A Case For Not Checking

I remember a few years ago, when the general concept of “social media” was synonymous with “Facebook”. At that point, Twitter hadn’t blown up yet, and there was no Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp or what have you.

Those were simpler times…. 🙂

Nowadays, we constantly need to keep up with an ocean of apps, where friends can reach us, news can be delivered to us and stock portfolios can be checked.

In reality, this means you can always feel certain, that somewhere on your smartphone, there is a bit of information that was just updated and that it still hasn’t reached your eyeballs yet.

This further means, that there is always a new little reward/dopamine/adrenaline rush to be had, every time you want it. You just need to check for it.

Now, is there anything wrong with this? Little rewards here and there throughout the day sounds lovely, doesn’t it? WRONG!

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff recently, and come to the conclusion, that it both kills our productivity and happiness in the long run. And let me explain why.

 

Checking kills your productivity

Remember in school, when you had a report due the next day, how suddenly you felt the urge to clean your room? Obviously, this was just basic procrastination, but what it specifically did, was give you an easy feeling of accomplishment, instead of going through the drudgery of actually completing the report.

Later on, you found yourself writing the report at 3 AM, when the time pressure had become so immense, that you no longer had a choice but to write.

The final result would be stress, lower quality of work and a longer time to finish.

Today, instead of cleaning your room, you can just choose to manically check stuff on your computer or smartphone, whenever you want to procrastinate and feel rewarded.

This gives you a falls sense of accomplishment by completing something, that was totally unimportant.  As a result, the big and meaningful rewards will only be delayed due to the many premature rewards.

 

Kills your happiness

The second part of my argument is just an extension of the first.

I believe, that true happiness in life is partially comprised of some sense of meaningful accomplishment.

That means, if all you aim for, is the small and meaningless rewards, like checking your Facebook account, you won’t improve your long-term quality of life, compared to finishing bigger and tougher projects.

 

How to?

I have now made the case, that we should try and stop checking our smartphones several times a day, because it distracts us from the truly important. This will also enable us to stay more present throughout the day.

But how? Below, I suggest a few tips on how to start making this change. It is a tough habit to cultivate in the beginning, just like anything else, and it won’t come overnight. But the following tips have worked for me so far:

 

Be mindful. Try and see, if you can notice the urge to check, before you actually do it. Most times, it is totally automatic, so it would be best to stop yourself and ask, why you need to check whatever you want to check.

Are you sure, that it cannot wait? I’m sure that it can.

Delete non-essential apps from your phone. This point is self-explanatory, but decide what is non-essential, and what is necessary for your day to day life. Also, think about what can be checked on the computer instead, with lesser frequency.

Decrease the number of platforms for communication. As I said earlier, people can reach each other in too many ways nowadays. Which ones do you use (email, SMS, Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, iMessage)? Are there any of them, you can opt out of, in order to simplify your life, and maintain focus?

Set fixed times for checking. Of course, some things do need to be checked sometimes. Therefore, it can be useful to create artificial boundaries, to keep the checking under control. For instance, tell yourself, that you can check X every morning, and then that’s it for the day.

 

That’s it guys, I hope you liked the post, and that it will help you staying more focused in your day to day life.

 

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For further readings on the idea of staying more focused, check out:

–        The One Thing

–        The Power of Less

–        Essentialism

Quality As a Way of Life

Recently I have gotten immensely fascinated with a guy named Josh Waitzkin. He is the author of The Art of Learning, world champion in chess and tai chi and a high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.

He has been on two episodes of the Tim Ferriss podcast now, so check those out, if you want to learn more about him.

One of the things he talks a lot about is a concept called “quality as a way of life”. What I personally translate this into is: the pursuit of perfection in everything that you do.

Obviously, it is impossible to do everything in life perfectly, but it is never too late to try and reach for this impossible goal.

This is not about making perfection the criteria for contentment, or even the criteria for anything actually. It is just about having an internal compass, and a healthy set of habits, that will guide you onto the right path at all times.

I love this idea, and I will start incorporating into my life today.

 

If you also want to try this, it will imply two things for you:

You must be mindful. You cannot rush perfection. You cannot fake quality. You must be fully present at all times, and completely aware of what you are doing right now. This makes the concept very closely related to mindfulness.

