Routine allows for optimization

The main reason why I advocate an everyday lifestyle that is heavily rooted in routine is because it allows for optimization. You cannot optimize chaos or randomness.

Therefore, you want to incorporate some degree of repetitiveness in your day to day behavior if you wish to live what you could call an optimized life.     

We are the sum of our actions, and therefore our habits make all the difference – Aristotle

About two years ago, me and my wife got into the habit of eating a salad every day for lunch, because we felt like that would be a healthy habit.

I bring up this example, because I can think of many ways in which this habit has changed and been optimized over time.

To mention some examples:

  • Over time, we replaced the lettuce component of the salad with some form of cabbage, because it was cheaper, easier, more filling and fibrous.
  • We bought a food processor at one point, to make the preparation of the salad for a whole week easier and quicker. This has been a great time-investment.
  • We came up with a system for how to prepare and store all components of the salad once a week, which has made it infinitely easier stick to.
  • We have learned a lot about where we generally can buy the best and cheapest ingredients, that we use on a continual basis.

As I said, this salad example is just an example. I am not trying to persuade you to make salads every day. Only to make you think about how you can have more routine in your life, so that it can be optimized, for whatever you want more of; time, quality, money, health?

What you end up optimizing for is dependent on your values.

Make them work for you

With the urbanization, gentrification and economic polarization of modern society, that the developed world is experiencing currently, it is getting increasingly normal to talk about “an elite” that supposedly controls everything and isolates itself from the rest of the common folk.

I don’t know if this phenomenon of an elite is anything particularly new in human history. However, it is clear that the wealth is now getting more concentrated in fewer rich people, and that the western middle-class is getting smaller.

You hear in the media that a lot of people is feeling disenfranchised due to this dynamic, and much of the successful election campaign of Donald Trump was build on this platform.

With this post, I am not going to make any political statement about the matter, but rather highlight how most people can feel like the come out on the winning side of this power struggle with a very simple strategy.

For more than a year now, I have promulgated the minimalist lifestyle as well as the concept of early retirement on this blog, and a funny side effect of this has been a change in my attitude towards the issue mentioned above.

I feel like a winner in the most widespread social battle of our time, and I am not even breaking a sweat in the meantime.


My solution

I lead a very simplistic lifestyle, spend my money only on the stuff that matters (which isn’t many things), work in a very low-stress position for a maximum of 30 hours a week, save most of my paycheck and invest it in stocks.

The last part is important.

People tend to forget, what actually happens when we buy stocks in a company: we become the owner – the ultimate CEO!

It is very easy to buy a stock, it requires almost nothing of you and anybody with half-a-decent salary is able to do it.

A guy working in Walmart can become the partial owner of Apple (not a stock recommendation) after a handful of paychecks, and suddenly Tim Cook is working for him!

I often think about how all of the phd’s and master degrees among my fellow citizens are stressing themselves out to give me a return on my investment. I’m not doing anything, I am just giving them 100 bucks, and let them figure out how to give me 105 or 110 back a year later.

They are sweating, I am not, and they are supposed to be the smartest people in the country ?

With a little frugality and minimalism, you too can become the true master of the corporate world in whatever country you live in, and take pleasure from the thought of how the most ambitious people are now working for you. If they are the elite, while working for you, I don’t know what that makes you!

Telling ourselves that we are irrational

You know about the old quote by Henry Ford:

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’tyoure right.” ?

The essence of this is that our own attitude and perception of our capabilities plays a vital role in our odds of succeeding in anything. And I think it’s true.

Recently I have noticed many examples of people doubting their own capabilities/behavior in relation to their personal finances. They think they are irrational by nature and can’t be trusted with their own money.

