How to Stay Positive & Productive in the Midst of a Pandemic

How to Stay Positive & Productive in the Midst of a Pandemic

4 min read
Palak Shah

Palak Shah (BiggerPockets Podcast episode guest #368) is the founder and owner of Open Spaces Capital and Open Spaces Women. An engineer by trade, after the birth of her two kids, Palak decided to make the move to entrepreneurship to be able to spend more time with her children.

She brought her knowledge and 17 years of experience in building systems, processes, and scaling from her corporate career in engineering leadership to fast track her real estate investing journey. In her first three years investing full-time, Palak purchased, renovated, rented, and refinanced properties creating an almost $5M rental portfolio and generating $1M in annual revenue. It is now her passion to empower other investors to pursue entrepreneurship through real estate investing to live an empowered and financially free life without taking undue risks or over-leveraging through her coaching program Open Spaces Women. Follow her on Instagram @openspaceswomen for tips and motivation for building and scaling your buy and hold portfolio.

Palak worked in engineering leadership in various industries. She was in the nuclear industry for six years until she joined a startup as a consultant to analyze big data to predict power plant failures. A few years later, she moved over to the management side in engineering at a startup for efficiency measures. She then spent six more years in the pharmaceutical industry, running a specifications department at a glass manufacturing factory.

After the birth of her two kids, Palak realized she needed to create a life of financial independence—one that allowed more time for her family while allowing her to still make an impact. She decided to make the move into entrepreneurship, co-founding and managing Open Spaces based in Philadelphia. Her focus is on renovating deteriorated properties in and around the city.

Palak manages the end-to-end lifecycle, starting from sourcing properties, completing renovations, and renting them out, along with financing and investor relationships. She takes pride in bringing people together to achieve the common goal of empowering a community through real estate development. She believes that profitable growth can be achieved, sustained, and even enhanced by embracing diversity in business partners and by engaging with local communities to foster development that is inclusive.

Open Spaces accomplishes this by providing high-quality rental homes and apartments, with great customer service, at prices that are affordable.

Palak is active on Instagram @openspaceswomen and is passionate about inspiring other professionals.

Palak was honored by Billy Penn in the “Who’s Next Real Estate and Housing” series of 2018, highlighting Philadelphia’s most dynamic real estate, housing, and development professionals under the age of 40. She was also featured in the BiggerPockets Podcast episode #368 and Real Estate InvestHER’s podcast episode #47.

Palak graduated with an MS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Illinois.

@openspaceswomen on Instagram

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“Solitude sometimes is best society.” —John Milton, Paradise Lost

What an existential crisis! We are in the middle of something none of us have ever dealt with before. And it has shaken a lot of us up.

The fear of uncertainty and the agony of being alone with our own thoughts can be crippling. Granted, real estate investing does have some risks involved. But add the current uncertainty to it, and it can make even those of us who are sure of themselves drop into analysis paralysis.

I wanted to let you know, I see you. I see you because I AM you. We value financial freedom, we understand the concept of trading hours for dollars, and we are striving to improve ourselves and build wealth for our families.

Here’s something key to keep in mind in times like these: A mindset shift can help us find meaning in the unique insanity of this pandemic.

I invite you to change your mindset on how to deal with the current situation. This quarantine, as hard as it can be, is a privilege for those of us who are alive.

For those of us who have food to eat, a roof over our heads, and money to cover our expenses, we are even more privileged. What a gift we have been given—a time to re-invent ourselves! And re-inventing truly means finding our own highest potential, becoming who we are really meant to be.

Here is my three-step approach to making the mindset shift you need in order to find your highest potential.

How to Shift Your Mindset to Reach Your Highest Potential

  1. Realize that other people’s expectations are none of your business

Other people’s expectations of how you should be living your life aren’t yours to own. The first step in building a life you want is to figure out what YOU really want out of life. Even a well-meaning and loving parent, spouse, friend, or sibling can make your life feel incomplete because of their own experiences and insecurities.

Related: 12 Influential Investors Weigh in on How to Survive the Coronavirus Crisis

Only YOU know what your soul needs. Unfortunately, most of us have been a part of the grind for so long that we have forgotten how to listen to ourselves and realize our own needs. This quarantine has provided us with the space needed to look inside.

Man sit on the Bench looking out a sunset over grassy field

  1. Figure out who you want to be

Take some time to yourself when you can, even if it is just by being 100% present during a simple and mundane task during the day. Take a break from social media scrolling, let the dirty dishes pile up, turn off your phone, and—if you can—spend some time meditating on WHO you are and what you want your life to look like when we are on the other side of this pandemic. Forgive yourself for your flaws and celebrate your achievements.

This meditation can be for an hour or for two minutes, depending on your current circumstances.

  1. Build a plan and line up resources

I know what you’re thinking: How can I build a plan when I don’t know what things will look like a few weeks or months from now?

I’d like to share what I’ve done to build my plan and line up my resources, and you can use it as a starting point. Tweak it with your own ideas and create your own spreadsheet.

Related: 3 Productivity Books That Changed My Life

So, here’s how to get started. Create a spreadsheet with the first column being the steps in your plan. And then you can add multiple subsequent columns offering best, average, and worst-case scenarios, depending on the facts in front of you.

Next line up your actions depending on the scenario. Draft your plan with contingencies built in, and be open to revisiting it over the course of the next few months and staying nimble. Once you have a plan, there are multiple ways to line up resources for your future growth.


Here are some examples of resources you can work on now regardless of how your plan will change.

How to Work on Yourself While in Quarantine

  1. Knowledge

Use this time to gain as much knowledge as possible.

No childcare? No problem.

Here’s what my husband and I do. We listen to audiobooks while building Magna-Tile towers with our kids. Our kids may grow up and think we were boring parents—but I did hear my 5-year-old daughter quote Gary Keller to my son the other day when she was asking him to focus on The One Thing.

All jokes aside, with technology at your fingertips, you can really use the time you are with your kids to make an impact toward future wealth-building by gaining knowledge. It is important to remember that this isn’t going to be perfect. But what makes a difference in one’s trajectory are those small incremental steps toward progress.

  1. Introspection

Going back to No. 2 above, take this time to build up your understanding of your inner self. Awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses enables investors and entrepreneurs to work with others who complement their strengths. Once you know yourself well, you are more comfortable with the idea that someone else may have better abilities and ideas than your own, and you can both benefit from those different skillsets and perspectives.

It took a pandemic for me to realize so many things about myself that I hadn’t in my first almost 40 years on this planet. Seize this opportunity of solitude, and make the most out of it.

If you have children and a spouse, ask for their help in finding some time to yourself. My husband and I often act as each other’s childcare providers during this time—not only to get work done but also to allow for the solitude that each and every one of us needs to find our best selves.

  1. Networking

You must be wondering why I bring up networking during times of social distancing. But hear me out—what an amazing time to be able to network with each other without traveling! You can build a relationship with someone across the country now just the same as you can network with someone who lives in your neighborhood. It can bring the world closer together in some ways. Use this opportunity to add value and build trust by learning from peers.

Related: 5 Tips for Growing Your Real Estate Network While Stuck at Home

All in all, as difficult and uncertain as the current circumstances are, only we have the ability to find meaning in this rare experience and do our best to turn into butterflies when we are out of our cocoons.

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What other ideas do you have to find meaning in the current experience?

Share with me in a comment below.