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Making Frugality a Funny Thing

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					10 ways to make frugality fun
By Jennifer Lawler • Bankrate.com

Highlights:   Set manageable goals, such as paying off one credit card at a time.

      When you achieve a milestone, celebrate by rewarding yourself.
      Share your goals with a money buddy who can help you stay motivated.

The same way we can start a diet with good intentions only to be eating a Snickers bar by
lunchtime, stresses and pressures can wear away at our resolve to stick to our budgets.
But easing up on frugal efforts can have unhappy consequences, especially in this
economy.

Here, 10 tips for staying motivated to watch your pennies over the long term.

1. Don't set goals too high.
Instead, start with a series of smaller goals. Ellie Kay, the author of "Living Rich for
Less," says, "Instead of saying you're going to pay off all your consumer debt, start with
your Visa that has a $1,500 balance."

2. Know why you're doing it.
Gary Foreman, editor of The Dollar Stretcher e-newsletter and Web site, says, "The idea
behind frugality is that we can live better if we're not in debt. If all you see is deprivation,
it's going to be hard to reach your goal." By prioritizing what's important to you, you can
cut the things that don't matter to you and spend money on the things that do.

3. Acknowledge the mile markers.
Celebrate when you achieve a milestone. "I call it a 'yay, me!' moment," Foreman says.
Keep an accomplishment list as a reminder.

4. Know your motivational style.
"Some people are motivated by a pat on the back. All they need is an encouraging word,"
Foreman says. "Other people need something more tangible. They may need that dinner
out or an outfit they wanted to buy." Reward yourself with whatever motivates you best.

5. Have a built-in splurge.
"People fall off the wagon because it's just too hard," says Kay. "They don't see a
payback. Rather than feeling deprived, build in a splurge to your budget.

For example, budget $100 per month to do whatever you want. You can save it for six
months and buy Jimmy Choo shoes you don't really need, but that's far better than to fall
off the wagon and charge those shoes."

6. Make a plan for the hardest challenges.
Leah Ingram, the author of "Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for
Less," says the key to her success in changing her spending habits is "having the systems
in place." One of her biggest budget-busters was eating out, so she developed a system of
meal planning that made it almost as easy to cook at home as to go out.

7. Find a money buddy.
Sharing your goals, problems and fears with someone can help you succeed in reaching
your financial goals, Kay says. "You can get together and share all the latest savings tips
and techniques. This can help keep you motivated." You can find an accountability
partner at your workplace, school, church -- even your gym.

8. Make your goals visual.
"If someone is saving for a new automobile, it doesn't hurt to have picture of that car on
the refrigerator or clipped to the visor of their current car," says Foreman. You can make
a chart to track how your debt is going down while your savings is going up, or create a
collage that expresses what you want your life to look like.

9. Go public.
When Ingram and her family first started belt tightening, she started a blog for
accountability. "Even though I could have been writing to an empty room, I decided I
would blog five days a week," she says. "I had to come up with story ideas and live them
to provide relevant and truthful content."

That helped her stay on track. It also helped her win a book deal for "Suddenly Frugal." If
a blog isn't your cup of tea, try joining one of the many online communities devoted to
personal finance and/or frugal living. For example, you can sign up for Bankrate's Frugal
News. Or join face-to-face meetings sponsored by Debtors Anonymous.

10. Avoid traps that prolong the agony.
"Any time you're promised something that seems too good to be true, it is," says Kay.
"Beware of credit consolidation companies -- they can cost more than they seem to.
Beware of transferring credit card balances from one card to another. This can cause your
credit score to deteriorate. Beware of the trap of refinancing, which can also cost more
than you think. Beware of the tax credits for upgrading. Crunch the numbers first to make
sure any of these things are really worth it."




Top 10 Ways to Start Living the Frugal Life: By Erin
Huffstetler, About.com Guide
Ready to give the frugal life a shot? Here are ten simple ways to get started:

1. Befriend the Library
Buying books and movies gets expensive, and even renting can add up. Take a trip to
your local library; and you'll find all of the latest books and movies available free of
charge. Still like the idea of renting? Then, give Redbox11 a try. Rentals are just $1 a
night, so the damage to your budget will be minimal

More About Frugal Fun:

      Make the Most of Your Library Card22
      Save on Movie Tickets33
      Free Movie Rentals44
      Watch Free TV and Movies on Hulu55
      Get Free Music Online66
      Frugal Crafts for Kids77
      Plan a Frugal Vacation88

2. Clip Coupons
Take the time to clip coupons for the grocery items that you buy regularly, and shave an
easy 25% off of your weekly grocery bill. Want to save even more? Find a grocery store
in your area that doubles coupons99, and make that your store of choice.

More About Bargain Shopping:

      Simple Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill1010
      How to Coupon Effectively1111
      Clever Couponing Strategies1212
      How to Get More Coupons1313
      How to Rebate Like a Pro1414
3. Eat Out Less Often
Eating out is fun, but far more expensive than eating at home. Challenge yourself to eat at
home more often – even if it's just once more a month, and watch your bank account
grow. Then, find ways to minimize the cost of eating out1515 when you do decide to treat
yourself.

More About Food Savings:

      Simple Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill1616
      Frugal Foods and Recipes1717
      The Cheapest Fruits and Vegetables Month-By-Month1818
      Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget1919
      Save on Organics2020
      How to Get Free Food2121

4. Switch to Online Bill Pay
Save yourself a stamp, and avoid late fees by paying your bills online. You can pay direct
to your creditors, or set up automatic bill pay with your bank; and take yourself out of the
equation entirely.

More About Money Management:

      How to Create a Frugal Budget2222
      How to Get Rid of Credit Card Debt2323
      Simple Ways to Get Serious About Saving2424
      Free Budgeting Worksheets2525

5. Group Errands
Reduce your gas bill by grouping your errands and only driving when you need to. For
even more savings, consider biking or walking when you don't have far to go.

More About Affordable Transportation:

      Lower Your Auto Insurance Premium2626

6. Make Your Own Cleaners
Homemade cleaners work just as well as store-bought cleaners and at a fraction of the
price. Stock up on basic cleaning agents like vinegar and baking soda; and you'll be ready
for any cleaning task that comes your way.
More About Homemade Cleaners:

      Clean with Vinegar2727
      Clean with Baking Soda2828
      Liquid Hand Soap Recipe2929
      Foaming Hand Soap Recipe3030

7. Seek Freebies
Freebies are fun and budget-friendly. Look online for a wide-array of free offers3131, and
enjoy a mailbox bursting with goodies. Like to try new products? Then, this is a
particularly good savings strategy for you.

More About Freebies:

      Get Free Gift Cards3232
      Eat Free on Your Birthday3333
      Free and Nearly-Free Kids' Events3434
      Kids' Birthday Clubs3535
      Free Things to Do in Cities Around the Globe3636
      10 Sources for Free Christmas Gifts3737

8. Wash in Cold
Cut your electric bill3838 substantially by washing your laundry in cold water. Your
clothes will still come out clean, and your hot water heater won't have to work nearly as
hard.

More About Laundry Savings:

      Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe3939
      Make Your Own Dryer Sheets4040
      Homemade Fabric Softener4141
      Nearly-Free Stain Removers4242
      Vinegar as a Stain Remover4343
      More Money-Saving Laundry Tips and Recipes4444

9. Flip a Switch
Reduce your electric bill even further by turning off lights and other electronics when
they aren't in use. It may seem like a small thing, but you're sure to see the difference on
your next electric bill.

More About Household Savings:
        Save Money on Your Water Bill4545
        Lower Your Phone Bill4646
        Lower Your Homeowner's Insurance Premium4747
        Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill4848

10. Change Your Own Oil
Skip the quick lube, and change your own oil4949. You'll reduce your tab to the price of
oil and a filter, and maybe even save time too – quick lubes aren't always as quick as the
name suggests.

ednesday, April 14, 2010
100th Post. 100 Hundred Ways of Being Frugal
1.                    Walk                       instead                        of                     drive.
2. Employ the $10/day plan for food when going out for work.
3. Select only 1 luxury a month, big ticket luxuries have to span over a couple of months.
4.         Open              up           an           emergency                savings             account.
5. Open up a either a 401K or Roth IRA or CD and don't touch the money.
6.     Target       blue       chip       stocks       that      pay        out       stock       dividends.
7.    Open       up       a     DRIP        investment         plan       (more        on     this     later)
8.        Shop            at          low           cost           stores           like          Wal-Mart
9.     Shop         at      bulk        stores       like        Costco         and        Sam's        Club
10.        Search             for           deals           on           http://www.pricegrabber.com/
11.Use                                                                                             coupons.
12. Do not get a soda at a restuarant unless you absolutely want to.
13. Refrain from combo items; stick to the dollar menu when eating fast food.
14.            Fill            out             surveys                for             free            swag!
15.       Buy          stuff        that        is         returned          or         on        clearance.
16.     Buy       only       one       car     and       make         it     your       for     life     car.
17.         Have              renters           pay             down              your            mortgage.
18. When thinking about buying an item, think about how bad you want the item at home
and think of one way it can truely better your life within 24 hours. If you cannot think of
anything      to      justify      buying      the       item,      leave       it     on      the     shelf.
19.           Use              #18             to              resist             'impulse              buys'
20.     Use        the       401(k)        to      lower        your        income         tax      bracket.
21.For                          long                           distances,                           carpool.
22. When renting movies, split the amount it cost to rent a movie at Redbox down the
middle:                you'll                only                pay                 50                cents.
23. Use your change to pay for a purchase, that way you can not get hit up with fees for
using            a             card             to              pay              for             something.
24.                               Eat                                at                               home.
25. Eat ramen; lots and lots of it! I saved a bundle doing this.
26. When you feel the need to impulse buy, think about how much the item costs,
subtract that amount from your bank account and use that amount to invest in something,
be it a book that gets you more knowledge, a stock, whatever. Repeat this and you'll be a
impulse                                            investor                                         =)
27. Write your goals on a piece of paper and have that as your drive.
28. Read the Millionaire Next Door; over and over again. Emulate some of the habits in
the      book         and        you'll       be       on      the       path       to      success.
29. Save up to 10 grand starting out before doing any risky investing.
30. Surf Youtube; everything there is visual swag waiting to be watched!
31.       Buy         off        brand        groceries       no       one        really       cares.
32. Start your own blog. Blogger is free and it keeps me out of trouble ;)
33. Put $10 per week in an envelope and have yourself a $520 Christmas
34.        Shop          off          of       Criagslisgt        for        your         appliances
35. Hit up used bookstores for new books to read; more than likely they have your silly
Vampire                    romance                    novel                there                  too.
36. Better yet, start a book club at work and read each other's books.
37. Buy a used car and let that care be your "for lifer"
38. Get only one credit card that gives you cash back. You should shoot for 2-5% or a
double           mile            card          if         you          travel           a          lot.
39. Periodically eat like a college student; go for Top Ramen and Bomb Burritos (Just
warn              me               if            you             have             a            B.B.)
40. If your going to drink, target $1 drafts or low budget tall cans and cap it off at $3.
41. Buy a PS2 and play only $5 dollar games. There are thousands of Playstation games
on        the        market!           I      have        about        80        games         total!
42. Take your dates to free venues. Sometimes I come across bands that *gasp* actually
have                                                                                          talent.
43.                            Carpool                             to                          work.
44. If your still a student, check and see if your city has year round passes. The one in my
town cost $30 for a whole year! They are a good deal if you can get one.
45. If you drink soda, try to target stores that offer $1 2liters. This will curb your craving
for                                                                                             days.
46.      Bicycle       to      work!         Your      body       will    thank        you      later.
47. Play the guitar, there are millions of free downloads on the internet.
48.      Exercise         in      your       own       home       instead      of      the      gym.
49. Unless it is urgent do not send or recieve mail via priority. Patience is a virtue that
could                         protect                       your                        pocketbook.
50. If you want to lower your tax bracket and increase your bottom line, contribute to
your                                                                                          401K.
51. If you want to invest money that won't be taxed afterwards, the Roth IRA will make
you an automatic millionaire if you start while your young and contribute the maximum.
52. If you absolutely need a car, look for one with low insurance rates. Check the car for
any                  machinical                    problems                  as                 well.
53. Write poetry and go to an open mike session. You'll be a star!
54. Subscribe to blog ring. You will have a smogaboard of free reading material.
55. Better yet, subscribe to this blog! It well help put you on the path to riches.
56.        Read         articles         off      of       http://www.getrichslowly.com/              !
57. Study a foreign language at home instead of in class. You can also study what you
want                                              to                                          study.
58. If you really want to buy that movie, try looking for extra movies at the pawn shop.
If it is only $2, then there is no kicking yourself when it is terrible.
59.                        Go                            mountain                          hiking!
60. For those of you in San Francisco, go street hiking. The roads there are built like
mountains!
61. Do not hire a contractor for small home improvement things, do it yourself.
62. Your tax dollars are paying that librarian's salary; use the library for free reading
material. I am fairly sure they have at least one of your "New Moon" vampire romance
novels                                                                                       there.
63. Instead of taking the plane every where you go, take the train.
64. Do not even use taxis. Why pay $40 to go 20 miles. They are only useful if you walk
and you are going to be late to work. The GPS vanquished the cabbie. They even have
pedestrian                                                                                 modes!
65. Walk everywhere for your cardio. Passive exercising is the way to go!
66. Get a used GPS. If you are in town why do you need all the bells and whistle to get
from                point               a                  to               point                b?
67. Get a CPA when tax season gets complicated. They can find all sorts of loopholes
in the                                         tax                                           code.
68. Take on doing your taxes yourself if you have the free time. Just try not to get
yourself                                                                                  audited.
69. This might be a bit unethical, but if you have to take a date to the movies, sneak in
your                  own                   snacks                    and                  drinks.
70. Only sign up for a monthly gym membership. Trust me; there is no need to sign up
for     a    yearly      one      especially      if     you      move       around      a      lot.
71. Buy a pre-paid phone for out of residence calls and use either Skype or the
Magic Jack               for              in                house/international               calls.
72.        Invent         your         own           100          frugal         habit         list!
73. Instead of going for 4 year college degrees, consider going for a lucrative certification
program                  while                 working                   full                time!
74.     Take    out     fast    food     if    it     is     not    on    your     luxury list.
75. Form a 1 habit per month luxury list, big ticket items have to carry over.
76. Buy a take and bake pizza from Sam's Club and ration the pizza out for 4 days as
your                                                                                       dinner.
77. Never pay for umbrellas. Just ask your lost and found for your "missing" black
umbrella. (Taken from: A Million Bucks by 30 by Alan Corey)
78.              Do               surveys                 for              free               stuff.
79. Do psychological studies for money. Just avoid doing the ones with meds.
80. Borrow some of your friends games for some of yours. Then play through them and
return                                        the                                          games.
81.           Split           the            rent             in           a           apartment.
82. If your more hardcore, split the rent of a studio apartment down the middle. Your
bank                 account will                  thank                 you                 later!
83. Use grocery bags as your garbage bags. If you need bigger bags, look for a demo
person at Sam's Club or Costco. They sometimes demo garbage bags.
84. If you have the time, attend free pre-concert tickets before the venue begins. I did this
and got to meet Korn for free! I should have gotten a refund on the ticket though.
85. If you have a Pandora account, use it to listen to free music.
86. Go to Sam's Club and Costco and hit up the demo areas for free food. Why pay for
free           when             it            is            being              given             away?
87. Panda yourself out for dares if you do take yourself seriously. Your friends will just
be           paying            you              ffor            laughing               at           you.
88. Become a side-job entrepenuer. All the free swag with none of the capital! This will
at       least       keep        you         from          paying         for         extra        stuff.
89. If your work offers free food for prizes, abuse the system.
90.     Eat     the     same       stuff      over       and       over     if     it       is   cheap.
91. Wear multi-purpose shoes; you'll be dressed out for a job interview and for a game
of     hoops!      Why       own       20      pairs       when       you       don't       have      to?
92.         Look         for          deals           in         the         local           newspaper.
93.                   Read                       this                    list                     again.
94.     Watch      movies      on      your       netbook,        not    at      a      rental     store.
95. ATM $40 to use for the whole week on food and nothing else. That is how to avoide
the       majority      of       transacction          keys        at      fast       food        joints.
96.      At      fast     food       joints,       order       from        the       dollar       menu.
97. If you can, do not pay for a soda and a side of fries at a fast food place. If you really
want      them,     then      get     a     small        and      exploit      the       free    refills!
98. Write down five people that you know of that have bad debt and list all of their
bad spending habits. Afterwards do the opposite of what they do.
99.Now list 5 people that have good spending habits and seek them out for guidence.
100. Find your own financial niche and from there establish your frugality and limits on
comfort.

And there you have it. 100 ways of being frugal. This actually took me some time to
compile this list and hopefully there are no repeats. If there are, then please let me know
so I can adjust them. This is porbably the most challenging blog ever written to date, but
hopefully it will give you ways to provide finacial harmony in such troubling times. Do
not think just following this list will be your magic bullet. It will help you save and invest
a little, but to truely invest, you will have to go beyond the spectrum of this blog. I would
seriously start out with the Cash Flow Quadrant and the Intelligent Investor along with
the Millionaire Mind. These books will put you in the process of thinking like an
investor. The rest will have to be frugality combined with repeated successes.

10 Ways to Live Greener and Save Money

This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on the topic of
business credit. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal
email address: heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

Going green is a popular trend right now and for good reason -- have you measured your
carbon footprint lately? Unfortunately, some eco-friendly measures are out of many
people's financial reach. Not everyone can opt for solar power, for instance. It you are
looking to help the Earth, as well as save money, follow the advice below. Yes, you can
be green and frugal at the same time!
1. Carpool With Co-Workers – We are all feeling the pain at the gas pump lately and
   prices only continue to rise. By carpooling with co-workers, you can save money
   on fuel, as well as reduce pollution caused by your vehicle.

2. Invest in a Bicycle – Carpooling helps to reduce costs and pollution, but not
   nearly as much as bicycling. If you are traveling a reasonable distance, why not
   take a bike ride? The exercise is just another added bonus to this lifestyle choice.

3. Donate Used Goods – Did you know that you could actually receive tax
   deductions when you donate used items that are in good condition? This helps
   you to recycle helpful items for those who need them most. It also saves some
   money come tax time, which is always welcome.

4. Reduce Your Meat Consumption – Is your diet mainly carnivorous? You could
   save a lot of money, as well as reduce your carbon footprint, by cutting back on
   the meat intake. Not everyone is prepared to go completely vegetarian and you
   shouldn't feel pressured to. However, meat is extremely expensive when
   compared to some other high-protein foods.

5. Use Low-Pressure Showerheads and Toilets – By taking measures to conserve
   your water, you will save money on your monthly bill and conserve much-needed
   water for the rest of the neighborhood. The latter is especially important during
   the summertime when there could actually be a local water shortage.

6. Water the Lawn at Night – Some areas even have laws against watering during
   the heat of the day, as this wastes water through evaporation. Your lawn will
   benefit quicker by watering the grass at night and you will reduce your water bill.

7. Use Energy-Saving Light Bulbs – Yes, the price for these light bulbs is higher
   than the traditional kind. However, they last much longer (sometimes years) and
   will start saving money immediately on your energy bills.

8. Weatherstrip Your Doors and Windows – Weatherstripping is very simple and
   you don't have to be a handyman to finish this project. Also, the materials are very
   inexpensive and available at any hardware store. By doing this, you will reduce
   your household energy usage, thus saving money and helping the environment.

9. Use Homemade Cleaning Products – Did you know that your mirrors and
   windows can be cleaned by really warm water rather than a toxic window
   cleaner? Likewise, there are natural alternatives to killing weeds and insects.
   Finding such alternatives will save money and decrease pollution.

10. Stop Eating Out – Nothing contributes to food-related waste as much as eating in
    restaurants. Eating out is also one of the quickest ways to dwindle your hard-
    earned money.
By following the 10 tips above, you will help yourself and your planet. Not all of us can
afford a hybrid car or an underground house, but we can all do our part to help the
environment. Of course, saving money is also a great incentive for living a greener
lifestyle.



Keeping a stress-free, clean house
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Yesterday I cleaned my house a little, tidying up, cleaning the bathroom a little, cleaning
the kitchen, and generally making the place look nice.

It is simply beautiful. There is a tremendous pleasure I get in being able to relax in a
clean house.

Of course, with six kids, it never lasts long, but there are things I can do to keep it
generally clean and tidy.

Here are the habits I will try to maintain to keep a stress-free house:

1. Never leave dishes in the sink. Or counter. Clean up any messes in the kitchen after
I’m done. Wipe the counters, keep the sink clean.

2. Tidy the bathroom as I go. After I use the bathroom, clean the sink, the toilet, spray
down the shower, real quick. It only takes a couple of minutes, and the joy of a clean
bathroom is unmatched.

3. Pick up as I go. There are little things the kids leave around the house. I’ll just pick
them up throughout the day, or keep a basket for their stuff and just dump them in there,
for them to put away later.

4. Never leave clothes out. I have a tendency not to hang my once-used but still clean
clothes in my bedroom, leaving them out to clutter the place up. No more. They either go
in the dirty clothes, or they get hung in the closet.

5. Take the trash out every day. It’s cleaner, and even if the trash isn’t quite full, this is
a good habit.

6. Tidy up before I leave the house. It’s wonderful to come home to a clean house. Just
pick up a little before I leave.

7. Make my bed in the morning. I’ll do this either before or after I shower. I love a
made bed.
8. Tidy up before I go to bed. Waking up to a dirty house is stressful. Waking up to a
clean house is an incredible way to start the day.

9. Don’t let clutter pile up. There’s a place in the kitchen where we pile books and
papers. That needs to go. Piles are stressful. I will clear this counter daily, along with the
inbox we have for all incoming papers.

10. Get rid of the papers on the fridge. I can pretty much put all of that info on our
calendar. They leave a very cluttered appearance.

11. Teach the kids to put their stuff away. By far the greatest source of stress and
messiness. This will also be the most difficult task, and I don’t know if it can ever be
accomplished. But it’s worth a try.

Best 8 Ways to Deal with Detractors
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

We have all had them as we set and go after our goals, no matter where we are or what
our goals may be: naysayers, detractors, people who poke fun or get angry or tell us we
can’t do it.

Detractors are very serious business, even if they just seem to be having a little fun at our
expense. Don’t let them stop you or even slow you down.

