4 Productivity Hacks to Turn Wasted Hours into Quality Time


The past month or two, I have felt the need to renew my direction, my trajectory, my goals, my paradigm — within my family, my personal life, and my business. I’ve been filling my mind with literature, music, and meditation, seeking to see within my own person, asking questions as to exactly what I am doing, what I am spending my time on, and what in this world, and within my world specifically, is worth my most valuable asset: my time.

You see, I don’t want to live without thinking — but I also don’t want to overthink. I don’t want to obsess over the smallest of details, overlooking massive opportunities that lie just the shortest distance from where I am, unable to see, and therefore unable to convert.

I also don’t want to miss the opportunities in this world that require another level of analyzing ability, skill, and aptitude; I want to decipher the nuances and therefore get the best deals and make the best of opportunity. It can be shocking how easy it is to overthink, overdo, and completely overanalyze our lives, businesses, children and potential real estate deals — while completely under-utilizing our own abilities in those same spaces by not making any true decisions.

As I sit here right now, I have a cup of coffee in my favorite coffee mug. It’s one of those Starbucks mugs, the really cool ones from the different cities you have traveled to and had an impulse to buy while standing in line waiting for your morning coffee. This one is a blue pastel color with the downtown Miami skyline, palm trees, and the ocean. Whenever I see it, it takes me back to when we bought this mug. The “we” being my wife and me. And the experience being our trip to Miami last year.

It was the week of the Finals, my wife and I being hardcore Miami Heat fans, and we decided on a whim to find a babysitter for two children (thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!), book flights for less than $300 each, buy lower level tickets to the game, and reserve a hotel right in downtown Miami for less than $100 a night. A week later, we were in South Florida attending game three of the NBA Finals.

#boom #miami #livingthevidaloca — or something like that 🙂

If you happen to be an NBA fan — or just have a great memory — you will know that this game ended up being the beginning of the end for Lebron and the Miami Heat. It’s painful for me to even say this… but they got their butts handed to them.

Related: Four Productivity Improvement Tips To Make You A Better Real Estate Investor

They lost that game, and went on to lose to the San Antonio Spurs. But we were there. Cheering our team on, with a beer and hotdog in hand, screaming our heads off, people watching, checking out the night skyline at half time, and eventually walking away wondering what exactly happened for the Heat to have such a catastrophic meltdown.

Still, what we both still kept coming back to was: It’s The NBA Finals. Win or lose, it was an amazing experience — from seeing all the players on both teams to the TV cameras and media people everywhere to a city fired up for their team.

Yes, we spent money on the trip, and the game was what spurred us to go. We didn’t go into debt because we paid cash from money we had made in our real estate business. And the game was only a few hours of a 3-4 day trip in Miami. We ate amazing meals. We walked around downtown Miami, South Beach, and just explored.

It wasn’t about the game. It was the time together.

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Achieving a Work-Life Balance

Anyone with young children knows that quality time together is hard to come by. I’m not complaining, far from it. But we all need time together with our friends, our spouses, and ourselves… alone.

In a world where we can have so many distractions that lead us on endless wild chases to absolutely nowhere, it is so vital that we set up systems that help us navigate anything from our calendars to our work-life balance to our marriages to our cell phones.

You can make all the money in the world, but broken partnerships, or bad marriages, or having no relationship with your children, or not exercising or eating well all cause pain, discomfort, or lack of pleasure in your life. If you’re not being productive, you probably aren’t able to unplug from your work brain to truly exist at home, experiencing and enjoying your family.

Listen, I am writing this for myself. My wife and I have had this discussion this week. Because she stays home with our two children now, almost never able to have time for herself without snotty noses, crying, or a room that has gone from clean to complete mayhem and apocalyptic destruction. You better watch out for the legos, those hurt the worst if you are walking around in the dark and WHAM… ouch!

I work as a worship leader at a large church, as well as an investor in real estate. These things don’t really exist on the same plane. They take different things from me — and both of them must be in balance with what I can, or should have, or should be doing, with my family.

If you are reading this far, I imagine you understand these same balancing acts, these hard decisions, and the struggle of time drain. You might be wondering where your day went and when the hours of meetings and countless to do lists became more abundant than your happiness has. You might be feeling completely overwhelmed. You’re probably desiring more time for what really matters, the people we care about, and the things we love to do.