You must be an essentialist. You cannot take on too many projects or obligations. You must stay focused on only a few things, otherwise, you risk spreading yourself too thin, and you cannot do anything perfectly this way. (Read the book Essentialism for more)  

So to live the life of quality, you must combine mindfulness and essentialism/minimalism – it is no wonder I feel intrigued!

 

The exercise is, to constantly stop in whatever you do, and remind yourself about doing it with quality, until it becomes a habit.

Take your time, take your breaks, think about what it is you are doing right now – how can you do it better? Do you even have to do the thing you are doing?

If something is worth doing, do it with quality.

Be selective and be critical.

 

Breathe with quality.

Talk to your partner with quality.

Work with quality.

Walk with quality.

Read your book with quality.

 

I have always been a quantity over quality kind of guy.

My mantra has been “if it is good enough, I am done”.

Now, I am striving towards a new mantra, that will flip this on its head: “I am not done until its perfect”.

But I am also not going to focus on anything unimportant from now on – I won’t have time for that.

 

What do you guys think?

Would you join me in living this life of quality?

 

Further reading recommendations about the subject:

–        The Power of Less

–        The One Thing

A Life of Luxury Isn’t Worth It

Two of my favorite philosophers – Seneca and Epicurus – said it around 2000 years ago:

A life on the hunt for wealth and luxury is poorly spend.

Epicurus was the originator of the commune. He would advise people to move in together with the people they loved, work for a few hours a day, just to get their bare necessities and enjoy lots of leisure time and creative endeavors.

This idea has really resonated with me the last couple of years.

When you make the simple calculation for how much time you need to give up to pay for luxury items, say a new  BMW, you really see it this from a sobering perspective.

 

In Denmark, where I come from:

  • A new nice BMW might cost you 1 MIO DKK (all taxes included)
  • A fairly standard hourly wage, after tax is 100 DKK, but let’s say you are a high-earner and get double = 200 DKK
  • The standard working week here is 37 hours, but let’s say you are willing to dedicate your life to paying for the BMW and work double = 74 hours

This means you would have to give up:

1.000.000/200/74/52 = 1.3 years

No vacation, no holiday. And this is assuming, you pay for the car in cash – which nobody does.

Are you willing to give up more than a year of your relatively short life, just to be able to drive a nice car, that most likely, will be MUCH less exciting to you in 5-10 years?

And if you want to lead a life of luxury in general, we haven’t even begun talking about the fancy house, the boat or vacation home.

 

Obviously, I can’t say anything bad about people who loves their job, earns a nice salary and spends it on things they enjoy, like a nice car.

However, if luxury and wealth have become the primary goal of one’s life, and work is seen as tedious and as a pain, I have to assume you are getting a bad deal in the end. The amount of time you need to give up is simply too high for it to be worth it.

Rather accept what you’ve already got, and learn to be happy where you are. Do work you are passionate about, and if that allows for a more spendy lifestyle, fine! Just never let it be the reason for why you do anything.

To myself.

6 Things Free People Does

My greatest mission in life is to achieve maximum freedom. Period.

This has become clear to me the last few years.

I think, this all stems from having parents that did very little to control me. It has made me the type of person that hates restrictions, is skeptical of authority and weary of unnecessary obligations.

I am therefore on a quest to find the freest possible way to live, so both you and I can emulate it.

So far, the following is what I have concluded about how free people lead their lives.

 

Free people:

Doesn’t let technology control their life – they use it to maximize freedom. It was the original promise of the technological revolution – more time for leisure and fun – but most people haven’t seen it yet. Take control over your smartphone, laptop, Facebook, Twitter. Don’t let it be the other way around.

 

Work for themselves. Having a controlling boss can be a great drain on your freedom and personal creativity. Working for yourself is the ultimate freedom – generating automatic income is even better.

Free people work on new passion projects all the time.

You might not have the perfect business plan that is going to earn you millions, and that’s okay – I don’t either. But I have taken the initial steps to make my own first few dollars here and there as a place to start.

 

Own few things. The more stuff you own, the more it will end up owning you. Become a minimalist . That will allow you to quickly move your whole life from one place to another.

Owning a lot of stuff will always cost you time, money and ultimately freedom.

