Stop Dreaming & Start Doing: How to Turn Big Real Estate Goals Into Actionable Steps

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I had a meeting with my team earlier in the week, and we were having a conversation about which new projects we were going to be undertaking. We came to a consensus on which internal project we were going to work on. We were wrapping up the meeting, and I asked, “What is the next step?” Everyone looked at me puzzled. I was sitting there thinking, we just spent 30 minutes trying to figure out the next project, and we were about to wrap up the meeting without knowing what needed to happen next.

Do you ever find yourself in that situation, whether personal or professional? You spend all this time planning out what you are going to do rather than spending time figuring out the next action step.

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Breaking Down Tasks Into Actionable Steps

David Allen, who was a BiggerPockets Podcast guest, opened my eyes to this. I remember buying his book Getting Things Done around 2005 off a bargain rack at a bookstore. (Yes, there used to be places where you could go to buy books.) While I haven’t been very successful implementing all of his teachings (my label maker has about an inch of dust on it), figuring out the next action step has stuck with me.

Think of all the things that you have on your to-do list. There are probably many of you who have “buying an investment property” on your list. That may seem like something you could do, but until you figure out what the very next physical step is going to be, nothing will happen. You need to break these projects down into more manageable actions. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That is how you have to deal with these big projects.

Related: The Achievable 5-Step Process For Getting That First Property Under Your Belt

If my project was to buy my first investment property, my first step would be to figure out my finances. My next actionable step would be to gather all of my bank accounts and see how much money I would be able to put into a property. If I had enough, I would then check my credit to see if I would be able to get a bank loan.

If my credit was good, then I would start talking to banks and see how much of a loan I could qualify for. But wait, you might even want to break down the “talking to bank” action. Maybe what you really need to do is some research first on which banks to talk to. Or maybe the first step is finding the phone numbers of the banks that you want to meet with and make an appointment with one of their loan officers. You need to drill down and figure out every next step. It takes a minuscule amount of planning to figure out the next step. This small little step keeps those projects off the shelf and allows you to move forward.

Working in Smaller Time Increments

Here is the key when you drill down and figure out the next actionable step. Let’s say your next step is calling a bank to set an appointment. How long will taking that action take you? Five minutes? Ten minutes? How long will it take you to “buy an investment property”? I don’t know. Hours? Days?

When you break down the project into smaller steps, you don’t need to set aside 4 hours to start working on that project. You can work on that project when you have 10 minutes of downtime between meetings. It gives you actionable steps where you don’t need to set aside a whole day to do something. Who can find a whole day to do anything? If you don’t break it down, then the project doesn’t keep moving because you can never find those large blocks of time to keep it moving forward.

Related: 7 Productive Actions to Take While Searching For Your Next Property

If you don’t keep moving the project along, it eventually starts collecting dust and you never return to it. In your mind, it becomes too difficult to pick it back up. This strategy helps you keep the ball moving on all of your projects. It will keep you more productive and will help you accomplish big goals that other people think are too much to take on.

What actionable steps are you taking to reach your real estate goals?

Let’s talk in the comments section!

About Author

Mark Ainley

Mark Ainley is an investor, managing broker, and property manager with almost two decades of experience in real estate. Mark found his way into real estate by purchasing and flipping condominiums prior to the great recession, and since, he has built his own portfolio of rentals alongside co-founding GC Realty & Development LLC (GCR&D), a full-service real estate brokerage, property management and investment firm, and GC Realty Investments (GCRI). He has rehabbed and stabilized over 450 properties and currently manages over 900 investment properties throughout the Chicagoland area. Mark was featured on CNBC’s TV show The Deed, which chronicled one of his rehabs. He has also been featured on podcasts like The BiggerPockets Podcast, The Real Estate Mogul Podcast, Joe Fairless, REI Diamonds, and Positive Phil.


  1. Christopher Leon

    Nice post @MarkAinley. I appreciate this post because this happens to me all the time. It opened up my eyes to think I should be listing all the projects or to-do’s on a piece of paper and write down each actionable step to progress it. Thanks for insight. My wife will be happy when I eliminate the clutter from the dinner table – lol. To answer your question as to what actionable steps I am taking to meet my real estate goals are 1) growing my business by buying whatever I can now as prices are still in our area 2) re-positioning the financing of my portfolio considering rates are still low. Your post is applicable to my number two goal. I been busy working in my business, instead of working on it. I need to create an actionable step to reposition my financing. I will do that this week. Thanks!

  2. David White

    Great article. I need to finish reading David Allen’s book. I heard an updated one came out. I’m going to schedule an appointment at my credit union to discuss what needs to be done on my end to qualify for a mortgage loan. I’m in the process of getting a 2nd job to help pay down my debt. I found the owner of a house that is undergoing renovation for a fix and flip. I’m going to write them a letter and see if we can meet up so I can ask them questions on how they got started. And I listen to the podcast and read real estate related books when I can.

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