3 Clever Life Hacks to Help Reclaim Valuable Free Time

by | BiggerPockets.com

I have a confession.

Sometimes I begin my day with real purpose, real ferocity. Other days, my day is governed by pure chance. It could be the timing of a phone call that I chose to answer or my willingness to open my email inbox and see what fires might lay there waiting for me, all before I have spent my very valuable morning time doing something that really matters.

One of the influences on my thinking is Timothy Ferris. He is the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, a book that has changed my life and has changed millions of others’ lives through his blog, his books, and his podcast.

Tired of working 90 hours a week feeling like you are going nowhere? He talks about that. Feel like you are babysitting clients who couldn’t care less and aren’t making you any money? Yep, he talks about that, too. Not to mention wild and crazy adventures, including becoming a tango champion in Argentina and a kickboxing champion in China.

I am sure there are people who first hear the name of the book who say something like, “Wow, that will never happen.” Hmmm.

Well, probably not with that attitude!

I have shared this book and purchased it for a number of people #yourewelcometferriss… and it has made such a great impact on my life.

Just in case you aren’t getting what I am putting down here, I’ll spell it out for you: It’s NOT about the 4 hours per week. It’s about the ACTION we take. It’s about owning the life that we have and putting into place the things in our lives we desire most, whether it is extended travel, a new car, or simply time to live abroad with your family, learning a language.

There were a few things in the book that really caught my attention and after thinking through them, they made me change the way I did things in my business and personal life. Some things were adapted, and some things were just fun, and some made a profound impact on my daily routine.

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3 Clever Life Hacks to Help Reclaim Valuable Free Time

1. Stop checking email when you first wake up (especially on your cell phone).

Not checking email first thing is life changing. There are always things in your email inbox that are waiting for your attention. And the thing is, I’ve seen people even post the number of email messages that are unread as badges of honor.

Related: 4 Productivity Hacks to Turn Wasted Hours into Quality Time

You think I want 203,408 messages in there? No way!

I am not always good about this, but I try to batch my email. I do check it sometimes when I am waiting on something I am really excited about, like a new bid on a HVAC unit (tell me it isn’t sexy to save $134 on a new 95% efficient one… go post that on #twitter and watch them go wild!). 🙂

But seriously, you don’t need to check it every ten minutes either. You know why? It’s not necessary. You have trained yourself to believe you need to because you have this thin object that you can access at any time. I just Googled cell phone statistics and ran across a Pew Research Study finding that “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating” and “29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as ‘something they can’t imagine living without.'”


Timothy Ferriss suggests you have an autoresponder on your email that lets people know you will be messaging them back at this and this time each day. I personally got tired of the autoresponder, but I instead generally check emails after coffee in the morning and before the gym at noon.

Like I said, I am not always good at this, but it is what I strive for.

Also, just as a side note: STOP RECEIVING ALL THOSE ADS to you email account. It’s just crap you don’t need from people who don’t care.

Banana Republic, I love your shirts. But… unsubscribe. And Orbitz, I love me a good travel deal. Click… unsubscribe. I swear, my wife gets like 1,000 of these kinds of messages a day. You could have a full time job just opening and looking at crap you don’t want in your email.

#unsubscribe #hashtagthisbananarepublic

The other thing I do is I will read a message quickly and mark it unread. Then in the afternoon, when I grab my (2nd or 3rd) coffee and a tasty treat, I can bang out responses to the messages pretty quickly while listening to tunes and drinking a cup of joe. I can save a TON of time with this method.

2. Batch everything.

This was really a new concept for me. It hit me like a freight train.

I use it in my music, in my real estate, in my chores at home; whatever it is, I want to figure out how to batch it. Put all the tasks that go together, and in a given time, bang them out. Make a to do list and do them.

Tim talks about how the days or weeks before vacations, we are able to be so productive because we are laser focused on the tasks at hand. Guess what, you can do that all the time. Laser focus your energy on NOT doing emails 100 times a day (or checking your Facebook account for the three-hundred-and-fourty-seventh-time), and you have a ton of time to do things like go to the gym, be with your family/children/friends, go to lunch, go view properties, learn something or take a nap. Whatever.