Well, stop.

Stop going through the motions, and think on it. Meditate over it. Give yourself time to absorb what you are doing, and don’t beat yourself up over what you are doing that isn’t working. Instead, allow yourself the opportunity to make some changes, some small, some more significant.

Here are 4 action items to do right now. Seriously, grab a pen, and write them down.

4 Actions to Boost Productivity & Enhance Quality of Life

1. Stop living life through the lens of others.

If that means you stop wearing the badge of honor for checking your email at 10pm at night, then stop it. If that means not going to sleep until you make a check list for tomorrow (because you never seem to go to sleep, instead endlessly pondering whatever you have to do tomorrow), then make the list.

Listen to some music that is calming before bed. Have a cup of tea. Stop thinking about it. If it’s a matter of desiring what others have, this isn’t helpful or healthy for you. Stop making decisions in your life based on what others have, not on what you have, could have, or could do. Things don’t equal life. They equal things. Stop it.

2. Stop complaining.

If you don’t like it, change it. You and everyone around you deserve better. I’ve always had a line: don’t complain, explain. If there is something not working, stop doing it! Think through and explain to yourself what isn’t working, and change it. By embodying very definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result — you aren’t going to get anywhere.

In complaining, you are allowing your mind to come up with all sorts of conclusions as to why you are wronged, why it’s not your fault, or why you can’t change something. It’s not true. Change what you are doing: your behavior, your physiology, your calendar, your job. Don’t complain. Find what isn’t working, and stop doing it.

3. Build time in your calendar to do things you enjoy doing.

Just because it is work doesn’t mean it’s fun. Doing things you like to do makes you more productive, and it is something you WILL do. For me, I started building in practice time for the instruments I play at church, and I don’t bring my cell phone with me into rehearsal time.

Want to know what time it is? Ask a co-worker. Or get this crazy thing called a watch.

I build time in each week to look at houses. I have a plan, I know when I am going. Same thing with writing this blog: I have a process, so I don’t have to think through how I would make time for writing and stress over it; it’s already built into my day. And the gym, it’s everyday… I have to for my ability to function.

Related: 6 Easy Ways to Boost Your Productivity in Real Estate

If you have to keep asking yourself when you are going to do something, you are wasting so much of your energy on making decisions that you can put on autopilot (schedule them), and you drain the energy you could have put towards the actual task at hand of growing your business or spending time with your family. That is where the decisions pay their dividends.

4. Put your (stupid) cell phone down.

Ugh. I loathe it, to be perfectly honest. Because at my fingertips, I can do just about anything that wastes time, from looking at sports reports, to all my banking and investments, to stupid games, to Instagram and Twitter, and I can go from one to the other with the swipe of a finger. And seriously, stop checking your Facebook feed every 10 minutes (and delete the app off your phone… I did).

And email — that’s the worst, right? From the boss, from a partner. Good news, bad news: everything leads to a tangent you didn’t really intend to go on. Disable all the dings, rings, and reminders saying you just got a message or a text that are audible or that show up on the screen (yes, I’ve done that too).

Tangents are great when you are doing it for fun, like, say, looking for the best sushi in Miami, FL, but not so much when you are at the dinner table with your family and you get a DING and open your email to find something unpleasant you have to deal with tomorrow at the office.


Look, I realize it is easy to say all this stuff.

Oh great, now I can read this and be more depressed with my life. Or the fact that I haven’t bought my first investment property yet. Or how I am stuck with a deal, or a partner, or a spouse creating conflict or frustration.  

These things are inevitable. It’s just life — and it’s okay. Remember, things do happen. It’s not a pithy phrase, it’s just life. And by having more space for you to encounter those challenges head on by putting other things on autopilot, or stopping them altogether, you will have the decision-making power to deal with them decisively and effectively. Only then will you have the time and energy to move on to what is really most important: being truly present for life experiences with the people you love.

What actions have you taken to maximize the time and energy you have for friends and family?

Leave your tips and thoughts below!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.


