Investing in real estate can get overwhelming from time-to-time, even for those of us who choose passive investments. There’s still a lot to keep up with: income, expenses, taxes, leads, contacts, research, books, notes...it can all get out of hand if you’re not careful!
Even for those of us who take pride in organization, all of that information can be daunting. We have IRAs and retirement plans and bank accounts and CPAs and this form and that form and where did you put that file, and why can’t you find that one piece of paper that you need?
Organization is an art that many need and few master. Hopefully, these tips will help you sharpen your organization skills and gain just a little bit of the control you want and need over your investments.
1. Use a system that works for YOU.
Option A: Classic Filing Cabinet System
Some of us are traditionalists, and there’s no shame in that. Maybe you just like having a real paper in your hands, right in front of you. Maybe tech and computers just aren’t your friends. Either way, if you go the paper route, find a filing cabinet that you like, that locks, that’s fireproof, and that works for your capacity and needs. Organize it well from the get-go and don’t overstuff.
Invest in a good document shredder to go with it.
Option B: Going Paperless
If you’re more tech savvy, digital may be your go-to. There are plenty of storage solutions for you: you may opt for a secure external hard drive or cloud-based services (Dropbox is obviously the most popular and well-known, but there are other options out there to explore). Just like filing cabinets, having a good system from the outset is important.
Before you start uploading files, how do you want to organize them? Map our your system first. Then upload. It’ll save you a lot of time if you know where everything is going to go beforehand.
Going paperless is daunting: it requires a lot of time, planning, and good hardware (finding a reliable scanner/printer/fax/shredder combo is no easy feat). But it is achievable and it is worth it.
Option C: Hire Someone
Are you hopeless either way? There’s no shame in hiring an assistant to keep track of your documents for you, if that’s the best way to keep your productivity and profitability on track. It’s certainly an option!
2. Set up dual monitors.
Dual monitors can be enormously useful for working on the computer. You can have a document you’re actively working in open on one monitor and research up in another, which saves time you would spend going in between tabs or programs. This can be especially helpful in comparing numbers or data.
If not multiple monitors, a large monitor where you can have multiple windows visible on screen can achieve a similar effect. It helps compartmentalize the information a little, while also helping you see it all at the same time: increasing your efficiency.
(That is, if you’re not using one of the monitors to have Facebook pulled up at all times.)
3. If possible, have your own office space.
For many real estate investors, investing is a part time endeavor. Having a dedicated office space isn’t always an achievable reality, but it’s definitely one worth striving for. If you can have a room dedicated to work, you will be so much better off. It means you won’t have to worry about family members moving or rearranging your papers, it means everything will be contained, and it means it’s just easier to keep things where they belong!
An office space really is crucial, no matter how small it is. Even if you can only manage a desk, invest in it. Don’t settle for the kitchen table.
4. Write things down.
If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do, or even all the ideas you have, write them down. Make a to-do list. Having too much in your head can cause you not to do any of it because being overwhelmed paralyzes you. Writing it down gets it out there and concrete and manageable. Plus, it also means you’re less likely to forget.
You can also use apps like Evernote to jot down ideas on your tablet or smartphone instead of with pen and paper.
5. Separate work from life.
Remember the idea of creating a separate space for your office? Another reason to do that is simply to help create a barrier between your investments (work) and your life. Part of creating organization is creating and maintaining healthy barriers and balance between the two.
Are you going to answer that e-mail at dinner time? No. You’re not. These kinds of limits help organize your life and allow the time you have to be more dedicated and productive and thus, less wasted. Especially as a passive real estate investor, maintaining those barriers and making your processes effective is key to maintaining that passivity.