Four Productivity Improvement Tips To Make You A Better Real Estate Investor

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“Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst…” –William Penn

If that quote doesn’t kick you right in the gut, then congratulations — you’re among the tiny percentage of people who can comfortably look themselves in the mirror and honestly say they use their time as wisely and efficiently as possible.  For the rest of us, it’s an indictment on how often we bemoan our lack of time — the most precious resource that any of us has — while not effectively using what time we DO have.  I am not sure what all the readers of this article would say, but for me – Time is what I want most in life!  Money for me is a product of time well spent.  Fame, fortune, accolades…these are all objects that occupy us and make some of us feel successful.  I use that word a lot in my articles – successful.  It is one of those words that can have as many different definitions and meanings as the number of people you ask.  For me, success is all about time!

While using one’s time wisely is important in any job, it’s that much more so in a vocation like real estate investing that rewards productive self-starters.  The ability to manage your own time, as opposed to answering to a supervisor or punching a clock, is likely one of the things that draws so many to real estate investing in the first place.  So if you’re going to be in charge of your own time, BE IN CHARGE OF IT.  I have been in the real estate investing business for a long time and  here are some productivity improvement tips to help you do just that.

1.) Prioritize

You have to decide what’s most important to you, both in large-scale and small-scale terms.  Work from the top down: Long-term goals inform short-term goals, which give you a blueprint for what you need to do today.  How important growing your real estate investing business is to you will help you to determine how many hours you want to devote to it.  This is not just another “Write Your Goals Down” list.  This is an everyday action plan list that says I need to get off my backside today and get this done!  You should have two lists.  One that says here are the things I want to accomplish.  That can be a list of what-evers and when-evers, but they are important to you.  From that list, you pull down the most important tasks for today.  The most important actions you can take to move one of those items on your list to the completed file.  Long-term creates the short-term which creates the “if I don’t do this today – then I don’t really care about being successful” task list.

Once you’ve decided how much time is to be allocated to your business, you then need to prioritize your tasks.  Which items on your to-do list will make the greatest impact in your business?  Make absolutely sure those get done.  Which tasks take up more time than they’re worth?  Push them further down — and in some case, eliminate them — from your list.  That one action may be the best action you take when looking at your list.  You will absolutely find items that will get you absolutely no-where today but you may have enjoyed doing yesterday.  Well yesterday is gone and that item needs to go with it.  It can be studying, researching, making calls to a list that is a dud, sending another mailer to a mailing list that has not produced a single lead despite all your efforts.  Time killers and productivity wasters can come in all forms and you have to be smart enough to know when to cut something loose that is not producing results for you.

2.) Plan

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s such an important step.  It sounds like such a cliche and yet it is so important.  If you don’t have a clear idea of the tasks to be completed for the day, it’s just too easy to let trivial distractions stand in the way of you and your goals.  Sure, you may MEAN to check out “X” number of properties and make “Y” number of phone calls, but if you haven’t made a step-by-step plan that works these tasks into your schedule, all that productivity may be swallowed up by Facebooking, daydreaming, and inefficient halfway efforts that are a result of not having all your ducks in a row.  At my company, we plan everything and then check in on that plan daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.  We are known for many things, but our core competency is that we have every detail covered for everything we do because we plan, plan, plan.

Since you’ve already prioritized what’s most important to you, you now need to organize those tasks that need to be done in such a way that you maximize your efficiency in getting  them done.  In other words, if prioritizing tells you WHAT to do, planning should tell you how to do it–and in what order.  Make a step-by-step (and if necessary, hour-by-hour) schedule for the week, preferably at the end of the week prior.  Knowing what you need to do and when you need to do it eliminates much of the time waste that is a by-product of a scattered mind.  Get yourself and anyone working for you from assistants and virtual assistants (read this great article this week by Sharon on virtual assistants), to employees and partners moving in the same direction and with a purpose.  There will always be some seepage through the gaps.  Losing some productivity is going to happen as it is tough to be sharp and focused every minute.  But, a well laid out plan built around the most important tasks you need to accomplish will minimize the amount of focus you lose each day.

3.) Write it Down

“Sure, all this prioritizing and planning sounds great,” I can hear you saying, “but can’t you give me something more concrete? What can I do — actively DO — that can make me more productive?”

Well, I’m glad you asked!  MAKE LISTS!  This is the same thing you have been told over and over and over and one more time…over again.  Write it down, commit it to paper, read your notes, write them again and again.  This is how we stimulate ourselves and remind our brains of what is important.  When we focus our conscious and subconscious brain on the same thing, we will make decisions and take actions that lead us to being more productive.  Now, where do we keep these notes?

Sure, you can go the pen-and-paper route, but the cloud has lent itself to some great organizational/note-taking apps.  And since we’re so glued to our smartphones anyway, we may as well use them to do something productive, right?  Evernote and Workflowy  are two such apps that have gained traction.  Check them both out to see which one works best for you.