Things you can batch include grocery shopping, work (at work), work (at home), emails, social media for business (post via Hootsuite and schedule your entire week in 30 minutes… I do!). Those are just a few. Whatever you do, ask yourself if you are doing it a bunch of times a day. If you are, stop and do it during a delegated time of the day (or 2 or 3). You’re welcome.

You don’t have “time” for the gym… now you do! Stop checking your Facebook 50 times a day. That will probably get the 30-60 minutes you need.

3. Re-set and re-peat: make decisions that matter.

One of the things I love that Timothy Ferriss talks about — and that really hit home for me (and was life changing) — was decision fatigue. Think about this: if you wake up in the morning and have to decide what you’re wearing, and then what you’re eating for breakfast, and then what you’re doing that day, and then where you need to go, and then make an appointment, and then see if they are available… yikes.

Related: 23 Totally Awesome Life Hacks for Landlords (To Save You Time, Stress, and Money!)

Get the idea here? It’s now 9 a.m., and you’re already tired with all the decisions you’ve had to make that did NOTHING for your business, your family, your work, your productivity for the day.

Make decisions that MATTER, and put others on autopilot. I have my alarm for certain days already set. You can have multiple alarms for different days and times. Breakfast? I have the same 2-3 things every day. Why? I don’t have to think about it, and I enjoy eating them. Simple, healthy, no brain power needed.

Grocery store? Have the list made with what you are eating. We have a revolving number of things we eat for dinner each week. Chores at home? Work out a simple schedule with your spouse. Properties to view? I have a schedule for that, too. My desk? I put things away every single day, so I know when I get back into the office, I can find what I am looking for.

What does this do for us? Leaving basic everyday things on rinse and repeat means we have the brain power for the decisions that matter, like how much to offer on a house, or where we should travel next for our couple weekend getaway, or how to deal with a difficult issue with a tenant or a business partner.

Now is the Time

Given that 2015 is just days away, now is the time we are all making a list of things we want to change, or do, or not do, or be in 2015.

This is your opportunity to put some things on autopilot and put that time into something amazing for you, your family, your business, the world. Seriously, think of what you could do with just an hour a day. That’s 365 hours or 15 days worth of time do something awesome in one year.

Will you implement these time hacks into your routine in the coming year? What are YOU going to use your new found time for? 

Leave me a comment below, and let’s talk!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is the co-founder and CEO of Bridge Turnkey Investments, a Kansas City-based company renovating and selling more than 100 turnkey properties per year. With over a decade of experience in real estate, Nathan is a seasoned investor with a large personal portfolio and a growing business portfolio. Just last year, through Bridge Turnkey Investments, he helped investors add over $12 million in value to their real estate portfolios. Nathan regularly produces educational content to fuel his passion for helping other people learn about and find success in real estate investing. He has been featured regularly on industry podcasts such as the BiggerPockets Podcast, Active Duty Passive Income Podcast, Freedom Real Estate Investing Podcast, Fearless Pursuit of Freedom Podcast, Titanium Vault, The Real Estate Investing Podcast, The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show, the Good Success Podcast, FlipNerd, Wholesaling Inc., The Real Estate Investing Profits Master Series, Flipping Junkie Podcast, Flip Empire podcast, Think Realty Radio, and more. He is a sought-after speaker and writer and can be found on stage regularly at events across the country.


  1. Bret Nida

    It looks like I have another book to read! Excellent post! Several months ago I set on a quest and SLOW DOWN time. I am trying to do that by doing Quandrant II activities first amd planning from there. I will add this too my arsenal of time fighting tools. Now if I could only tackle this A.D.D. and my ability to get distracted by the next shiny object…….

  2. Albert Arguelles


    Great straight forward and entertaining article! Like your style lol I definitely will implement the Auto-Pilot for my basic and business tasks. That’s one of my main priority goals because developing systems like these will allow for exponential growth in time and business!