How do you deal with detractors? Each one will be different, but here are a few tips:

   1. First learn to identify them. Sometimes we don’t realize that someone is being a
      detractor. They may be a close friend or spouse or other trusted person, so when
      they scoff or say negative things, we trust them and take it to heart. But there’s a
      difference between being realistic and just being a naysayer. Learn to listen to
      what others are saying, and see what your reaction is. If it discourages you, makes
      you feel like quitting, then maybe this person is being a detractor.
   2. See if they have a valid point. Like I said, sometimes they are just trying to be
      realistic. They might have a good reason for their negativity. Step back,
      objectively think about whether they are bringing up a real obstacle that must be
      overcome, and if so, figure out how to overcome it. It’s rarely insurmountable. If
      you want it enough, you can figure out a solution. Now, if they don’t have a valid
      point, read on.
   3. Zap any negative thoughts they give you. Detractors have a way of taking their
      negative thoughts and transferring them to you. Suddenly, there’s a seed of doubt.
      And it can grow into a huge oak tree of doubt, with roots that tear up the
      foundation of your goals. Stop those negative thoughts as soon as possible. Push
      them out, and think positive thoughts instead. Don’t let them overcome you.
   4. Realize that there will always be detractors, and let them slide off you like
      water on a duck’s back. In every person’s life, there will be at least one
        detractor, if not more. You cannot completely avoid them. But you don’t need to
        listen to them. Just smile, and let them talk. Their words cannot stop you. They
        have no effect on you if you ignore their words.
   5.   Confront them, and get them on your side. Sometimes the detractor is someone
        close to you, someone you cannot ignore. If so, it’s best to enlist the help of this
        person instead of fighting against them. Do this as early as possible. Tell them
        that this goal is very important to you, and you cannot do it without their help.
        Tell them that you realize they have doubts, but you really need them to be
        positive, and support you. They can be your best ally, instead of your worst
        detractor.
   6.   Laugh with them. Sometimes people are uncomfortable when you make a
        change, and so in order to ease this discomfort, they will make jokes or tease you.
        This probably has less to do with you than it does with their discomfort. They
        don’t know how else to deal with this change. Realize this, and just laugh. If you
        take it as a good-natured joke, sometimes this will disarm them. They may
        continue to make jokes, but it won’t be as tense and won’t have as much an effect
        on you if you just keep laughing.
   7.   Have counterarguments ready, and inform them. Sometimes people are just
        misinformed. They might have misunderstandings about what you are doing.
        Know all of their arguments, and the common potential arguments, and have
        counterarguments ready. Do your research, and be very informed. Then try to
        educate your detractor. If you do it right, with a positive, sincere attitude, you
        might actually get the person to listen, and perhaps even change their mind. If not,
        at the very least you know better, and you don’t let their arguments create doubt
        in your mind.
   8.   Be secure in the knowledge that you are doing something good. Sometimes
        there’s nothing you can do. You can’t win them over, you can’t avoid them, you
        can’t laugh with them. So you have to just ignore them, and keep telling yourself
        that when you do achieve your goal, that will be your reward for enduring this
        detractor.

Again, there will always be detractors in your life. But they are just more obstacles that
you have to overcome to get to your goal. There will always be obstacles, but if you think
positive, and seek solutions, you can beat them (or get them to join you).

Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #9
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.
Motivation Hack #9: Get a coach or take a class.

Yeah, I know. Too much trouble. Well, stop making excuses! :)

Having a swim coach has been very motivating for me. Not because the coach yells at me
like a Marine drill sergeant, or encourages me every step of the way … but I show up
simply because I know the coach is there waiting for me, and I try hard because of course
I want to look like a good student. And then there’s the added motivation that you’re
paying for this, so you better not waste it!

I’ve only missed a couple session with my coach, and they were both cases of life getting
in the way (my daughter’s soccer game, for example), not of me not being motivated.
Yes, there have been times when I didn’t feel like doing my swim workout for the day,
but I went anyway, because I had made a commitment to my coach.

This can work for many goals. Want to get your finances in shape? Meet with an advisor.
If nothing else, it will force you to sit down and take a look at your finances, and think
about some strategies that will work for you. Want to learn computer programming? Take
a class. Not because you need a class to learn, but because you will be motivated to
actually show up, and to do the reading, and to do the work required to learn the skill.

This works with just about any skill — learning Spanish, to play a guitar, to learn clay
modeling. Want to lose weight? Get a personal trainer. He or she will not only motivate
you to work out, but motivate you to eat right too, especially if you have to report your
progress to him.

This might be one of the more expensive ways of motivating yourself, but it works. And
if you do some research, you might find some cheap classes in your area, or you might
know a friend who will provide coaching or counseling for free.

100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap

Yesterday I posted about Family Day, where we try to have fun together as a family,
often for free or without spending much money. I thought it would be useful to list some
ways to have fun with your kids without spending a lot of money:

   1. Have a reading marathon.
   2. Write stories together.
   3. Play soccer.
   4. Paint or draw together.
   5. Create a fort in your living room out of blankets or cardboard boxes.
   6. Go on a hike.
   7. Have a sunset picnic at a park or beach.
   8. Play board games.
   9. Play kickball.
   10. Get up early, pack breakfast, and have a sunrise breakfast.
11. Go to a museum.
12. Go to a playground.
13. Play hide-and-seek.
14. Have a pillow fight.
15. Ride bikes.
16. Build sandcastles.
17. Rent a dvd and make popcorn.
18. Tell stories.
19. Have a scavenger hunt.
20. Make mazes or puzzles for each other to solve.
21. Play card games.
22. Garden together.
23. Bake cookies (let the kids help).
24. Go to the zoo.
25. Go to the library.
26. Shop at a thrift shop.
27. Create a blog together.
28. Create a scrapbook.
29. Make a movie using a camcorder and computer.
30. Learn to play music.
31. Fingerpaint.
32. Make play dough from scratch.
33. Make homemade mini pizzas.
34. Buy popsicles.
35. Make hand-painted T-shirts.
36. Set up a hammock, make lemonade, relax.
37. Go to a pool.
38. Go to a public place, people watch, and make up imaginary stories about people.
39. Visit family.
40. Write letters to family.
41. Paint or decorate the kids’ room.
42. Make milkshakes.
43. Play freeze tag.
44. Create a treasure hunt for them (leaving clues around the house or yard).
45. Decorate a pair of jeans.
46. Do a science experiment.
47. Play games online.
48. Teach them to play chess.
49. Learn magic tricks.
50. Create a family book, with information and pictures about each family member.
51. Fly kites.
52. Go snorkeling.
53. Barbecue.
54. Volunteer.
55. Donate stuff to charity.
56. Compete in a three-legged or other race.
   57. Create an obstacle course.
   58. Pitch a tent and sleep outside with marshmallows.
   59. Roast marshmallows.
   60. Play loud music and dance crazy.
   61. Write and produce a play (to perform before other family members).
   62. Paint each other’s faces.
   63. Have a water balloon fight.
   64. Have a gun-fight with those foam dart guns.
   65. Explore your yard and look for insects.
   66. Go for a walk and explore the neighborhood.
   67. Go jogging.
   68. Take pictures of nature.
   69. Play a trivia game.
   70. Make up trivia questions about each other.
   71. Make hot cocoa.
   72. Play house.
   73. Decorate the house with decorations you make.
   74. Make popsicles.
   75. Play school.
   76. Do shadow puppets.
   77. Make a comic book.
   78. Play in the rain.
   79. Make mud pies.
   80. Blow bubbles.
   81. Take turns saying tongue twisters.
   82. Sing songs.
   83. Tell ghost stories in the dark with a flashlight.
   84. Build stuff with Legos.
   85. Give them a bubble bath.
   86. Play with squirt guns.
   87. Play video games together.
   88. Play wiffleball.
   89. Play nerf football.
   90. Build a rocket from a kit.
   91. Bake a cake and decorate it.
   92. Play dress-up.
   93. Thumb-wrestle, play mercy, or have a tickle fight.
   94. Make a gingerbread house, or decorate gingerbread men.
   95. Learn and tell each other jokes.
   96. Play basketball.
   97. Learn to juggle.
   98. Walk barefoot in the grass and pick flowers.
   99. Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.
   100.        Prank call their grandparents, using disguised, humorous voices.

0 comments
Labels: exercise, family, fitness, freebies, frugal, volunteering

14 June 2010
Get Healthy and Fit, Part 2 – Exercise Edition



Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

In Part 1 of this series about Getting Healthy and Fit, I covered some Rules for Eating
Healthy. Today, I will cover some Rules for Exercising, and tomorrow I plan to write
about Sticking to an Exercise Plan.

First let me say: eating healthy is a great foundation for getting fit and healthy, but
exercise is what will really get you there. Actually, you can do one and not the other, but
you’ll only be halfway there, really. You need both.

Rules                                    for                                 Exercising
I have been exercising fairly steadily for more than a year now — starting in December
2005, I began a pretty ambitious running program. In fact, about a month after I started
running, I got a big head and decided I would attempt to train for and complete a
marathon. After some struggles during the year, I completed the marathon in December
2006. This year, I am training for a triathlon, learning to bike and swim in addition to
continuing my running.

So I’ve learned a lot about exercising in the last year. Not only am I learning by doing,
but I’ve learned a lot from others, books that I’ve bought, and websites that I’ve been
continually researching.

What follows are some of the tips I have for those who want to begin and maintain a
healthy exercise program.

Exercise Rule #1: Start today, and just do anything to get you going. It doesn’t matter
what exercise you choose, just start. I think walking and running are great ways to start,
because you don’t have to pay to join a gym or get fancy equipment. All you need is a
pair of shoes. I started with an old beat-up pair of sneakers, and didn’t buy real running
shoes until I’d been doing it a few weeks. Swimming and biking are two great exercises
too, though.

Exercise Rule #2: Stop making excuses. I know from experience — we all have a
million excuses. Not enough time. No place to work out. I’m tired. I don’t have the
money. These are all a load of crap. I don’t blame anyone for making these excuses,
because I made them myself, but the truth is, we rationalize so that we can continue to be
lazy. It isn’t as hard as you think. Just set a date with yourself, or your spouse, or a friend,
to get out for just 10 or 15 minutes today, and walk or jog. No! Stop making excuses!
Exercise Rule #3: Just put on your running shoes, and get out the door. That’s all
you have to do. The rest will be much easier than you think. It’s the initial inertia that we
must overcome. Once you’ve done that, it’s actually invigorating and fun.

Exercise Rule #4: Start out small, and slowly. You might start a program full of vim
and vigor, ready to run a marathon or lift huge weights. Hold yourself back. The main
reason is that if you start slowly, you are more likely to succeed, and if you start by trying
to do too much, you will more likely burn out and fail. If you think you can run for 30
minutes, only run 10 or 15 to start with, then slowly increase over a matter of weeks. Try
for 2-3 times a week at first, with the goal of exercising for at least 30 minutes five times
a week, eventually. The side benefit — and this is a great one — is that if you hold
yourself back, you’ll be eager to get to your next workout, when you’ll be doing a little
more than this one. And that eagerness is a tremendous boost.

Exercise Rule #5: Make your goal public. Post it on your blog. Tell your family and
friends. Sign up for a site like Traineo.com, where your workouts and weight loss are
emailed to several ―motivators‖ that you choose. For my marathon and triathlon goals, I
began writing a column every two weeks for my local newspaper, as a journal of my
personal journey along the way. Positive public pressure will keep you motivated for a
sustained period — you won’t want to let people down and look bad. Don’t let the
pressure up — once you do, your motivation will go away.

Exercise Rule #6: Reward yourself. Make a list of mini goals, and next to each one, list
an appropriate reward. For example, if you just go out and jog today, allow yourself to
buy a book on Amazon. If you can do it for two days, give yourself an ice cream. If you
can do it for a week, buy some songs for you iTunes. Whatever rewards work for you —
be they shoes, clothes, a massage, a tattoo, or whatever, let yourself have them after
reaching the mini goals. Just don’t make it too much sweets!

Exercise Rule #7: Allow yourself adequate rest. Some people try to run hard every day,
or workout hard every day. Just remember, your muscles need rest in order to recover. If
you don’t let them recover, you are just continually breaking them down. Follow the
hard-easy rule: after a day of hard exercise, go easy or rest the next day. Also, you need
at least a day of rest each week. Your body can only take so much before it begins to
break down. Don’t let it get to that point. Many very wise people have said that rest is
just as important as exercise when it comes to improving performance.

Exercise Rule #8: Think positive. This is probably the best rule of the bunch. It has
helped me in countless ways. Any time that a negative thought comes into your head (―I
can’t do this!‖ ―It’s too hard!‖ ―I don’t feel like working out now!‖ ―I want to stop!‖ ―I
feel lazy today!‖), just push it out. Squash it. And then replace it with positive thoughts: I
can do this! I am strong! This isn’t too hard! If Leo can do it, so can I! This is no
problem! I’m tough! I am AWESOME!!!!!! Positive thinking will get you past any
exercise barrier.
Exercise Rule #9: Don’t be motivated only by weight loss goals. If you’re just trying to
lose weight, you will more than likely stop. Why? I have no idea, but it’s true. Have other
motivators: do it to feel good, for the great energy you get, to lower your medical bills, to
live longer, to enjoy life more, to look better, to be stronger, to be healthier, to achieve
something worthwhile, to overcome a challenge. Make a list of the reasons you want to
exercise and post them up somewhere. And yes, cut out a picture from a magazine that
will motivate you and post that up too. Losing weight is a great goal, but don’t let it be
your only one.

Exercise Rule #10: If you fail, get up, brush yourself off, and start again. We all fail
sometimes. No matter how great we are, we fail. I have missed workouts plenty of times
in the last year, but the key is that I just get back on that horse again. I don’t let it stop me
from continuing. Look at it like I do: it’s a long road ahead of us, and little problems
along the way are mere bumps in the road. Don’t let a bump in the road stop you from
continuing your journey.

Exercise Rule #11: If you can, get a workout partner. It’s a great motivator. If you
know you have to meet someone to workout, you’re more likely to keep that
appointment. However, if your partner has to cancel for some reason, don’t let that stop
you from working out on your own.

Exercise Rule #11: Have fun! Exercise can and should be fun. Don’t let it be painful. If
it is, slow down a bit, and enjoy the scenery. Exercise in a nice place, with water or trees.
Breathe deeply and enjoy the fresh air! Look at that sunrise or sunset! The day is
glorious, and you are partaking of it fully. Life is great!

My Story



Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Many of my new readers (welcome new readers!) have been wondering, after reading
some of my posts on how to achieve your goals, and how to save money or exercise or
wake up early … what exactly are my qualifications?

My answer is that I have no formal qualifications. I am not an expert, or a doctor, or a
coach. I haven’t made millions of dollars and I’m not the world’s greatest athlete.

All I am is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer. But I have
accomplished a lot over the last couple of years (and failed a lot) and along the way, I
have learned a lot.

Here’s what I’ve done since December 2005, when I began to make changes in my life
(this is going to sound like bragging, so forgive me, please):
   Quit smoking (on Nov. 18, 2005). Really the change that set all the other
    changes in motion. Quitting smoking taught me a lot about changing habits and
    accomplishing goals, and all the elements needed to make this successful. I had
    tried and failed to quit smoking before, and when I was successful this time, I
    analyzed it and learned from it and was inspired by my success. Success can
    breed success, if you take advantage of it.
   Became a runner. In order to relieve stress without smoking, I took up running. I
    started out by running about half a mile, heavily winded after doing so. I slowly
    built up my distance and within a month was running my first 5K. Soon after, I
    was so into running that I decided to run my first marathon.
   Ran a marathon. About a year after I started running, I completed my first
    marathon. I didn’t do it very fast, but I did it. It had always been one of my
    lifetime goals, and completing it was one of the very best things I’ve ever done. I
    hope to run many more, and recommend it to everyone.
   Began waking early. In order to get my running in, I decided to start waking
    early. I did it slowly, and once I began waking early, I began to discover the joys
    of the quiet morning hours. I get so much more done in the morning — not work,
    but working on my goals.
   Became organized. In early 2006, I discovered GTD. It was like waking up after
    a long sleep. I learned how to keep my files in order, how to stay on top of my
    paperwork, to be organized at home and work. I’m not perfect, but I’m much,
    much           improved         over        how         I       was         before.

   Began eating healthy. As a runner, and someone with the goal of losing weight, I
    decided I needed to eat healthier. I began cutting back on unhealthy things like
    fried and salty and sweet foods. I ate leaner poultry and fish, more fruits and
    veggies, more whole grains. It felt great!
   Became a vegan. In August 2006, I decided to become vegan. I first cut out meat,
    and then slowly transitioned to a 99% vegan diet. I don’t drink milk or eat eggs.
    Now, I am vegan most days, with some days when I have little choice but to eat
    cheese or something with traces of milk products. I hope to be 100% by the end of
    this year. I am eating healthier than ever before.
   Doubled my income. I was only working as a free-lancer for most of 2005, and
    wasn’t making enough to support my family, looking back on it. I got a job and
    continued free-lancing and effectively doubled my take-home by working two
    jobs (while still having time for exercise and my family).
   Wrote a novel. I participated in NaNoWriMo 2006, and completed 50,000 words
    in November 2006 for my novel. Actually, I still need to finish the ending and
    revise it, but achieving my goal of 50,000 words was awesome.
   Took control of my finances. This is related to doubling my income, of course,
    but I stopped living paycheck-to-paycheck and learned how to stick to my budget,
    spend less, save and pay off debts.
   Began eliminating my debt. I started with some smaller bills at the beginning of
    last year, and paid off several of them by the end of the year. This year, I am
    doing even better, and plan to pay off my credit card by summer and car by the
    end of 2007.
      Began saving an emergency fund. One of the smartest financial moves I’ve ever
       made. If you don’t have one, start today! My emergency fund is still smaller than
       I’d like, but at least it’s something. I continue to contribute to it each payday and
       within a few months it will be fairly healthy and I can begin to save for other
       things.
      Simplified my life. I have become fairly frugal, and have reduced a lot of clutter
       in my life. A little at a time, gradually getting better, but I’m pretty happy with the
       simplicity of my house and the rest of my life.
      Cleared my inbox and desk and kept them that way. I credit this to learning
       the principles of GTD. My inbox is always clear, and so is my desk. It is lovely!
      Lost weight. I’ve lost about 30 pounds so far, and would like to lose another 20-
       30. My goal is to have a flat stomach by the end of 2007.
      Began training for a triathlon. My goal this year is to complete an Olympic-
       distance triathlon. To that end, I have been taking swimming lessons and have
       started to learn to ride a bike.
      Began commuting to work by bike. I just started this a few weeks ago, and only
       do it once or twice a week, but I hope to gradually increase to doing it 4-5 times a
       week. I am saving gas, helping the environment, being frugal, simplifying my life
       and getting great exercise all in one move!
      Began the habit of clean-as-you-go, keeping my house clean all the time. I clean
       my kitchen sink every time I use it, and keep the counters and table clean. I clean
       my bathroom sink and toilet and shower every time I use it. I pick up after the
       kids as I go. I make sure the house is clean before I leave, and before I go to bed,
       so it’s clean when I wake up. It’s a simple way of keeping your house clean, and I
       recommend it heartily.
      Added: Started Zen Habits and made it a top blog within a year. Today, Zen
       Habits has over 100K subscribers and was named one of the Top 25 blogs by
       Time Magazine.
      Added: Started a second blog, Write To Done, for writers and bloggers. It
       now has more than 10K subscribers and is one of the Top 10 blogs for writers.
      Added:Wrote the No. 1 best-selling productivity ebook, Zen To Done. Has
       been bought and downloaded by tens of thousands of readers.
      Added: Wrote a best-selling print book, The Power of Less. My book made
       the best-selling list on Amazon.com, and is in bookstores around the country.
      Added: Started a third blog, mnmlist, about minimalism. Has well over 6,000
       subscribers already.
      Completed NaNoWriMo for the 2nd time, writing 108,000 words in a novel
       in 30 days in November 2009.

That sounds like a lot, and looking back on it, it is. But I didn’t tackle it all at once, and
by building on and learning from each previous success, I was able to achieve each new
challenge I set before myself. And I had a blast doing it (and still do).

Now, I have no claims to perfection. I fail all the time, on a daily basis. But I don’t let it
stop me. Maybe I didn’t run today. But that doesn’t mean I won’t run tomorrow, and it
won’t stop me from achieving my goal. And there’s still a lot of things I’d like to
achieve, habits I’d like to change, and hope to change this year and in the coming years.
But so far, I’m pretty happy with myself.

How have I done all this? No magic tricks, no special amount of determination or
dedication. Simple methods, the stuff I talk about on this site, and stuff that I’m still
learning to perfect and probably never will.

It is a journey, with no destination, that we are on, my friends. Join me. Together, we’ll
accomplish a lot and have fun along the way.

0 comments
Labels: family, goal, green living, microfinance, mindset, motivation

2 July 2010
100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap

Yesterday I posted about Family Day, where we try to have fun together as a family,
often for free or without spending much money. I thought it would be useful to list some
ways to have fun with your kids without spending a lot of money:

   1. Have a reading marathon.
   2. Write stories together.
   3. Play soccer.
   4. Paint or draw together.
   5. Create a fort in your living room out of blankets or cardboard boxes.
   6. Go on a hike.
   7. Have a sunset picnic at a park or beach.
   8. Play board games.
   9. Play kickball.
   10. Get up early, pack breakfast, and have a sunrise breakfast.
   11. Go to a museum.
   12. Go to a playground.
   13. Play hide-and-seek.
   14. Have a pillow fight.
   15. Ride bikes.
   16. Build sandcastles.
   17. Rent a dvd and make popcorn.
   18. Tell stories.
   19. Have a scavenger hunt.
   20. Make mazes or puzzles for each other to solve.
   21. Play card games.
   22. Garden together.
   23. Bake cookies (let the kids help).
   24. Go to the zoo.
   25. Go to the library.
26. Shop at a thrift shop.
27. Create a blog together.
28. Create a scrapbook.
29. Make a movie using a camcorder and computer.
30. Learn to play music.
31. Fingerpaint.
32. Make play dough from scratch.
33. Make homemade mini pizzas.
34. Buy popsicles.
35. Make hand-painted T-shirts.
36. Set up a hammock, make lemonade, relax.
37. Go to a pool.
38. Go to a public place, people watch, and make up imaginary stories about people.
39. Visit family.
40. Write letters to family.
41. Paint or decorate the kids’ room.
42. Make milkshakes.
43. Play freeze tag.
44. Create a treasure hunt for them (leaving clues around the house or yard).
45. Decorate a pair of jeans.
46. Do a science experiment.
47. Play games online.
48. Teach them to play chess.
49. Learn magic tricks.
50. Create a family book, with information and pictures about each family member.
51. Fly kites.
52. Go snorkeling.
53. Barbecue.
54. Volunteer.
55. Donate stuff to charity.
56. Compete in a three-legged or other race.
57. Create an obstacle course.
58. Pitch a tent and sleep outside with marshmallows.
59. Roast marshmallows.
60. Play loud music and dance crazy.
61. Write and produce a play (to perform before other family members).
62. Paint each other’s faces.
63. Have a water balloon fight.
64. Have a gun-fight with those foam dart guns.
65. Explore your yard and look for insects.
66. Go for a walk and explore the neighborhood.
67. Go jogging.
68. Take pictures of nature.
69. Play a trivia game.
70. Make up trivia questions about each other.
71. Make hot cocoa.
   72. Play house.
   73. Decorate the house with decorations you make.
   74. Make popsicles.
   75. Play school.
   76. Do shadow puppets.
   77. Make a comic book.
   78. Play in the rain.
   79. Make mud pies.
   80. Blow bubbles.
   81. Take turns saying tongue twisters.
   82. Sing songs.
   83. Tell ghost stories in the dark with a flashlight.
   84. Build stuff with Legos.
   85. Give them a bubble bath.
   86. Play with squirt guns.
   87. Play video games together.
   88. Play wiffleball.
   89. Play nerf football.
   90. Build a rocket from a kit.
   91. Bake a cake and decorate it.
   92. Play dress-up.
   93. Thumb-wrestle, play mercy, or have a tickle fight.
   94. Make a gingerbread house, or decorate gingerbread men.
   95. Learn and tell each other jokes.
   96. Play basketball.
   97. Learn to juggle.
   98. Walk barefoot in the grass and pick flowers.
   99. Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.
   100.        Prank call their grandparents, using disguised, humorous voices.

