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There’s quite a bit of “I can’t wait for the holidays” talk at this time of year, and indeed before most people go on vacation. Given the way it’s often expressed, it’s pretty clear there’s something about with the way we work that makes people want to get away from it.

We work more than anything else in our lives, so it’s something that should be filled with joy and fulfilment every day. There is a standard mentality that we should work hard and then take a bit of time off to look after ourselves, which somehow referred to as a life-work balance. But it’s not that balanced at all if you are desperate to stop one to start the other; that’s more like a see-saw, or a rocking ship. A proper balance would be to care for yourself at work as well as in your free time.  

Personally, I’m a big fan of mixing business with pleasure whenever possible. During my time as an estate agent, I regularly found moments in the day to do something non-work related to give myself a break or inspiration. That could be anything from a walk in a park or along the river, to visiting an art gallery, or even finding some afternoon theatre. (I’d often take someone from the team along as well.)

It was also extremely important that everyone in the team took a lunch break every day, and to give themselves a full hour wherever possible. It was a busy office with a sales income alone of £800,000 back in 2005 (and about another £400,000 in lettings), but I really wanted all of us to get more than just money and tiredness out of our success. That meant a lot of mutual support, particularly with viewings and carrying out each other’s appointments for greater time efficiency (instead of everyone rushing about to meet each other for key handovers and spending more time on that than actually showing people around property).

That’s why we operated on a shared commission basis rather than the old-fashioned 1980s model of personal commission: all that doing each other over to get your own offer accepted, whether or not it was the right one for the seller, was utter nonsense. For us, what mattered most was that every single homeowner felt their best interests were kept at heart and that, whoever they spoke to in the office, nobody had their own agenda. Stress doesn’t stand a chance when everyone trusts and helps each other.

Christmas is a wonderful time for spending with friends (and even for tolerating family), but for estate agents it’s also about the only part of the year when there’s a prolonged break for the whole team. Most of the agents I work with are taking the entire period off this year, closing on December 23rd and re-opening on January 2nd. I think that’s brilliant.

While 2019/2020 is particularly favourable to that given how Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall, I feel we should all take that time every festive season. Even with the Boxing Day Bounce on Rightmove, any enquiries can be dealt with remotely with duties shared among the team (now THERE’S an example of balance) because nobody really NEEDS to be in the office: no-one is going to complete on their property during that time.

Something I’m looking forward to this Christmas – aside from eating things I’d never normally eat and engaging with a paper crown – is taking the time to plan my business out for the next 12 months. There is LOADS I want to do, but having been busier than expected in the last quarter of 2019, I haven’t thought about next year at length (despite making a series of videos for estate agents on how to set their 2020 vision). So the idea of just sitting quietly for a few days, with no incoming calls about work and the luxury of time to stare at the ceiling and think my thoughts, is a really exciting prospect. As I said, work should be a daily dose of joy and fulfilment; not something you want to switch off from whenever you can.

Something I’ve finally properly accepted in the last week that will help in getting more enjoyment from the day, is to get help. As I got busier this year, I was simply doing everything myself, because I thought I didn’t have the time to engage and train someone else. But all that did was increase the time I spent on mundane tasks while lengthening my working day and to-do list. So in the last week I’ve hired five freelancers and now have a great team around me of people taking care of things like video, graphics, invoicing and general admin.

I’d like to invite you to do the same. Take a look at what you’re doing to see whether there is anything you too can outsource. Many estate agents have dispensed with administration staff, but that doesn’t mean negotiators should be spending time raising invoices and typing letters. And should managers be trying to write blogs or manage their social media? How much extra income could be generated if those jobs were given away and freed up your time?

Time is the most precious commodity we have, and while I might be perfectly happy to tinker about on Photoshop or iMovie, it’s definitely not the best use of my day and it doesn’t earn me a single penny. It’s a myth that doing them myself saves me money, because it costs me even more in wasted time and potential income.

So no, I don’t think “switching off” is the answer, not least because it’s not possible. We are human beings. We’re not machines that can be deactivated at the touch of a button. Our brain is biologically designed to be fully operational at all times and, if you love what you do, there’s no way you won’t be excited about getting back to work. And that’s perfectly fine.

There is nothing more exciting than your future, and life is more than taking 4 weeks off each year and slaving away for the other 48. You’re not dead to your hobbies and interests when you’re at work, and you certainly shouldn’t be dead from work when you get home at night, or when Christmas starts.

Passion and purpose are both essential elements in our wellbeing, so neither should be something we need to run away from.