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Achieve Work-Life Balance

January 1, 2007

Is running your association a 24-hour-a-day job? Do you bring projects home at night and go into the office on weekends? Can you even imagine leaving for a week’s vacation? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Association executives are renowned for their dedication. It’s important, though, not to fall down that slippery slope into workaholism.

It’s not uncommon for Paul Shahan, executive officer of the Northwest Mississippi Association of Realtors®, to work late and still take projects home to finish the next morning before heading to the office. “Do we give too much?” he asks. “Or is that kind of dedication required to keep up with the rapid changes and information flow we deal with every day?”

Perhaps Shahan is on to something. When we spoke with several AEs about this issue, many had faced the challenge of reclaiming their lives from their careers. Here’s what they had to say:

Proper planning and delegating are what Mark Wilson, EVP of the Harford County Association of Realtors®, Md., relies on to get out of the work rut. Wilson, whose job often necessitates working late, finds that making a prioritized task list for the next day is key to getting things done in a reasonable amount of time during normal work hours. “If need be, don't answer the phones for an hour, don't look at your e-mail more than once a day, and plan your day with a break in it,” he suggests.

Amy Bochman, executive vice president of the Black Hills Association of Realtors®, S.D., takes a different approach. After six years on the job she experienced a life-threatening illness that forced her to seek a work-life balance. “Two battles with cancer helped me get my job-life priorities in place, with 100 percent backing from my board of directors and membership,” Bochman says.

Her solution? “Hire good help.” Bochman explains, “It took me 82 resumes and about 15 interviews, but I have a fantastic second-in-command who has allowed me to delegate with confidence.”

Her small association—500 members—just hired its third full-time staff person. “Remember, you need the break, whether you know it or not, and it allows you to come back refreshed and renewed—ready to tackle the next crisis,” she says.

For some people, the thought of delegating responsibility is unfathomable. To them, Bochman suggests, “Don't take yourself so seriously that you believe no one else (staff or volunteers) is capable of making decisions or getting a task done. They can, and will, do it if you let them.”

Realizing you can’t do it all is one step; helping your elected leadership come to the same conclusion is another, as Helen Carter, rce, cae, of the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors®, Tenn., found. As someone whose surplus of hours barely registered with the leadership at her previous association, Carter believes we must not only help leadership develop realistic expectations, but also encourage AEs to be realistic about their limitations. “We’re often our own worst enemies. We caution our members not to be available 24/7 and we often lead by poor example.”

Peggy J. Kayser, rce, cae, CEO of the Realtor® Association of NorthWest Chicagoland found a work-life strategy by happenstance.
“I was one of those AEs who came in early, stayed late, and worked weekends to keep up with everything.” But when she moved into a new house and unpacking temporarily took precedence over working late, Kayser realized it wasn’t how many hours she worked, but rather how she used those hours that made the difference in her life. She’s since made a conscious decision to bring balance to her work and personal time. “I encourage others to take the same step I did. Life is too short to do otherwise.”


Resources:
For more advice, check out these best-selling books:
Never Check E-Mail In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work, by Julie Morgenstern and The Present: The Secret to Enjoying Your Work And Life, Now!, by Spencer Johnson.