Note-taking apps can help with more than just organizing your time; they can act as a receptacle for storing ideas, as well.  Evernote, in particular, is great for utilizing various media for memory and brainstorming.  Have a flash of inspiration in the middle of the day while running errands?  Make a voice memo and save it.  See a property while you’re out that you want to follow up on?  Snap a photo and save it.  In his book YOUR BRAIN AT WORK, David Rock uses a theatre analogy to explain the importance of making these kinds of notes.  If thoughts are actors, we should have only a few on stage at a time so as to avoid clutter.  Using note-taking apps helps to keep the majority of our thoughts “backstage” at any given moment.  Doing so allows our brains to process information better so that it can send new, innovative ideas on stage to shine.

For me, it doesn’t matter if you use a pen and paper or a smart phone or tablet app.  All I care about is that you are able to decipher the difference between what is and what is not important and then take actions that help you accomplish goals designed to take advantage of the important tasks.

4.) Take a Break

Give yourself time to relax — preferably a whole day out of the week. If you are going constantly without a break, fatigue will rob your working hours of efficiency. Take some time to recuperate, and the rested, rejuvenated YOU will be ready to conquer the other six days.  I have written about the importance of this lately and I am a firm believer in keeping mind and body energized and healthy.  When you give your body and brain some down time, it will help you make the up time much, much more productive.


Those are just 4 quick tips from me and I am sure that you have heard them before.  Honestly, it does not matter.  I could hear these tips every single day for the rest of my life and they will always serve as a good reminder of what has gotten me to this point and how I stay here.  My time is more precious to me than anything else because I can dole it out to what is truly most precious – my family.  And being more productive has given me the gift of time and I for one never want to lose that gift.  What productivity improvement techniques do you use?  I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well!

Photo: marlonolram

About Author

Chris Clothier

In 2005, Chris Clothier (G+) began working with passive real estate investors and has since helped more than 1,100 investors purchase over 3,400 investment properties in Memphis, Dallas and Houston through the Memphis Invest family of companies.


  1. 5) (for me, number one) NO EMAILS OR SOCIAL MEDIA! Well, not until afternoon, anyway. If I get into either of those, I’m gone – sucked into their vortex. When I look up, hours have gone by.

    So, the days when working is my focus, I don’t check emails, Facebook, until I’ve gotten the top “to-dos” for the day accomplished. Usually that means no emails before 11am – sometimes none until after lunch. And, guess what? I get a lot accomplished and the earth still rotates!

    Thanks, Chris, for the great list.

    • Chris Clothier

      Karen –

      Your line about getting sucked into their vortex made me laugh out loud! I have been in that situation so many times where I look up and cannot believe I have lost a whole hour without realizing it. Email is by far the worst time drain for me. I use some programs to help with Social Media so it may look like I am on it a lot, but I am not. Email on the other hand is one of those things that when i get started – everything else comes to a standstill.

      I think you gave some really, really good recommendations on scheduling email time. I could not go the “4-hour work week” route, but I definitely use the same advice you give and schedule my email time now.

      Thanks for reading the article and sharing –


    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Dre –

      I don’t have a picture of it, but it is pretty simple. My older brother has been doing this since he was 18 years old and he taught me. As a side note, a good friend of mine who is one of the largest home builders here in Memphis does the same thing with two yellow pads. One for long range thinking and one for specifics for that day. He spends 10 minutes every night redoing a new sheet on each pad.

      I use a yellow pad with a line straight down the middle. On the left side – big picture. On the right side – small picture. The left side is like a running tabulation that doesn’t change often but has a lot of ideas and tasks written out. The right side is usually a smaller list and has the items that I have to get done that done. Phone calls, emails, articles to write, people to see, places to visit, etc… It is usually just a few items long and I can add to it during the day if I need to. Either way, at the end of the night, tear off the top page and re-write it.

      Hope that helped –


  2. Another great article Chris. I saw the part about taking a break and said, oh yeah! I seem to forget that part but need to reboot from time to time. Ironically the second year we were investing we went on 5 different vacations and that was our most productive year! Something about getting recharged that is good for the soul. Gives us all some much needed perspective. With that I am off to Orbitz to find my next trip! lol Have a great weekend Chris, and thanks again for the reminders.

    • Chris Clothier

      Glenn –

      I have 4 kids so I wish getting our of town were that easy for me! BUt you are right, recharging is important and having some perspective is just as important If you have read the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, then you may remember his reminder that life is for living and we will be much more productive if we take mini retirements as often as possible. Get out of town, take a vacation, see the world…have experiences in life while your living! Don’t wait until the end of your life at retirement to finally decide to go enjoy some new experiences.

      Thanks for taking the time to write down soe thoughts! Loved your article this week by the way.