0 comments
Labels: exercise, family, fitness, freebies, frugal, volunteering

28 June 2010
Family day and family meetings – a rewarding routine

Last year, my family (my wife and I and our six kids) began a tradition that is one of the
best things we’ve ever done: every Saturday we have a family meeting, and every Sunday
is Family Day. We’ve become so much closer as a family as a result, and I highly
recommend it for [...]

Last year, my family (my wife and I and our six kids) began a tradition that is one of the
best things we’ve ever done: every Saturday we have a family meeting, and every Sunday
is Family Day. We’ve become so much closer as a family as a result, and I highly
recommend it for families of any size.
Before Family Days, our weekends were filled with soccer games, errands, and many
family parties. Our kids would spend the night with friends or relatives, and it was hard to
find good chunks of time to spend together, as a family.

Then we had a breakthrough: we created Family Day, every Sunday, and had a rule:
our kids could spend the night elsewhere on Friday nights, and we could go to family
gatherings and other functions on Saturdays, but Sundays became sacred. It was reserved
only for us, the eight of us, to do stuff together.

Then we had another idea, almost simultaneously: we created family meetings,
usually held on Saturdays, but sometimes on Sunday mornings, where we would all sit
around the living room and discuss things as a family, and plan family day. It’s a really
fun and uniting activity that we all look forward to. Let me explain these two ideas a little
more.

Family                                                                          Meetings
We call the family meeting to order, usually on Saturday afternoons, and we all gather in
the living room. We get out our family notebook, which has a record of each family
meeting, among other things. And we take turns being Leader and Secretary (the person
who takes notes for that meeting) — parents and kids (the four older ones) all participate
in the rotation for these two positions.

   1. The Leader starts every meeting with compliments. We each say a compliment
      about another family member. This is a nice way to show that we appreciate each
      other, and a good exercise to think about other family members and the good
      things they’ve done.
   2. Next is Issues: the Leader asks if anyone has any issues to discuss. These can be
      things like, People need to put the toilet seat down, to things like, how we’re
      going to try to be more frugal this Christmas, to things like suggesting that we all
      volunteer at the local homeless soup kitchen. The issues are discussed by the
      whole family, and it helps smooth out any problems that come up during the
      week.
   3. Third on the agenda is Family Day – what do we want to do on Family Day?
      Each person comes up with a suggestion, and after that, we decide by a process of
      consensus (not majority rules). That means that we kind of poll everyone to see
      what they want, and narrow it down to one or two or three options. Sometimes
      we’ll decided to do three or four things on Family Day. But everyone has to agree
      to the decision — if someone doesn’t agree, then we have to find a compromise or
      an alternate solution that makes everyone happy.
   4. Last is the Fun Thing. The Leader gets to choose a fun thing to do to end the
      family meeting. This can be anything from taking turns adding to a short story,
      and then reading out the wacky short story that results, or an obstacle course race,
      or a scavenger hunt, or many other things like that.

Family                                                                           Day
We’ve done many things on Family day, but no matter what it is, we always have a blast
together. Our latest idea is to have a Family Day jar, and add $10 or $20 to it each week.
Then, each Family Day, we can decide whether to spend it that weekend or let it save up
for a bigger event.

Here are some of the activities we like to do on Family Day:

      Board games: we like to play Risk, or Sorry, or Yahtzee, or bingo, or Clue.
      Sports: we go outside and play games like kickball or soccer.
      Book store: we enjoy going to the local used bookstore.
      Restaurants: we’ve started a thing where we go to different restaurants each time,
       trying out new restaurants as we go along instead of just going to the same ones.
      Movie night: we like to rent a dvd and have dinner while watching the movie
       together in the living room.
      Sunset dinner: we pack or buy a dinner and take it to the beach to watch the
       sunset.
      Movie theaters: we also go to the movies, although we avoid this option because
       it costs a lot and the baby doesn’t like to sit still.
      Waterpark: this is the most expensive option, but a favorite. We spend the entire
       day at the waterpark and come home exhausted.

Whatever you do on Family Day, if you use this idea, you’ll LOVE it. Try it out!

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Labels: family, frugal, GTD, motivation, sharing

19 June 2010
How I Became an Early Riser


Photo by snappED up

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

I’ve found that waking early has been one of the best things I’ve done as I’ve changed
my life recently, and I thought I’d share my tips. I just posted about my morning routine,
and thought you might like to know how I get up at 4:30 a.m.

For many years, I was a late riser. I loved to sleep in. Then things changed, because I had
to wake up between 6-6:30 a.m. to fix my kids’ lunches and get them ready for school.
But last year, when I decided to train for my first marathon, I decided that I needed to
start running in the mornings if I was to have any time left for my family.

So, I set out to make waking up early a habit. I started by getting up at 5:30 a.m., then at
5 a.m. When that became a habit, and I had to wake up at 4 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. for an early
long run, it wasn’t a problem. And last November, when I decided to participate in
NaNoWriMo, I decided to get up at 4 a.m. to write for at least an hour a day. Now that I
completed that novel-writing goal, I don’t need to wake that early anymore, but have
settled on a happy compromise of waking at 4:30 a.m. Some days, when I’m really tired
(if I go to sleep late), I’ll wake at 5:00 or 5:30, but that’s still earlier than I used to wake
up.

Here are my tips for becoming an early riser:

       Don’t make drastic changes. Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier
        than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do
        this gradually until you get to your goal time.
       Allow yourself to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, perhaps
        watching TV or surfing the Internet. But if you continue this habit, while trying to
        get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that
        gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start over. I suggest going to
        bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, and read while in bed. If
        you’re really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
       Put your alarm clock far from you bed. If it’s right next to your bed, you’ll shut
        it off or hit snooze. Never hit snooze. If it’s far from your bed, you have to get up
        out of bed to shut it off. By then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
       Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Don’t allow yourself
        to rationalize going back to bed. Just force yourself to go out of the room. My
        habit is to stumble into the bathroom and go pee. By the time I’ve done that, and
        flushed the toilet and washed my hands and looked at my ugly mug in the mirror,
        I’m awake enough to face the day.
       Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early,
        you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.
       Allow yourself to sleep in once in awhile. Despite what I just said in the
        previous point, once in awhile it’s nice to sleep in. As long as it’s not a regular
        thing. I do it maybe once a week or so.
       Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that you’re forcing
        yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look
        forward to waking up early. My reward used to be to make a hot cup of coffee and
        read a book. I’ve recently cut out coffee, but I still enjoy reading my book. Other
        rewards might be a tasty treat for breakfast (smoothies! yum!) or watching the
        sunrise, or meditating. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow
        yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.
       Take advantage of all that extra time. Don’t wake up an hour or two early just
        to read your blogs, unless that’s a major goal of yours. Don’t wake up early and
        waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day! I like to use that time to get a
        head start on preparing my kids’ lunches, on planning for the rest of the day
        (when I set my MITs), on exercising or meditating, and on reading. By the time
        6:30 rolls around, I’ve done more than many people do the entire day.
       Enjoy the break of dawn! As much as you can, look outside (or better yet, get
        outside!) and watch the sky turn light. It’s beautiful. And it’s quiet and peaceful.
        It’s now my favorite time of day. Getting up early is a reward in itself for me.
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Labels: family, mindset, peace

18 June 2010
My Morning Routine


Photo courtesy of Shayan (USA)

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Today I start a new habit: my morning routine (to be honest, I started a couple days ago).
All this month I will focus on making my morning routine a daily habit.

I’ve actually tried different versions of a morning routine in the past year, and have
enjoyed them immensely. I just haven’t stuck with one for a whole month or more, and
that is the goal this month.

The reason I like having a morning routine is that not only does it instill a sense of
purpose, peace and ritual to my day, but it ensures that I’m getting certain things done
every morning … namely, my goals. I’m setting aside morning time as a time of peace
and quiet, and time to take small steps each day towards my goals.

Here’s my morning routine, at the moment (subject to tweaking later):

Morning Routine

    1.   Wake at 4:30 a.m.
    2.   Drink water.
    3.   Set 3 Most Important Things (MITs) for today.
    4.   Fix lunches for kids and myself.
    5.   Eat breakfast, read.
    6.   Exercise (run, bike, swim, strength, or yardwork) or meditate.
    7.   Shower.
    8.   Wake wife & kids at 6:30 a.m.

A couple of explanations: The MITs that I set for the day concern at least one item
towards one of my goals, and probably the 1-2 things I MUST complete at work. There
will be more that I do during the day, but my focus will be to finish at least these three
MITs.

As for the exercise and meditate item, I have a schedule where I do one exercise each
morning (with the exception of Fridays, where I plan to meditate for at least 10-15
minutes). Actually, I also often exercise in the evenings too, so on some days I’ll have
two workouts – maybe a bike in the morning and swim in the evening, for example. My
body is still getting used to this, so we’ll see how it works out.

As for waking up at 4:30 a.m., I only started doing that within the last few months —
before that it was 5:00 or 5:30, and before last year I woke at 6:30, so I’ve really become
an early riser just in the last year.

Look for updates to my goal of sticking to my Morning Routine this month.

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Labels: family, fitness, GTD, mindset

17 June 2010
Baby Makes Eight: Raising Six Kids – Part 2, organization edition


The Babauta family.

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

See Part 1 for the introduction to this series.

In Part 1 about raising six kids, I talked about finances. That’s only part of the battle. A
lot of what makes raising so many kids difficult is the sheer logistics of it all. From
soccer to choir to parent-teacher conferences to birthday parties … heck, just getting
them ready in the morning is an exercise in logistical planning and execution.

My solution? Well, I don’t have simple answers, but I can share what has helped keep me
and my wife sane.

Organizing and Scheduling Six Kids

       The One Calendar that Unites them All. My wife and I used to have separate
        calendars, along with multiple school calendars, sports schedules, notices for
        school, and more. The side of our fridge was covered with these schedules, and it
        was a challenge to remember everything. Enter: Google Calendar. Now, we enter
        everything in one calendar. We do have separate sub-calendars for my work, my
        personal stuff, my wife’s stuff, the kids, and my training, but it’s all viewable on
        one calendar. Now, whenever we get a school calendar or sports schedule or
        notice for something at school, we quickly enter it into Gcal. Same thing with
        work appointments, meetings, classes, 5Ks and more. Now we can just look at the
        calendar, from work or home, and see what’s going on that day, or the next day.
       Teach them to be self-sufficient. Sure, it’s easier and faster to shower them and
        dress them yourself than to watch them do the same tasks much more slowly and
        incompetently. But try that with six kids. You’ll go crazy. The answer is to teach
    them to do things themselves. It takes a little more time at first, but within a
    month, it will more than pay off. Now, our kids can not only shower and dress
    themselves (and pick out their own clothes) but feed themselves breakfast, clean
    their rooms, brush their teeth, comb their hair, get their stuff ready, wash their
    own dishes (well, not the youngest two, but the oldest four). The only thing I do
    in the morning is fix their lunches, and my wife irons their clothes. My oldest
    daughter, 13, can iron clothes too, and she has learned to help out with the babies
    and chores. They can all do chores too, like sweeping and mopping.
   Plan sufficient lead time. We used to think an hour to get ready was enough.
    And after our two new babies were born, we became late for everything. Now, we
    give ourselves more than two hours. While we could probably get ready in an
    hour, now our preparation time is much more relaxed. And we’re more on time
    than before. Usually.
   Make a weekly dinner menu. Yeah, this isn’t a new tip, but it’s very useful. We
    plan out the dinners for the week — and the kids can make suggestions — and go
    shopping with that menu in hand, and the ingredients listed out. It also makes
    things easier come dinner time — no decisions to make … just whip out the
    ingredients and cook it up.
   Plan easy dinners. Anything that takes a lot of time to prepare is too much
    trouble. Spaghetti, chili, tacos, baked chicken (the healthy version of each) are
    some of our staples.
   Pack your gear by the door. Having a checklist for soccer gear, or other similar
    events, is a good idea. And when you’re preparing for the upcoming day, start
    assembling all your stuff by the door, making sure you have everything, so that
    nothing is forgotten. Forgetting someone’s cleats and having to turn the car
    around to get them is a pain.
   Pack a bag with extra clothes. We keep a small carry-on luggage packed with a
    couple of changes of clothes and underwear for each child stowed away in the car.
    If there’s an accident, or some of the kids want to spend the night with
    grandparents, that bag will be very handy.
   Have a family meeting. I’ll post more about this later in the series, but it’s a good
    idea to have the whole family sit down once a week and talk about any issues that
    family members have. This communication is key to having a happy family.
   Everyone should eat together. We can’t do this every day, but we try to sit down
    together and have dinner as a family. It’s a good time to talk about each person’s
    day.
   Have an inbox, and clear it often. All papers, bills, letters, flyers, schedules,
    school papers and more go straight into our single inbox. The inbox should be
    cleared every day or every other day — just plow through it, one item at a time,
    making a decision, taking action, filing or trashing each item right away. Don’t
    put it off or stuff will pile up!
   Teach the kids that everything has a place. Each thing in your home should
    have a ―home‖. Teach the kids where that home is, and get them in the habit of
    putting it in its home. They’ll never get perfect at it, but the more that everybody
    does this, the fewer things get lost. Also, clean as you go to keep the house fairly
    clean at all times.
       Declutter often. Get rid of the junk in your closets, that clutter up the house, that
        clutters the garage. Have regular decluttering days. Teach them to give away toys
        and clothes to charity. It’s also a good idea to clear out old toys every time they
        get new ones on birthdays and especially Christmas.

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Labels: family, unclutter

15 June 2010
3 Steps to a Permanently Clear Desk


Photo by unimatrixZxero

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Once upon a time, my desk was cluttered with all the things I was currently working on
— not to mention dozens of things I wasn’t working on: notes, post-its, phone numbers,
papers to be filed, stacks of stuff to work on later. I was too busy to organize it, and if I
ever did get it cleared, it would pile up soon after.

It’s a different story today. These days, my desk is always clear, except for the one thing
I’m working on, and perhaps a notebook and pen for jotting down notes, ideas or to-dos
as they come up. It’s a liberating feeling … it calms me … it reduces stress and chaos …
it definitely makes things easier to find … and it makes me more efficient and productive.

How did I make the transformation? Well, it wasn’t an easy journey, and I’ve improved
over the years, but the basic steps are outlined below. The important thing to remember is
that you must have a system in place, and you must teach yourself to follow the
system. Otherwise, you just clean your desk, and it gets messy again.

Much of my current system (as opposed to stuff I’ve been trying along the way) is taken
almost completely from ―Getting Things Done,‖ by David Allen (via Lifehacker & 43
Folders). A must read if you haven’t yet.

Here’s the system:

1. First, take everything on your desk and in your drawers, and put them in one big
pile. Put it in your ―in basket‖ (if it doesn’t fit, pile it next to your desk or something).
From now on, everything that comes in must go in your in basket, and you process
everything as below.

2. Process this pile from the top down. Never re-sort, never skip a single piece of paper,
never put a piece of paper back on the pile. Do what needs to be done with that paper,
and then move on to the next in the pile. The options: trash it, delegate it, file it, do it, or
put it on a list to do later. In that order of preference. Do it if it takes 2 minutes or less to
complete. If it takes more, and you can’t trash, delegate or file it, then put it on a list of
to-dos (more on your to-do list in another post).

3. Repeat at least once daily to keep desk clear. The end of the day is best, but I tend to
process and tidy up as I go through the day. Once you’ve processed your pile, your desk
is clear. You’ve trashed or filed or somehow put everything where it belongs (not on top
of your desk or stashed in a drawer). Keep it that way. You must follow the system
above: put everything in your inbox, then take action on each piece of paper in the inbox
with one of the steps listed. If an item is on your to-do list, you can keep the paper
associated with it in an ―Action‖ folder. But you must regularly (daily or weekly) go
through this folder to ensure that everything is purged.

It’s that simple. Have a phone number on a post-it? Don’t leave it on top of your desk.
File it in your rolodex or contacts program. Have something you need to work on later?
Don’t keep the papers on top of your desk. Put it on your to-do list, and file the papers in
your Action folder. File or trash or delegate everything else.

Leaving stuff on top of your desk is procrastination (and as a procrastinator, I should
know). If you put it off until later, things will be sure to pile up on your desk. Deal with
them immediately, make a decision, take action.

What I’ve described is a good habit to learn, but it takes time to learn it. You’ll slip. Just
remind yourself, and then do it. Soon it’ll be a habit you have a hard time breaking. And
trust me, once you’re used to your desk being clear, you won’t want to break this habit.

13 June 2010:Baby Makes Eight: Raising Six Kids – Part 1
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Last March, my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Noelle Cayce. She became our
sixth kid, and within the space of a few years, our house had suddenly become very full.

A little background is in order: my wife and I came together six years ago with two
children each from previous relationships, and after we got married in 2003, we had a son
(Seth Isaiah) in 2004, and now Noelle in 2006. We each went from having two kids to
having six within three years.

Raising so many kids at once has, of course, been a financial challenge, as well as a
scheduling and organizational challenge. It’s also been an amazing blessing, and I’m
planning to do a series of posts on what it’s like to raise so many kids, and some of my
best parenting tips. This is the first of the series, and it will deal with finances.

The            Finances          of          Raising           Six            Kids
When my son was born in 2004, my wife and I made the decision that she should stay
home to take care of him. When my daughter was born in 2006, we decided she should
continue to stay home. It was an important decision, and we are both very glad we made
it. She’s the best caretaker by far for our two babies, and she’s been able to breastfeed
and do all kinds of other stuff that only a mom could do.

Of course, it’s also harder for us financially, but it’s worth the sacrifices, in my opinion.
We’ve cut out a number of expenses to be able to live on my salary (see How I Save) and
the decision has forced us to learn to live frugally. We actually struggled for awhile, but I
believe we’re hitting our stride now.

I’ve also been working as a free-lance writer on the side, to give us some extra income on
top of my regular salary.

Here are the keys to being able to survive with six kids, with only one spouse working:

      Live frugally. Living on one salary (plus free-lance pay) requires sacrifices. It
       means you can’t eat out as much, or go to the movies as much. We have only one
       car. We cut out cable. It becomes a sort of lifestyle after awhile, but it’s certainly
       difficult at first.
      Increase your income. While you may only have one salary, there are many
       other ways to make money on the side, from working part-time to free-lancing to
       consulting to selling Avon to babysitting. Any extra income helps a lot.
      Pay off debts, and avoid further debts. We had a little problem with debts
       accumulating, especially when we weren’t making enough money to pay our bills.
       But we’ve reformed our ways, canceled our credit card, and are now slowly
       paying off our bills, one by one. Once we’re done, we’ll have a lot of extra money
       to save.
      Build an emergency fund. It’s tough, but it is CRUCIAL that you save money
       each payday, no matter how small the amount. If you can’t figure out how to do
       this, cut out some smaller expenses, trim others, cancel cable or Netflix or your
       gym membership or something. Find a way to save. It’s the most important part of
       your finances, especially the part where you build an emergency fund. You should
       build it up to at least $1,000, because at any moment, your car might break down
       or your kid might need to go to the hospital or any other kind of emergency could
       happen and leave you not only without the necessary funds, but figuring out
       which bills you can pay later so you can pay for the emergency. If you have
       savings, you can pay for these emergencies, without
      Budget. I know it’s a dreaded thing for many people, but it doesn’t have to be
       hard. Simply list out your regular monthly expenses (utilities, rent, car, internet,
       cell phone, etc.) along with variable expenses (groceries, gas, eating out, etc) and
       other irregular expenses that might not come up every month but that you know
       you’ll need sometime (car repairs, home maintenance, gifts, medical, etc., broken
       down as a monthly expense). List your income. Your income should be more than
       your expenses. If not, trim some expenses.
      Automate your finances. For all my bills, I have them either automatically
       deducted (like my car payment and phone) or have a regular online check going
         out to them each month. The only things not paid online are the things I need cash
         for, like gas and groceries.
        The Envelope System. For everything that you can’t automate online, withdraw
         the cash each payday (instead of using ATMs and incurring fees) for those
         expenses and put them in separate envelopes. I have three: groceries, gas, and
         spending (everything from eating out to kids school stuff). When the money runs
         out in that envelope, you can’t spend anymore until next payday. It’s a simple
         way to keep track of how much you have left, instead of guesstimating and
         withdrawing too much or charging too much.
        Find free ways to have fun with your kids. While we are making sacrifices, and
         our kids have to make sacrifices too, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a great time
         with them. We plan a Family Day every Sunday, when we all do stuff together
         that we love doing, like reading, watching movies (we usually rent DVDs to save
         money), playing sports, going to a park, playing board games, going to the beach,
         visiting family, or doing a lot of other free or cheap stuff. Fun doesn’t have to cost
         a lot.
        Plan ahead. If you know someone’s birthday is coming up, plan for it, so you’re
         not scrambling to find money to buy a gift. Same thing with school expenses, like
         field trip money or school photos. Our kids are also involved in sports, so we have
         to plan for uniforms and cleats and more. Think ahead to what you’ll need, so
         you’re not broke when that expense comes up.
        Treat your family once in awhile. While lots of fun things are free, sometimes
         you gotta splurge. Take the kids out to a movie, or a restaurant. Our favorite
         splurge is going to a water park. Recently we ran into a few hundred extra dollars,
         and instead of being responsible and paying off more debt or saving it, we rented
         a room at a hotel with a great water park, and spent two days there having a blast
         with the kids. Other times we’ll just treat them to ice cream cones or something.

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Labels: family, power, simplicity, travel, unclutter

11 June 2010
Achieving Goals with my Son: Our Harry Potter Marathon


Let a book take you into another world. Let it be your world.

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

In December, my son Rain (who turned 9 in January) and I set out on a quest: to read the
first five Harry Potter books before the movie comes out on July 13, 2007. That gave us
about seven months to read five books, but if you’ve read those books, you know that
they’re pretty long (especially the last few).
It’s also more of a challenge because my son only lives with me for three days a week.
But as my daughter said, Rain and I are both very determined people, and we’re proving
to be up to the challenge.

So far we zipped through the first two books and are almost done with the third. That
leaves us with two long books to read in five months, and I’m positive we can do that.
We might even start on Book 6 before the movie comes out. On the days that Rain is with
me, we read in the evenings, and then I wake him up early (usually at 5:30 a.m.) to read
again in the mornings. And when he’s not with me, I often call him up and read over the
phone in the evenings, as he reads along with his own copy at his mom’s house.