 

Does not worry about other people’s opinion. This might be the most obvious point in this post, but also the most important and difficult to master.

I currently have a Chinese colleague, who wants to go home to her home country and family very badly, but is unable to do so, because she is afraid that other people might think that she has had an unsuccessful trip to my country. So she forces herself to stay her for another few YEARS. She is heavily restricted in her freedom, due to her worry for other people’s opinion.

 

Makes their own criteria for success. Most people choose to strive for goals that have been given to them by society or their environment. Where I come from, a normal person might work towards getting a nice home, a nice car or a perfect family. Free people, on the other hand, might stop and think about, what exactly they want for themselves. It could be a deeper relationship with their partner or more time for hobbies.

 

Shows discipline. Like Jocko Willink says in the book Extreme Ownership: Discipline = Freedom.

It is hard to do things your own way. It is hard to go against the current. It requires bravery and discipline to stay on the path you have selected for yourself. It is easier to stay in a pattern that someone else has forced you into.

 

Stay strong.

7 ways to let your employer have less power over you

One of the most unfortunate aspects of living in a capitalist economy is the ability of an employer to induce fear and create stress in his/hers employees.

Employers have incredible power because of this.

The obvious foundation for this power is rooted in their inherent ability, to cut off the primary income stream of an employee, by deciding to fire them.

Of course, an employer can make life a misery for an employee, by other means than just firing or threatening to fire. He can make inappropriate remarks or create an uncomfortable work environment – but we still must realize, that the only real power an employer has, is to provide us with a job or not.

If he treats us badly, we always have the option to walk away. Then we lose our job, of course, and it therefore only boils down to whether or not we have a job.

The only circumstance in which this power has any significance to us, is if we are addicted to our jobs. So in reality, this article is actually about how to become unaddicted or independent of your job – financially. If we can achieve this, our boss loses his power to scare us.

(If you have become addicted to your job for other reasons than financial ones, you might have built your identity on your job description – I then feel for you, and I don’t know how to save you. You can’t let this happen.)

Here are my 7 tips for how to become less dependent on your job.:

 

  1. Become a minimalist

We have established so far, that the only real thing an employer can give you is a job/money. If you become less dependent on your paycheck, your boss loses his power over you.

I have written a lot about how to become a minimalist on this site, but all you really need to do is stop wasting your money on the unnecessary stuff. That way, you will need way less, and you will need your boss less and less.

 

  1. Be frugal

If you begin living frugally in general terms, you will become less dependent on your job too. If you cancel all of your crazy monthly subscriptions for magazines and newspapers, if you stop wasting your hard earned money on lattes and junk food, you won’t depend on your job as much.

 

  1. Pay off debt

Once you stop wasting your money on the unnecessary, you will find yourself with some extra cash in your pocket. Use it to pay off credit card loans and other expensive debt. I think this stage will have the greatest impact on your independence.

 

  1. Start saving

When all the loans have been paid off, you start putting your spare cash away for a rainy day. That way, if your boss decides to fire you, you will be okay because you have built up a comfortable buffer. This will allow you to be a lot less stressed out if you hear rumors about new firing rounds in the company.

 

  1. Get insurance

I am currently a member of a union, where I can buy insurance that covers me if I get fired. Because of this, I sometimes hope that I will get fired from my job. My boss has no power!

However, when the glorious day comes, where I can retire, I will obviously cancel this insurance policy.

 

  1. Create a new income stream

Something that will make you truly free from the angst of losing your current job is by finding another way of making money.

How would you feel about driving for Uber for a few hours every Saturday? You could always up-scale that job in case of an emergency.

What if you had two part-time jobs instead of one full-time? That would make you much less vulnerable to being fired.

This is a thought strategy, adopted from my favorite book Anti-Fragile , by Nassim Taleb.

 

  1. Create automatic income

Having automatic income is just great in general, and there are tons of ways you can do it. Start a blog, a Youtube channel, create a drop shipping web store or get into investing.

Automatic income will be your backup mechanism, that earns extra cash for you – even while you are on vacation.

 

What about you guys?

Do you utilize any strategies, to minimize the power your boss has over you?

 

Thanks for reading.

“You don’t want to be the guy that owns the boat”

This is absolutely brilliant.

I just heard the comedian Bill Burr say the above sentence on Jerry Seinfeld’s show Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee .

