Baking Every Day: What I Learned

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I didn’t reach my “Lockdown Limit” until late in the fall (of 2020) — even though Georgia was not on lockdown, we were (of course) still taking serious precautions against COVID-19 — masks are required in public spaces, restaurants have different protocols for eating in their space, and life just feels different. I know a lot of people were feeling stressed, discouraged, lonely, and any other range of emotion — all of which are appropriate and personal and understandable — but I don’t really feel like I hit that wall until autumn.

So here I was: at the beginning of the holiday season, halls decked and trees decorated, in a year that included a lot of discomfort and strife for many (but I had somehow made it through somewhat cheerfully and optimistically), and I was losing motivation and feeling a little glum. While our year was pretty darn good, considering the global pandemic’s circumstances and how it affected so many around us, it felt like a lot of the same — still trying to be home as much as possible. I needed a goal to focus on, and I wanted it to be something that wasn’t real estate-related. On the evening of December 1, 2020, after a couple of glasses of wine and a few hours spent planning Ben’s birthday dinner and cake, I (tipsily…?) posted on Instagram that I would be baking every day in December leading up to Christmas, sort of my own version of an Advent Calendar. (For those of you who have asked, here are all of the recipes I made in December!)

I had done no prior planning (as one might do before making a public proclamation on social media) and no grocery shopping. All I had was a head full of baking ideas, a vague idea that I could do it, and the usual confidence that a few glasses of wine may instill.

In short, I was unprepared. Here’s the thing, however: those things (that would normally hold me back) didn’t matter; it was just what I needed at the time. And I learned some valuable lessons that are applicable way beyond my kitchen.

Nurture your interests outside of the real estate.

It’s okay — and in my opinion, highly advisable — to be interested in something other than real estate. So much of what we do is all-encompassing, and social media especially has led to these potentially harmful beliefs that we must be all things to all clients and be available 24/7. The internet crows out such advice as:

“Answer every phone call!”
“Return every call within 10 minutes, or you won’t get the lead!”
“Be available at all hours!”

Here’s the thing: not only are those terrible lies we tell ourselves in our attempt to keep up with the half-truths we see on the social media profiles of others (we all know that most of our friends only put their best selves forward on social media, which allows us to present the version of ourselves that we want others to see), but also it promotes unrealistic beliefs of what it takes to be successful in this business. No one can work 24 hours a day; no one can be all things to every client; no one should set those expectations for their clients or themselves. You may hear others preach: set expectations for your clients; you wouldn’t expect your CPA or attorney to take your call at 9 PM, so you shouldn’t be expected to, either.

Guess what? They’re not wrong.

Not everyone wants to talk to you about real estate all the time. Similarly, no one wants real estate to be the only thing they see on your Instagram or Facebook profile (unless it’s your business page). Nurturing yourself and your interests outside of work gives clients and consumers something to connect with you on other than what you do for a living. You are much more than your real estate business!

Always (always!) be curious and learning.

Have a curiosity you haven’t explored yet? Do it! Have a hobby you want to get better at? Work on it! Want to learn a new skill lurking in the back of your mind, and you “just haven’t had the time”? Now is the time!

There’s no time like the present (excuse the cliché, but it’s true!). We cannot manufacture time, and if you don’t make time for it now, can you guarantee that you will in the future?

Like anything: set a goal, make a plan to reach it, and get started! It’s no different than your goals for your real estate business, except this makes you an even more well-rounded person and will bring joy to your life (I can almost guarantee it!).

COVID-19 or not, “me-time” is important.

It’s a lesson that it took a global pandemic for some of us to learn…or to remember, but better late than never! So many of my friends have expressed this on social media, and I’ve been lucky enough to have several conversations over the past few months with friends and colleagues who reached a similar limit and finally took the opportunity to slow down, reassess, and take inventory of their time. Not to sound like a self-help guru or get preachy on you: but time for yourself, doing something that brings you joy, is crucial to your mental health. Period.

Last thoughts:

Speaking (virtually) to a group of incoming Association leaders last week, one REALTOR asked me: spending so much time “doing what I wanted,” how did my year go, and how did I also manage to work?

Truth time: I sold more real estate in 2020 than I did in 2019, and I worked a lot less (as did my husband and business partner, Ben). Not traveling to teach and for conferences (due to COVID travel restrictions) was a big part of this, but it was also because I made a concerted effort to prioritize me. Having outside-of-real-estate interests and hobbies (I bake throughout the year, but was intensive about it in December; I am also a runner and ran 100+ miles five months in a row) helps me to work smarter. I prioritize my time better; I am happier with my clients; I am less likely to get to burn-out levels; I manage my stress better… Not to mention, I am a better spouse and a better friend, and I’m just plain happier.

And I believe you could have similar results! What are you waiting for?