It’s been a great experience, doing this Harry Potter marathon with Rain. We’ve read
before, but never with this frequency, and we’re spending more quality time alone than
ever before. It’s also great trying to achieve a goal with him, because not only does it
give me a good feeling as we achieve our milestones along the way, but it gives him that
great feeling too. So not only are we spending great time together, and having fun, but I
am teaching him how to accomplish goals as well.

This has been so great that I want to do the same kind of thing with my other kids. I have
six of them, so that makes it a bit of a challenge. I want to do something that is different
for each of them, something that we can have fun doing while learning to achieve goals
together.

10 June 2010:10 Tips for Quitting Smoking by Leo Babauta.
I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary of quitting smoking. Well, of finally
quitting … like most smokers, I had tried to quit many times and failed. But this quit
stuck, and I’d like to share the top 10 things that made this quit successful when the
others failed.

1. Commit Thyself Fully. In the quits that failed, I was only half into it. I told myself I
wanted to quit, but I always felt in the back of my mind that I’d fail. I didn’t write
anything down, I didn’t tell everybody (maybe my wife, but just her). This time, I wrote
it down. I wrote down a plan. I blogged about it. I made a vow to my daughter. I told
family and friends I was quitting. I went online and joined a quit forum. I had rewards.
Many of these will be in the following tips, but the point is that I fully committed, and
there was no turning back. I didn’t make it easy for myself to fail.

2. Make a Plan. You can’t just up and say, ―I’m gonna quit today.‖ You have to prepare
yourself. Plan it out. Have a system of rewards, a support system, a person to call if
you’re in trouble. Write down what you’ll do when you get an urge. Print it out. Post it up
on your wall, at home and at work. If you wait until you get the urge to figure out what
you’re going to do, you’ve already lost. You have to be ready when those urges come.

3. Know Your Motivation. When the urge comes, your mind will rationalize. ―What’s
the harm?‖ And you’ll forget why you’re doing this. Know why you’re doing this
BEFORE that urge comes. Is it for your kids? For your wife? For you health? So you can
run? Because the girl you like doesn’t like smokers? Have a very good reason or reasons
for quitting. List them out. Print them out. Put it on a wall. And remind yourself of those
reasons every day, every urge.

4. Not One Puff, Ever (N.O.P.E.). The mind is a tricky thing. It will tell you that one
cigarette won’t hurt. And it’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when you’re in the
middle of an urge. And those urges are super hard to argue with. Don’t give in. Tell
yourself, before the urges come, that you will not smoke a single puff, ever again.
Because the truth is, that one puff WILL hurt. One puff leads to a second, and a third, and
soon you’re not quitting, you’re smoking. Don’t fool yourself. A single puff will almost
always lead to a recession. DO NOT TAKE A SINGLE PUFF!

5. Join a Forum. One of the things that helped the most in this quit was an online forum
for quitters (quitsmoking.about.com) … you don’t feel so alone when you’re miserable.
Misery loves company, after all. Go online, introduce yourself, get to know the others
who are going through the exact same thing, post about your crappy experience, and read
about others who are even worse than you. Best rule: Post Before You Smoke. If you set
this rule and stick to it, you will make it through your urge. Others will talk you through
it. And they’ll celebrate with you when you make it through your first day, day 2, 3, and
4, week 1 and beyond. It’s great fun.

6. Reward Yourself. Set up a plan for your rewards. Definitely reward yourself after the
first day, and the second, and the third. You can do the fourth if you want, but definitely
after Week 1 and Week2. And month 1, and month 2. And 6 months and a year. Make
them good rewards, that you’ll look forward to: CDs, books, DVDs, T-shirts, shoes, a
massage, a bike, a dinner out at your favorite restaurant, a hotel stay … whatever you can
afford. Even better: take whatever you would have spent on smoking each day, and put it
in a jar. This is your Rewards Jar. Go crazy! Celebrate your every success! You deserve
it.

7. Delay. If you have an urge, wait. Do the following things: take 10 deep breaths. Drink
water. Eat a snack (at first it was candy and gum, then I switched to healthier stuff like
carrots and frozen grapes and pretzels). Call your support person. Post on your smoking
cessation forum. Exercise. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES, BUT DELAY, DELAY,
DELAY. You will make it through it, and the urge will go away. When it does, celebrate!
Take it one urge at a time, and you can do it.

8. Replace Negative Habits with Positive Ones. What do you do when you’re stressed?
If you currently react to stress with a cigarette, you’ll need to find something else to do.
Deep breathing, self massage of my neck and shoulders, and exercise have worked
wonders for me. Other habits, such as what you do first thing in the morning, or what you
do in the car, or wherever you usually smoke, should be replaced with better, more
positive ones. Running has been my best positive habit, altho I have a few others that
replaced smoking.
9. Make it Through Hell Week, then Heck Week, and You’re Golden. The hardest
part of quitting is the first two days. If you can get past that, you’ve passed the nicotine
withdrawal stage, and the rest is mostly mental. But all of the first week is hell. Which is
why it’s called Hell Week. After that, it begins to get easier. Second week is Heck Week,
and is still difficult, but not nearly as hellish as the first. After that, it was smooth sailing
for me. I just had to deal with an occasional strong urge, but the rest of the urges were
light, and I felt confident I could make it through anything.

10. If You Fall, Get Up. And Learn From Your Mistakes. Yes, we all fail. That does
not mean we are failures, or that we can never succeed. If you fall, it’s not the end of the
world. Get up, brush yourself off, and try again. I failed numerous times before
succeeding. But you know what? Each of those failures taught me something. Well,
sometimes I repeated the same mistakes several times, but eventually I learned. Figure
out what your obstacles to success are, and plan to overcome them in your next quit. And
don’t wait a few months until your next quit. Give yourself a few days to plan and
prepare, commit fully to it, and go for it!

BONUS TIP #11: THINK POSITIVE. This is the most important tip of all. I saved it
for last. If you have a positive, can-do attitude, as corny as it may sound, you will
succeed. Trust me. It works. Tell yourself that you can do it, and you will. Tell yourself
that you can’t do it, and you definitely won’t. When things get rough, think positive! You
CAN make it through the urge. You CAN make it through Hell Week. And you can. I
did. So have millions of others. We are no better than you. (In my case, worse.)

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Labels: family, fitness, mindset

7 June 2010
What is truly necessary? A guide to living frugal


Photo courtesy of the wonderful Ali Edwards.

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

An ongoing quest for me, and one that I am renewing this year, is to eliminate all that is
unnecessary from my life. Now, you might read this and think that I am cutting
everything fun from my life, but that’s not true. Let me explain.

The first question in this quest, of course, is what does ―necessary‖ mean? We must first
examine what things are necessary … and the first question in this examination is …
necessary for what? What is the true aim? My answer, which will be different than
others, is ―necessary for a happy life.‖
This definition, then, would include many things besides the basics of clothing, shelter
and food. I might not need a good relationship with my wife in order to survive, but it is
necessary for me to be happy in life (I’ve found). Same thing with my kids. To be happy,
I must develop a good relationship with them, make them happy, and spend time with
them.

But that doesn’t mean that anything I do with them counts as necessary. I can be happy
with my children just by going to a free park — I don’t need to buy them things all the
time, or go costly entertainment (like movies, the mall, or waterparks).

Similarly, we need to eat, but we don’t need to eat junk food. True, you might say that
sweets, or french fries, make you happy. Well, that’s the key to this whole exercise: do
you really need something to be happy? And even more, do you need it on a daily basis,
or can it be an occasional treat?

Coffee and chocolate are two recent examples for me. I love both. A lot. But I am
addicted to them (because of the caffeine), and that makes me want them more than I
really need them to be happy. So I am trying to cut them out, at least for now. I think
later, after I kick the habit, I can indulge in those things as a treat, once in awhile, without
lapsing into addiction.

Other things I can cut out (except as treats):

      Going to movies (I rarely do this anymore)
      Sweets, like pastries or baked goods or candies (rarer now, but still a MAJOR
       temptation)
      toys (gizmos and gadgets that are a lot of fun, but not necessary – like an mp3
       player)
      new books (I try to buy used now, or trade em)
      eating out (have been trying to cut back, but still lapse more than I should)

And some things that I need to think hard about:

      cable internet (I have this at work — it’s nice at home, but I’m not sure if it’s
       necessary)
      cell phone (I don’t NEED it too much — it’s convenient, but it’s rare that I really
       need it)

On the whole, I’ve cut out a lot already, and I’m very happy with the simplicity I’ve
created so far. I have a lot more to do, but it’s the process that I enjoy, not the end
product.

Some recent posts on this topic elsewhere:

      We’re In Debt: Netflix saves us money
      Digerati Life: Seriously Thrifty? Some wild ways to save
      A Girl Worth Saving: Thrifty 101: Tightfisted Tips I Learned in College
      Personal Finance for Grad Students and Fresh Grads: Frugal Living Myths

4 June 2010:How to Handle Pets When You Can’t Afford
Them Any More by Trent
Hey, look, today I’m going to wade into something that’s bound to get hundreds of angry
comments!

Yesterday, I read an article over at Get Rich Slowly where J.D. wrote the following (with
my own emphasis added):

―Thanks for finding that place,‖ Michael told me as he took a bite of mashed potatoes and
gravy. ―But we’ve decided to rent someplace else. We found a place in Rock Creek for
$1300 a month.‖

―Wow,‖ I said. ―That seems like a lot.‖

―Not really,‖ he said. ―That’s pretty good for similar places in Portland. Plus, it gives us
space for our two dogs.‖

I sighed inside. Sure, that may be a good price compared to similar houses, but I know
there are tons of places to live in Portland for less than $1300 a month — if Michael and
his wife are willing to make some sacrifices. I wanted to pursue this line of questioning
— What about getting rid of the dogs? Why not look at the $500/month place I found?
— but I let it go. You can only argue with your friends so much, right? We moved on to
other topics.

This is an issue that comes up over and over again whenever pets are mentioned in a
personal finance context. What do you do with a pet when you’re in a financial or
personal situation that makes caring for them incredibly difficult or impossible?

It’s not an easy thing to think about for many pet owners. My experience with pets in the
past has been very, very bittersweet, so I think I’ll relate my own experience with pets so
you’ll have some idea where I’m coming from.

I have had two dogs in my life that I dearly loved. When I was four years old, my parents
got a Lhasa Apso / poodle mix as a puppy. I immediately fell in love and insisted that we
name the dog ―Lolly‖ (short for Lollipop). Over the years, Lolly was a constant family
companion – and I think my dad loved that dog more than even I did. One of her favorite
things to do was to walk along the side of the gravel road by our house, past three other
houses, and visit my aunt and uncle’s house, and they would often feed her, too. One of
our neighbors used to complain constantly about her presence, threatening us and the dog
repeatedly. One day, he left a tray of antifreeze alongside the road by his house – and
Lolly drank it. She came home with antifreeze still in the fur around her mouth, became
very ill, and died two days later in a very miserable way.

To replace Lolly, when I was about fourteen, my parents bought a rat terrier that we
named Patch. I was incredibly attached to Patch and I spent most of a summer bonding
with him and training him to do various tricks. We would stand out in the yard and play
fetch together for hours. He also loved to go to the river and run into the water chasing
sticks, bringing them back for me to throw again. He slept on my bed most nights. One
day, while I was gone, my older brother ran over Patch with his truck, and I never got to
say goodbye to him – he was buried before I returned home.

I know the feeling of bonding with a pet. I know the strong desire to protect a pet. And I
know the sense of loss that people can feel when they lose one. It hurts.

So, what does a pet owner do when they find that they’re not emotionally,
physically, or financially capable of properly caring for a pet?

The first step that should be taken is to ask yourself whether or not there are changes
you could make in your life to allow that pet-human bond to continue. If you can’t
afford dog food but you can afford cable television and a cell phone, spend some serious
time thinking about your priorities. I can’t answer the question of which is more
important to you, but keep in mind that pet ownership is a responsibility in which you’ve
agreed to care for a living, thinking being.

This is a very personal decision. Some people simply have difficulty emotionally bonding
with a pet – and that situation is difficult for both pet and owner. Some people, after
going through a personal crisis or other deep change, find that their new situation makes
the pet-human relationship very difficult. A job loss. A disability. A death. A new
household member with an allergy. These things happen and they damage the pet-human
relationship.

An example: my father is incredibly allergic to cats. Because of this, it made it
impossible for him to visit us for years when we had two cats, which caused some serious
strain on our relationship (as you can imagine, he did want to visit his grandchildren).
Eventually, after searching, we found great alternative homes for our two cats. Our cats
have safe, secure places to live and my father can visit his son and his grandchildren – it’s
a win for everyone.

If you can’t make available the financial and personal resources that a pet requires, you
should actively seek an appropriate home for your pet. Start by asking around your
own social network, and also ask at your vet’s office. If that doesn’t work, put a
Craigslist posting up about your pet (with pictures), describing the pet in as much detail
as you can. Specify who you would like to own the pet. Would this be a good pet for a
family? For an elderly person? For a cat lover? Explain that you really need to find a
good home for this pet because of changing conditions in your life. You’ll be surprised
how often this finds a good match – many potential pet owners just need the impetus of a
good story in front of them to push them over the line to pet ownership. Deliver the pet
yourself and make sure the home is a healthy one. Just look for obvious red flags like an
abundance of caged pets (indicating the person may be a ―buncher‖ who collects pets to
sell). The Humane Society offers a great article on finding a new owner for your pet.

If this option fails, try PetFinder.com. You can list your pet there as a classified, which
is perhaps the best place to start. If this doesn’t work, then you can also work with a listed
animal shelter on PetFinder to help you find a good home for your pet. Try to stick with
shelters that have good reviews on PetFinder – in other words, seek a very reputable
shelter that takes an active role in finding good homes for their pets. Again, when you
take your dog there, look for red flags. If it looks shady and smells awful, they’re
probably not actively invested in finding homes for their pets.

Yes, this all takes a lot of time. But it does take a lot of time to find a good home for a
pet. That’s why animal shelters often have pets for long periods of time – it’s not easy to
find people that are capable of caring for a pet and want to have one, too.

If you own a pet, part of your responsibility is to make sure that the pet has a good
home if you can no longer be the owner. That takes work and time, but it’s part of the
responsiblity you take on when you acquire a pet. It’s not expensive, it just needs effort
and patience.

As for me, I’m not emotionally ready quite yet to have a dog because of those past
experiences (and cats are impossible due to allergies, as mentioned above). In the future,
I’m not opposed to having one, particularly when we live in the country and the pet has a
lot of outdoor freedom. When we do make that choice, we’ll be using Craigslist and
PetFinder and other such resources – we won’t be involved in bringing a new pet into the
world when there are so many great ones already out there who need a home.

18 April 2010
Would you fire you? Post written by Sherri Kruger. Follow me on Twitter.

I’m going to come out and say it: Being a stay at home mom is hard.

I say this not for sympathy, pity or to commiserate but as a statement of fact. There are
days where I feel like supermom and I get an incredible amount of ―stuff‖ done.
Occasionally I have days where I don’t do a darn thing. If I’m not careful these days can
extend into two days or three days or even a whole week. It’s at this point that I think
―Wow if this was my job I wouldn’t keep me around!‖

Being a stay at home mom is the ultimate self-employment gig of course without the pay
check or health benefits.

Being self employed is tough and it takes the right kind of person to successfully pull it
off. You need discipline to stick to deadlines since almost all are self imposed, you must
set your own standards and live up to them, your time is yours to manage and if you don’t
do something there’s no one there to cover for you.

I know I’m not alone in this. There are days when I am just completely exhausted. No
excuses beyond that I’m just tired. It’s on these days that I force myself to re-group, re-
focus and re-evaluate.

What is your role?

Take a few minutes to think about what your responsibilities are in your role, be it a stay
at home parent or other wise. For me it includes the following:

      General house keeping
      Meal planning and preparation
      Child care
      Teaching my kids

Four points that’s it? … anyway.

Once you’ve listed out your duties, much like on a job description in, dare I say, the real
world evaluate where you are.

Revisit your goals. What did you think you would accomplish in this role? Are you still
on track? Have you slipped a little? Are you not living up to your own or mutually agreed
upon expectations?

What’s going really well? What do you enjoy doing more than you initially thought you
might? This may help you get a clear picture of what you’ve done, what direction you’re
headed and if what you are actually doing is in line with the role you’ve taken on.

Get help when you need it. What do you need to be successful in this new role? Is there
software, notebooks, or reference materials that could help? Remember that people are a
fabulous resource as well. Seek out people who have been there before, who have built
on or expanded an idea that can help you out. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel.

Now ask yourself based on all of the things you’ve listed out and had a chance to
examine, would you fire you?

It may come across a bit harsh but look at it objectively. If I hired a house keeper, a
personal chef and a nanny, looking at the state of my house right this very second would I
fire any of them? Likely the housekeeper. :) Other days it would be the chef and on the
rare occasion I would fire the nanny.

I like this little exercise because it gives me a chance to see what’s not working, where I
may need a bit of help or inspiration, and where I need to pick up my game. My warning
on all of this is to not be too hard on yourself. Life ebbs and flows. So while you may be
rocking one aspect of your life another may not be so stellar. That’s okay. Go with it and
check in occasionally.

Finally, celebrate. Celebrate your victories no matter how small. So you haven’t
accomplished all you’ve set out to do. So what? Maybe you’ve finished some small yet
significant task. Celebrate!

15 April 2010:you need less than you think
It’s amazing what our culture has done to us: we have been conditioned to believe that
luxuries are a necessity, that we need things that most of the world doesn’t even dream of
having.

Look around your home right now (or when you get home). What do you see that’s really
a necessity? What could you do without?

You already know that most of the world lives with much less than what you see around
you. They’d be happy with clean water, shelter, some food. Forget about Macs or big-
screen TVs or plush couches or iPhones or closets overflowing with shoes and clothes.

But we also forget that only a few generations ago, our grandparents and great-
grandparents also lived with much less, and were perfectly comfortable and happy. Most
people had very little other than the necessities and perhaps a radio. Not that long ago,
people lived without TVs, cars, microwaves, electric stoves, computers, video game
consoles, air-conditioning, washers, dish washers and more. Not that long ago, shopping
malls didn’t exist, and ordering from the Sears catalog was a luxury.

What we need is very little: a few changes of clothing at most, a pair of shoes, perhaps a
few toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap), some food, a roof over our heads.

Consider:

      The television: if you got rid of this, not only would you free up hours of your
       time, you’d spend less (on cable or DVDs). You’d have room for reading,
       exercise, spending time with others.
      All your clothes: could you wear just a few items? I do, and nobody seems to
       care.
      Food: instead of eating out or buying convenience food, could you pick a dozen
       whole foods and make a weekly menu based on it? Think: beans & rice &
       veggies, or whole oats with nuts & berries, or salads with nuts & beans, or fruit &
       nuts.
      Furniture: what is the absolute minimum you could get by with, and still live a
       happy life? What are your core activities (sleeping, reading, eating?), and what do
       you need for each?
      Gadgets: Once upon a time, you lived without them. What would life be like if
       you went back to that lifestyle? Would you have more distraction-free time?
      The computer: OK, sure, this seems to be a necessity these days. But is it?
       Sometimes I wonder if I could get by with 1-2 hours of computer time a day at
       my local library. I really think I could, but I haven’t taken that brave leap yet.
      The car: Many people live happily without it. It is a resource hog, uses tons of
       your money (and the work that goes to earn that money), contributes to global
       warming, is dangerous. Could you give it up someday?
      The washer/dryer: Could you hand-wash your clothes each day? It takes about 10-
       15 minutes.

There are other things in your home, I’m sure, that you could reconsider. Let’s keep our
minds open.

100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap

Yesterday I posted about Family Day, where we try to have fun together as a family,
often for free or without spending much money. I thought it would be useful to list some
ways to have fun with your kids without spending a lot of money:

   1. Have a reading marathon.
   2. Write stories together.
   3. Play soccer.
   4. Paint or draw together.
   5. Create a fort in your living room out of blankets or cardboard boxes.
   6. Go on a hike.
   7. Have a sunset picnic at a park or beach.
   8. Play board games.
   9. Play kickball.
   10. Get up early, pack breakfast, and have a sunrise breakfast.
   11. Go to a museum.
   12. Go to a playground.
   13. Play hide-and-seek.
   14. Have a pillow fight.
   15. Ride bikes.
   16. Build sandcastles.
   17. Rent a dvd and make popcorn.
   18. Tell stories.
   19. Have a scavenger hunt.
   20. Make mazes or puzzles for each other to solve.
   21. Play card games.
   22. Garden together.
   23. Bake cookies (let the kids help).
   24. Go to the zoo.
   25. Go to the library.
   26. Shop at a thrift shop.
   27. Create a blog together.
   28. Create a scrapbook.
29. Make a movie using a camcorder and computer.
30. Learn to play music.
31. Fingerpaint.
32. Make play dough from scratch.
33. Make homemade mini pizzas.
34. Buy popsicles.
35. Make hand-painted T-shirts.
36. Set up a hammock, make lemonade, relax.
37. Go to a pool.
38. Go to a public place, people watch, and make up imaginary stories about people.
39. Visit family.
40. Write letters to family.
41. Paint or decorate the kids’ room.
42. Make milkshakes.
43. Play freeze tag.
44. Create a treasure hunt for them (leaving clues around the house or yard).
45. Decorate a pair of jeans.
46. Do a science experiment.
47. Play games online.
48. Teach them to play chess.
49. Learn magic tricks.
50. Create a family book, with information and pictures about each family member.
51. Fly kites.
52. Go snorkeling.
53. Barbecue.
54. Volunteer.
55. Donate stuff to charity.
56. Compete in a three-legged or other race.
57. Create an obstacle course.
58. Pitch a tent and sleep outside with marshmallows.
59. Roast marshmallows.
60. Play loud music and dance crazy.
61. Write and produce a play (to perform before other family members).
62. Paint each other’s faces.
63. Have a water balloon fight.
64. Have a gun-fight with those foam dart guns.
65. Explore your yard and look for insects.
66. Go for a walk and explore the neighborhood.
67. Go jogging.
68. Take pictures of nature.
69. Play a trivia game.
70. Make up trivia questions about each other.
71. Make hot cocoa.
72. Play house.
73. Decorate the house with decorations you make.
74. Make popsicles.
75. Play school.
76. Do shadow puppets.
77. Make a comic book.
78. Play in the rain.
79. Make mud pies.
80. Blow bubbles.
81. Take turns saying tongue twisters.
82. Sing songs.
83. Tell ghost stories in the dark with a flashlight.
84. Build stuff with Legos.
85. Give them a bubble bath.
86. Play with squirt guns.
87. Play video games together.
88. Play wiffleball.
89. Play nerf football.
90. Build a rocket from a kit.
91. Bake a cake and decorate it.
92. Play dress-up.
93. Thumb-wrestle, play mercy, or have a tickle fight.
94. Make a gingerbread house, or decorate gingerbread men.
95. Learn and tell each other jokes.
96. Play basketball.
97. Learn to juggle.
98. Walk barefoot in the grass and pick flowers.
99. Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.
100.        Prank call their grandparents, using disguised, humorous voices.
18           June                2010:My             Morning                 Routine




Photo courtesy of Shayan (USA)

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Today I start a new habit: my morning routine (to be honest, I started a couple days ago).
All this month I will focus on making my morning routine a daily habit.

