I have a full-time job, outside of real estate. I suppose you could say that real estate is my “side hustle.” Some people have side businesses doing consulting or freelance work. My side business is owning rental properties.
But here’s the rub. Unlike complete Type A-workhorses, I don’t want to consistently work 80-hour weeks. I want to exercise daily, spend time with family and friends, and read books. And of course I still have to buy groceries, renew my car registration, take the cat to the vet, and do all other types of time-consuming tasks.
That means I have less than 10 hours per week to devote to real estate activities. I can beef it up to 20 hours a week during “crunch time,” but I don’t want to maintain that level of work on a regular basis — at least not in addition to my ‘normal’ job.
And I like my ‘normal’ job. Some people are yearning for the day they can quit their full-time job in order to focus on real estate. Not me. I’m self-employed, running a business that I built myself. Of course, I also enjoy real estate, too. But if I were forced to choose between the two, I actually prefer my “day job” (which is the reason why I do it full-time).
The point, though, is that I need to balance real estate investing with my full-time job (and balance both of those with life). And that itself is quite a feat. How do I maintain balance?
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#1: Stay Flexible
First and foremost, my schedule is supremely flexible. And that’s critical. Tip #1 that I’d give to anyone trying to balance real-estate investing with a “day job” — make sure your day job is flexible.
Because people will need to be able to reach you mid-day. Even if you outsource everything, a tenant will call you with a question that needs to be answered ASAP, or another agent will need to get ahold of you “by the end of the business day,” or a contractor will show up three hours late.
When those things happen, you’ll need a job that’s flexible enough to, at a minimum, let you field a phone call or fax a few documents or run home for 30 minutes to check on something.
I’m quite fortunate in that regard — I work from home. I can make appointments or meet with contractors or field phone calls in the middle of the day. And every time I do it, I wonder: how on earth do people with non-flexible jobs make this work?
#2: Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of my favorite time-management tips. The idea behind this technique states that a person can’t devote more than about 25 minutes of full, focused concentration at a time, so you should work in 25-minute spurts, followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 of these spurts (2 hours), you should take a longer break, between 15-30 minutes. (I use an online timer, like e.ggtimer.com, to keep track of 25/5 increments).
I’m a big believer in this method, since I also heartily recommend its correlary: when you find your focus and attention fading, walk away and do something else. Run an errand. Don’t just sit in front of your computer with a flagging attention span. You’ll end up whittling away the hours watching cat videos on YouTube.
#3: Delegate and Opt for Convenience
I don’t need to explain this one — I’m sure most of the people who read BiggerPockets understand the importance of delegating tasks. As a corollary, when I’m not delegating (e.g. if I’m running errands), I’ll often make choices that save time, even if they cost a little more. For example: CostCo is a one-hour roundtrip drive from where I live. I’ll go there perhaps once every four to six months to stock up on household goods (toilet paper, etc.), but I’m definitely not going to drive there on a weekly basis, even if I could save a net $20 or $30 after gasoline costs.
That said, there are some ‘convenience’ items that I won’t partake in — like frozen dinners — but that’s a choice driven by health, not penny-pinching.
#4: Set a “Start” and “End” Time
Have you heard the expression that work expands to fill the time that you allot for it? Putting a defined “start” and “end” time during your working hours forces you to be more productive during that time. After all, you have a 5 pm deadline … after which, you’re scheduled to go for a two-mile stroll!
Photo: Duane Hess