6 Critical Habits for Success You Need To Establish Today

by | BiggerPockets.com

The business of real estate investing is no different than any other business. Our success (or failure) comes about because of our choices. Good or bad, we all have to take full responsibility for our choices. Each choice that you make implements a behavior that over time becomes a habit. And it is those habits that are directly responsible for our success or failure. Good habits and routines are the essence of our success or failure.

Choices + Behaviors + Habits = Success or Failure

That can be a bitter pill to swallow; the fact that we actually have no one to blame but ourselves for the state of our business. Now if things are great in your real estate business right now, congratulations. But if you are still not where you want to be, it’s time to “buck up baby” and take responsibility for those choices. It’s never too late to change course. There are 6 critical habits for success you need to establish today.

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Bookend Your Days

What I have found is that most days we have very little control over what happens in the middle of our day. We can have the best of intentions and the best schedule outlined for ourselves, when unexpectedly all hell breaks loose.

  • No contractors show up on your rehab
  • A water line breaks inside one of your rental properties and floods the place
  • Your car breaks down on the way to an important meeting

There are a million things that can happen. But here’s the thing; we can almost always control the very beginning of our day and the last part of our day. That’s where creating routines that become habits will catapult your results in your business. What can you do? Make it a point to get up an hour earlier so that you can spend an hour or two each morning working on your business. Do the same thing every evening. Most days each of us will end up spending the majority of our time working in our business. But not taking time regularly to work on your business is a recipe for failure.

Create A Sunday Night Ritual. Start Every Week and Every Day with a Plan

You can’t get up early to work on your business and spend half that time creating a plan. The best way I have found of doing this preparation is to spend some time on Sunday night planning your week. I’m not talking necessarily about a minute by minute plan, but an outline of the big things you want to accomplish and a general plan for getting them done day by day. Then each evening spend a little time planning the next day in more detail. It’s pretty simple, but getting this habit firmly rooted in place isn’t always easy.

Here’s an example of not having a plan:

It’s January 30th and you didn’t get your direct mail out. You’ve decided to make some changes, and you are still trying to create the perfect mail piece. Before you know it, you look up and it’s February. But that’s OK; you think you have it figured out so you say, “I will get back to this in a few days”.

Another month goes by, and you still haven’t actually mailed anything for the third month in a row. By now you’re starting to freak out because no money is coming in the door and the checkbook balance is almost in the negative. Can you see how this could have been prevented?

Review and Adjust Your Goals At Least Monthly

Let’s face it; some of the goals we set last January might not still be still things we want to pursue by the last quarter of the year. Real estate is an ever changing business, and we have to be ready to change with the times. When you look back at your goals if some of them no longer serve you or are in alignment with the business you are now creating, make a new list. And if you have dropped the ball on some of the things that are still important to you and the growth of your business it’s not too late to jump in and get started on those before the end of the year. When you are doing your Sunday night planning, be sure the things you plan to do that week are in alignment with your goals. That’s especially important at this time of the year; in the final quarter of the year.

Focus On the Small Things

When was the last time you got bitten by an elephant? I’m guessing never. How about a mosquito? That’s because it’s the almost always the little things in life that get you; that bite you in the butt. Things like this:

  • You’re really trying to cut back on the junk food and lose a few pounds, and tonight while watching TV and instead of eating a few M&M’s you suddenly realize you just ate the whole giant sized bag. Not paying attention can definitely get you into trouble.
  • Or maybe it was that you put off calling back the seller that “interrupted your Sunday afternoon”. You might have intended to call them back the first thing Monday morning but you forgot. Tuesday rolls around and you get busy and once again you put it off. Suddenly on Wednesday you pick up the phone and call the seller only to be told they were desperate and they sold the house on Monday afternoon to the only person that called. Ouch!

Don’t put off things you should do today that have the potential to earn you income in the future. Send out that thank you note, follow up with that seller, and make those phone calls you have been putting off.

Your New Accountability Partner; Your Calendar

I have written many times about the many advantages of having an actual accountability partner. Having an accountability partner is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business. This person might be your actual business partner if you can actually hold each other accountable (and still be partners and friends) or it may be someone completely outside of your business like I have. I actually have two accountability partners at this time. But there is one other type of accountability partner that everyone should have, and that is your great big old wall calendar.