I’ve actually tried different versions of a morning routine in the past year, and have
enjoyed them immensely. I just haven’t stuck with one for a whole month or more, and
that is the goal this month.

The reason I like having a morning routine is that not only does it instill a sense of
purpose, peace and ritual to my day, but it ensures that I’m getting certain things done
every morning … namely, my goals. I’m setting aside morning time as a time of peace
and quiet, and time to take small steps each day towards my goals.

Here’s my morning routine, at the moment (subject to tweaking later):

Morning Routine

   1.   Wake at 4:30 a.m.
   2.   Drink water.
   3.   Set 3 Most Important Things (MITs) for today.
   4.   Fix lunches for kids and myself.
   5.   Eat breakfast, read.
    6. Exercise (run, bike, swim, strength, or yardwork) or meditate.
    7. Shower.
    8. Wake wife & kids at 6:30 a.m.

A couple of explanations: The MITs that I set for the day concern at least one item
towards one of my goals, and probably the 1-2 things I MUST complete at work. There
will be more that I do during the day, but my focus will be to finish at least these three
MITs.

As for the exercise and meditate item, I have a schedule where I do one exercise each
morning (with the exception of Fridays, where I plan to meditate for at least 10-15
minutes). Actually, I also often exercise in the evenings too, so on some days I’ll have
two workouts – maybe a bike in the morning and swim in the evening, for example. My
body is still getting used to this, so we’ll see how it works out.

As for waking up at 4:30 a.m., I only started doing that within the last few months —
before that it was 5:00 or 5:30, and before last year I woke at 6:30, so I’ve really become
an early riser just in the last year.

Look for updates to my goal of sticking to my Morning Routine this month.

16 June 2010:6 Tips for Commuting to Work by Bike




Get fit and green at the same time.

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

This morning, I rode my bike in to work (a distance of about 10 miles), and it felt great. It
was the second time I’ve done that now — I also did it last week — and I hope to make it
a more frequent thing.
My goal is to get some exercise (I’m training for a triathlon) while also helping the
environment and saving money on gas. With the gas prices rising so much in the last few
years, it’s frustrating to not be able to do anything about it — but now I am.

Although it’s a bit scary riding a bike in the middle of traffic, I have to say it was a great
experience. Not only did I feel really good to get the exercise, but I had a great view of
nature as I headed to work, and it was a lot more peaceful and relaxing than the regular
commute by car. I hope to eventually build up my stamina so that I can ride my bike to
and from work at least three or four times a week, or even five days a week, but for now
I’m starting out slowly, as I’m new to cycling.

Tips for Commuting by Bike

      Plan ahead. One of the reasons people don’t commute by bike, even if they have
       a bike, is that they don’t want to be sweaty. I’m lucky, as my work just installed a
       new shower, but before that I planned to use the shower of an office next door, or
       use the shower at a nearby gym (even becoming a member at a gym is cheaper
       than gas). You’ll also need soap and deodorant and a towel and other toiletries.
       Then there’s the issue of how to get your clothes to work, which is my next tip.
      Drop your clothes to work ahead of time. You could pack them in a backpack,
       to wear on your back, but it gets your back sweaty. You could also put it in a
       pannier and carry it on a rack, which is a good option, but you might not want
       your clothes wrinkly for some reason. The solution I’ve been using (and it’s not
       an original idea) is to bring my clothes to work the day before. This also saves
       some extra pounds that I have to carry on my bike, which is an issue for a
       beginner like me. You could even bring in clothes for the rest of the week.
       Eventually, if I ride to work five days a week, I might have to drop a week’s
       worth of clothes sometime in the weekend.
      Any ol’ bike will do. You don’t need a fancy racing bike or touring bike or
       anything to commute. If you’ve got an old mountain bike, which I do, that’s good
       enough. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a bike and gear to get started.
       Later, you can always spend more, a little at a time, but whatever you’ve got is
       good enough for now.
      Have a spare tube and tools, and know how to change a tire. You never know
       if you’ll get a flat, and you don’t want to be stuck walking your bike for several
       miles. A patch kit is good, but it’s even easier if you just have a spare tube, a
       pump, and the right tools so that you can quickly change the punctured tube for a
       new one, and patch the old one later at home.
      Be safe. This is a no brainer, but it is good to read up on tips on cycling safety
       (see links below) before heading out into dangerous traffic.
      It’s a blast! Cycling is a lot of fun, as I’ve discovered in recent weeks, and riding
       to work is much, much better than driving. Try it. You’ll love it.

As always, I’ve pulled a few links on commuting bike for y’all:

      Commute by Bike blog
      Paul Dorn’s Bike Commuting Tips
      Bicycle Commuting: The going-to-work workout
      City of Austin: Bicycle Commuting Tips
      Bike Commute Tips blog
      Josh’s Bike Progress
      It’s About the Bike
      Commute by Bike! Be a part of the solution.

10 June 2010:10 Tips for Quitting Smoking by Leo Babauta.
I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary of quitting smoking. Well, of finally
quitting … like most smokers, I had tried to quit many times and failed. But this quit
stuck, and I’d like to share the top 10 things that made this quit successful when the
others failed.

1. Commit Thyself Fully. In the quits that failed, I was only half into it. I told myself I
wanted to quit, but I always felt in the back of my mind that I’d fail. I didn’t write
anything down, I didn’t tell everybody (maybe my wife, but just her). This time, I wrote
it down. I wrote down a plan. I blogged about it. I made a vow to my daughter. I told
family and friends I was quitting. I went online and joined a quit forum. I had rewards.
Many of these will be in the following tips, but the point is that I fully committed, and
there was no turning back. I didn’t make it easy for myself to fail.

2. Make a Plan. You can’t just up and say, ―I’m gonna quit today.‖ You have to prepare
yourself. Plan it out. Have a system of rewards, a support system, a person to call if
you’re in trouble. Write down what you’ll do when you get an urge. Print it out. Post it up
on your wall, at home and at work. If you wait until you get the urge to figure out what
you’re going to do, you’ve already lost. You have to be ready when those urges come.

3. Know Your Motivation. When the urge comes, your mind will rationalize. ―What’s
the harm?‖ And you’ll forget why you’re doing this. Know why you’re doing this
BEFORE that urge comes. Is it for your kids? For your wife? For you health? So you can
run? Because the girl you like doesn’t like smokers? Have a very good reason or reasons
for quitting. List them out. Print them out. Put it on a wall. And remind yourself of those
reasons every day, every urge.

4. Not One Puff, Ever (N.O.P.E.). The mind is a tricky thing. It will tell you that one
cigarette won’t hurt. And it’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when you’re in the
middle of an urge. And those urges are super hard to argue with. Don’t give in. Tell
yourself, before the urges come, that you will not smoke a single puff, ever again.
Because the truth is, that one puff WILL hurt. One puff leads to a second, and a third, and
soon you’re not quitting, you’re smoking. Don’t fool yourself. A single puff will almost
always lead to a recession. DO NOT TAKE A SINGLE PUFF!

5. Join a Forum. One of the things that helped the most in this quit was an online forum
for quitters (quitsmoking.about.com) … you don’t feel so alone when you’re miserable.
Misery loves company, after all. Go online, introduce yourself, get to know the others
who are going through the exact same thing, post about your crappy experience, and read
about others who are even worse than you. Best rule: Post Before You Smoke. If you set
this rule and stick to it, you will make it through your urge. Others will talk you through
it. And they’ll celebrate with you when you make it through your first day, day 2, 3, and
4, week 1 and beyond. It’s great fun.

6. Reward Yourself. Set up a plan for your rewards. Definitely reward yourself after the
first day, and the second, and the third. You can do the fourth if you want, but definitely
after Week 1 and Week2. And month 1, and month 2. And 6 months and a year. Make
them good rewards, that you’ll look forward to: CDs, books, DVDs, T-shirts, shoes, a
massage, a bike, a dinner out at your favorite restaurant, a hotel stay … whatever you can
afford. Even better: take whatever you would have spent on smoking each day, and put it
in a jar. This is your Rewards Jar. Go crazy! Celebrate your every success! You deserve
it.

7. Delay. If you have an urge, wait. Do the following things: take 10 deep breaths. Drink
water. Eat a snack (at first it was candy and gum, then I switched to healthier stuff like
carrots and frozen grapes and pretzels). Call your support person. Post on your smoking
cessation forum. Exercise. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES, BUT DELAY, DELAY,
DELAY. You will make it through it, and the urge will go away. When it does, celebrate!
Take it one urge at a time, and you can do it.

8. Replace Negative Habits with Positive Ones. What do you do when you’re stressed?
If you currently react to stress with a cigarette, you’ll need to find something else to do.
Deep breathing, self massage of my neck and shoulders, and exercise have worked
wonders for me. Other habits, such as what you do first thing in the morning, or what you
do in the car, or wherever you usually smoke, should be replaced with better, more
positive ones. Running has been my best positive habit, altho I have a few others that
replaced smoking.

9. Make it Through Hell Week, then Heck Week, and You’re Golden. The hardest
part of quitting is the first two days. If you can get past that, you’ve passed the nicotine
withdrawal stage, and the rest is mostly mental. But all of the first week is hell. Which is
why it’s called Hell Week. After that, it begins to get easier. Second week is Heck Week,
and is still difficult, but not nearly as hellish as the first. After that, it was smooth sailing
for me. I just had to deal with an occasional strong urge, but the rest of the urges were
light, and I felt confident I could make it through anything.

10. If You Fall, Get Up. And Learn From Your Mistakes. Yes, we all fail. That does
not mean we are failures, or that we can never succeed. If you fall, it’s not the end of the
world. Get up, brush yourself off, and try again. I failed numerous times before
succeeding. But you know what? Each of those failures taught me something. Well,
sometimes I repeated the same mistakes several times, but eventually I learned. Figure
out what your obstacles to success are, and plan to overcome them in your next quit. And
don’t wait a few months until your next quit. Give yourself a few days to plan and
prepare, commit fully to it, and go for it!

BONUS TIP #11: THINK POSITIVE. This is the most important tip of all. I saved it
for last. If you have a positive, can-do attitude, as corny as it may sound, you will
succeed. Trust me. It works. Tell yourself that you can do it, and you will. Tell yourself
that you can’t do it, and you definitely won’t. When things get rough, think positive! You
CAN make it through the urge. You CAN make it through Hell Week. And you can. I
did. So have millions of others. We are no better than you. (In my case, worse.)

5 June 2010:Get Healthy and Fit, Part 1by Leo Babauta
J.D. over at one of my favorite finance blogs, Get Rich Slowly, posted recently about
how he used a wellness coach to get healthier and fitter. He shares his experiences and
some excellent tips, and I recommend a read.

It got me to thinking: I’ve learned so much over the last year, from reading and from trial
and error, that I could be a decent coach myself with a little more training. I don’t think
it’s something I’ll really pursue, but I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned.

Today I’ll look at the first part of getting healthier and fitter — eating healthy. (Also see
See Part 2 of Getting Healthy and Fit – Exercise Edition)

Rules for Eating Healthy

Eating healthy is something a lot of us want to do, but we have such a hard time because
of temptations at home and work and on the road. I won’t lie and say that making
changes in your diet is easy, but I will advise against making drastic changes and in
favor of making gradual changes.

For example, I eat pretty healthy right now, but my current diet is a cumulation of small
changes I made over time. I first started eating leaner meats, and trying to incorporate
more fruits and veggies. Then I added in healthier breakfast cereals, oatmeal, whole grain
breads. I switched to lower fat milk and other low-fat options. I ate more nuts, and tried
things like flax seeds. Eventually I had a fairly healthy diet (except for the sweets), but
then I became vegetarian. I cut out meat completely, including chicken and fish.
Eventually I started to phase out dairy and eggs, and started using soymilk and other soy
products. I slowly tried out vegan recipes, to the point that I am now nearly 100% vegan,
and loving every minute of it. Lately I’ve been trying to cut out caffeine and sweets, but
gradually. If you try cutting one little thing out at a time, eventually you will get used to
the change and it will become normal for you. Then repeat the process.

Healthy Eating Rule #1: Pick one or two things to change about your diet, and start
simply with those. Every week or two, try something healthy and incorporate it into
your daily or weekly menu.
Another thing I’ve learned is that when I am trying to cut out something bad, it helps to
replace it with something healthy and tasty that I come to enjoy. Like caffeine — I am
cutting out coffee and replacing it with water. I did that before with colas (although I’ll
have an occasional cola now, but not nearly as often). Now I love drinking water instead
of the more sugary stuff. I replaced milk with the much healthier soy milk, and now I
love soy milk. Same thing with veggie burgers, healthy cereal, whole grain bread and
more. Find healthy options that you love — make a list and keep them close by.

Healthy Eating Rule #2: When cutting out something bad from your diet, replace it
with something healthier and tasty.

I’ve also learned to incorporate a variety of not only fruits and vegetables, but nuts,
calcium-rich foods (like soymilk, calcium-fortified OJ and tofu, almonds, and leafy
greens), foods with good fats (like olive oil, flaxseeds, almonds, etc), high protein but
lean foods (like tofu, soy protein, nuts, beans), and high-fiber foods. What I avoid, like
the plague, are things high in saturated fats or too sugary (like I said, I’m cutting this out
more and more now).

Healthy Eating Rule #3: The first things to cut out are fried, fatty foods (like
McDonald’s) and stuff that’s too sugary (donuts, colas, candy) and other junk food.
Don’t cut it out completely, but start to phase it out gradually and replace it with
healthier, tasty stuff (see first two rules).

Another important concept is to eat small portions. I used to pile my plate high, but that’s
a sure way to fatness. I slowly cut back on my portions by adding healthy snacks in
between meals. The key here is to plan it out so that you not only have your three
squares, but maybe a yogurt in between, and fruits, or instead of having a large lunch, do
what I do and have two smaller sandwiches.

Healthy Eating Rule #4: Eat smaller portions and more often during the day. If you
wait until you’re really hungry, you’ll pig out.

This leads me to another great concept: if you’re going to be on the road, you have to
plan ahead, or you’ll end up eating something convenient (read: fast food) which won’t
be as healthy and will definitely be more expensive. When you go grocery shopping, look
for healthy snacks that you like and then pack them when you go to work or on the road.
Blue corn chips, nuts, raisins, fruit, veggies, low-fat pretzels and the like are good things
to pack and easily portable.

Healthy Eating Rule #5: Pack healthy snacks to take with you, and plan for meals
when you go on the road.

Yet another important point: these things won’t make a noticeable difference right away,
at least not on your waistline. Losing weight — especially fat — shouldn’t happen
overnight, or you will easily gain it back. Be patient, and think long term. Don’t look for
quick fixes.
Healthy Eating Rule #6: Set long-term goals, and don’t expect quick results. Be
patient!

There are many more tips, but these are the basic rules for eating healthy, which is the
foundation for getting fit. Incorporate these rules one at a time, slowly, and you’ll see a
big change over time. You’ll love yourself for it!

you need less than you think

It’s amazing what our culture has done to us: we have been conditioned to believe that
luxuries are a necessity, that we need things that most of the world doesn’t even dream of
having.

Look around your home right now (or when you get home). What do you see that’s really
a necessity? What could you do without?

You already know that most of the world lives with much less than what you see around
you. They’d be happy with clean water, shelter, some food. Forget about Macs or big-
screen TVs or plush couches or iPhones or closets overflowing with shoes and clothes.

But we also forget that only a few generations ago, our grandparents and great-
grandparents also lived with much less, and were perfectly comfortable and happy. Most
people had very little other than the necessities and perhaps a radio. Not that long ago,
people lived without TVs, cars, microwaves, electric stoves, computers, video game
consoles, air-conditioning, washers, dish washers and more. Not that long ago, shopping
malls didn’t exist, and ordering from the Sears catalog was a luxury.

What we need is very little: a few changes of clothing at most, a pair of shoes, perhaps a
few toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap), some food, a roof over our heads.

Consider:

      The television: if you got rid of this, not only would you free up hours of your
       time, you’d spend less (on cable or DVDs). You’d have room for reading,
       exercise, spending time with others.
      All your clothes: could you wear just a few items? I do, and nobody seems to
       care.
      Food: instead of eating out or buying convenience food, could you pick a dozen
       whole foods and make a weekly menu based on it? Think: beans & rice &
       veggies, or whole oats with nuts & berries, or salads with nuts & beans, or fruit &
       nuts.
      Furniture: what is the absolute minimum you could get by with, and still live a
       happy life? What are your core activities (sleeping, reading, eating?), and what do
       you need for each?
      Gadgets: Once upon a time, you lived without them. What would life be like if
       you went back to that lifestyle? Would you have more distraction-free time?
       The computer: OK, sure, this seems to be a necessity these days. But is it?
        Sometimes I wonder if I could get by with 1-2 hours of computer time a day at
        my local library. I really think I could, but I haven’t taken that brave leap yet.
       The car: Many people live happily without it. It is a resource hog, uses tons of
        your money (and the work that goes to earn that money), contributes to global
        warming, is dangerous. Could you give it up someday?
       The washer/dryer: Could you hand-wash your clothes each day? It takes about 10-
        15 minutes.

There are other things in your home, I’m sure, that you could reconsider. Let’s keep our
minds open.

8 Things People Never Tell You About Having Kids




Photo courtesy of RIPizzo.

Post written by Sherri Kruger. Follow me on Twitter.

The joys of parenthood: the cuddles, the coos and the I love you’s. Watching your little
one grow and learn and meet significant milestones like walking, talking, running,
reading, singing and dancing.

Kids are fun and parenting is so rewarding there’s no doubt about it.

But I’m sure you’ve heard all of this before.

I know before I had kids this is what I thought everyday was going to be filled with. Of
course I thought there would be the occasional temper tantrum but surely that would
quickly pass and we would be back to coloring and playing with cars. Well … not quite.
Here are a few things I’ve run into that no one told me about before I had my kids. To
those of you who have kids – I hope I’m not alone and to those of you with no kids just
yet – you’re welcome. :)

1. The poop factor. People tell you about it and you know it’s coming but you have no
real appreciation for the sheer quantity or frequency with which these little machines can
manufacture the stuff. It’s amazing. There were times with our little ones when we just
put on a fresh diaper; we left the room only to have the smell ―follow‖ us out. Turns out
it’s not the smell that was following us … we were carrying the smell. When you find
yourself saying: ―No! It can’t be. I just changed him.‖ rest assured it can be.

2. There is no such thing as being cool. No matter how cool you think you are or how
cool you were in high school, when you become a parent that all goes out the window.
You will find you will do anything to make your crying baby stop when you’re in line at
the grocery store. You’ll sing ABC’s, twinkle-twinkle little star, or old MacDonald in
front of a crowd of strangers. You’ll snort like a pig, give raspberries, and speak in a
really strange voice. Sometimes it’s fun and you can really get into it, other times it’s just
downright embarrassing.

3. You will wonder if you’re a short order cook. In the first few years of parenthood so
much of your time is spent in the kitchen it’s ridiculous. There’s cleaning bottles, sippy-
cups, spoons, bowls, plates, and bibs. There’s preparing breakfast, midmorning snacks,
lunch, mid-afternoon snacks, dinner, and bedtime snacks. Top all of this off with cleaning
everything as you go throughout your day,and your kitchen can feel like home base for
the first few years.

4. Sleep is for wussies. For every poop story you encounter there will likely be one
warning you of the scarcity of sleep. I remember the first night our first son was here,
that was a wakeup call. He was finally quiet for a 2 hour period and my husband and I
both woke up, looked at each other and commented on how great it felt to get 2 hours of
solid sleep. It was that night that we really got what it meant to be sleep deprived.

5. Oh more unsolicited advice please! It seems as soon as you know you’re going to be
a parent everyone is a parenting expert. From what to eat to avoid morning sickness, to
the amount of exercise you should be doing. From what the only type of diapers to use
are to when babies should nap and how long they should be held. Oh yes the advice is
plentiful.

6. You will wonder why you ever wanted them to learn to speak. I’m just coming
upon this one now. I used to say oh it’ll be so nice when they learn to speak and they can
actually tell us what they want. Yeah that part of it is nice. Having the same word barked
at you 40 times in a row … now I finally understand a little plaque my mom had hanging
in her kitchen that said: ―Raising kids is like being pecked to death by chicks‖.

7. You will experience frustration like never before. I had an idea in my head of the
kind of parent I would be: laid back, kind, gentle, never raise my voice and perhaps even
change my middle name to patience. Riiiight. Try unpacking a dishwasher of clean dishes
only to have one child with peanut butter fingers grabbing at every dish as it is removed
while the other one is shoving random toys down the heat vent. ―Can’t I just finish one
thing?‖ I found myself asking. Nope and likely not for several years.

8. You would do it all over again if given the option. Despite all the stuff nobody tells
you about parenthood, when you come to discover all these things for yourself you would
do it all over again if you were given the option. With respect to all the points I
mentioned above here’s what I’ve learned.

Poop: The poop factor loses its initial effect and becomes but a minor inconvenience.
What once made you gag is now suddenly not that bad.

On being cool: It’s not that you’re not cool anymore it’s that the definition has changed.
In my opinion there is nothing cooler than a mom or dad who will do anything to see
their kids smile or to make them laugh.

Living in the kitchen: It’s fun to be the one to introduce new foods, flavors and textures
to your child’s diet. Take the opportunity to get creative have fun feeding your family
new, exciting dishes.

Sleep: My thoughts on the sleep deprivation thing: it’s hard in the beginning, you
eventually get used to sleeping in 2-3 hour bursts and if you’re lucky your little ones will
―all of a sudden‖ just start sleeping through the night and you’ll wonder what all the fuss
was ever about. Heed this warning – I urge you to cherish every bleary eyed mid-night
diaper change and feed as they are but a tiny portion of this parenting journey but just so
special. Just as the kids start sleeping through the night those dark, quiet cuddles come to
an end. Soak it all in.

Unsolicited advice: While yes it can become quite annoying, remember people’s
intentions are usually good. Most people really do want to help and believe it or not some
people actually do know what they’re talking about.

On our kids learning to speak: It’s really quite amazing how one day the coos and
flurries of random noises turn into actual words. It’s only when you’re bombarded by the
same word 40 times in 60 seconds that you ask yourself: ―Why did I ever wish for them
to speak?‖ Cherish this time as well as they master the language. Take time to document
some of what they say because kids do say the darnedest things and you will soon forget.