  1. Silvia Durango

    Nathan- you hit the nail on the head about putting it in your schedule … I go every Monday to Philly and look at possible deals … It’s put in my calendar as is walking for atleast 3 miles that same day and I close Thursday and Friday mornings … Sundays is my all day family day 🙂

  2. Dawn Anastasi

    I like the cell phone comment. When I go out to eat with someone, I turn the cell phone OFF and don’t look at it during the meal. If I spend time with someone, I’m spending it with THEM and not my phone. I look at other tables and see 2 people both looking at their phones and not interacting with each other.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Dawn … me too. I am almost always good at this … I could be better. But I agree, it’s amazing when you realize you are sitting there next to someone and both of you are staring at your phones. Terrible waste of perfect time with someone you like, love … care about … or could be doing business with. Thanks Dawn!

    • Nathan Brooks

      Thanks Sam … I know this because I struggle with it too. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what others are doing instead of what we have going on in our own world, where we have our on ability to make a difference. It’s a relief once we are able to let go of what others have … find contentment … in the things are DO have … and the people who are most important to us.

  3. I especially appreciate #2. It seems that what we focus on grows and God knows I don’t need to notice more things to complain about! Plus, it is really, really, really a downer to hear constant complaints from someone else : (

  4. Mark Spidell

    Thanks Nathan. I like your work and have learned more about you via my friend and neighbor Jonathan Godes. I am excited for you guys!

    I have struggled with some of the things you have mentioned and am slowing getting to a more healthy place.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Mark … thanks for your comment, and your honesty. I think, the truth is, we all struggle with it … some part, or all … and it just takes us all cumulatively working together, having people we know, we trust, that can call us out when necessary … and surrounding ourselves with like minded, good, genuine, and intelligent people.

  5. Nathan, you are inspiring! The pace of my life changed when I started to do #3 – scheduling time to read, to write, to explore with my children (I’d pencil in a surprise ‘appointment’ with them each week), and such. I had always set aside Sunday as family time, but had begun realizing that for the other six days I neglected my family, and myself. I began giving at least an hour back to my personal pursuits within my longest work days that often start at 5:30 am and end well into the evening.

    I’m still working on #2 – the ‘stop complaining’ recommendation. I think I have made strides. And I am taking steps to balance out my negativity. Once every workday I write a ‘thank you’ note, some via email, but whenever possible via a small card. For me, notes to clients that are part of doing business don’t count. Rather, these notes are for when someone goes above and beyond in some way and I catch them being amazing. I thought when I started this that it would be difficult, that I wouldn’t easily identify one a day. But instead, it’s been easy and has brought me joy. And business. The unexpected consequence of the ‘thank you’ tirade? Referrals!

    • Nathan Brooks

      Sukey … thanks so much for sharing here. Isn’t it amazing … when we start to do something that we are working to make life better, maybe its connecting with others, or reminding ourselves, it actually comes back to us in positive forms we wouldn’t have even anticipated. We aren’t going to get it right all the time, I know I don’t. But we can work towards doing things better, more consistently, and have friends and family we trust gently and kindly remind us when we aren’t exactly being … positive and productive.

      And by the way, I love the secret time with a child each week … I am going to talk to my wife about that!!

  6. Al Williamson

    Nathan – there you go worship leading again. Making us focus on invisible wealth and encouraging us to miss an episode of the Kardasians .

    Guess you want me to just stand in wonder of my relational wealth and peruse that more.

    Well .. okay, you might be on to something.


  7. Keith K.

    Nathan, thanks for the post. I kept thinking you were going to start using bad language to get your point across… like that guy that sings ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ weaving the ‘F’ word throughout. But luckily you didn’t go that far. I got your points loud and clear. Thanks.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Keith … thank you for reading and responding! I hear you on the word selection, and I think the awesome thing is … we can share a message like this with anyone. And although words like that have their place sometimes … it’s nice to be able to communicate something without having to edit or hear that bleep sound when sharing it 🙂

  8. Nathan Brooks

    Hi Lissa … thanks so much for taking time to read it and respond. I have to remind myself not to complain too. It’s a great reminder … plus the more I read about how our brain in thinking transfers to our physiology, and all those things connect to how we act and make decisons … amazing how much power over ourselves, and our success with have there.

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