I can promise you this; if you schedule everything and refuse to turn the calendar page when the month ends unless everything is done (short of a real disaster or family disaster), you will start to see results that you really can’t imagine at this time. Holding yourself accountable will begin the process of creating habits and behaviors that will create massive results in time. And that’s when “Big Mo” will begin to show up in your life.

I have included a picture of my October calendar. I have a vacation scheduled for the week of October 13th. You will notice that there are things that need to happen that week, one of which is having this post to Brandon on time. So that has to be scheduled the week before I leave along with all of my other “must do’s”. I have purposely left some open time in those last 2 weeks for things that will inevitably come up.

Calendar 2photo

“Big Mo”

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this because I just did a whole post on “Big Mo” over on my blog last week. But Big Mo in case you haven’t guessed it is “momentum”. Big Mo shows up as a result of taking those small seemingly inconsequential steps consistently over time when suddenly they begin to compound. By this I mean you do those things every week, every month and in some cases every year without seeing any immediate results or “instant gratification”. Then one day when you least expect it, you look up and realize that it’s knocking on your door; Big Mo has arrived. And once you have it; once you have momentum you are unstoppable.

Final Thoughts

There are a whole lot more habits and routines that you can put in to place, but I believe these are 6 critical habits for success that you need to establish today. Habits and routines are powerful forces not only in your business but in your life.
Photo Credit: justonlysteve

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. Melodee Lucido on


    Another awesome article!! I laughed out loud when I read the part about controlling our days. I have been naive enuf until recently to think I could lay my day out in perfect order. TOO funny.
    Bookending it is a brilliant way of putting it.

    You always give such down to earth, where the rubber meets the road, advice—and as I’ve told you before you write it all in a very friend to friend manner. I don’t know if you mean to make the reader laugh but just the poignant reality of what you say makes me crack up.

    Thanks again Sharon. You have been such a great contribution to my crei mindset & biz.

    Continued success to you!

    • It has taken me a long time to finally admit that is the “reality” of our days. I tried for so long to be the master of every bit of time, and it creates a huge stress in your life. Now I can at least relax a little while my day spins out of control.

      Thanks for reading Melodee.


  2. Thanks Sharon,
    Another solid article! I am blessed that I have a job where I get the summer off and when I first start the vacation, my production goes way down. It is because the routine has not been established or lack of structure or a big calendar is not set up yet. As my business and family grows, the more I’m finding out that I need more of your ideas not to waste any minutes of the day. Thank you for being a leader and giving some of your experiences for us to learn by.

    Thanks again

    • Steve –

      You are giving me way too much credit. I think for the most part we all know what to do; it’s the implementation of any plan that is tough. Things like calendars are simply tools to help us accomplish things. There are probably some folks out there that don’t need those tools, but I have no problem admitting that I do. Thanks for your comments.


  3. Larry Littrell on

    A very timely article for me. I am just starting to get my RE Investing off the ground. I have a ton of notes and ideas. I realize I need to organize these into steps and my calendar is going to be a great help. Thanks for taking the time to share these ideas with your readers. I have found being reminded of simple concepts and ideas and being given strategies to use them is vital to my growth.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Hi Larry –

      We all need reminders from time to time. Keeping my calendar updated is definitely on my list. It’s really easy to slip back into bad habits. For me, I really need to have it staring me in the face. If also works for me to walk over to it each morning and just quickly glance at it to see how I am doing, what I need t to be doing, and to schedule what other things I should be doing. Like I said, it’s another accountability partner. Thanks for your comments.


  4. Excellent write-up, Sharon!

    I especially found the section on eating healthier quite comical yet serious. Eating healthy and staying fit can definitely have an impact on our productivity. As we grow older, it becomes more and more of an issue.

    You put things quite elegantly in this post — have a plan but it does not have to be perfect. I think it all comes down to being able to prioritize and use our time more wisely. Being conscious of what we’re doing/not doing is extremely important so we can adjust our actions accordingly.

    One of the things I tend to put off is admin work. Though, I do dedicate a part of the week for it. For the most part, I try to spend as much time in front of folks wanting to sell as much as possible. The rest falls under management maintenance and strengthening relationships with the existing clientele and network.

    Great tips, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. Sharon Vornholt


    As always, thanks for your comments. I think we all face the same hurdles each day. All we can try to do is to do our best each day. Small steps over time will add up to great, positive changes over time.