Here are 3 examples of this:

  • In Denmark, we have a mandatory vacation fund, where employers are forced to take out a small portion of all employees paychecks, and pay it into this fund, so that employees can apply to have this money refunded to them, next time they can prove that they are going on vacation. Our government is basically saying: “you people aren’t responsible enough to be trusted with the long-term administration of your own money”. So they have decided to take them from us, however temporarily, pays us no interest in the meantime, and the worst part is that people are HAPPY about this arrangement. Even happy about the fact, that this isn’t a voluntary concept because they would not trust themselves to sign up for it, because they think of themselves as being economically irrational, and it is better to let Bigbrother handle their vacation money.
  • I was recently discussing the general concept of insurance with an otherwise really smart friend of mine. He told me how happy he had been about paying for the premium package with his insurance company because his policy had been triggered years earlier, which had meant a nice payday for him back then. After some quick calculations, though, we figured out that he had paid much more to his insurance company over the years, compared to the premium they had paid him on that particular day. He then said: “I know that I could have just saved all the money that I spent on insurance over the years, and been better off in the grand scheme of things, but nobody is able to act like that, so I am still happy with my decision”. (For the record, I am not against all insurance – topic for another day).
  • I also know a lot of people who feels like buying a home is more economically rational than renting because their housing loan serves as a mandatory savings account. I see how this can work, but buying a house in itself is not by default an effective way of saving up a lot of money – watch this video, to learn how renting can be just as smart IF you can manage to save and behave rationally!

I know that we are only humans, even myself :). And I don’t think that anyone has the capabilities to behave perfectly rational in all aspects of life.

However, I am a firm believer, that most people can behave mostly rational by cultivating the right automatic habits over time.

This is the type of journey I have been on for the past 2 years, whereas I didn’t used to save anything for the future when I was younger.

The point is that we can all strive to become more rational and be smarter with our attitudes towards money. But it all has to begin with a belief in our own ability to become exactly that, and that we can make anything happen if we just change one small thing at a time – without forcing it or overloading ourselves with commitments. It has to come slowly.


I think that most people are used to the idea of trying to save a dollar here and there. To the general public, it is widely acceptable to look for offers on everyday products, to make what you could call “micro-savings”.I call these “micro”, because it usually is a matter of very small amounts, that can only be significant if you look at the aggregate over time.

If you carry the micro-saving mindset day after day, it can definitely amount to something over a year, and this makes it worth it, to cultivate it as a habit.
Once you have cultivated the habit of looking for small savings in everything that you buy, you can begin looking for small earnings in your daily routine, to take it even a step further.

In my daily routine

I have begun looking for earning opportunities, in ways that doesn’t impact my quality of life. Even if they can only be regarded as “micro”-opportunities.

So far, I have found 2 sound ways to make a little bit extra:

1. I work part-time in a gym as personal trainer and assistant manager. So I spend a few hours in the gym every day, and I have noticed how people tend to leave their water bottles everywhere when they are done working out. Since I have to clean up their mess, I take the bottles to the recycling system in the supermarked next door, which returns a small amount of money for me. (This system might not exist all around the world?). It has no negative influence on my day at all, and if I had to guess, this will probably earn me around 200$ a year.

2. I have found a few ways to make a little bit extra on the internet, by doing completely mindless tasks. One is taking surveys, the other is working for Amazon Mturk. These won’t make you a lot, but I try to combine them with other tasks, to make it all more productive. Currently, I want to learn to speak Persian (my wife’s native language), so I listen to my language podcast, while working on these sites, to earn a little extra.

All of this extra income is truly “extra”, since it does have a negative impact on what I already earn – no opportunity cost. It is therefore most likely, that it will get invested and added to my nest egg, which gives it even more meaning, once it starts to generate passive income via interests.

My question is: can you also find opportunities to make micro-earnings throughout your day?

My first year of working on early retirement: how is it going?

It has now been almost exactly a year since I discovered the early retirement community on the internet when I was immediately hooked.

I found that early retirement was the next logical step to pursue, for a minimalist who seldomly has found a job that he truly enjoyed.

Early retirement is not something I aim for because I dream about laying on the couch all day. It is something I fantasize about because there are many things I want to do in life, that won’t necessarily earn me any money, and so I just need a lot of time.

If there is anything you want to accomplish in life, you must track your own progress, in order to stay on course and fully optimize for success.

So as you might have read about in an earlier post , I keep track of my overall progress in a spreadsheet, on how far I have come in my journey to financial independence.

The basic idea is that I calculate how much of monthly expenses can be covered by the passive income I generate, and so I can either cut back on expenses or generate more passive income to make progress on this goal.

Currently, I only have 2 passive sources of income:

  1. I put aside money every month, and invest them in either stocks, mutual funds or index funds. The basic assumption in almost all early retirement plans is that you should be able to withdraw 4% of your total investment every year and still leave room for continual growth of your nest egg.
  2. Income from this and other blogs, which is comprised of Google Adsense ads and Amazon affiliate links.

