Happy 2020! If there’s one thing you can’t say about the past decade is that it was boring. At the start of the 2010s, the entire country was still recovering from a recession, and according to the Atlantic, Texas actually began enjoying a turnaround and economic boom faster than other states. And speaking of booms, Austin’s population has experienced nothing less than an explosion over the last 10 years. In 2017, almost seven percent of people living in Austin were not residents the previous year. At the time, the city experienced “the largest rate [increase] among the top 50 U.S. metros,” said the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Forbes also crunched some numbers and found that from April 2009 to 2019, the median home price in Austin-Round Rock area skyrocketed 69 percent.

These are all great accomplishments that helped escalate Austin to top spots on several best places to live and work lists, but not everyone would say the last decade was exactly easy street. A job report in 2010 ranked real estate one of the most stressful professions out there, thanks to the hours, the pressure and competition. Then mid-decade, another study found that agents had the second highest rate of depression (interestingly, after bus drivers). Finally, throughout the decade, technology forced one and all to finally accept radical changes to the way real estate professionals do business — how agents and customers find each other to how paperwork, correspondence and research migrated from paper to hard drives and then the cloud.

So whether you are in the camp that enjoyed the ride on Austin’s recession-recovery coattails or had trouble adjusting to industry shakeups, now is the perfect time to start looking ahead to the future and set goals that will put you and your team on the career trajectory you want to be on. If that sounds corny to you, you’re not alone. Only about 12 percent of those who write out year-end goals actually keep any of them. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set goals. It just means that there’s more to achieving success than simply listing ambitions on a piece of paper. 

RealtyLine spoke with some real estate professionals in Austin who are part of some of the most motivated teams in the city. Not only do they believe in setting goals for advancing professional ambitions, but they find that it improves motivation and even has a proven record for increasing sales volume.

Steven Edwards, broker associate with Compass said, “Historically, I have been hit and miss with writing out goals because I can suffer from lack of discipline. But I’m a firm believer in setting goals because they help me grow as a professional and an individual.” Whether he’s articulated his goals for 2020, Edwards said he was on it. And one thing that helped him get there was putting himself in a position of accountability, which experts happen to believe is a crucial step to take if you expect to achieve your goals.

A study by a psychology professor at Dominican University found that professionals who formulated “action commitments” on a document and then sent it to a supportive colleague were significantly more likely to achieve their goals compared to groups of professionals who wrote out or announced goals but did not share them with someone. 

Case in point, in past years, Edwards said he wrote out goals, but would soon go back to business as usual. That’s because he learned that “pledging to myself that I will work hard every day and settle for the results that my hard work brings was not enough.” Ultimately, Edwards said, he was too forgiving when it came to holding himself accountable.

Jonathan Ryan, an agent with Karen Derr REALTORS, says that at the end of every year his team sets goals. “We look over our closed sales and try to determine as best we can how clients came to us. That helps us understand what marketing efforts are working and what might not be.” The team can then determine the volume they’re aiming to hit over the next year. One reason goal-setting is successful to owner and broker Karen Derr and her team is because they treat the experience like it’s a marathon and not a sprint. 

Of course, the marathon/sprint metaphor is a very general and overused cliché. So think of it this way. Say the Derr team aspires to increase volume seven percent in 2020. That would be a great goal, but how is it supposed to work? Should Karen Derr REALTORS aim to close a certain number of deals by the time March rolls around? Or should their volume go up month-to-month? Rather than put rigid benchmarks in place, Derr’s team sets monthly goals too. 

There’s a popular productivity hack known as the 1-3-5 rule. The way it works is that teams write down one goal. Next, they come up with three strategies for achieving that goal. Then finally, they identify five tactics for implementing their three strategies. 

The strategies in place to help the Derr team reach their goal of increasing volume, says Ryan, include calculating how many deals they should aim to close per quarter, identify specific marketing activities they’ll launch each month and determine which prospecting activities to do each week.

As for Edwards, he has already identified some strategies for improving business over the coming year, including holding a minimum of two monthly collaboration and accountability sessions with his group at Compass, attending two to three networking events per month and he plans to join an Austin Board of REALTORS (ABoR) committee. 

Regardless of one’s track record with setting and achieving goals in the past, what’s important to focus on are current strategies, accountability and the ability to forgive and forge ahead in the face of setbacks.