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All Things Property Management

All Things Property Management is a one-stop destination for folks interested in learning more about managing real estate. Broken down into a variety of targeted columns, the information that you are looking for is easily accessible — from investing tips and best practices in The Intelligent Investor to the real-life dilemmas of property managers in Stories from the Front Lines. We’ve brought on contributing writers from across the country to share their respective expertise with you, whether you’re a landlord, a professional property manager, or an association board member. Your feedback, participation, and comments will help us deliver the information you need most.

Making Time for "Me Time"

It’s a well documented fact that Americans take less vacation time than business professionals in any other culture. According to a disturbing analysis in a May 2007 Businessweek article, “Americans take even less vacation than the Japanese, the people who gave rise to karoshi—the phenomenon of being worked to death.” While it’s certainly admirable to be a hard worker, there’s also a fine line between dedication and over-doing it. The truth of the matter is, taking time off work is important—not only does it give you the chance to attend to the rest of your life, but it also provides the opportunity to mentally rejuvenate and the distance to remain excited about your job over the long haul. Both of these, after all, are ultimately integral to your business success.

Even if you’re already sold on taking time off work, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Many property managers simply don’t have support staff. In other words, if you’re not doing the job, who is? When you’re dealing with tenants, work can come at any time on any day–it’s just not always as simple as a weekend or scheduling vacation time. So how do you take time off? Here are our five favorite tips to help make that “me” time more easily obtainable.

Tip #1: Plan Ahead
If you’re one of those personality types that has a difficult time relaxing when important deadlines are on the horizon, make sure you plan your relaxation ahead of time. Yeah, yeah—we know it sounds a bit counter-intuitive. But if, for example, you know you have a pitch with a potential client on Monday, be pragmatic about scheduling enough prep time to finish the project before the weekend rolls around. If you don’t start on it before Friday afternoon, chances are you’ll spend your weekend preparing for Monday as opposed to checking out of work-mode.

Tip #2: Meticulously Train Staff
If you do have staff on hand, it’s important that you train them to the point where you trust they can competently handle anything that may come up in your absence. The better trained they are, the more confident you will feel taking that time off. And if you don’t have staff (or even if you do), having a stable of reliable service providers and vendors on hand will ensure that all you have to do is pick up the phone should something require attention during off-hours.

Tip #3: Contract an Answering Service
It may sound a bit antiquated in this day and age of constant and instant access, but hiring an answering service still serves a purpose even in this high-tech age. Having a live person answering calls at all hours gives your tenants and clients the peace of mind of always having a live voice to speak with should anything go awry. Moreover, it allows you to unplug with the knowledge that you will be alerted should anything arise that truly requires your immediate attention.

Tip #4: Unplug
In that vein, if you’re still having a difficult time unwinding, make a point of unplugging yourself. According to the same  Businessweek article, ”Making yourself available 24/7 does not create peak performance,” says psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. “Recreating the boundaries that technology has eroded does.” So, turn off your Blackberry and log out of your email. If you don’t see the minutia coming through in the first place, you won’t be tempted to dive back into work when you’re supposed to be taking time off. If you’re uncomfortable with this, give a trusted employee (or answering service) a number to reach you at, but warn them to call only in the case of emergency. That way you can rest easy knowing that if something truly requires your attention, you’ll be alerted. Otherwise? Your time is your own and it’s safe to assume everything is being taken care of.

Tip #5: Compensate Yourself
Of course, there are certain situations that will necessitate your attention, whether it’s technically your time off or not. If you do find yourself in such a scenario, make up that off-time that wasn’t. For instance, if you find yourself working a couple of hours on Sunday, perhaps you can have your staff pick up some slack for you and cut out a bit early the next Friday afternoon. Or, if it turns out that the vacation day you had planned for Monday simply isn’t going to work because you have to meet with an important potential client, go ahead and reschedule it. But, reschedule is the key word here—do make sure you pen lost vacation time in for another day in the immediate future.

Ah, property management. It can be a 24/7 business with units to fill, repairs to be made, tenants to attend to, and property owners to look after. But no matter how productive and business-minded you are, it’s essential that everyone takes a break sometimes.

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