If you're moonlighting as a real estate investor, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll have to battle some ongoing distractions and interruptions in your home environment.
No matter how you slice it, a home office just isn't the same as a corporate environment. Whether it's the people you live with, the noisy neighbors next door, or your own inability to stay focused – you must find ways to cope with distractions. Boundaries must be established… and just because you're working from home doesn't make your work any less important.
After surviving in this environment for years on end, I've learned a few little tricks that have helped me get past these obstacles to productivity. With any luck, these ideas may be just as helpful for you as they were for me.
1. Establish And Communicate Your Work Schedule
Whether you live with your kids, parents, grandparents, spouse, roommate or fill-in-the-blank… it all starts with communication. The first thing you can do to avoid interruptions while working from home is to simply create some structure and set clear expectations.
Let everyone know that you are planning to work from Time A until Time B, and that you will be unresponsive during those hours. By simply communicating to your co-habitants exactly what they can expect from you during certain times of each day, you can avoid any confusion about why you seem so “distant” during those hours.
If people understand that you're actually trying to accomplish something, you'll have a much higher likelihood of finding peace during the times when you need it.
2. Stick To Your Plan
Once you've established the time that you'll officially be “in the zone” – treat this time like gold. Don't cheat yourself by spending it on things that aren't actually classified as “work” and definitely don't let others see you behave in such a way that isn't perceived as “working”.
If others can see that you aren't taking your time seriously, why should they go out of their way to respect your time any more than you do? Remember, setting the right expectations starts with YOU and if you're a good steward of your time, others will be able to observe this and in most cases, they'll realize that you mean business.
3. Create Some Background Noise
One of the primary reasons I survived graduate school was that I perfected the art of creating background noise. By walking into my in my office (entering my “work zone”), closing the door (visually indicating that I'm busy), and putting on some soft music like this, this or this (replacing distracting sounds with the right kind of noise) – I was able to enter a serene world that otherwise would have been impossible.
In most cases, my trusty Bose Computer Speakers were more than enough to do the trick – but for the times when I was away from home and the background interruptions were seriously intrusive (e.g. – airport terminals, coffee shops, visiting friends), these headphones were A-MA-ZING. If you're serious about blocking out noise (aka – fire engine level racket) and replacing it with comfortable, crystal-clear perfection – these will definitely do the trick.
4. Leave The House
For many of us, there is something about working from home that is inherently distracting. Sometimes it's the people we live with, sometimes it's where we live, and probably more often than we realize – it's in our own heads.
When we work from home, there is nobody standing over our shoulder, cracking the whip and ordering us to “GET THINGS DONE!” It's all up to you... and if you don't do it, there are still consequences. For many of us, our environment can have a lot to do with our level of productivity, so if your surroundings are getting in the way of your work – get out of there!
If you don't have a good “zone away from home” – I'd suggest that you find one and frequent it as often as you need to.
5. Organize Your Priority List
When you've got an overwhelming number of things to do – sometimes the sheer volume of work can be paralyzing (which creates an obstacle in and of itself).
For the times when my work has piled up like Mt. Everest, I've found that it is immensely helpful to focus on one thing at a time. It's important to remember that your half-finished projects don't count for anything until they are 100% done.
It doesn't matter how much time you've invested into property research, sending out offers, rehabbing a building or trying to get financing. If you spend dozens of hours on a myriad of projects without actually finishing any of them… what do you have to show for all of your effort?
It's important to recognize that there is a very real cost to multi-tasking. Rather than burning yourself out and taking significantly longer to get the same amount of work done – start by making a priority list (in order of the things that you actually have the resources to do) and focus on those things first. You may be surprised at how much more tangible your accomplishments feel at the end of each day.