Entrepreneur Life – Not Multi-Tasking

This weekly post details the changes in my business I have made over the last few years in pursuit of “work life balance” and transitioning to working 30 hours a week. I own 5 companies that own residential real estate rentals, a national website for out of state real estate investors, a real estate brokerage company in two states, and one of the largest real estate education event platforms in Chicago. I went from working 80 hours a week to working 30 hours a week (most of the time) by making small adjustments to my business.

Week 3– Not Multi-Tasking

I am learning to not multi-task and work only when I feel like working. Part one is only working when I feel like it. Some days I just wake up and I am crabby or not really focused. I found that when I try to tackle tasks on those days it takes me twice as long and I make more errors. Of course, there are some instances where I can’t avoid doing something, but if it is required to be done that day I push it off and take the day off. Sometimes all I need is an hour or two to zone out and watch crappy TV, sometimes it is a well needed nap, sometimes I go do something that I enjoy like gardening or take a motorcycle ride with my husband. I reset my mind and attitude so that when I am working I am 100% focused.

On the flip side, some days I wake up super energetic and focused ready to take on the world. So I really maximize those days and power through my hardest tasks first and work until I just can’t anymore (usually 10-12 hours). These days happen about once a week and I will get about 70% of my work done those days, most times forgetting to eat. I know, forget to eat? I do it all the time. I get so focused on the task at hand all the sudden I realize hours have gone by and I have been so captivated that it is already 2pm and I have not eaten yet.

It is easy to get distracted when you have 90+ tenants, 3 property managers, clients who want to see properties, lenders, property inspections, marketing, accounting, ect. It is easy to look back on the day and feel like I did not make a dent. Unfortunately for me, my business is not proactive, it is reactive. My property managers have to loop me in when there is a problem, and it is never a small one. I could have a light day and then a handful of new listings come on the market and I need to drop everything to go see them.

Part 2 is not multitasking, which is the work in progress. For some reason, nobody needs me when I have time. Take Monday for example, I woke up and went through my to-list, emails, ect and by 10 am I felt pretty accomplished and thought I had an easy day ahead of me. I have a noon lunch meeting with a business partner and nothing that needed attention so I decided to go do some gardening as I am in the middle of a backyard transformation project. I took an hour off with just my music and focused on some “me time” and at 11 am I go to get ready for my meeting and I have 3 voicemails, 6 text messages, and 22 emails. All morning nobody needed me then all the sudden I get bombarded at the same time. There is no way I could respond to all that in the 30 minutes I had and I was not going to be available for a few hours to get back to them. So I just responded saying “I got your email, I am out for the next few hours but I will respond tonight.” So instead of stressing out by all the unanswered emails and being distracted during my meeting I set the expectation that I will get back to them, and did not multi-task during the meeting. In fact, I put my phone away and did not even look at it till 3pm.

Since we already covered that I live and die by my “to-do” list I will take it one step further. Let’s say I wake up full of energy and ready to take on the day. I go to my to-do list and take the hardest task fist. For me that is usually accounting which can be 6-10 hours depending on the time of the month. When you have 400+ transactions in/out of your 19 bank accounts every month it is super important to keep on top of accounting, otherwise procrastination will get the best of you and you will end up working for days on it and being super stressed out. So let’s say today I am ready to focus on 10 hours of accounting. I break it out on my to do list by LLC and by property manager, which breaks it out to 7 different tasks. I start with the easiest one, turn off my phone and close out all my computer tabs. I focus only on that task until it is completed. When it is done I assess how I feel, do I need a break or do I keep going? Since I started with the easiest one I usually feel like that wasn’t as bad as I thought and I go straight into the second without opening my internet or turning my phone on. Usually after about 2-3 hours I need a break, I give myself 15 minutes to check emails/voicemails ect. If something needs immediate attention I handle that, but if not, I just add it to my to-do list and go back into accounting. For the whole 10 hours I will spend about 90% of it without my phone or email and I do not go to social media on those days.

I think the problem most of us have is we feel the need to be responsive. I know I do, so it is a challenge for me to not respond to emails/texts. I quickly glance at it during the break and assess the importance, and the go back to the task I have allocated for that time. Sometimes I set timers for myself, like in an hour I get 15 minutes to check email/texts, and then I have to keep reminding myself that I have time allocated for that and I need to focus on the task at hand.

I found by structuring it this way it helps me cut more than a few hours a week. Some mornings I have my coffee and start looking at properties, then I am running searches in new areas and checking out what is going on there, and next thing you know it is 10 am and I have not done any work. I can easily spend the whole day looking at properties even though I am not buying anything right now.

So by exploiting the days I am focused I get more done than if I spread it out evenly every day. Also dialing into the task at hand and giving that my full attention helps me accomplish things more efficiently. Giving myself the mental breaks on the off days is a luxury I know most with corporate jobs do not have, but I need it. Usually after a 12 hour power day then next day my mind is mush and I spend a good part of the morning doing nothing.

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