You really need to see the episode, but the implication of it was this: you don’t want to be the guy who owns the boat – he needs to deal with all the harbor fees, maintenance and so on. Instead, you want to be the friend who can come on the boat, hang out, and be the hero of the day for bringing a six pack.

Of course, this is not about being a moocher and taking advantage of other people. This is about all of the great things you can enjoy in life, without being the owner of things.

For example:

  • Nature is nice, but you don’t need to own a garden to enjoy it. You can go to a park or a forest to enjoy it.
  • The beach is nice, but you don’t need to own one to enjoy it.
  • I love books , but I don’t need to own them to enjoy them. So I go to the public library and benefit from a much larger collection than I could fit into my apartment.
  • A car can be nice, but there are so many services now, that allows you to rent one on demand for a very fair price. I rent an electricity driven BMW on my smartphone every time I need a car. This makes it completely irrelevant for me to own my own car. A car is almost as big of a headache as a boat.

Not owning a lot of stuff results in fewer commitments and an easier life.

Stuff you own also depreciates in value. Saving from not owning, and keeping your money invested instead, makes you money.

Have a nice day!

Ads on a Minimalist Website?

So I recently decided to put up ads on my various blogs, including this one, to increase the passive income they generate.

I had a difficult time deciding whether or not to defile my clean and simple website like this, especially when you take in to account the frugal and non-materialistic lifestyle I am promoting. Ads just don’t seem to fit in around here.

But then again, I also see a lot of positives in doing it. So here is my argument against any objections I might receive from the minimalist police:

 

It doesn’t cost you time or money to support my work

My favorite way of making income with this blog is by writing about products I personally enjoy and use Amazon affiliate links to promote them. That way, I am only selling something I believe in, and that is relevant to the blog.

However, you have to buy it from Amazon, before I have any benefit from it.

With a classic Google Adsense ad, you don’t have to spend a dime to support my blog – you can just read my posts.

 

Gives me a better incentive to write

If I only where to use the affiliate links, I would subconsciously be more prone to write content about products, and thereby basically try to sell you something every time I wrote.

Now, after installing the Google ads, I always have a financial incentive to write about whatever I find most important and interesting.

 

This is an experiment

As I wrote about in a recent blog post, I would really love to not have to work a full-time job later in my life. This is why I am promoting a minimalist and frugal lifestyle – I want to quit the rat race as fast possible.

And one of the ways I am trying to quit this race, is by creating a profitable blog that can support me.

So the Google ads are kind of an experiment in this journey, and I will tell you about my results later on, so you might be able replicate them.

 

Install an ad-blocker extension in your web browser

I even wrote about this in an earlier post . I believe, anyone who wants to escape materialism/consumerism should protect themselves against exposure to advertisements/commercials – they simply affect us too much.

This is why I advise you to install an ad-blocker in your browser, even though I have ads on my website.

 

So that is that! Please let know what you think underneath.

Is it OK to have ads on a website that promotes minimalism?

The Ultimate Recipe For Wasting Life

I have to be honest with you; I really don’t like my current, full-time job. The job is very unfulfilling, and my boss is a jerk, so you can imagine how it makes me feel, to spend most of my waking hours at the office.

However, taking this job as my first real “adult” job has taught me some very valuable lessons.

Among many things, having a terrible job will teach you how to be super aware of how you spend your money, since you are ultimately exchanging hours of your life for objects and services.

Therefore, you will begin asking yourself: in which cases am I spending my money on stuff that doesn’t make me happy?

Of course, you might have a job that you actually like – I am not blaming you for that, but that changes everything in terms of how you should spend your money. And it leaves us with four differents scenarios:

You can either:

  • Make money in a way you love, and buy stuff that you love
  • Make money in a way you don’t enjoy, and buy stuff that you love
  • Make money in a way you love, and buy stuff that you don’t enjoy
  • Make money in a way you don’t enjoy, and buy stuff that you don’t enjoy

 

In a perfect world, all purchases are made the first way.

The second scenario can make some sense, because the thing you buy and love, might actually bring you some joy and make up for the fact that you don’t otherwise love your work-life.

Thirdly, if you buy crap for money that your loved making, it is not really a catastrophe, because the whole process wasn’t a  complete waste of your time/life.

