Work-Life Integration: How to Weave Your Professional Passion Into Your Life

Thirteen years ago, we started Luxury Living Chicago Realty, a boutique brokerage in downtown Chicago. Ten years ago, we started a family. Growing a company and raising a family have been the most rewarding and challenging experiences of our lives. Both are always evolving. Our company now has a team of nearly 60 people, and our daughters are ten and eight years old. In between all of the work and child-rearing, we have to find time for ourselves and each other as a married couple.

We are frequently asked how we “do it all?” 

Simply put, it takes hard work, being intentional with your time, and having a real passion for what you do professionally. 

We do not subscribe to the idea of work-life balance. Balance indicates an even distribution. Anyone who has tried to manage their personal and professional lives knows nothing is ever equal, especially, for those of us in the real estate industry.

Instead, practice work-life integration. According to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, work-life integration is “an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define ‘life’: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health.” 

This approach emphasizes weaving together the different areas of life rather than drawing firm boundaries between them.

Here are a few things we have implemented to help us better achieve work-life integration.

Self Care

For us, self-care is taking time away from both work and family duties to do something for yourself as an individual. 

We make time for regular exercise and massage therapy. Amy gets her nails done once a week. Aaron has a daily meditation practice and commitment to reading books/thought leadership outside the real estate industry to gain a greater perspective.  

It may sound or seem selfish, but taking time for yourself is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity.

It’s easier said than done. If you are having a hard time stepping away, we recommend scheduling it on your calendar. If it’s on your calendar, you’ll be more likely to commit. 

Sharing the Household & Child Duties

Women often are the default managers of household work and childcare. When you have two working parents, it’s unfair for one parent to bear the majority. 

Recognizing an imbalance existed within our own dynamic, a few years ago we began operating our household like our company. This does not mean we treat our children like employees. It means everyone has accountabilities.

We made a list of all of the household tasks or invisible work in our home. Then, we assigned an owner to those tasks. If someone is not able to personally complete a task or finds it’s not the highest and best use of their time, they can outsource or delegate, but they must manage the process and make sure it gets done. 

We recommend leaning on friends and family, and when possible, hiring paid help. It truly takes a village to manage a family’s logistics. 

Managing Your Schedule

Since there are only 24-hours in a day, you need to use them wisely.

Getting a good night’s sleep should absolutely be part of your schedule. Sleep is important because it enables your body to rest and repair. You should strive for at least eight hours every night.

This leaves 16 more hours in your day. 

How can you be as productive as possible? It starts with being intentional with your schedule.

Be protective of your time by limiting the number of meetings you have scheduled each day. 

Also, find your “on” time. If you are more energized in the morning, block that time for getting your deep work done. If you’re a late afternoon kind of person, schedule your calls and meetings in the earlier part of the day and save your project work for later. 

Being more intentional with your time leads to better quality work than trying to do it all and checking boxes.  

Predictive Time Off

We believe in taking predictive time off. This means scheduled vacation time, where we are completely logged-off and not “checking in” on work. If you are dabbling, then you’re not really getting a break. For each day we are fully disconnected, not making decisions, and focused on ourselves, and in the moment, there is a one-week residual effect. We find taking shorter vacations, often 4-5 days, allows us to recharge for about a month at our highest productivity. If you commit to disconnecting, you will feel it even more once you are home.  

Setting Client Boundaries

Since real estate can be a 24-7 business, it is crucial you set boundaries with your clients early in the relationship. If you don’t respect your time, they won’t either. 

Many real estate professionals fear if they aren’t at the beck and call of their clients they will lose them, but that is not true. What it comes down to is setting expectations and communicating them.

If you tell clients you don’t answer emails and texts after 7 PM because you are spending time with your family but you will get back to them first thing the next day, we guarantee they will be understanding. If they aren’t, they’re probably not going to be a great client. 

Love What You Do

We mentioned at the beginning of this article you need to be passionate about your profession. 

If your job feels like a drag, evaluate why. Are you tired? Do you need some time off? Are you not seeing success? Find a manager, mentor or business coach to help you determine what is causing you to feel this way.

It’s okay to be in love with your career. You spend the majority of your time working, you better enjoy it. It’s awesome to be inspired by work, just make sure you’re not a workaholic. Leave room in your life for other experiences.

If you focus on integration versus balance and implement some of the tips we mentioned above, you’ll find more time to do it all, too.

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