    Have a great weekend.

  6. Great tips Sharon.
    The direct mail along with the comment on doing the little things really pegged my issues recently.
    I had been working on editing a list. It is quite large and was taking awhile. I would also get pulled away and not doing anything for 4, 5, 6 or more days.
    I realized that if I waited until it was perfect I’d never send anything.
    So instead of being perfect and send out a couple thousand pieces I’ll send out a couple hundred at a time in manageable chunks.
    Since putting this in place I’ve sent 240 postcards twice in less than a week.
    I’m also doing frequent updates on my BP blog to help stay accountable.

    • Hey Shaun –

      Sorry for the late response. I “ran away from home” for a few days to get some R&R at the beach.

      I have found that I have to deal with things like that in the same way. If I wait for it to be perfect (which I have a tendency to do), it just takes too long to implement things. I think you are much better doing it the way you did it.

      I’ll be waiting for that accountability email by the way.


      • Hey Shannon,

        Been updating my blog. Was going to do another tonight but the almost 4hr baseball game made that a tomorrow project. 🙂

        Since my last comment I have sent another 240 cards and prepped 600 more the last 2 days I just need to drop in the mail.
        (The baseball playoffs have been good for this since I can’t concentrate on high level work but I can put labels and stamps on. 🙂 )

        BTW that will have me up to 1,320 pieces since I decided to take this approach less than 2 weeks ago. Pretty good since I hadn’t sent 1 before that!

        • Yeah you do what you gotta do!

          I will definitely outsource things in the future.

          In this case though I wanted to:
          a) Get started, you do have to be a little more full on to hire it out.
          b) I complied an easy free list so once it is edited fully (The thing I realized I didn’t have to finish to START sending things) it will be easier to hire that out, or if I use a purchased list.
          c) I actually over a couple years acquired ~8,000 postcards for free so, other than my time, I am only paying for the cost of postage (and I guess the incremental cost of labels and ink).

          This is good for now but not the highest and best use of my time moving forward when outsourcing is not that expensive.
          (If I actually paid for the cards I would be losing money over some of the less expensive providers!)

        • Sharon Vornholt

          Shaun –

          Some of the yellow postcard services charge less to outsource the whole thing than you pay for postage; something to think about.

          Also, why don’t you outsource the addressing? I have someone ( a college student) that folds, stuffs and hand addresses the envelopes for my direct mail. I pay her $10 per 100. It’s the best money I have ever spent!


        • Without a doubt I agree with you Sharon on both points.

          The cheapest I have seen for a fully outsourced post card was I think $0.37 with a 1000 minimum. Still well worth it once I have my list set or if I just buy one I don’t have to scrub as much to start.

          I also have considered getting someone to do the actual labor I have done. I have some friends with high school aged kids that might do what you explained.
          Issue at this point is what I was saying above that I am kind of getting done what I can in chunks to get in the game.
          I have not been organized enough to get things ready to actually give someone to do that for me. Like as I mentioned I have been doing it during the baseball games. So 3 times I have literally been printing out the labels as the game started and fetched them after the top of the 1st. So I am not at the level of organization to outsource that yet. 🙂

        • Sharon Vornholt


          Just take baby steps. Looking at the big picture is sometimes overwhelming. Do what you can yourself then figure out one small piece to outsource. I can promise you it will get easier.


  7. Thanks for the article Sharon! Totally agree about the ‘Big Mo’ – my problem though is taking action on the things that will propel my business forward. It doesn’t help that I have 3 children aged 4 and under but I try to do what I can. I’m considering outsourcing my marketing and licensing a brand so I can piggybank off someone else’s expertise (still deciding). Would you say that most of your time is spent on marketing?

    • Rachel –

      Absolutely; marketing is your number 1 job as a real estate investor. Your marketing is one of the easiest things to outsource. Do that and get your phone to ring.

      About the licensing; understand that there is nothing magic about having one of those phone numbers. I once owned a franchised business, and unless they are doing ads specifically in your area like TV, print or other very targeted ads in YOUR city, it will still be completely up to you to build that brand in your market. That takes time and persistence.

      I would take that money and spend it on marketing instead in the beginning. Get a Google Voice number and have that forwarded to your business phone (free). That way you will be able to return the calls when the kids aren’t “screaming”. It’s better for your business image.


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