    Thanks again for the article

  3. Sharon Vornholt

    Great post Nathan. I think better use of our time is on the top of most people’s list. Staying off of email, Facebook etc. in the morning is critical. My goal is to sit down and crank out about 4 hours of solid, income generating work every day in 2015 before I even think about email. I love the 4 Hour Work Week but I have a few favorites this year:

    The Pumpkin Plan
    The 12 Week Year
    The ONE Thing

    They are all great books for reclaiming your focus and getting more done in less time with better results. Happy New Year.


    • Nathan Brooks

      Sharon! Happy New Year! Exactly right with your statements … love your passion coming through in just these few words here. The only time in the morning I am on facebook is to (welp… batch) a weeks full of posts that go through all my social media outlets simultaneously.

      I will check out those books … not familiar with two of them, and I’ve heard good things about The One Thing!


  4. Craig N.

    >>You have trained yourself to believe you need to because you have this thin object that you can access at any time.

    I also think it’s a bit of peer pressure too. We see others checking their crackberries and smartphones constantly, and we also sometimes get hounded by our colleagues who ask, “hey didn’t you see my email from 10 minutes ago?”.

    Thus, if we’re not trying to keep up with email then we’re not doing our part to stay connected in real-time, and possibly get perceived as slowing down. Holy A-D-D, Batman!

    • Nathan Brooks

      Craig … I think your words are SO true. We see everyone else glued to them and wonder why are we sitting here alone … trying to engage in the world. Not to say I am not ever guilty with the cell phone business, because I am. But I sure am conscience of it.

      Happy New Year!

  5. Marion Edwards

    I also enjoyed your post and the 4 Hour Workweek book by Tim Ferriss. The thing that I love about today’s communications technology is also the thing I hate the most and can be summed up in one word, “access”. The access that we get from our smart phones, tablets, PC’s keeps data flowing at an ever increasing rate and keeping up requires more time than most of us have to do so. Routinely disconnecting from the data world is a good concept in theory, but if you’re like me and leverage technology to help run my wholesaling business, can I really afford ignore (even for a few hours) those things that hit my website and inbox, in a highly competitive marketplace?

    • Nathan Brooks

      Marion … I think you speak to a seriously interesting place. I think within a few hours usually we are okay with that hot lead. It is highly competitive, however, even with an email autoresponder, and things like that … you have communication coming back from you to the lead without you having to deal with it that moment manually or hands on.

      The other thing I will be doing this year, is hiring an assistant. And they will be charged with answering phones, and emails like that … so I can leverage my time, get what I need to get from the assistant, and continue with generating more business.

      Happy New Year!

  6. Brandon Sturgill

    Nathan, maybe batching is the wrong word to use here…I work a lot in process improvement…LEAN Six Sigma and eliminating waste. Batching is the one common area everyone in quality improvement will tell you is a horrible idea…though, I think I get what you are trying to say here.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Hi Brandon … I did a quick looksie via Merriam Webster and it came up with this; Batch:

      arrange (things) in sets or groups.

      Lean Six: Lean Six Sigma is a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste; combining lean manufacturing/lean enterprise and Six Sigma to eliminate the eight kinds of waste (muda): defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, extra-processing (abbreviated as “DOWNTIME”[1]).

      While I believe we are talking someone on the same thing, this appears to me to be on a scale with many other team members who are all working together… versus having one or two people on a team who are delegating or doing to outside business.

      Overall, the principles are the same, but the architecture is different.

      In any case, I batch … it makes me faster, more nimble … what if you Lean Six Sigma (and don’t get tired of trying to explain what it means) … that’s awesome too. 🙂

  7. Tyler Flagg

    Nathan…awesome post! I love the good Mr. Ferriss and his book has had a huge impact on me over the last year. I’ve tried to personally outsource as much of the stuff in my life that I don’t enjoy and it was well worth it. I’ve got to get better about email though…I’m still terrible about checking it all the time. I’m hoping that Google “Inbox” can help. Happy New Year!

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