The remaining fourth option, is what I believe is the ultimate recipe for wasting life:

Buying stuff that doesn’t make you happy, with money you earned with a job that doesn’t make you happy.

Nothing could be worse than allocating your resources (time/money) this way.

However, I believe that this is exactly how a lot of our resources are spent in a western society. I know a lot of people who are spending most of their days at a job they don’t like, and go out and spend most of their money on stuff they think will make them happy. But sadly, this rarely turns out to be the case.

It is really rare that the stuff you buy makes you truly happy. So be careful with what you exchange unenjoyable working hours for.

How I Plan to Retire ASAP (I am 27)

The headline is provocative. It also seems like an unrealistic goal for any average young man, to start preparing for his retirement right after finishing college. However, I do plan to do this, and as soon as possible.

It is important to emphasize that I am not born with a silver spoon or any other advantage. I have average parents, a job that pays a regular salary and nothing else that gets my bank advisor particularly excited.

But my mission is clear. After reading the great great blog of Mr. Money Mustache , and also the earlier posts on Zenhabits , I have gotten highly determined to work towards financial freedom. And I think it is realistic for me to get there sooner than later.

I have made a system to help me accomplish this goal, and I would like share it, in case you want to join me in quitting the rat race for good.

Key Strategy – Be Frugal, Be Minimalist

It’s important to begin by mentioning that I don’t intent to come up with a quick and extraordinary business idea, that will solve all my problems in a few months. My plan is to really earn this retirement, by changing my lifestyle to a simpler one, which is going to make the end goal really easy to reach.

The great thing about utilizing the frugal strategy is that it starts a positive feedback loop:

You save money -> you invest the saved money -> the interests on your investments will have a relatively higher value, compared to your monthly expenses, the more you save.

To quote Mr. Money Mustache: “My only superpower, is my ability to spend very little of my money”.

Of course, you can choose the strategy to instead earn more money, but saving is like burning a candle from both ends.

Reducing monthly reocurring expenses is key here. Do you have a magazine subscription or Apple Music account you might be able to cancel?

 

My Beloved Spreadsheet

So I have made this humongous spreadsheet in Google Docs, to track my progress. I input ALL relevant information to my mission in it.

Planning for early retirement

I don’t really want to show you the whole thing in detail because I want you to make your own, that is fully customized to your dreams and needs.

The neat thing about a spreadsheet like this is, if you change one tiny aspect of it – say you cancel a magazine subscription – the entire landscape changes automatically thereafter, which makes it very motivating to make even the smallest changes.

 

In my spreadsheet I track:

Monthly expenses – this is the cornerstone of the spreadsheet. The main function of the document is to calculate when I can pay for my monthly expenses with just passive income (investments, interest, blog income and others).

Passive Income – is therefore the next most important category. Here I track all the passive income I have coming in from stocks, interest from bank deposits and affiliate marketing from this and my other blogs.

Required work – is something I track mostly for fun. What if I was to quit my job today? How much would I have to work to cover my basic expenses? Currently, the number is 20 hours a week, and it is very motivating to see this number drop every time I make a new investment.

You might even argue, that I could semi-retire by quitting my job at a point, when I only needed to work for a few hours every week.

Lots of other stuff – but these are the essentials.

 

Making this spreadsheet has made me realize all of the strategies I have available to me if I want to work one getting closer to my goal.

I can either:

– Save more

– Invest more

– Work on getting more passive income (for me: writing)

This is very motivating for me. Every time I go hunting for good deals in my grocery store, I get closer to my goal. Every time write another blog post, I get closer to my goal.

 

Two More Points:

– it’s important to note, that if you plan to retire from work as a relatively young and capable man or woman, it is very unlikely that you will stop making money completely the day you stop working. With all the time in world, you will probably have to start new passion projects occupy to yourself with, and some of them might help you earn a little extra. This is why you might even be able to start your retirement a little earlier than you think if you aren’t too risk-averse.

– If this blog post is your first introduction to the concept of early retirement, I need to emphasize that you don’t know anything yet. To really get a full understanding of the concept, I encourage you to go to the blog of Mr. Money Mustache , and start reading.

 

Thanks for reading guys!