  3. Great post Chris. I love your posts. They are always very timely and always have a level of depththat helps me think. I was reading along and thinking to myself, man I’m doing pretty good. Then I got to the “take a break” section. I failed that. I justify that on a broad view of a year I take lots of breaks but that is because I will be busy 16-18 hour days for a month and then an easy week. The easy week usually allows me to regroup and organize in order to hit the ground running again. I need to work on dedicating time for family and downtime as a priority not just I happen to be utterly exhausted and have smashed all my fingers enough for today, lets take some family time mentality.
    Thanks for the reminder and the great post.

    • Chris Clothier

      Hey Kyle –

      Hardest lesson for us self-starters to learn…How to step back and relax “on purpose”!

      I coach my kids as often as possible and take them to school or pick them up every once in a while. Hit the golf course with them every so often and sometimes take them with me if I’m doing something for work. I don’t know if any of that means anything, but I do know I have learned that if I don’t make time for them now, they sure aren’t going to make time for me later so I have a lot of motivation to make time!

      I appreciate the comments – thanks for reading and writing Kyle.


  4. Chris –

    I think you have hit upon the single most important thing that is required for success in this business or any business; having a well thought out written plan. I don’t believe you can create a long term sustainable business with out it.

    And I totally agree with Karen about social media, emails etc. “sucking up your time”. In the past, my email account would just come up when I opened my browser. Then I would want to “just take a quick look”, then 2 hours later …. well you know the answer.

    As of this week, my email account and social media no longer come up automatically. It as painful (LOL), but I did it.

    Great article.

    • Chris Clothier

      Sharon –

      When you are having withdrawals from social media and email, let us know what your “fix” is. Like I said earlier, I rally don’t spend a lot of time on social media. There are programs that help me be on it, without having to get consumed – kind of defeats the purpose of social media doesn’t it! Of course, the whole idea to being efficient in business is learning to use something to your advantage without tipping the scale where you become inefficient. For us, being in a relationship centric business where we are not selling goods online, social media is a lot less important.

      Wow, that was a lot of rambling by me! Pretty soon, a few of the regulars on here are going to have to get together on some subjects and share our thoughts, tips and ideas. It seems there are a few people on here who have learned a few tips to help make them successful!

      Thanks for reading and sharing and I’ll be rooting for you on your social media and email changes –

      All the best – Chris

      • Chris –

        I think there is definitely a place for social media and a social media plan for your business. But like you, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. It’s easy to get caught up in the “socialness of it”, and it becomes a big time waster. I know several folks that have their VA post things for them via Hootsuite each day. I haven’t gone that route yet though.


        • Chris Clothier

          I could not agree more. I love reading about entrepreneurs who use social media to build their brands and companies. One in particular is a fashion designer out of Los Angeles who built her entire brand and sales business online using Facebook, Pinterest and one other site that I cannot remember. Point is, she was selling fashion items and can literally sell out of an item immediately after placing pictures on line. She may not be a “force” in the fashion world, but she chose a different route and smartly used social media from day 1.

          In the housing business, I don’t know anyone who posts a picture of a house and then takes orders from investors or buyers. Our business just does not work that way. What I have found instead is that sharing knowledge, insight, articles and things that inspire me – including posts and articles by other writers – has been the best way to build a social media following. That following does not necessarily lead to sales, but it leads to a lot of people sharing my story and that has absolutely led to sales.

          One thing you will not find – pictures of me all over the place and pictures of my family. Those are the things that drive me crazy about social media and the things that can consume you quickly. Those are just my personal thoughts on it and so far my strategy has worked well for me. What about you? I think a VA executing a strategy of info. sharing is a good idea.

  5. Chris, I love to take my son to work with me. He is 14 and I even take him to meet with sellers once in a while. I take him to mow lawns of the on going rehabs in the summer to earn money. It takes a lot of extra time vs hiring it out but but it is time well spent. This year i offered him $5 per hour as always or $10 per hour but $10 is no cell phone, no breaks (he gets that house to house) and needs to sign in and out with a time card.

    Great article Chris. Sometimes the articles I read serve to reinforce what I need to be doing to be successful.

  6. Thanks for the list! I couldn’t live without my lists! I write it every night to have my game on from the get-go the next day.

    And like others say, no TV, no social media, none of that junk. I view it as junk food. Like eating fudge out of the jar in a desperate situation, I always regret spending my time on these “empty” activities.

    It’s all about having goals and discipline. Want a hard body? Then eat well and exercise. Want to spend time with family? Then set it into your schedule. Want a down payment for a home? Then make a budget and save. Where there’s a will there’s a way! I see it on this blog all the time! Love to see all the doers here!

  7. Jean Bolger on

    I just downloaded Workflowy yesterday based on your recommendation and it’s rocking my world! All of my crazy lists- living together in peace at last………

  8. Thanks for this article. Pulled out a yellow pad as soon as I finished reading it. I was really struggling to put the next foot forward because I didn’t know what to do next.
    Thanks again,

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