Loan officers (LOs) are known for being married to their desks. Phones, files, CRMs and email are the veins that keep LOs connected to the clients that are always waiting with bated breath.
When they do manage to pry themselves away from their desks, it’s not uncommon to see LOs plugged in at home, on vacation, during a kid’s softball game and anywhere else a data signal can reach. It adds up to an overwhelming amount of stress for long periods of time.
It’s understandable why the dedication among LOs is so strong when you consider that a mortgage professional has an opportunity to make a life changing amount of money if they’re willing to put in the work and hours. However, all the money in the world can’t make a person immune to burnout.
Plenty of LOs are making big bucks. Not every LO is running their business in a sustainable, satisfying way that actually allows them to enjoy the successful life they’re building. Does this sound familiar?
If you’re a mortgage professional, you don’t have to accept burnout as a natural part of your career trajectory. In fact, you can get on top, stay on top and avoid burnout by understanding how career burnout happens. The key to burning bright when other mortgage professionals around you begin burning out is to adopt the right tools.
5 ways to prevent burnout from ruining your career just when you’re on your way up:
1. Refocus Every Few Hours to Avoid the Burnout Spiral
You’re well aware of the long list of people waiting to hear back from you during any given part of any given day. The trick to staying sharp is to realize that you can’t wait to unplug until every last person is off your list. LOs should be penciling in 10-minute “vacations” during the day.
What if you don’t have time to disappear for 10 minutes at a time several times a day? You can still benefit from shorter breaks. In fact, there’s a whole science behind the concept of using the “microbreak” to boost productivity!
Taking consistent microbreaks have been shown to:
- Increase concentration.
- Change the way workers see their jobs.
- Prevent injuries commonly caused by sitting at a desk for long periods.
- Reduce stress.
- Boost productivity.
The best kind of break is one that takes you out of the “desk” environment while engaging your senses. If you’re feeling lost when it comes to how to pack a whole vacation into a 10-minute break, it’s actually very easy to use some short mindfulness exercises to recharge before your next power session.
- Step outside and find a spot where you won’t be interrupted for 8-10 minutes. Start with your eyes closed. Open your ears to listen for any sounds that make themselves known in the environment around you. This could be birds chirping, wind rustling through branches or children laughing in the distance.
- Next, begin to focus on the sensations that are making themselves known against your nerve endings. Do you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin? Is the wind hovering over the hairs on your arm? Is the scent of fresh-cut grass from a neighbor’s yard in the air?
- Lastly, open your eyes. It’s time to drink in the visual wonders all around. That includes emerald grass, the blue sky, bejeweled flowers, even the sidewalk that sparkles in the sun.
Of course, your meditation moment doesn’t always have to be so deep. Here at Empower LO, we actually brought in a Foosball table and ping-pong table for the ultimate change of pace. In addition to getting your eyes off the screen for a bit, these fun pastimes are great for getting the heart pumping, shaking off stress and doing a little bonding with the crew around the office.
Our office also has a bookshelf stocked with self-improvement, health, happiness, marketing, sales, leadership, motivational and inspirational titles to help people expand and improve their lives away from whatever challenges they’re trying to fix in their inboxes at the moment. It’s a great way to unwind while sharpening the mind.
2. Don’t Just Make “Work-Life Balance” a Catch Phrase
Your clients want the best of you. While it’s easy to think that running yourself into the ground is the best way to show dedication, the reality is that clients are paying for you to be at the top of your game. Burnout hampers your ability to use your expertise, creativity and problem-solving abilities for the benefit of your clients.
Biting off more than you can chew will actually cause you to get less done than what you’re capable of doing. While it’s okay to be obsessed with your work, you can’t become consumed by it. What does a healthy work-life balance look like for a loan officer?
Here’s a look at some ways to recharge without compromise:
- Make relaxation time and family time intentional. Put your phone in a locked drawer if you need to physically get away from alerts from clients.
- Listen to music or podcasts without checking your phone.
- Don’t just “spend time” with friends and family. Make a habit of trying to leave everyone that you spend time with better than how you found them.
- Try to enjoy hobbies that don’t involve more screen time. When you’re averaging 10 to 12 hours in front of a screen per day as a loan officer, even a video game isn’t relaxing because it’s adding to your “screen fatigue.”
Don’t forget that work-life balance isn’t just about how you spend your waking hours. A balanced life includes a balanced sleep life. This is where many LOs get into trouble with screen time. If you’re often replying to emails right up until you pull the blankets up to your chin, you might be setting yourself up for burnout based on the way you handle lights out. According to the Cleveland Clinic, using screens right up until bedtime is bad because:
- It keeps your mind too psychologically engaged to experience relaxation.