Frustration: You will get frustrated, lose your cool and perhaps even raise your voice.
You’ll feel horrible, out of control and like the worst parent on the planet. In other words,
you’ll be completely normal. Kids are kids there’s really no other way to describe it. All
of what frustrates us about them is also what we envy the most: spontaneity, curiosity,
fearlessness, and candor.
Having kids is my biggest and best accomplishment yet. It is all the wonderful things
everyone has to say about it and so much more. If I had my life to live over I would
choose to do everything exactly the same because it’s all brought me to where I am now.
Is it always a barrel of laughs? No, not in the least. But all the frustration, sleep
deprivation, unsolicited advice from strangers, hours spent in the kitchen, and being up to
my elbows in poop is more than made up for by every smile, high-five, giggle,
spontaneous dance move, and hug I ever get.

13 April 2010
the only thing you can change
You can’t change your entire life.

You can only change your next action.

—

You can’t change a relationship with a loved one.

You can only change your next interaction.

—

You can’t change your entire job.

You can only change your next task.

—

You can’t change your body composition.

You can only change your next meal.

—

You can’t change your fitness level.

You can only start moving.

—

You can’t declutter your entire life.

You can only get choose to get rid of one thing, right now.

—
You can’t eliminate your entire debt.

You can only make one payment, or buy one less unnecessary item.

You can’t change the past, or control the future.

You can only change what you’re doing right now.

You can’t change everything.

You can only change one, small thing.

And that’s all it takes.




1 December 2008
The Two Okinawan Diet Rules (or How I’m Getting Leaner During the
Holidays)

Like many people, I tend to overeat during the holidays, from Thanksgiving through New
Year’s. It’s kinda part of the tradition to consume huge amounts of food, you know?

And like many others, I also tend to gain weight during the holidays — some people can
gain 5 or more pounds (though for most it’s usually only a couple pounds).

Not this time around.

On Thanksgiving, while I enjoyed time with my family, and while everyone else pigged
out, I ate moderately and wisely. And I felt great about it. I also got a great workout in the
morning after — heavy deadlifts followed by two brutal 10-minute weight circuits and
finished with 15 minutes of hard intervals.

This will be the healthiest holiday season ever for me. I’m also starting a meal plan and
exercise routine that will have me drop some fat while gaining muscle by New Years, I
promise. I’ll publish more about this plan after I see the results (3 pounds dropped
already).

But the really cool thing I started on Thanksgiving comes from the Okinawan people
(who don’t live too far away from my home, the beautiful island of Guam).

The Okinawan Diet Rules
The Okinawans (the indiginous people of the Ryukyu islands in Japan) are famous for
having the longest life expectancy in the world. This single fact has had them studied
from every angle, from diet to lifestyle to genetics to environment. And while all of these
have played a factor, there’s no doubt that their traditional diet has played a big part —
when they eat a more modern, Western-style diet, they don’t live as long or as healthy.

So what’s their secret? Actually, there are two secrets (and they’re not really secrets), and
I used these rules to guide my eating on Thanksgiving (and beyond):

Rule 1. Eat to 80% full. The Okinawans call this rule ―Hara Hachi Bu‖, and if you
haven’t tried it, you should. I did this on Thanksgiving — while I usually stuff myself
with all the good food, I just ate until I was about 80% full. Of course, there’s no way to
know exactly how full you are, but it’s a guideline. And as our brains are 10-20 minutes
behind our stomachs, it usually turns out that when you think you’re 80% full, you’re
actually full … while when we eat to 100% full, we are usually overstuffing ourselves.

The result of this rule for Okinawans is that they end up eating fewer calories than most
people. They tend not to gain too much weight as a result, and coupled with their active
lifestyles (they farm and garden and generally stay active, even into their 100s), it keeps
them very healthy.

The result for the rest of us is that eating fewer calories will keep the extra pounds off. If
we pair this with the next rule and an active lifestyle, we can actually lose weight during
the holidays.

Rule 2: Eat healthy foods, mostly plants. Way before Michael Pollan wrote about his
simple rules for eating healthy, the Okinawans had this down. They eat way more veggies
than most people (mostly green and yellow ones), as well as whole grains, tofu, fish and
other legumes. They eat very little sugar, and very little meat, dairy or eggs. This
contradicts low-carb diets such as the Zone, Atkins, Paleo and others — I’m not saying
those don’t work for whatever your goals are, but I am saying that a mostly plant-based
diet has been proven to work well for the Okinawans.

I used these guidelines during Thanksgiving. I don’t eat meat or fish, so I stuck with
veggies and sweet potatoes and a mango-ginger tofu dish I made. Again, I ate to about
80% full, and loved it. OK, I also had some pumpkin pie (made it myself) but as I ate
mostly healthy and didn’t overeat, I felt great about it.

Can you follow these rules throughout the holidays, and the rest of your life as well? The
Okinawans did it (although the younger generation has changed to a more Western
lifestyle and has suffered for it) and I think I can too, most of the time. Treats are great in
moderation, but moderation is the key word.

Get Active Too
I’m adding more exercise to these Okinawan diet rules (not to be confused with the
commercial Okinawan diet, which I think is unnecessary if you follow these rules). The
extra activity will help burn any extra calories I take in (which won’t be a huge amount)
and I hope lean me out even more. My goal is to be in the best shape of my life by New
Year’s — why wait until then to start?

The key is to just get active. Exercise regularly if you can, play sports, toss a ball around
with your family. My nephews and I tossed a football around and worked up a sweat
durng Thanksgiving lunch, and the next day during a day-after-Thanksgiving dinner with
my dad I went swimming with the kids.

For those who are curious, I’ll list my current workout routine. I don’t expect anyone to
follow it, especially if you’re not very active already.

      Mon: Running — intervals combined with steady state for 40-60 mins
      Tue: Heavy weights plus metabolic-conditioning strength circuits plus 15-mins of
       high-intensity cardio intervals
      Wed: Running — hill sprint repeats combined with steady state for 40-60 mins
      Thu: Heavy weights plus metabolic-conditioning strength circuits plus 15-mins of
       high-intensity cardio intervals
      Fri: Running — longer distance running (over an hour, sometimes two) including
       some intervals
      Sat: Heavy weights plus metabolic-conditioning strength circuits plus 15-mins of
       high-intensity cardio intervals
      Sun: rest (although I often play soccer with the kids or do yardwork or sometimes
       go hiking)

I try to mix some yardwork and other activities in there when I’m not too tired. Oh, and
I’m doing a marathon in Honolulu on Dec. 14!

So what are your health and fitness goals this holiday season? Do you plan to just
eat whatever you like, or are you getting leaner too?

This is a guest post from Leo Babauta, the author of the great site Zen Habits. If you have
not already done so, please visit his insightful blog.
0 comments
Labels: food

9 November 2008
The 25 Best Actions for Saving Money from the readers of The Simple
Dollar

A few days ago, I mentioned my single best action for saving money in my own life -
utilizing the library. I also encouraged readers to submit their own best actions - and did
they ever! The post has already received almost 250 comments and several dozen more
readers emailed me their single best action.

As promised, I’ve compiled a list of all of these actions. Here are the top twenty five -
basically, these are the ones that were repeated more than twice. These aren’t in any
particular order. If you want some direct personal finance actions that have actually
worked for people, here’s your list.

1. Utilize the library. Many readers agreed with my statement about how valuable the
library is for those who read avidly. Not only can it save you on the cost of buying books,
it can also provide DVDs for viewing, CDs for listening, and many other interesting
cultural experiences if you pay attention to the schedule of events.

2. Use online bill pay. Not only does online bill pay save you the expense of envelopes
and stamps (roughly fifty cents per bill paid online), it also provides you the convenience
of auto-calculating your bills and comparing them immediately to your checking and
savings account balances. No more checkbook math necessary.

3. Get your paycheck direct deposited. Instead of receiving a paper paycheck, have your
paycheck directly deposited into your checking account. This spares you the need to have
to go to the bank to cash your check, plus relieves you of the temptation to have some
cash taken out of the check when you deposit it.

4. Make your own lunch and take it to work with you. Instead of eating out every day,
brown bag it! Prepare a lunch the night before and take that lunch with you to work the
next day. It can be leftovers, it can be a fresh meal (like a sandwich), but either way, it
can cut into your costs tremendously.

5. Stay home. Instead of going out on the town for entertainment, stay at home and enjoy
the activities available in your domicile. Most of the activities you can do at home -
reading, watching television, exercising, playing games with friends, meditating, listening
to music, cooking, etc. - are far cheaper than similar activities you might do out of the
home.

6. Set up an automatic savings plan. If you’re getting your paycheck automatically
deposited, consider setting up an automatic savings plan to have some of that money
routed into retirement or into a savings account for an emergency fund. It’s far, far easier
to start saving if the actual transfer of money happens automatically without your
intervention.

7. Build an emergency fund. Alongside that advice comes the idea of building an
emergency fund, a cash reserve that can help you in the event of a crisis such as a job loss
or an automobile breakdown. It’s easy to build one - just sweep a small amount of money
on a regular basis into a savings account, watch it build, and utilize that cash when the
time comes.
8. Stop smoking or drinking. Expensive consumables can be a huge drain on your
financial situation. Eliminating a consumable habit, such as tobacco or alcohol, can
quickly improve your financial situation while also improving your health (which can
also improve your financial situation by reducing health care costs).

9. Use the “envelope” system. Many people swear by this method, in which one actually
budgets their money for a month using ―envelopes.‖ Whenever you need money for, say,
groceries, you take money out of the groceries envelope - when that envelope is empty,
you’re out for the month. This forces you to be careful with your spending in all respects.

10. Stop looking at ads. Advertisements of all kinds - from television commercials to
flyers from the Sunday paper - simply serve to coerce you into spending money on things
you don’t actually need. Minimizing your exposure to advertisement minimizes the
temptation to spend that money, keeping it at home in your wallet where it belongs.

11. Ditch cable television. Cable television is often a pricy monthly bill and all it does is
provide you with more channels that repeat variations on the same content. Get a digital
converter box instead and watch the channels that come in over the air - ABC, CBS,
NBC, PBS, Fox, and often others. And they’re free - no monthly bill!

12. Drink more tap water. Tap water makes you healthier (most people are somewhat
dehydrated, even if they don’t realize it), fills you up (keeping you from overeating
expensive food at meals), and is incredibly cheap compared to any other beverage out
there. Take advantage of the tap - it can save you a ton of money on beverages and on
food.

13. Eat out less (esp. fast food) and cook at home instead. Every time you purchase
prepared food outside the home, you’re spending more than you would making a similar
meal at home. So why not adopt that as a platform instead? Learn how to cook at home,
make your own meals, and save a lot of money.

14. Stop shopping for fun. Shopping is a very expensive form of entertainment. Instead
of shopping with your free time, find other fun things to do - almost anything is cheaper -
and leave the shopping trips for the times when you actually need an item.

15. Use the “ten second rule” (or some close variation of it). Whenever you are tempted
to spend your money on something frivolous, stop for a few seconds and ask yourself
whether you really need this item. Ten seconds is usually enough - many people also
recommend putting the item down and leaving the store, only returning if you’ve decided
you actually want it after some serious consideration.

16. Accept help from others. It’s easy to let pride get in the way of accepting help from
others. Don’t let that happen. Be willing to accept help if others offer it, and be thankful
for it. Later on, when your situation improves, you can pay it forward and help someone
who needs it.
17. Plan ahead for meals. At the start of a week, make a careful plan of what meals
you’re going to eat during the week, then make a grocery shopping list based solely on
those meals. When you go grocery shopping, stick to that list. This is a great way to keep
your food shopping bill low while keeping the food you want and need on the table.

18. Go on a diet. Many people recommended healthy dieting as a tactic for saving
money. If you make a conscious choice to eat less, not only will you save money on your
food bill, you’ll also reduce your health care bill and perhaps your clothing bill as well
(since it’ll be easier to find consignment clothes).

19. Eliminate expensive hobbies. Are you engaged in a hobby that requires a lot of
financial upkeep, like golf or collecting? Instead of continuing that expensive hobby and
watching it drain all your money, choose a different path entirely - find a new hobby to
focus your energy on that doesn’t require so much upkeep cost.

20. Stop reading women’s magazines. This is perhaps the biggest surprise on this list for
me, but several readers swear by it. They argue that women’s magazines are extremely
effective at convincing you to shop for things you don’t necessarily need, convincing you
that you need some item in order to keep up with the crowd. Spare yourself the guilt -
skip those magazines.

21. Make a budget/spending plan. If you can’t seem to get a grip on your spending, try
assembling a budget/spending plan so that you can clearly see where your money is
going. Spend a month or two keeping careful track of what you actually do spend on
certain items, then set a spending goal for that type of item. This can simultaneously
serve as a wake-up call and as ―training wheels‖ for good financial habits.

22. Set strong goals. Don’t fleetingly think about how you wish things were. Instead,
sketch out exactly how you want your life to be in, say, five years, then focus all of your
actions toward that goal. Not only can this cut out frivolous spending, it can also help you
to make strong choices to improve every aspect of your life.

23. Stop worrying about what other people think. Don’t let the opinion of others rule the
choices you make in your personal life. It’s not their life to live - it’s your life. Instead,
make choices that you think are strong - and don’t worry about the neighbors or the
naysayers.

24. Sell your car. A car is perhaps the worst investment you can make. It depreciates
rapidly, breaks down regularly, and requires constant upkeep. Instead of dealing with
this, sell the car and make do with the other transportation options available to you - a
bicycle, buses, trains, and so forth.

25. Be accountable to what you spend. Finally, try having a weekly or monthly review of
all of your spending. Make yourself face the mistakes you’ve made - don’t let a bad
spending move lie in the dust and be forgotten. Use it as a tool to make sure it never
happens again.
    Hopefully, these tactics spur you on to great things.



    This has been a guest post from Trent Hamm who writes about personal finance at The
    Simple Dollar. Please visit his blog for even more articles like this one.
    0 comments
    Labels: food, frugal, power

    28 October 2008
    Beat the Sugar Habit: 3 Steps to Cut Sweets (Mostly) Out of Your Life

    Editor’s note: This is a guest post in Zen Habits written by Mike O’Donnell of the
    IF Life. It is frugal in the sense that you need to stop buying those expensive sweets
    that are no good for you.


    Sugar, sugar, sugar. It’s everywhere. It’s in our drinks, it’s in our foods, and it’s hidden in
    places we never would think of. Many would call sugar their friend in time of need, but
    in fact their so-called ―good friend‖ could turn out to be their worst enemy in disguise.

    Sugar for many is something they may have been battling with for a long time, but the
    past is the past. Time for sugar to be seen for what it really is, and for us to take back full
    control of our lives. Here’s a simple three-step process to help you start to win back the
    battle for your health.
    First Step – Awareness of what Sugar Really Does to Your Body
    I think most people I talk to will say they ―know‖ that they shouldn’t have sugar, but they
    really can’t help it. To me that is a lack of true awareness of what sugar does to oneself. I
    don’t think many people will say that they want to hurt their body on purpose, but unless
    they know it’s really happening they will continue down that road. Sugar is slower to
    impact our health (as we don’t die from an overdose right away), and it’s that slow
    destructive process that is the most dangerous. Unfortunately most people don’t know the
    damage until it has already been done (diabetes for example).
    Let’s look at what is really going on with sugar from inside our body’s point of view.
            Sugar increases fat storing. Possibly the most important hormone in the body
    when it comes to weight loss and health is insulin. Insulin is the main hormone that we
    have full control over daily through our diet and lifestyle. When we eat sugar and it
    enters into our bloodstream too quickly, we have a spike in blood sugar levels
    (hyperglycemia). Now in times of high activity we are able to burn it off, but if we are
    sitting around this is not a good thing. So in response to that high level of blood sugar
    (known as glucose), the body will release more insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin will
    then take the excess glucose and try to find a place to store it. If your muscles are all full
    (or have insulin resistance) then the best place to put the excess glucose is fat cells. When
    insulin is high, the fat cells are told to start storing (shutting down any process of
    releasing stored fat into the blood for burning). With chronic high insulin spikes comes a
    resistance to it (insulin resistance) by your cells, leading to more insulin production,
    leading to more fat storing, and more resistance, eventually going down a road of
    diabetes and ill health for the whole body. It’s interesting to note that in cultures known
    for their longevity, many had different diets and lifestyles but the one thing they all had
    in common was low fasting insulin levels.
           Sugar disrupts normal brain function. I think most people can relate to mood
    swings and energy highs/lows that come after a high sugar meal. Sugar can also be the
    source of many people’s increased anxiety and depression. Let us not also forget the kids
    with ever-increasing attention ―disorders‖ and behavioral issues. Sugar is not helping
    with that, either. In fact, there have been many studies that show when taking sugar out of
    a kid’s diet and increasing fat intake, their attention/learning ability increases, their
    behavior changes for the better, and in some extreme cases have been able to manage (if
    not eliminate) seizures. The brain is made mostly of fat and although runs on glucose it
    gets ―shorted out‖ with too much sugar.
           Sugar decreases your overall health and makes you age quicker. Too much
    sugar will lower your overall immune system, increase destructive inflammation, lead to
    essential mineral deficiencies in the body, feed bad bacteria growth in your gut (all health
    starts in the gut) and other wonderful stuff. Aging is just a fancy word for the body
    breaking down quicker than it can repair itself, as that is what happens when we get
    older. Aging also is accelerated by the increasing risks of all degenerative diseases such
    as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancers. We are all going to get older, but it
    doesn’t mean that we have to ―age‖ quicker.
    Not a good overall list on what sugar does to our body right? Well on the reverse side by
    taking sugar out of our diets as much as we can (and controlling insulin), we can
    effectively help to do the following:
           Increase fat burning ability of the body.
           Increase the immune system and state of health.
           Slow down the destructive aging process.
           Decrease risks for most degenerative diseases.
           Have steady energy all day long (no crashes or swings).
           Have increased mental clarity, focus and concentration.
           Increase positive behaviors in children (as well as adults).
    So first step is that we need to be aware of what sugar is really doing in our bodies. Once
    we see what is happening, I think we can start to change our view on whether it is our
    good friend or possibly public enemy #1 in our daily lives.
    Second Step – Realize You are in 100% Control of Your Actions
    This could the most underrated yet the most important step, as we are the only person
    who controls what we put into our body. Everything starts in what we choose to put in
    our mouths. Some people may say they can’t control their sugar cravings, but that is
    already admitting defeat and giving up power to some ―cosmic sugar influence‖ out there.
    We can pass on dessert, we don’t need to buy a candy bar, we can drink water instead of
    soda, but the choice is ours to make.
    Also many like to call it an ―addiction‖. This is just another way to give up your own
    personal power of choice. While sugar can have ―addictive like‖ qualities, it’s not
    something that you own or is a part of you. Fight the battle and you will get over the
    addictive feelings, they will go away. But if you call it an addiction and make it part of
    you, then it is yours to keep forever. Be free from it, let go. Take back control and
    anything is possible.
    Third Step – Just Live the Daily Journey one Choice at a Time
    Life is just a series of present moments, and the choices we make in those moments. So
    let’s just focus on what we can do right now instead of worrying about what has
    happened in the past or may or may not happen in the future. ―Now‖ is all we have and
    all we need to focus on.
           Choose to eat more natural foods. Choose whole food proteins, healthy fats and
    natural sources of carbohydrates (processed carbs are just lumps of sugar to the body
    once digested quickly). If it wasn’t around a thousand years ago or is made by man (and
    not nature), chances are you don’t need it. Note how it says ―Choose‖ above, as it is your
    choice.
           Find the hidden sources of sugars and remove them. Sugar is hidden in places
    such as sauces, ketchup, soups, processed foods, drinks, so called health bars, and more.
    Become a label reader and see how much sugar you are consistently putting into your
    body. Don’t fall for the marketing trick either of ―low fat‖, because that usually means
    ―more sugar‖.
           If it’s not near you, you can’t eat it. So get all sources of sweets, deserts and
    sugar out of your house. If you are even tempted and it’s nowhere to be found, then you
    can’t have it. Simple enough right? If you want to go out for a treat then make it
    something that you have to work for and go some place, don’t keep it within arms reach
    or easy access.
           Make each meal balanced to control your blood sugar and insulin response.
    If you don’t let your blood sugar crash then you are less likely to crave an intake of sugar.
    Balance with whole food proteins, healthy fats and non-processed carbs. Have a slow and
    steady stream of glucose into your body, and not a rush that is created with sugar.
           Eat sugar from its natural packaging - like fruit (as it is packed with fiber,
    water, vitamins and minerals) and other complex sources like vegetables.
           Base your larger intake of carbohydrates around workouts and other
    activity. If you are able to use it for fuel right away or to replenish empty muscle and
    liver glycogen when they need it, then you will not be increasing storage into your fat
    cells.
           Choose to burn fat, not store it. Realize that you can burn fat all day long if you
    give your body the right hormonal signals, which means keeping insulin low and
    glucagon high (which goes up when insulin lowers, but also shuts down when insulin
    rises). There is no way that you can keep burning fat if sugar is always present and
    elevating insulin all day long.
           Get out and exercise. Feeling stressed? Then go for a walk and don’t reach for
    Ben and Jerry. Want to help increase insulin sensitivity in the body (which is a good
    thing), do some resistance exercise. The body was naturally meant for movement, so go
    break a sweat everyday doing something you enjoy.
           More fish please. The brain loves the essential Omega 3 fatty acid DHA. Also
    Omega 3s are key to helping to increase insulin sensitivity, decreasing inflammation and
    increase burning fat. All this leads to fewer cravings for sugar and the body’s ability to
    handle it as well. Best source is wild salmon (not farmed) or you can supplement with
    Cod Liver/Fish Oil daily as well.
           Learn it’s OK to say ―No‖. Don’t feel pressured to eat something just because
    someone else is or passes it to you (like a birthday party every week or sweets at the
    office). You have the final say in what you put into your mouth, so learn to say ―No
    Thank You‖ with a smile.
           Get rid of your mental attachment to sugar and food - once a week with a
    short fast (like only eating dinner for a day once a week). Many people are just too
    attached to needing to eat food all the time. Maybe that is why many people eat when
    they are watching TV or feeling bored. Time to realize that you will not starve yourself or
    whither away if you take a short break. Use that time to clear your mind, get perspective,
    and go for a walk in nature. You may be surprised at the revelations you may have during
    those quiet times of not eating. Also break that need for eating consistently, you can do
    fine once in a while without it, but more importantly break your mental attachment to
    constant food intake. An added bonus to fasting is you will help your body to ―reset‖
    some of its natural cravings and instincts. So you may start out craving sugar in the
    beginning of the fast, but later on your cravings may shift to something else like
    vegetables or healthy fats. Help your body to find it’s natural and primal instincts once
    again.
           Control and manage your stress. Stress and your reactions to the environment
    around are important, as high stress will lead to increased cortisol. Cortisol in turn will
    lead to increased demands for blood sugar and increased sugar cravings. Take notice in
    the past when you may have eaten the most sugar and you may see a pattern around
    stressful and emotional reactions. Control your stress and you can control your cravings.
           Go to bed early and get your sleep. Again notice when you may crave sugar the
    most, and chances are that it is late at night. If you are going to bed very late, then you
    are probably also messing up your natural cortisol cycle. You may see that if you go to
    bed by 10:30 you won’t eat junk food at night….but if you stay up to 11:30 or later you
    eat more and more sugar. Your body is confused and getting all the wrong signals as you
    stay up later, so to get your natural hormonal cycle down get to bed early and you will
    feel better for it.
           Don’t ever get down on yourself. Do your best every day and don’t beat yourself
    up if you do have some birthday cake or ice cream. It happens and no reason you
    shouldn’t enjoy things time to time. Just don’t make it a staple of your life and once it
    happens, just move on to the next meal. Don’t focus on a mistake that might have been
    made in the past, as that is how people end up feeling depressed and just eating more. It’s
    OK as you are not expected to be perfect but you are expected to be in control. Do your
    best and keep smiling knowing the future is made up of whatever choices you make next!
           Enjoy Life. It’s really quite simple that is we move and eat the way our bodies
    were designed for, health and happiness usually follows. So go enjoy life, have control
    over you choices, don’t worry if you have some cake once in a while, and be able to
    smile knowing that you are healthy and in control.
    This is a guest post from Mike O’Donnell, a professional health and fitness coach.
    His blog can be seen at www.theiflife.com
1 March 2008
20 Money Hacks: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Finances

This is a guest post from Zen Habits

―Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.‖ - Woody Allen

We had the Parent Hacks earlier this week, and I was thinking it would be fun to do the
same with finances — ways to trick yourself, to get around obstacles, to boost your
accounts, without it hurting.

