As we roll into 2018, investors are spending more time thinking of ways to get ahead. Some have already taken time out to reflect on the past year, and to set New Year's resolutions. Others may not have put their plans to paper yet, and are still trying to find the time to think, or hone their ideas. So what are some of the critical thoughts real estate investors should be spending time on this month?

1. The Right Amount of Debt

What is the optimal amount of debt leverage to carry this year, and to roll into 2018 with? Real estate investors often sell themselves on putting off paying consumer debt. They often find it hard to justify when they make so much more investing in real estate. However, that debt can be unsustainable in leaner times. This could be the year to cancel that debt, and ensure your financial freedom sooner. Invest in real estate first, but use the proceeds to wipe out that debt. It may not be quite as attractive, but if you've still got credit card balances at 20% interest, and a car loan at 9%, you'll at least guarantee those level of returns by paying it off. Then you'll have more to invest in real estate each year moving forward.

For many, 2018 is the year to stretch and use more leverage to acquire income producing assets. Interest rates continue to rise, and it is a critical time for locking in low, long term rates on your dream home and rental properties.

So where do you want to be by this time next year? Most importantly, how are you going to make this happen?

2. Increasing Income

There are only two ways to create more financial surplus: reduce debt and expenses and increase income. There is only so much that can be done to reduce the outflow. So how will you increase your income this year? Investing in real estate is a great way to hack time and the system to generate an over-sized income. However, what if you can’t afford to ditch your day job yet, or are already working in real estate?

To earn more this year, you’ll need leverage. This may be financial leverage to acquire more property, or leveraging the time and expertise of others. This can be done through acquiring turnkey rental properties for passive income, or building a team. Maximize your time by only working on those tasks that provide the largest hourly return. What are those items for you?

3. What’s Most Important?

What is your reason for investing in real estate? What is the real goal and desired result? Don't get lost in the metrics along the way. If it's providing a great life for your kids, don't neglect that now for the sake of hoping to give them more money later. If it is to ‘change the world,' how are you working towards that goal each month? Remember what is most important. Keep it visible. Each day and year can be a success if you make progress on the one thing that is most important to you. It doesn't matter if that is starting with 5 push-ups a day to be healthier, spending an hour with someone you love, buying someone lunch or a coffee, or making an offer on a new property. Schedule it on your calendar and follow through with action.

4. Legacy

If leaving a financial legacy is high on your priority list, give some thought to how you are making it happen. Making lots of money through real estate can really help. So is making sure that legacy is conveyed effectively and easily to those you want to benefit from it. Is your real estate portfolio easy to manage? What have you done to ensure a smooth transition to beneficiaries? Are they aware they should be looking for something? How have you prepared them to effectively harness the inheritance?

5. Taxes

Whether your big goals this year are to reduce debt, increase income, compound your progress in building a legacy, or create more free time; taxes are going to play a big role in how easily you reach those goals. Minimizing taxes is going to take a detailed plan and budget by the month. Do you have one yet?

What innovations and technology will impact the industry this year? How will fluctuations in the economy play a role? What about housing trends? What will you work on next?