At the moment, the majority of my passive income stems from the investments, but as I see and up-trending tendency in my blog income, I hope this might not be the case within the next few years.


Getting to the point

So as you can see in the graph below, I have been able to generate enough passive income recently, that it corresponds to about 7% of my total expenses.


(The only setback that is visible in the graph, is explained by me cashing out some of my investments, in preparation for quitting my job in the fall of 2016)

This might not seem like a lot, but then again, this actually means that I am retired 2 days out of every month, which is a little uplifting to think about ?

Where do we go from here

It is important to understand, that I don’t actually take these 2 days off every month, and I don’t withdraw the 4% from the investments every year (yet), which means all of my passive income gets reinvested.

This way, I should see even faster and faster progress every month from here on out, which should result in a more exponentially shaped continuation of the graph above – especially if stock prices keeps going up.

One of my goals for 2017 is to make that graph reach 20% by December, and I will, of course, keep you updated on whether I reach this goal or not.

This first year of working on this goal has made me optimistic about the possibility of reaching retirement within 10 years (max) from when I began, which means I should be able to leave the rat race once I get to the age of 37. Let’s see 🙂

Understand what most people does, so you can do the opposite

In any kind of society, it will always be difficult to be different from the majority. A lot of social pressure mechanisms is usually put in place, to make us feel bad if we choose not to conform to the cultural norms around us.

However, once we realize this, and start asking ourselves what is most important to us – theirs or our own vision for our lives’ trajectory – we may be able to look passed these external expectations and think for ourselves.

As a concrete example, I can tell you about the immense social pressure me and my wife feel these days, to have kids, as we are currently in the perfect stage, according to the convention, to start our own family. We have no desire to do this at the moment, and whenever we aren’t bothered by family members, who can’t shut up about our “soon to arrive fictional kids”, we see the tremendous freedom and carelessness it wins us to go against the current.

Most of my friends are having kids these days, and I am not saying that they are making bad choices. I am just saying, that I am happy for me and my wife, that we are not making the same choice right now.

It is not always beneficial to do the opposite of the mainstream. But sometimes it is, and it is worth thinking about when this might be, so you can experience the life equivalent of a blue ocean strategy.

Think about this:

Most people move to the city.

And this influences housing prices. For a lot of people, it would pay them well to consider moving to the countryside, as the cost of living is usually 5 times lower there. It is mind boggling to think about, how the poor population of every society is usually concentrated where housing prices are highest – in the inner cities.


Most people eat meat with every meal.

I am not advocating veganism, I just want to point out how almost everyone I know, can’t imagine eating a single meal without meat included. This makes meat very expensive compared to other good sources of protein. Try mixing it up!


Most people watch TV every day.

And this makes the general public’s knowledge very homogenous. Everyone knows about the latest football match, scandal or terrorist attack. Let them be the experts on these subjects, and you can then learn about something completely different.

This will make your personal knowledge very much specialized and unique, whereas every averagely smart person you meet, will have a lot to teach you, in case you are curious to know what’s in the news these days.


Most people accumulate stuff.

Therefore, they have to work very hard, day after day, in order to afford and be able to store all of their stuff. Once you jump off this bandwagon, you can immediately stop yourself in your tracks, and ask what it is you really would like to do in life?


Most people are incredibly busy with their career.

In this category, I personally feel incredible social pressure from my peers, as everyone is constantly comparing themselves to each other. This makes it very important for everybody to compete on salary and status, and nobody can ever relax and enjoy anything. Busyness becomes endemic, and actually enjoying life gets postponed until retirement (if that ever comes).

My life has become ten times more relaxed, ever since I quit this race.

In some cases, going against the current may hurt you, whereas it might pay off in others if you can muster the courage.

It is up to you to decide, what is true for you in all of life’s larger decisions.

Free from authority

I must admit, I have always had problems with authorities to some degree throughout my life. Some might accuse me of having a big ego or being a spoiled child.

I know one thing, though: my parents had a very laissez-faire style of parenting me and my brother, and this has to be part of the explanation.

Because of this, I have always had problematic relationships with teachers in school, bosses at work and politicians that I don’t particularly agree with.