Improving your finances improves your happiness, in general, so I thought it would be
important to share stuff that’s worked for me.

I’m in the best financial shape in my life, despite quitting my job and my wife recently
quitting hers too. A lot of that is thanks to you guys, the readers, but it’s also thanks to
frugality, to eliminating debt, to saving as much as I can. To these hacks.

Here’s what works for me — please avoid flaming me, as I’m not saying they’ll work for
everybody. Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

   1. Use cash. Instead of charging things to credit cards or debit cards, use cash for
      non-bill spending such as eating out, gas, groceries. Spending cash makes the
      spending more real, and there’s an added advantage of knowing when you’re out
      of cash, instead of spending more than you
   2. Small weekly savings transfers. I got this idea from my friend Trent at The
      Simple Dollar, who automatically deducts $20 a week from his check to savings. I
      decided that I could live with $40/week without really feeling it — it’s a relatively
      small transfer that I barely notice, and I save about $2,000 a year on top of my
      larger bi-weekly savings transfers.
   3. Stay home. Going out makes you more likely to spend unnecessarily. You eat at
      restaurants, go to the mall, stop at the gas station for snacks. It’s hard to avoid
      spending when you’re on the road. Instead, stay home, and find free
      entertainment. It’s also a great way to bond with your family.
   4. Don’t get catalogs. Or emailed announcements from companies trying to sell you
      stuff. Their announcements of sales or cool new products make it very tempting to
      buy something you don’t need. Instead, stop the catalogs and emails from ever
      getting to you in the first place, and you’ll spend less.
   5. Keep a 30-day list. If you have an impulse to buy something you don’t absolutely
      need, put it on a 30-day list. You can’t buy anything but necessities — everything
      else goes on the list, with the date that it’s added to the list. When the 30 days are
      up, you can buy it — but most likely, the strong urge to buy it will be gone, and
      you can evaluate it more calmly.
   6. Cook at home. I know, it seems more difficult than eating out. But it doesn’t
      have to be hard. Throw together a quick stir-fry with frozen veggies and either
    boneless chicken or (my favorite) tofu with soy sauce or tamari. Make home-
    made pizza with a ready-made crust, some sauce, cheese and veggies. Put some
    spices on something and throw it in the oven while you cook some brown rice.
    Not only is this much cheaper than eating out, but it’s healthier.
7. Exercise. Staying healthy is the best way to avoid costly medical bills later.
8. Use the envelope system. It’s the same idea as using cash for spending, but in
    addition you use envelopes to split your spending cash into categories. My non-
    bills categories are groceries, gas and miscellaneous spending. Three envelopes,
    and when they’re empty, I’ve spent my allotment.
9. Talk with your SO weekly. It’s important that you and your significant other be
    on the same page. You should have the same financial goals, and from there you
    should agree on a general spending plan and a policy for impulse buying that
    won’t have either of you wanting to choke the other. Make sure you both know
    what bills have been paid, what your balances are, etc. A weekly meeting of just
    20 minutes accomplishes that. Communication is key.
10. The spreadsheet tracker hack. There are expensive programs like MS Money,
    Quicken, and the like that will do amazing things with your financial information.
    There are even free ones, on your desktop or online, that can do all kinds of
    things. Trouble is, I don’t need all that. All I want is a way to track my money
    easily, with no other bells and whistles, and a way to access that online so that I
    can view it from anywhere. The best way I found to do that is through Google
    Docs and Spreadsheets. I created a simple spreadsheet to track my bank accounts,
    that does everything I used to do with MS Money. It has the date of each
    transaction, the title and amount, a little field for memos, and a running balance.
    What more do I need? Keep it simple. Update: View a sample I put online here.
11. Pay savings and debt first. When you sit down to pay your bills (I do them all
    online), make the first bills you pay be your savings transfer and your debt
    payments. If not, if you pay them last … you’ll often end up shortchanging them.
    But if you pay them first, you’ll make sure you still pay your rent or mortgage,
    utilities, groceries and gas … so you’ll just cut back on other spending.
12. Exercise at home. Some of you will disagree with me on this, which is OK —
    everyone should do what works for them. But I’ve saved a lot of money that I
    used to spend on gyms by just running at the local track or on the roads in my
    neighborhood, and buying some simple weights and a chin-up bar. I do a lot of
    body-weight exercises (pushups, Hindu squats, lunges, pullups, dips, etc.) and I
    don’t need a gym for those things.
13. Cut out cable TV. I’m not saying I don’t watch TV — I watch DVDs, so that I’m
    sure that what I’m watching is something great, rather than the useless stuff you
    find on TV most of the time. And there’s a lot of it online for free if you look. Not
    a huge savings, but it adds up.
14. Declutter. By getting rid of all the excess stuff in your home, you not only make
    your life much simpler and more peaceful, but you make it harder to buy stuff that
    will just clutter things up again. Once you’ve simplified your home, you won’t
    want to go back.
15. Lend and borrow. Give books and clothes and toys you don’t need anymore to
    your friends and family. If you need something, send out an email asking if
       anyone has it. Chances are, they’ll give it to you for free if they don’t use it
       anymore.
   16. Barter. It’s a lost art, but lots of people will take your services or goods instead of
       money, especially if you’re friends or at least know each other. Get into the habit
       of offering to barter, and you’ll find yourself saving a lot of money. My website
       design was done through the barter system, so I saved well over $1,000 there, for
       example.
   17. Use online savings. I use Emigrant Direct, but IMG Online is also popular, as are
       a bunch of other online banks. Not only do you earn like twice the interest of a
       normal bank savings account, but if you don’t get the ATM account it’s not as
       easy to withdraw money … making it less likely that you’ll get money out on an
       impulse. Read more at Get Rich Slowly.
   18. Try frugal gift-giving. Giving people gifts is one of the most wonderful
       traditions, as it shows generosity and caring. Until it becomes commercialized.
       Then it’s just really really expensive. Instead, try giving the gift of spending time
       with someone. Try giving them something you baked or made yourself. Try
       giving them services they’d appreciate. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be
       generous.
   19. Teach your kids about advertising, saving, earning, and gift-giving. If you
       have kids, educating them about money will save you a lot of money in the long
       run. If they know about how advertising influences them in tricky ways, they’ll be
       less likely to demand (OK, beg and plead for) the latest fad toys. If they know
       about saving and earning money, they’ll respect the money that you earn, and that
       you are trying to save. If they know that gift-giving doesn’t have to be about
       spending a lot of money (see above), they won’t necessarily want expensive stuff.
   20. Find happiness in life, not spending. Many times people buy stuff because they
       think (subconsciously perhaps) that it will bring them happiness. They just HAVE
       to have the latest gadget or shoes or cars. It’s so fun! And yet, you buy that stuff,
       and you’re only happy for a day or two at most. Then you just need to buy more.
       It’s a never-ending cycle. Instead, learn to love life. Find joy in nature! In the
       people around you! In doing something you love! In exercise and meditation!
       There’s so much in life to make us happy, there’s no need to find it in spending.

―I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.‖ - Pablo Picasso
30 September 2007
Freegans are frugal people

I just found this video about freegans - and must admit that my upbringing was a bit in
the way. But when the initial disgust settled, it is a good idea, and very frugal too. In
Denmark it is not allowed to go through other peoples / stores garbage. No garbage is left
outside, but put in containers often placed totally inaccessible. There was this local group
that broke in to dumpsters of shops and prepaire meals for the homeless based upon what
they find. They got arrested for stealing seemingly worthless garbage all the time. What I
can not understand is the unwillingness to donate perfectly good food that you otherwise
wouldthrowout.

Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited
participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.
Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and
sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition,
conformity,                               and                               greed.

Watch Anderson Cooper's 360 CNN peice on dumpster diving also called Freeganism.

Find freegans near you.




4 September 2007
Preserving food

A great way to be frugal is thinking about what you eat. If you have access to any
seasonal harvest remember to preserve some of it. I was brought up on a home that made
it's own strawberries, apples, peas, onions, cherries, blackberries, raspberries and many
other. Now, preserving food also includes freezing the harvest. Quite often people see
heating as the only means of preserving their food. Here is one cold recipe, that helps
preserve all the good stuff:

Apple-Beet Puree

5 medium beets, scrubbed, with tops removed
2 tbs plus ½ tsp salt
2 onions, minced
1 stick (8 tbs) butter
4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tbs sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar

     1. In a saucepan, add the beets and 2 tbs salt, and cover with water. Cover with lid
        and simmer 30-40 minutes, or until they are fork-tender.
     2. Drain and cool the beets, then remove their skins and roots. Set aside.
     3. Saute the onions in butter over low heat in a covered saucepan about 20 minutes,
        or until they are soft.
     4. Add apples to the pan and toss them in the butter mixture. Add the sugar, ½ tsp
        salt, and vinegar.
     5. Uncover and continue to cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, until the onions
        and apples are very tender.
     6. Let cool slightly and transfer the apple mixture and beets to the bowl of a food
        processor. Process until smooth.Cool, chill, and freeze the puree in a 1-quart
        freezer container.

To      serve,    thaw      overnight     in     the     refrigerator.    Serve      chilled.


It was once a common way to extend food beyond the immediate season. Two friends
become involved in the ancient practice of preserving food, and in the process form a
closer bond with nature and each other.


Freegans are frugal people

I just found this video about freegans - and must admit that my upbringing was a bit in
the way. But when the initial disgust settled, it is a good idea, and very frugal too. In
Denmark it is not allowed to go through other peoples / stores garbage. No garbage is left
outside, but put in containers often placed totally inaccessible. There was this local group
that broke in to dumpsters of shops and prepaire meals for the homeless based upon what
they find. They got arrested for stealing seemingly worthless garbage all the time. What I
can not understand is the unwillingness to donate perfectly good food that you otherwise
would                                        throw                                       out.

Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited
participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.
Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and
sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition,
conformity,                               and                               greed.

Watch Anderson Cooper's 360 CNN peice on dumpster diving also called Freeganism.
What are YOUR 43 Things?


I’ve been a fan of goals website 43 Things for awhile, although I don’t use it on a daily
basis. What I love about it is that it forces you to think about what you want to achieve,
what you’d like to do this year, or over the next two or five or 10 years.

If you haven’t done it yet, I suggest you go to the site and try it out (and no, I’m not
getting paid by them!) … set your 43 things that you’d like to do (or whatever number
you’d like). The cool thing is you can look at other people’s goals, and get ideas and
inspiration from people all over the world. There are also other kinds of lists … books
you’d like to read, places you want to visit, your lists of favorites or things you’d like to
do before you die. Many possibilities, all of them good.

Of course, you can do this on paper or on any program. As long as you set some goals.
Then make a plan to achieve them. Last year I set my top 8 goals for the year, and I
accomplished all but one (to be able to do 25 pullups, which I hope to do this year).

Another cool feature, a new one, is the personal challenge — you publicly challenge
yourself to do one of your things by a certain date, and if you don’t, you set something
that you have to do instead (like eat your hat, or whatever).

Here are the 18 things left on my list:

    1. complete a triathlon
    2. live passionately
    3. get out of debt
    4. make my wife happy for the rest of her life
    5. be present
    6. live simply
    7. pare my life to its essentials
    8. save more money
    9. complete an ironman triathlon
    10. see the northern lights
    11. practice zen
    12. backpack through Europe
    13. finish reading Ulysses
    14. build a simple house
    15. help end world hunger
    16. do twenty-five pullups
    17. watch a sunset in thailand
    18. run a marathon in under 3.5 hours

I had more on here, but I’ve already checked them off.

For a more fun list, see the list of things I want to do before I die.
What are YOUR 43 things?

0 comments
Labels: goal, GTD, guide

9 July 2010
My Fav Procrastination Hack – 30-10

We all procrastinate — let’s admit it. And if you’re like me, you’re always trying to find
ways to stop the procrastinating. Here’s the trick that works best for me:

   1. Find something that you cannot make it through the day without. For me
      that’s email, reading my blogs on Google Reader, or posting to this blog.
   2. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and work for 30 minutes straight. Don’t stop until
      the timer goes off! I use Cool Timer.
   3. When you’re done, you get to do the activity in No. 1 above. It’s your reward.
      Do it for 10 minutes only, and then go back to your timer.

Obviously, this only works if you stick to it, and that’s the trick. But I’ve found that it’s
really boosted my productivity.

Here’s the key: resist all temptation to check email or your blogs (or whatever your
reward activity is) until the 30 minutes comes up. You will probably be tempted, but
don’t give in. You will get more done using this simple trick than you can from any
motivational seminar.

Posting this to my blog has been my 10-minute reward. Now I have to get back to work.

0 comments
Labels: GTD, guide, hack, motivation

6 July 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #12

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.
Motivation Hack #12: Break it into smaller, mini goals.

Sometimes large or longer-term goals can be overwhelming. After a couple weeks, we
may lose motivation, because we still have several months or a year or more left to
accomplish the goal. It’s hard to maintain motivation for a single goal for such a long
time.

Solution: have smaller goals along the way. For example, in running, I may have a
training plan that lasts three months. But along the way, I may have races every two or
three weeks, and training for each race will keep me motivated. Also, on an even smaller
scale, I might have a goal just for this week, and another just for today, in terms of my
training. And finally, even within a single run, I might set smaller goals for each mile
(―Just run another mile at this strong pace, don’t think about the five miles after that!‖).

This can be done with any goal. Something that’s accomplishable and just ahead of you,
instead of way down the road, is something you’re more likely to go after. Trying to get
debt free? Focus on one small debt, and celebrate when it’s done. If your debts aren’t too
small, focus on getting one debt down by $500 (for example), and then focus on the next
$500, and so on.

Once you’re done with each mini goal, you celebrate. Then you set your sights on the
next mini goal. Achieve enough of these, and you’ve made incredible progress on the
larger goal. Once in awhile, step back and look at the larger picture. You’ll be pleased at
how far you’ve come already.

0 comments
Labels: goal, GTD, guide, motivation

5 July 2010
5 Ways GTD Helps You Achieve Your Goals




Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.
I’ve mentioned that I’m a GTD addict on this site before (My GTD Implementation,
Beginner’s GTD Guide, Mind Like Water), but I’d like to talk about why it’s a good tool
for achieving your goals.

Now, if you’re trying to achieve goals, you don’t need to implement GTD … many have
done just fine without it, of course. But every advantage that you can get will help, and
GTD is just one tool that can help give you an advantage.

Here’s how:

   1. GTD breaks your goals down to the next-action level. Many people have big
      goals, but they don’t take it to the action level. GTD mandates that you select a
      next action for each project (and I consider each goal a project; although sub-
      goals could also be projects). This makes it much more likely that you’ll actually
      do something to further your goals.
   2. GTD helps you track your goals effectively. While you are not required to list
      your goals to start out GTD, it is encouraged once you get past the ―runway‖ level
      and start looking at more elevated levels of life. But, in my case, I’d already
      started setting my goals, so they fit nicely in the GTD system as projects. And, if
      you’re doing GTD right, with a weekly review, then you review your projects —
      and thus your goals — on a weekly basis, and ensure that there’s a next action for
      each goal in one of your context action lists.
   3. GTD helps you put your goal next actions in the proper context. There are
      some goal actions that you can only take in a certain place — say, at home, or at
      work, or on the road. If your goal actions are all on one list, or all together with all
      the other stuff you have to do on a Master List, then you’ll have to constantly
      evaluate whether you can actually do each action, all the time. GTD sorts this out
      — only the actions you can do at work are on your @work context list, etc. It
      simplifies things and makes it more likely that you’ll actually get the stuff done.
   4. GTD clears up time for you to do your goal actions. OK, this is not a
      guarantee. Doing GTD doesn’t ensure that you’ll actually get stuff done … but it
      does make it more likely, once you begin to master the system (and not
      continually tweak it). And it can help you clear away the smaller things so that
      when you want to work on your goal actions, you have the time.
   5. GTD lets you focus on your goals. One of the problems in our daily lives is that
      we’re distracted by all the things we have to do — not just the stuff we’re actually
      doing, but even the stuff we’re not doing. GTD helps you clear away the
      distractions, putting them in a trusted system, so that you can clear your head to
      focus on what it is you really want or need to do (admittedly, even with GTD, this
      is not easily accomplished). If that happens to be your goal actions, then you can
      really focus on them. And focus is what really makes goals happen (and anything
      else for that matter).

Let me just conclude by saying that GTD is no magic wand that will make your goals
come true. No such thing exists, of course. GTD is just a tool, but it is a very useful tool,
and I highly recommend it for anyone trying to make dreams a reality.
0 comments
Labels: GTD, guide

28 June 2010
Family day and family meetings – a rewarding routine

Last year, my family (my wife and I and our six kids) began a tradition that is one of the
best things we’ve ever done: every Saturday we have a family meeting, and every Sunday
is Family Day. We’ve become so much closer as a family as a result, and I highly
recommend it for [...]

Last year, my family (my wife and I and our six kids) began a tradition that is one of the
best things we’ve ever done: every Saturday we have a family meeting, and every Sunday
is Family Day. We’ve become so much closer as a family as a result, and I highly
recommend it for families of any size.

Before Family Days, our weekends were filled with soccer games, errands, and many
family parties. Our kids would spend the night with friends or relatives, and it was hard to
find good chunks of time to spend together, as a family.

Then we had a breakthrough: we created Family Day, every Sunday, and had a rule:
our kids could spend the night elsewhere on Friday nights, and we could go to family
gatherings and other functions on Saturdays, but Sundays became sacred. It was reserved
only for us, the eight of us, to do stuff together.

Then we had another idea, almost simultaneously: we created family meetings,
usually held on Saturdays, but sometimes on Sunday mornings, where we would all sit
around the living room and discuss things as a family, and plan family day. It’s a really
fun and uniting activity that we all look forward to. Let me explain these two ideas a little
more.

Family                                                                          Meetings
We call the family meeting to order, usually on Saturday afternoons, and we all gather in
the living room. We get out our family notebook, which has a record of each family
meeting, among other things. And we take turns being Leader and Secretary (the person
who takes notes for that meeting) — parents and kids (the four older ones) all participate
in the rotation for these two positions.

   1. The Leader starts every meeting with compliments. We each say a compliment
      about another family member. This is a nice way to show that we appreciate each
      other, and a good exercise to think about other family members and the good
      things they’ve done.
   2. Next is Issues: the Leader asks if anyone has any issues to discuss. These can be
      things like, People need to put the toilet seat down, to things like, how we’re
      going to try to be more frugal this Christmas, to things like suggesting that we all
      volunteer at the local homeless soup kitchen. The issues are discussed by the
      whole family, and it helps smooth out any problems that come up during the
      week.
   3. Third on the agenda is Family Day – what do we want to do on Family Day?
      Each person comes up with a suggestion, and after that, we decide by a process of
      consensus (not majority rules). That means that we kind of poll everyone to see
      what they want, and narrow it down to one or two or three options. Sometimes
      we’ll decided to do three or four things on Family Day. But everyone has to agree
      to the decision — if someone doesn’t agree, then we have to find a compromise or
      an alternate solution that makes everyone happy.
   4. Last is the Fun Thing. The Leader gets to choose a fun thing to do to end the
      family meeting. This can be anything from taking turns adding to a short story,
      and then reading out the wacky short story that results, or an obstacle course race,
      or a scavenger hunt, or many other things like that.

Family                                                                                Day
We’ve done many things on Family day, but no matter what it is, we always have a blast
together. Our latest idea is to have a Family Day jar, and add $10 or $20 to it each week.
Then, each Family Day, we can decide whether to spend it that weekend or let it save up
for a bigger event.

Here are some of the activities we like to do on Family Day:

      Board games: we like to play Risk, or Sorry, or Yahtzee, or bingo, or Clue.
      Sports: we go outside and play games like kickball or soccer.
      Book store: we enjoy going to the local used bookstore.
      Restaurants: we’ve started a thing where we go to different restaurants each time,
       trying out new restaurants as we go along instead of just going to the same ones.
      Movie night: we like to rent a dvd and have dinner while watching the movie
       together in the living room.
      Sunset dinner: we pack or buy a dinner and take it to the beach to watch the
       sunset.
      Movie theaters: we also go to the movies, although we avoid this option because
       it costs a lot and the baby doesn’t like to sit still.
      Waterpark: this is the most expensive option, but a favorite. We spend the entire
       day at the waterpark and come home exhausted.

Whatever you do on Family Day, if you use this idea, you’ll LOVE it. Try it out!

0 comments
Labels: family, frugal, GTD, motivation, sharing

20 June 2010
Beginner’s Guide to GTD




Photo courtesy of iBjorn

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

I get a lot of questions about GTD – what are the basic principles, how should one start.
Well, the obvious answer is to start by getting the book. But I started without it, about a
year ago, and I was able to get off the ground just with information on the web.

Well, I’m not going to explain the whole system in this post. Instead, I’ll provide some
links to help you get started, if you’re a beginner GTD disciple.

Top Links for Starting GTD

       43 Folders: Getting Started with GTD
       Black Belt Productivity: A GTD Primer
       What’s the Next Action: 21 links to start with GTD
       Wired: A guide to GTD
       Davidco’s Lisa Peak: 10 beginner behaviors
       Steve Lawson: GTD overview
       Mine Zone: Getting Things Done
       Davidco: Advanced GTD Workflow Diagram (pdf)
       Lifehack: Ask the Readers: Getting Started with GTD

0 comments
Labels: GTD, guide

18 June 2010
My Morning Routine




Photo courtesy of Shayan (USA)

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Today I start a new habit: my morning routine (to be honest, I started a couple days ago).
All this month I will focus on making my morning routine a daily habit.

I’ve actually tried different versions of a morning routine in the past year, and have
enjoyed them immensely. I just haven’t stuck with one for a whole month or more, and
that is the goal this month.

