Our latest YPN breakfast focused on work-life balance and how to manage feeling burned out and overwhelmed. Three professionals composed the panel, and Chicago Association of REALTORS®’ very own Ginger Downs was the moderator. “Life is like a balance beam. What does it take to balance? It takes training, practice, concentration, focus, and mindfulness,” Ginger said.

Panelists included Evan Shy, dietician and fitness expert from Shy Town Fitness, Hope Ross, life coach from Hope Ross Coaching, and Peter Moulton, time management pro from DreamTown Realty. These are their answers for the work life balance questions we all ask ourselves.

Ginger: What’s the best way to manage when work feels 24/7?

Peter: Everything is negotiable in this business— what is non-negotiable? Make a stop-doing list rather than a to-do list. Take care of yourself! Focus on what you need to do and how you prioritize. Also, master being human and fallible… You are a hot mess in your own way. Love that about yourself. The harder you try to hide it the more people see it.

Hope: It’s important to know that work is part of life. It’s not a stasis, not a place you just sit. It’s a place that you work on. Learn how to say no. I would recommend practicing rituals, or choosing a different thought or emotion. After a certain hour, it’s my time. There, I wash away the stress from the day.

G: How do you help the busy REALTOR® eat healthy and work out on occasion? Best nutrition for eating on the go?

Evan: Making your own meals might not always be realistic, so always focus on protein. Protein, protein, protein! The more we consume protein, the more it has the most relative payoff. 20-35% of calories from protein are spent in the process of metabolizing it. Not to mention, you’re more satiated. Try prepackaged snacks and meals in zip-locks. Deli meat is a good and convenient source. Carry around two tablespoons of nuts, and celery stalks are good as well.

G: How do you find time to work out?

E: First, you need to be asking yourself, can I see myself doing this three, six, or twelve months from now? You want to have that vision to see any meaningful progress. But do whatever works, whatever fits your schedule that you can sustain. For the busy professional morning is best— all you need is 15-20 minutes. So wake up 15 minutes earlier. It provides a euphoria only exercise can provide (not coffee).

P: I believe that happiness precedes health. If I am unhappy I cannot be or get healthy since I have no energy. However, moving one’s body for even 20 minutes per day is required to be happy. I DON’T believe in time management— it’s energy management. Time management is a complete myth. Nobody manages time. Planning to be focused in your own way and creating non-negotiable stops and starts are what make people successful in life and work.

H: I agree. I need to have time where I just stop. You need to understand where you get energy, where you can recharge.

G: Is it really all about cardio or more strength training to weight loss?

E: Muscle is the tissue that drives metabolism. It is the machinery that absorbs and metabolizes nutrients for energy. So anytime we talk about weight loss we want to specify FAT loss. Resistance exercise is one of the most potent stimuli to sustain muscle during periods of weight loss, so strength training needs to be a primary component of your exercise program. Cardio is not all bad. It can be a cathartic opportunity to listen to a podcast or audio book. The reality is, the calories burnt on cardio machines are insubstantial in a practical sense. I.e. I burned 300 calories of my healthy 600 calorie salad I had for lunch.

G: Suggestions for transitioning from one-man shop to relying on someone else?

P: Begin at the beginning. 80-90% of an individual’s day does not have value, so ask yourself what do I need to unload? Like going through your email. Basically, put time back in your pocket to get your energy back. Delegate or relinquish activities that don’t produce revenue. But also remember relationships die… both personal and professional. Let them. It’s a huge amount of work to try and bring a dead horse back to life, and eventually the horse is still dead.

G: Many of us are having trouble sleeping. What’s your best tip to let go and let us sleep?

E: Energy starts the night before with sleep quality. Take supplements like magnesium, which decreases “stress” hormones like cortisol and relaxes muscles, and melatonin, a natural hormone that reduces with age. Save carbohydrates for the evening (consuming them in the morning gives you a cognitive fog). The after effects increases your tryptophan which is directly linked with serotonin, the chemical that increase mood. Reduce light and electronic exposure, especially cell phones!

H: A really simple breathing exercise can slow things down. For example, inhaling for four counts, holding for seven counts, exhaling for eight counts. If I have trouble staying asleep, this helps. I do take magnesium though so I would totally say that works. But I should also say that if breathing still doesn’t work, I find it helps to actually get out of bed and spend 20 minutes thinking about whatever is on your mind. Then you can get back into bed and to sleep.

P: Sleep is what makes or breaks the human brain’s ability to be productive. It is the number one priority if you wish to remain energetic. I take 30mg of melatonin and two Benadryl every night. Also, if you have sleep apnea, don’t ignore it! If you have trouble breathing, see to it. Addressing these will increase your energy.

G: Do you have a favorite app?

E: Eat Purely. My Fitness Pal.

H: Timer on your phone. It helps for meditating.

P: Footsteps App, great for shaming— you know, reminding yourself to step it up! Egg Timer, which is great if you can’t work for more than 90 minutes. I can do 60 minutes-worth of work. Just focus for 3 hours a day.

G: Any supplements or foods that keep energy high?

E: When I wake up, I drink a liter of water with lemon. I also have a cup of black coffee to increase catecholamine release. Add some cinnamon to extend its life. I’ll say it again… don’t consume carbs in the morning. Work on that protein consumption. Most importantly, DO NOT eat a bowl of cereal and a fruit juice concoction in the morning! A big spike in glucose is a sure fire way to experience a late morning crash as your blood sugar levels begin to plummet.

G: Why do professionals, real estate agents in particular, think they get merit badges for how many hours they work?

H: In this day and age, we are our jobs. It’s our culture. This is what we value. The best way to handle this is knowing your “why.” Why are you here? Why are you doing what you do? Not just why you are in real estate, but knowing why you are here in this life, and you know all what all these parts are, it then makes the definition of balance that much easier. Your why isn’t just your job. Be passionate or it will be difficult. Say, what’s important to me? It doesn’t matter what those folks outside think.

P: You’re exactly right. I don’t care what people think. The sooner you let it go, the sooner you can live your life. Multi-tasking is a big myth. Nobody in the world can multi task. We all mono task… It’s just that some of us do it faster than others. I love hearing people— who do very little business— talk about what great “multi taskers” they are. People that multi task should call themselves “70% completers with ADHD.” They never actually finish anything. Imagine if you sat down and finished four things from start to finish… Wouldn’t that be great?