It is only natural for us humans, to mirror everyone around us in ourselves, and so I personally have a tendency to assume that everyone else must also hate their bosses, their workplace and restrictions on their lives in all forms – the same way I do.

So I sometimes wonder why people aren’t more weary of making grant commitments in their lives – to housing loans, car loans, pets they need to take care of for 15 years or even having kids. Don’t they see that all of this raises their dependency on others (as in their bosses)?.

Then again, I have to realize that not everyone is like me. Some people must actually like their boss and their bank.

Nevertheless, I still have to make the argument that many humans long for more freedom in modern society. And this, I think, make sense from an evolutionary perspective, because our psyche has not evolved yet, to being this dependent on external authoritative entities.

My Thesis

Every time we think about evolution, we can (simplistically speaking) forget about this most recent period, where we have had agriculturally based civilizations, and instead think primarily of the longer hunter-gatherer era we had before that.

Back then, we probably didn’t form groups much bigger than 150 people (according to Dunbar’s Number), and it is easy to imagine just how little authority one would encounter on a daily basis in those days.

Obviously, these societies would have some kind of chieftain among them, but rebellions could have quickly materialized once such an authority would get too unreasonable.

For the record, I am no anthropologist by any means, so what do I know? 🙂

My main point here, is that the level of authority that we have to deal with in modern society, is probably a little weird seen from our own biology, and maybe there is a good reason why so many dream about being their own bosses, financially free and influential enough to have a say in how the law system affects their lives.

Maybe, thinking this much about simplicity and freedom isn’t only for spoiled brats (like myself), but something that could enhance the lives of the majority?



On keeping a mantra (with Inbox)

It is super hard to implement a new idea for how to live the optimal life into one’s daily routine.

The problem has existed ever since we humans started to try living according to higher moral principles, than say, just receding to our primal instincts. Both religion and philosophy have historically been vehicles for this.

But due to our somewhat unreliable and easily distracted nature, we have always sought to find techniques that could help us stay on course when times got challenging.

Journaling, meditation, praying, fasting and the practice of wearing symbolic artifacts have all served as reminders, to help us remember our path.

One of the greatest emperors of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, chose to sit down and journal in his diary after a hard days work, contemplating the optimal way of living for a stoic philosopher, mostly to remind himself of what I already knew, so he wouldn’t forget next time he would encounter a stressful situation.

It is still as difficult today, for us humans to stay on a mental course, once we get pushed or stressed out, and that is what makes Marcus’ book relevant 2000 years later.

My Idea

Recently, I wrote about how I like to try and incorporate certain principles into my daily routine, by writing them as reminders on the lock screen image on my phone, so I can get reminded several times a day.

The problem I found with this, however, is that my brain has a weird ability to ignore a static image that it is presented with continuously throughout the day. It is as if the letters loose their meaning, once you have seen them enough times.

So now, instead, I have come up with the idea of using my to-do list to repeat a daily mantra.

It is important to mention, that I use the Inbox app from Google, as both my email client and to-do list, and this is important, because of the snooze function that you can use to snooze all emails and to-dos to a future moment.

I input a principle that I want to remember as a to-do, and then I snooze it for the next day. Once next day rolls around, and I decide to check my email inbox, I get reminded about the mantra, which I had totally forgotten about, and then I snooze it again for the next day, or whenever I want to be reminded again.

The act of having to interact and snooze the object makes it easier for me to actually register and think about it for a split second.

In practice

Right now, my daily mantra is something I stole from Zenhabit, and is simply: “You don’t know anything”.

If you stretch the meaning of this saying, you can apply it to almost all areas of your life:

Oh, you are feeling stressed right now? You don’t know anything about how stressful life can be. Your life is probably pretty easy.

Oh, people seem stupid and annoying today? You don’t know anything about what it is like to be them, or even how they perceive you.

Oh, you don’t feel like making the extra effort today? You don’t know anything about what the long term consequences of your laziness will be. Better make sure to put in the work today.

I might change this mantra over time, or input several others into this system, that I can snooze to different times. But this is what it looks like currently.

Evaluating your latest timehack

Lately, I have been contemplating the idea of getting myself one of those fancy Apple watches, since my brain tells me that it might be able to add value to my life.

Since I identify as a man who enjoys the benefits of “simple living” or minimalism, you can imagine how the thought of getting such a superfluous item has been a source of internal conflict for me.