- The blue light from your screen suppresses melatonin to throw off your internal clock.
- The “alerting properties” of seeing stressful information can delay REM sleep.
The result is that you’re groggy, sleep deprived and getting sleepy at all the wrong times. Letting screen time cut into your sleep time can also cause you to get less than eight hours of sleep. This is a recipe for burnout if you listen to the experts at the National Sleep Foundation. According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting less than six hours of quality sleep each night is one of the best predictors of job burnout. The harsh truth is that being glued to your phone can harm your career.
3. Set Expectations From the Beginning
Yes, you’re allowed to set expectations for yourself, your clients, your agents and your colleagues. You want to be the “yes” person, the available person and the dependable person. You know that “being there” is a way to ensure people keep coming back to you. However, being available and being valuable are two different things. Boundaries and expectations allow you to offer your best work instead of just “filling a seat.”
The easiest expectation to set revolves around your business hours. Most people think they have to be available 24 hours a day just because it’s now possible to be available 24 hours a day. In reality, people will respect your business hours if they know they exist. Set specific business hours that you post in the signature block of your email account. This will ensure that people replying to you understand when you’re available. This will actually alleviate irritation and anxiety on their end because they will understand why they aren’t hearing back from you right away.
It’s also okay to acknowledge that some clients simply require too much monitoring to be “worth it.” Clients that expect you to be on call around the clock may simply not be worth the productivity loss they cause. Clients that always thrust their own lack of preparedness to you can also be problematic.
Think of the Realtor who seems to always call you in a panicked state because they need five approval letters at the drop of a hat. The same goes for the “dud” agents who only send you pre-approval requests that are packed with hurdles.
Yes, it can be unthinkable for a loan officer, especially one just starting their mortgage business, to even consider dropping a client. However, you have to be realistic about protecting your energy and brainpower for your business both now and in the future. Always do the “burnout math” in your head to decide how much there is to lose by investing too much in certain clients and agents.
4. Celebrate Even the Small Goals You’ve Accomplished
Keeping it positive as an LO is a great way to avoid burnout. While people don’t exactly associate a lifestyle of popping champagne and dancing on rooftops with the mortgage profession, the reality is that big and small things are happening in your orbit every single week that deserve recognition.
Take time to acknowledge hard work. This is a concept that’s actually ingrained into the fabric of our company culture here at Empower LO. We prioritize celebrating successes and goals met in our weekly sales meetings. We consider every big win for one of our clients a bragging right. When each quarter ends, we take an early Friday for a group celebration outside the office.
5. Outsource Your Workload Smartly
There’s no glory in taking on too much. For LOs, overdoing it can actually become addictive. You often feel like you’re the only one in the world who can “handle the load” that’s in front of you because your clients are trusting you to get things done. In reality, there’s probably a lot that you can push on someone else’s plate while you handle the core work.
It’s just not realistic to expect to maintain your pace if you’re going hard without stopping every day. You’ll quickly max out your 40-hour to 50-hour workweek on “paper pushing” if you’re not careful. What’s more, you’ll waste mental energy on tasks you actually dislike doing while neglecting tasks that will grow your business.
Becoming “lopsided” in the ratio of “busy work” to “growth work” is a big reason why many LOs end up burning out or failing. The sweet spot is getting to a point in running your operation where you’re spending at least 80 percent of your time doing the things you like best about your job.
Here are some of the tasks that are the easiest to outsource while you preserve time for core tasks:
- Document collection.
- Email management.
- Brand building.
- Lead generation.
- Initial lead contacts.
- Appointment setting.
- Blog writing.
Getting work off your plate doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a staff. For many LOs, that would simply eat away too deeply at the bottom line. There are some great software tools out there that can handle mundane tasks. This is going to give you more time to scale your business up while still pursuing the work-life balance that’s going to set you up for longevity.
Final Thoughts on Avoiding Burnout as a Loan Officer
Ambition needs balance. While the allure of a high income may be driving you to push yourself to the edge, nobody can stay at the edge.
If you’re looking to scale your business without overextending yourself, Empower LO has something to show you. You can schedule a live demo for our done for you lead-generation system to see how a more “hands-off” approach to bringing in more clients can add hours of productivity to your week.
Thanks for reading! We’ll see you at the top!
The Empower Team
Sad but too often, too true: