughing, crying and enjoying every day i am here. You have to or else all the work is for nothing!

      Let me know when you schedule that vacation!


  3. Great read Chris. I try to take at least one day a week to wind it down and be “tech free” away from the phone emails etc – it doesn’t work always but I’m trying. The vacation thng is a huge one too. If you take one, really take it and enjoy it. Great advice but not always easy to do. Thanks for reminding me to “take time for myself”. Mike

    • Chris Clothier

      Mike –

      You are a superstar in your own right and have earned the ability to get away. As I said in one of the points, you have to surround yourself with good competent people and then inspect what you expect out of them. That is a fancy way of saying teach until they understand how to do it exactly like you want it done. Then get out of the way. You will find that getting away on vacation will become much easier.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. All the best to you –


  4. Jennifer Schlador on

    How true! I have been totally guilty of multi-tasking and working 70 hour weeks. Everything was out of whack. I now schedule my hours for work. And my personal does not flow into my work or visa versa. And I love the vacation part. It puts a whole new perspective on your life when you return! Thanks for the great article!

    • Chris Clothier

      Jennifer –

      Thank you for reading the article. It is because of comments and the ability to interact with other investors that I love writing them. Its good to hear that you are separating your time and tasks.

      All the best to you –


  5. Great article Chris.

    I agree and disagree about the multi-tasking. I’d love to stay on task for each thing but the business loves to create “pop ups” of urgent matters that don’t care what it is that you’re working on at the moment. And, I already specialize. If you have deals going on, you’re going to get pulled in different directions. It’s just how it is (unless you have a refined staff structure and can just manage the business, and not be in it, yes).

    However, I balance this with, “What things MUST I get done today?” meaning, there would be a consequence if they’re not completed. This allots for the pop ups and changes in plans, but as much as I can I try to pull myself back to…”how important is this thing I’m (reading, doing, researching, etc), and if it’s not, I quit it and go back to my task. Otherwise, yes I’ll shoot off a text, email, for something unrelated to get it out of the way and have it being worked on while I work on other things.

    With the vacations, the way I look at it is, I’m standing here having a beer/laying on beach, whatever, I can take calls and answers questions. Heck, I might even brainstorm while sitting in a cafe. I love my business, I don’t need to get away from it. But, I don’t want it to run my away time, and if I don’t get back to people for a few days, oh well. My email/vm said I’d be gone, no biggie. I’ve been out to Hawaii every year for the last 4 years for a week and am happy to be doing deals and eating fresh coconut then not be able to have flexibility.

    Although I have some staff I am still involved/integrated in my business, so until such a time I can replace the majority of my tasks, I’m fine with keeping myself available. The social media time suck I totally get; some things you just HAVE to let go and move on to what’s making money now.

    Biggest thing I can say to your article is ownership. Ownership of your own time, of your goals, and of protecting that which grounds you (ie family, exercise, etc). If you don’t assertively protect these elements, you’ll attract and remain in a position to be burned out.

    • Chris Clothier

      Tracy –

      First thanks for leaving a reply – I appreciate that. Second, I think all of us as hard driving entrepreneurs have a hard time completely detaching and often see no need for it. I love making money while sitting on the beach or on vacation just as much as the next person. There has to be a balance between actually working and working on your work.

      I have found that truly getting away and not answering an email or a quick phone call while eating fresh coconut has helped me to spend time getting crystal clear on what I want to do when i am answering calls and emails. Enjoying that coconut without the interruption is just as sweet as chewing bites between calls. Plus, I am so inspired to do it more often that i can concentrate on building my business when I get back.

      The greatest trait a business owner or entrepreneur can develop is the ability to truly replicate your self. It has been an absolute necessity for my families company. IN order for us to grow we had to teach others to do what we did. It doesn’t mean we are not in the thick of the business everyday, it just means that when we are ready to get away and talk about all the things we need to do to improve our business – we can. Because back home, the team we have put in place is DOING the business. As owners we benefit the greatest because we are energized, refreshed and focused. Meanwhile, the business never stopped. It is a very scary, yet freeing decision.

      I really admire you after reading your articles and reviewing your website and I have a very healthy respect for you and your opinions. I have a feeling that you are on a trajectory to be talking very soon about how to replicate yourself in your real estate business! i look forward to reading how you do it.

      All the best to you –


    • Chris Clothier

      Jeff –

      What is amazing about you and your business is that you will always be able to be there to provide input, feedback and speak from a level of great experience. Having an “hear apparent” will really allow you to still provide that meaningful and needed experience but hopefully allow him or her to be in the day to day minutia and grind. I have no doubt that you are going to set up a great system to allow yourself some deserved enjoyment of free time!

      Take care and thanks for posting your comments.


    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Budd –

      Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts and comments. No matter how you do it, it is important to take time to relax and rejuvenate yourself and get away from all the “tech” distractions.

      Good stuff!


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