I am torn on the subject, because I am also a productivity enthusiast, and in this regard, I get immensely excited every time recognize an opportunity to save time. Even if we are talking about a few seconds here and there on a continual basis.

In the case of the Apple watch, I envision how I could save a few seconds whenever somebody texted me, and I would be able to tell whether or not to respond, by just looking at my wrist, as opposed digging up my smartphone from a tightly fitted pair of jeans.

Another case example would be, whenever I want to shot off the Philips Hue lights in my apartment. It would be a few seconds faster to do it by tapping my wrist, rather than unlocking my phone, and do it from there.

As I said, the potential wins in time I could enjoy from getting the watch would only be minuscule. But seen through an accumulative lens, a few seconds gained every day, quickly amounts to hours on a yearly basis – at least, this I how I rationalized getting it at first glance.

But then I thought deeper about it

If we seriously want to do the calculation of whether the acquisition of a time hack is worth it, we have to include all possible variables that might be related to time and energy.

In the example of the watch, we need to factor in the initial time investment we have to make, just to actually get the watch. Here, I am talking about the required money that you will have to work for and earn, plus the time it takes to go out and actually buy it.

Doing my regular job, it might take my around 30 hours of work, just to accumulated enough funds to match the retail price. Add the about 30 minutes it would take me to order it on the internet, and decide on the design.

Further, we need to imagine how much of my time it will take on a continual basis. For instance, the watch has to be recharged every night, and this will probably cost me something in time.

Lastly, we have to think about, for how long this gadget will be functional and able to provide me with the gains in time. I estimate that such an advanced watch would probably last me around 3 years.


We are then ready to make the final calculation

We guess that the watch:

– Costs 30,5 hours (1.830 minutes) to acquire

– Takes about 5 seconds of my time every day

– Gives me around 15 seconds in time every day

– Lasts for 3 years (1.095 days)


In total, the watch costs me:

5*1095+1830 = 7.305 minutes


And in total, wins me:

15*1095 = 16.425 minutes


And I thereby get a surplus in time of: 9.120 minutes, or 152 hours (during 3 years).

About 50 hours a year. Not bad actually!


Of course, all variables in this calculation are completely pulled out of my ***.

I am only presenting this method, to give you an idea about how to think of potential time hacks.

It even gives you a way of comparing difference hacks, to make it easier to decide on your next investment.

To be honest, making this rough calculation was kind of an eye-opener for myself, and now I have to think even deeper about whether to get myself a new watch or not 🙂

An 80/20 analysis of your health strategies

After a few years spent, calling myself a biohacker, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion, that many of the available strategies in the alternative health field are an utterly waste of time and money.

This particular feeling was perfectly crystallized in my mind, when I read the amazing book Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, which illustrates how most of the health-talk and the nutritionism out there, isn’t based on a solid foundation of science.

They say the more you know, the better you know what you don’t know. And as I have gone deeper and deeper into the world of health and nutrition, the more uncertainty and unknowns have shown up. We basically don’t know very much, for sure, about what makes us happier, healthier or smarter – consistently – in terms of health strategies.

Whenever you find out that some new health trend is based on low-quality science, you repeatedly end up going back to a few truths, which we can always count on, if we want to get healthier, like:

– Eating some vegetables

– Sleeping enough

– Doing some exercise, and stay active during the day

– Having some meaningful social relationships

– Practicing a little meditation, if you want to get really fancy

Every time we shy away from these very simple ideas, we have very little certainty about what a health strategy does for us in the long run.

Sure, it might seem like taking a fancy supplement with exotic ingredients looks great on paper (or in a petri dish). But our bodies are so incredibly complicated and poorly understood, that we rarely know how the whole system responds to a new influence – especially long-term, since many studies never run for more than a few weeks.

So, as I advocate we save our hard-earned money, for the truly important things in life, I will also argue that we shouldn’t waste resources on health strategies that aren’t substantiated by good science – otherwise we are just gambling with our money.

It makes perfect sense to spend money on a strategy that is going to enhance your ability to live up to one of the five principles I listed above.

But if you consider jumping on a new complicated bandwagon in health, you’d better do your homework properly first, to avoid wasting time and energy on something that makes very little or no difference at all in your life.