——

For more information on the subject, I also recommend checking out the book Early Retirement Extreme

How to Optimize Life for Optionality

I was first introduced to the concept of optionality by Nassim Talib (my favorite author) in his book The Black Swan.

In the book, he mostly talks about optimizing for optionality in the context of investments, but also, to some extent, in terms of life in general.

What he means by having optionality is “to have a way out”.

If you for example invest a large portion of your resources in a specific project, you should always have an executable exit strategy, if things starts to go south. You don’t want to be locked into a position.

The main idea is to have the maximum amount of freedom, and always be able to move on to the next thing, if the first one doesn’t work.

Now, if this key idea suits your personality, you can start applying it as a core value to your life.

I try to do so, because I like freedom and to have a lot of options.

Others don’t need that many options in life, and some doesn’t even want them. And so, they might have a lot to gain from committing to something more long term.

Below, I have listed a few areas of life, where you might be able to optimize for optionality/freedom if you want it:

 

You living situation

I think that buying a house is a gigantic commitment. Not necessarily a stupid one. I’m just saying, that I probably never will be able to stay in the same house for 30 years.

It is inconceivable to me, why the majority of the working middleclass is willing to take this risk, and make the commitment.

Yes, you can always just sell your house again, but what if it is in the middle of a recession? Then you lose your optionality.

 

Cars and other major assets

This is kind of the same as first point. Sure, you might be able to go out and buy a car, without having to commit to a 10-year loan. But since the value of cars depreciates so quickly, you will most likely feel committed to keep it for a very long time, so you can at least get some benefit from it, instead of just a lot of loss.

 

Investments

Regular stocks/bonds vs. a pension, what’s the difference? The commitment again. Stocks you can sell in a second if you ever want to change your financial planning. You can “cash out” at all times – you have optionality.

A pension on the other hand, is a very long term commitment, and it is very inflexible. You probably won’t have any control over your own money for the next many years to come. This is why I never transfer more funds to my pension plan than I have to.

 

Your debt

Kind of the same principle, explained in a fourth way, but I just want to emphasize my general idea about debt: it always affects optionality negatively. Debt can stop you from doing many things. If you are in big debt, you are very unlikely to quit your job, go on a long trip or just do something completely new with your life. Nothing hinders freedom like debt. It is the most powerful enslavement mechanism we have nowadays.

 

Your spending/savings

How you spend your money in general is the broader essence of the point that I have already made. If you spend too much, you get into debt – it is that simple.

On the other hand, if you become very good at saving, collecting and holding on to your resources, you gain a lot of options – and we like that!

 

Your daily work

We move on from financial habits, and take a look at lifestyle. The nature of our daily work also has a determining effect on our level of freedom. Different professions falls on a spectrum of the degrees of freedom they allow for. A janitor at a school for instance, has a very low level of optionality, since his job is bound to a specific location and with regular working hours.

Entrepreneurs, authors, investors and bloggers has high levels of freedom.

 

Criteria for your happy life (Amour Fati)

Amour Fati was a concept I learned about in the lovely book The Obstacle Is The Way. It means love fate. And it further means, that you should try and love everything that happens. It’s a stoic concept.

If you have a very narrow picture of what your perfect world might look like, you cannot live a truly free life, because you can’t ever make a new move before all the stars are perfectly aligned for you.

 

Your addictions

Addictions locks you into a position where you aren’t able to move.

Take me as an example. I am pretty addicted to coffee. This means I panic, If I don’t think I can get a fresh cup within a few minutes after waking every morning. So I NEED to have coffee in my kitchen. I NEED to have a functioning coffee maker, and I even bring one with me for vacations.

If I don’t get it, I get miserable and unproductive.

So I lose the option to ever try something new for breakfast, and I lose the option to simply drink nothing. I can’t just see where the morning takes me. I have to do the same thing every morning, which is the opposite of optionality.

Now this, I know, is a minor addiction. Think about how other addictions might be able to steal a lot more freedom, than just coffee.

 

Your need for others approval

It is the oldest advice in the book; to stop living up to the expectations of others. But the underlying reason why is clear. If you aren’t able to live completely on your own terms, you lose the option to live the life that you really want for yourself, which is what optionality is all about.

 

Thanks for reading everyone. What strategies do you utilize to optimize for optionality in your life?