The reason I like having a morning routine is that not only does it instill a sense of
purpose, peace and ritual to my day, but it ensures that I’m getting certain things done
every morning … namely, my goals. I’m setting aside morning time as a time of peace
and quiet, and time to take small steps each day towards my goals.

Here’s my morning routine, at the moment (subject to tweaking later):

Morning Routine

    1.   Wake at 4:30 a.m.
    2.   Drink water.
    3.   Set 3 Most Important Things (MITs) for today.
    4.   Fix lunches for kids and myself.
   5.   Eat breakfast, read.
   6.   Exercise (run, bike, swim, strength, or yardwork) or meditate.
   7.   Shower.
   8.   Wake wife & kids at 6:30 a.m.

A couple of explanations: The MITs that I set for the day concern at least one item
towards one of my goals, and probably the 1-2 things I MUST complete at work. There
will be more that I do during the day, but my focus will be to finish at least these three
MITs.

As for the exercise and meditate item, I have a schedule where I do one exercise each
morning (with the exception of Fridays, where I plan to meditate for at least 10-15
minutes). Actually, I also often exercise in the evenings too, so on some days I’ll have
two workouts – maybe a bike in the morning and swim in the evening, for example. My
body is still getting used to this, so we’ll see how it works out.

As for waking up at 4:30 a.m., I only started doing that within the last few months —
before that it was 5:00 or 5:30, and before last year I woke at 6:30, so I’ve really become
an early riser just in the last year.

Look for updates to my goal of sticking to my Morning Routine this month.

0 comments
Labels: family, fitness, GTD, mindset

8 June 2010
Mind Like Water




Start from a place of peace.

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

As I just posted about my GTD implementation, I started thinking about what appeals to
me most about GTD. Of course, there is its total organization and complete capture of
everything in your life. There is the clean desk and inbox acheived by this system. I love
all that.

But what really appeals to me is the idea of attaining a ―Mind Like Water‖ state. I have to
admit, I haven’t completely achieved this yet, as many GTDers have not. But GTD does
bring me much closer to this ideal, and as I get better at the GTD habits, and trust my
system more, I get closer each day.
It reminds me of a quote from Bruce Lee:

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it
becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a
teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.

I think the appeal is the calmness and peace that you are trying to achieve. Have
everything in its place, and empty your mind of busy-ness and junk. Then your are ready
for anything that comes your way. Sometimes when I don’t feel this way, I look at others
around me, and realize that I have come a long way towards Mind Like Water.

It will be an ongoing quest. Wish me luck.

Similar posts elsewhere:

      Davidco: An empty mind does a better job of thinking
      FooWorks: Mind Like Water
      43 Folders: Zanshin – The Remaining Mind
      What is Mind Like Water?

7 June 2010:My GTD Implementation :Leo Babauta
.A favorite topic among GTDers is describing their GTD implementation. I won’t try and
be a non-conformist here — I’ll jump on the bandwagon.

As with most GTDers, I’ve tried a number of different setups. That’ll be my next post.
For now, let me describe my current setup:

      Pocket notebook – I carry this around everywhere simply as a capture tool. Any
       thoughts, to-dos, projects, calendar stuff that I collect while I’m not at the
       computer gets captured in the notebook and transfered to my action lists or
       calendar later. I’ve also been experimenting with the PocketMod, and what I
       really want is a Moleskine pocket notebook, but I keep telling myself that the
       coolness of the Moleskine doesn’t justify its additional cost on top of the free
       notebooks I get at work.
      Tracks - this beautiful program, written in Ruby on Rails, was written
       specifically for GTD, and after trying many other online and off-line apps, this is
       definitely the best. I use it for all of my context action lists, my someday/maybe
       list, my waiting-for list and my projects.
      GCal - OK, I’m not the first GTDer to love Google Calendar, but it’s simply the
       best, and it takes care of all my calendaring needs. For hard landscape only.
      Gmail - Another popular email app with GTDers, nothing else compares. It rocks.
      Misc - Other than these main tools, I have an inbox at home and work, filing
       systems at both locations, and a very clean desk.
   
A few other posts on GTD implementations:

      Patrick Rhone: Backpack GTD implementation
      Jason’s Rantings: My GTD Implementation
      Davidco forum: Ultra-minimal GTD implementation
      43 Folders forum: How to implement GTD for university students
      GTD+R
      What’s the Next Action: Using Backpack and GTD
      OrganizeIT: Tweaking your GTD implementation

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Labels: GTD, simplicity, work

27 July 2008
Two ways to Full Screen in Google Docs

I like to get things done, and I like to be efficient and frugal. I love to be able to sit down
at any computer and have my entire office available on-line at my fingertips. One of my
editors for on-line editing is Google Documents. When editing bigger documents it is
great to be able to use all the screen for the document. Here is the two main ways to use
all the pixels around the edges when editing your document in GDocs:

   1. Ctrl-Shift-F
      If you need more space to edit your documents in Google Docs or if you want to
      read a document, there's now a full-screen mode that hides the menus and the
      toolbar. Just select View > Full-screen mode or type Ctrl-Shift-F to go into full-
      screen mode. Unfortunately, the same shortcut is also used by one of my favorite
      extentions: Web Developer. You can change the short cuts in the Web Developer
      options.

   2. Toggle                                                                       F11
      The F11 works far better for me, because the entire browser disappears around the
      document. This way you can edit in full screen mode without knowing all the
      shortcuts, as the menu bar of Gdocs is still visible.

22 July 2008
The List to Beat All Lists: Top 20 Productivity Lists to Rock Your
Tasks

This is a guest post from Leo Babauta, the author of the great site Zen Habits. If you have
not already done so, please visit his insightful blog.
The productivity list is a common animal these days (goodness knows I’ve done my
share), but how do you sort among them all?

You’d need a list of the best lists, that’s how.

Never fear — I’ve done all the homework for you, and compiled the best of the best
productivity lists, in my humble opinion. Some of them are a bit old, but that’s because
they’re good stuff, and many of you might have missed them anyway.

Don’t read these all at once. It would ruin your productivity. But I’m hoping this will be a
resource you come back to every now and then when you feel you need it. Bookmark it
for later!

   1. Lifehacker: Top 10 Email Productivity Boosters. A must-read from the best
       productivity blog in the biz about the tech tool we all use, all day long — email.
   2. Lifehack.org: Top 10 Firefox Extensions to Improve Your Productivity. If you
       use Firefox exclusively, as I do, you’ll want to take a look at these extensions.
   3. 43 Folders: Merlin’s top 5 super-obvious, ―no-duh‖ ways to immediately
       improve your life. These might be super-obvious, but they work.
   4. Dumb Little Man: Productivity Ninja: 101 Ways to Rock the Keyboard. Get
       super quick with the keyboard and fly through your tasks.
   5. LifeDev.net: 10 Ways History’s Finest Kept Their Focus at Work. How some of
       the smartest people solved a problem we all face daily.
   6. FreelanceSwitch: 46 Must-Read Productivity Tips for Freelancers. Freelancers
       are notorious procrastinators (I was one for many years, so I know), but they also
       need to get the job done or they don’t get paid.
   7. Life Clever: 5 simple steps to greater productivity. This is another list of super-
       obvious tips that really do work.
   8. Wise Bread: 5 Efficient Ways To Boost Productivity. More simple tips, but a
       little different than your usual list.
   9. Scott H. Young: Twenty Unique Ways to Use the 80/20 Rule Today. Like me,
       Scott is a fan of doing the most with as little as possible, and here he shows you
       how to do that.
   10. Cranking Widgets: 6 Ways to Limit Interruptions at Work (That You Can Use
       Right Now). The title speaks for itself.
   11. Pick the Brain: 7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit. If you have the Action Habit,
       you’ll be productive. So this might be the place to start your productivity
       rampage.
   12. Zen Habits: Top 10 Productivity Hacks. OK, it’s cheating to include myself on
       my own list. So sue me! :) This is an oldie but a goodie.
   13. Life Optimizer: Top 10 Ways NOT to Become a Productivity Ninja. These are
       the obstacles to productivity — an interesting angle for looking at the topic.
   14. HD BizBlog: 3 Essential Tools for Productivity. All you need to rock your tasks.
   15. Matthew Cornell: 10 GTD ―holes‖ (and how to plug them). One of the earlier
       and better GTD bloggers, Cornell is now a GTD consultant and has worked with
       the system in the trenches.
   16. Ian’s Messy Desk: 10 Resources to Help Overcome Procrastination. Don’t put
       off reading this. Har!
   17. Instigator Blog: Over 100 Great Productivity Tips. OK, 100 tips is overkill, but
       to be fair these were tips collected from many different blogs.
   18. Stephen Aitchison: 8 Ways to get out of the rut. It’s hard to be productive when
       you’re in a rut. Here’s how to get out of it.
   19. Organize IT: The Top 10 GTD & Productivity Sites/Blogs. Where to go when
       you need your productivity fix.
   20. Dumb Little Man: The 20 Biggest Online Time Wasters, and 6 Strategies for
       Beating Them. You know you use some of these. Here’s how to cut back.



0 comments
Labels: goal, guide, mindset, simplicity

18 July 2010
What are YOUR 43 Things?


I’ve been a fan of goals website 43 Things for awhile, although I don’t use it on a daily
basis. What I love about it is that it forces you to think about what you want to achieve,
what you’d like to do this year, or over the next two or five or 10 years.

If you haven’t done it yet, I suggest you go to the site and try it out (and no, I’m not
getting paid by them!) … set your 43 things that you’d like to do (or whatever number
you’d like). The cool thing is you can look at other people’s goals, and get ideas and
inspiration from people all over the world. There are also other kinds of lists … books
you’d like to read, places you want to visit, your lists of favorites or things you’d like to
do before you die. Many possibilities, all of them good.

Of course, you can do this on paper or on any program. As long as you set some goals.
Then make a plan to achieve them. Last year I set my top 8 goals for the year, and I
accomplished all but one (to be able to do 25 pull ups, which I hope to do this year).

Another cool feature, a new one, is the personal challenge — you publicly challenge
yourself to do one of your things by a certain date, and if you don’t, you set something
that you have to do instead (like eat your hat, or whatever).

Here are the 18 things left on my list:

   1. complete a triathlon
   2. live passionately
   3. get out of debt
    4. make my wife happy for the rest of her life
    5. be present
    6. live simply
    7. pare my life to its essentials
    8. save more money
    9. complete an ironman triathlon
    10. see the northern lights
    11. practice zen
    12. backpack through Europe
    13. finish reading Ulysses
    14. build a simple house
    15. help end world hunger
    16. do twenty-five pullups
    17. watch a sunset in thailand
    18. run a marathon in under 3.5 hours

I had more on here, but I’ve already checked them off.

For a more fun list, see the list of things I want to do before I die.

What are YOUR 43 things?

0 comments
Labels: cleaning, guide, mindset

9 July 2010
My Fav Procrastination Hack – 30-10

We all procrastinate — let’s admit it. And if you’re like me, you’re always trying to find
ways to stop the procrastinating. Here’s the trick that works best for me:

    1. Find something that you cannot make it through the day without. For me
       that’s email, reading my blogs on Google Reader, or posting to this blog.
    2. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and work for 30 minutes straight. Don’t stop until
       the timer goes off! I use Cool Timer.
    3. When you’re done, you get to do the activity in No. 1 above. It’s your reward.
       Do it for 10 minutes only, and then go back to your timer.

Obviously, this only works if you stick to it, and that’s the trick. But I’ve found that it’s
really boosted my productivity.

Here’s the key: resist all temptation to check email or your blogs (or whatever your
reward activity is) until the 30 minutes comes up. You will probably be tempted, but
don’t give in. You will get more done using this simple trick than you can from any
motivational seminar.
Posting this to my blog has been my 10-minute reward. Now I have to get back to work.

0 comments
Labels: GTD, guide, hack, motivation

6 July 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #12

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #12: Break it into smaller, mini goals.

Sometimes large or longer-term goals can be overwhelming. After a couple weeks, we
may lose motivation, because we still have several months or a year or more left to
accomplish the goal. It’s hard to maintain motivation for a single goal for such a long
time.

Solution: have smaller goals along the way. For example, in running, I may have a
training plan that lasts three months. But along the way, I may have races every two or
three weeks, and training for each race will keep me motivated. Also, on an even smaller
scale, I might have a goal just for this week, and another just for today, in terms of my
training. And finally, even within a single run, I might set smaller goals for each mile
(―Just run another mile at this strong pace, don’t think about the five miles after that!‖).

This can be done with any goal. Something that’s accomplishable and just ahead of you,
instead of way down the road, is something you’re more likely to go after. Trying to get
debt free? Focus on one small debt, and celebrate when it’s done. If your debts aren’t too
small, focus on getting one debt down by $500 (for example), and then focus on the next
$500, and so on.

Once you’re done with each mini goal, you celebrate. Then you set your sights on the
next mini goal. Achieve enough of these, and you’ve made incredible progress on the
larger goal. Once in awhile, step back and look at the larger picture. You’ll be pleased at
how far you’ve come already.

0 comments
Labels: goal, GTD, guide, motivation
5 Ways GTD Helps You Achieve Your Goals Leo Babauta.
I ’ve mentioned that I’m a GTD addict on this site before (My GTD
Implementation, Beginner’s GTD Guide, Mind Like Water), but I’d like
to talk about why it’s a good tool for achieving your goals.

Now, if you’re trying to achieve goals, you don’t need to implement GTD … many have
done just fine without it, of course. But every advantage that you can get will help, and
GTD is just one tool that can help give you an advantage.

Here’s how:

   1. GTD breaks your goals down to the next-action level. Many people have big
      goals, but they don’t take it to the action level. GTD mandates that you select a
      next action for each project (and I consider each goal a project; although sub-
      goals could also be projects). This makes it much more likely that you’ll actually
      do something to further your goals.
   2. GTD helps you track your goals effectively. While you are not required to list
      your goals to start out GTD, it is encouraged once you get past the ―runway‖ level
      and start looking at more elevated levels of life. But, in my case, I’d already
      started setting my goals, so they fit nicely in the GTD system as projects. And, if
      you’re doing GTD right, with a weekly review, then you review your projects —
      and thus your goals — on a weekly basis, and ensure that there’s a next action for
      each goal in one of your context action lists.
   3. GTD helps you put your goal next actions in the proper context. There are
      some goal actions that you can only take in a certain place — say, at home, or at
      work, or on the road. If your goal actions are all on one list, or all together with all
      the other stuff you have to do on a Master List, then you’ll have to constantly
      evaluate whether you can actually do each action, all the time. GTD sorts this out
      — only the actions you can do at work are on your @work context list, etc. It
      simplifies things and makes it more likely that you’ll actually get the stuff done.
   4. GTD clears up time for you to do your goal actions. OK, this is not a
      guarantee. Doing GTD doesn’t ensure that you’ll actually get stuff done … but it
      does make it more likely, once you begin to master the system (and not
      continually tweak it). And it can help you clear away the smaller things so that
      when you want to work on your goal actions, you have the time.
   5. GTD lets you focus on your goals. One of the problems in our daily lives is that
      we’re distracted by all the things we have to do — not just the stuff we’re actually
      doing, but even the stuff we’re not doing. GTD helps you clear away the
      distractions, putting them in a trusted system, so that you can clear your head to
      focus on what it is you really want or need to do (admittedly, even with GTD, this
      is not easily accomplished). If that happens to be your goal actions, then you can
      really focus on them. And focus is what really makes goals happen (and anything
      else for that matter).
Let me just conclude by saying that GTD is no magic wand that will make your goals
come true. No such thing exists, of course. GTD is just a tool, but it is a very useful tool,
and I highly recommend it for anyone trying to make dreams a reality.

How I save money : by Leo Babauta.
I think I’m a fairly frugal person. I haven’t always been this way, and it’s taken years of
simplifying and cutting back on little things, one at a time. And while there are definitely
many more things I can scrimp and save on, I’m proud of how far I’ve come already.
Here’s how I save money:

1) I cut my own hair. I bought a $20 buzzer, and it lasts about a year. I used to get a
haircut every month, at a cost of $20 (including tip, not including gas money to get there
and valuable time spent there). So I save the cost of about 11 haircuts a year. I do the
same for my three sons, saving another 36 haircuts (at $10 each). Annual savings: $580.

2) No Cable TV. We watch DVDs, or read. I don’t spend much on DVDs either
(probably less than most people, per month). Cable costs about $65/month. Annual
savings: $780.

3) Became vegan. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, which are expensive, sure, but
you are supposed to eat those whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a carnivore, so I don’t
count those as extra expenses. The real comparison is between meat, and the protein
substitutes I use. Most of my protein comes from tofu, although I do eat beans and soy
protein such as fake ground beef or soy burgers. Overall I believe I save about $2-3 per
day not eating meat. Annual savings: $900.

4) Don’t use the gym. I used to be a member of a gym. Didn’t use it much, and still got
charged for a full year. Now I get a lot of exercise, but I do it at home and on the road. I
do strength exercises in my living room and jog (and will soon start cycling and
swimming). Annual savings: $420.

5) Rarely go to the movies. I used to go out to the movies at least once a week, and
sometimes more. I slowly made it every other week, and now I don’t even go once a
month. Now we take the kids to the park or out to do something more fun and creative. I
figger this saves me at least $15 per week, although it’s probably more when you factor
in the cost of my kids’ tickets, and concessions. Annual savings: $780.

6) Quit smoking. I quit over a year ago. I smoked a pack a day, plus a soda or tea or
coffee to go with the cigarettes, at a cost of about $5 per day. Annual savings: $1,825.

7) Don’t drink much. I never did, really, except maybe in college. But for some people,
drinking is a major expense. A beer or two a day can add up, and for the sake of these
calculations, I’ll count it. Annual savings: $800.

8) Never go out. I don’t go to clubs, or the theater, or ballet, or opera. I guess I’m just not
that type of person. Annual savings: maybe $500.
9) Stay healthy. As mentioned above, I’m a vegan, a runner, and I don’t drink or smoke
anymore. I never go to the doctor, and if I keep up this lifestyle, my likelihood of getting
the most common diseases are greatly lowered. Annual savings: probably $1,200.

10) Don’t go shopping. We used to hang out at the mall a lot. It was convenient, and had
a lot of great stuff to look at, and a food court. The food court alone costs $30 for us, and
if we bought stuff that would be another $25-75. Cha-ching. Now I rarely ever, ever, ever
go to the mall. I hate it anyway. I only go to the mall or Kmart if I need something, and
even then I try my best to avoid it. Annual savings: probably $2,600.

11) Have only one car. We are a married couple with six kids, soccer practice, choir,
school functions, many many family gatherings, running events, martial arts, and much
more. But we get by on one car. We are looking to get a used van with better fuel
economy, and I am going to start commuting at least a few times a week by bike. Annual
savings: unknown, but perhaps $5,000.

12) Bring my own lunch. My co-workers eat out every day, at a cost of $8-20 per lunch.
I bring leftovers or a sandwich and fruits and pretzels and stuff. At a cost of probably less
than $5. Annual savings: $1,800.

13) No magazine or newspaper subscriptions. I used to have the paper delivered. Now
I read it online or at work. I used to subscribe to 1-2 magazines. Now I read the Internet.
Annual savings: $360.

14) Rarely buy new clothes. I use my clothes and shoes until they are threadbare.
Really. Ask my wife and kids. Annual savings: maybe $400.

15) Never travel. I would like to travel. When I am out of debt and my savings accounts
are nice and healthy, I will travel. But for now, I skip it. Others I know take at least a trip
per year. Annual savings: $1,500.

16) No more lattes. I used to get a latte every day. At a cost of about $4 per latte.
Sometimes I’d get two. Now I make my own coffee. Annual savings: about $1,000.

There are more little ways that I’ve learned to save, like getting my books at a used book
store, cooking most of my meals (aside from the above-mentioned lunches), power-
saving measures, no long distance calls. There are also ways I can still save, including
eating out less (we eat out 1-3 times per week, mostly fast food like pizza or Taco Bell or
Wendy’s, all of which I can do without).

Estimated total savings: $20,445.

Now, I’m not sure if most people spend the full amounts listed above, or if I ever did. But
at some point, I did come close, and I think many people do as well. But however you
look at it, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Does this all go into savings? Of course not.
Other expenses have gone up, because I now have six kids, and our income has
temporarily gone down. Also, we’re now putting money into debt, and once that is freed
up, more will go into savings.

Similar posts elsewhere:

       Frugal for Life: 25 Ways I Save Money
       Neat Living: 25 Ways I Save Money
       The Good Human: 25 Ways to Save Money – the Small Things Add Up!
       Getting to Enough: 25 Ways I Save Money
       Frugal Bastard: 25 Ways I Save Money
       The Finance Journey: 25 Ways I save Money
       A Path to Simplicity: 25 Different Ways to Save Money

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Labels: guide, saving money, using money

20 June 2010
Beginner’s Guide to GTD




Photo courtesy of iBjorn

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

I get a lot of questions about GTD – what are the basic principles, how should one start.
Well, the obvious answer is to start by getting the book. But I started without it, about a
year ago, and I was able to get off the ground just with information on the web.
Well, I’m not going to explain the whole system in this post. Instead, I’ll provide some
links to help you get started, if you’re a beginner GTD disciple.

Top Links for Starting GTD

      43 Folders: Getting Started with GTD
      Black Belt Productivity: A GTD Primer
      What’s the Next Action: 21 links to start with GTD
      Wired: A guide to GTD
      Davidco’s Lisa Peak: 10 beginner behaviors
      Steve Lawson: GTD overview
      Mine Zone: Getting Things Done
      Davidco: Advanced GTD Workflow Diagram (pdf)
      Lifehack: Ask the Readers: Getting Started with GTD




Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #6
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #6: Make it a rule never to skip two days in a row.

This doesn’t mean calendar days, but days in which you are supposed to take action
towards your goal. For example, if you planned to work out on Monday, Wednesday and
Friday, don’t skip two of those workouts in a row (if you skip Monday, be sure to work
out on Wednesday). The same would be true of any other scheduled goal tasks. If you are
trying to eat healthy every day, and eat McDonald’s today, be sure not to cave in
tomorrow as well.
This rule takes into account our natural tendency to miss days now and then. We are not
perfect. I certainly am not. But missing one day should not cause us to get sidetracked for
good. If we miss two days in a row, soon we’ll miss three days in a row, and we’re
sliding down that slippery slope.

Don’t allow it to happen. It’s harder to start back up after a long break than it is after just
missing one day. If you just miss one workout, for example, you’ve still got momentum
going. Keep it going.

It’s not impossible to start back up if you’ve missed a week or a month or more, and in
fact I urge you to do so if you have missed that much time already. You just have to start
slow. But you’re much more likely to stick with it if you can be consistent, and you’ll see
much better progress towards your goal too. Consistency is important in improvement.

So, you missed one day … now the second day is upon you and you are feeling lazy …
tell yourself NO! You will not miss two days in a row! Zen Habits says so! And just get
started. You’ll thank yourself later.

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Labels: hack, motivation

17 July 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #7
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #7: Become aware of your urges to quit, and be prepared for them.

One of the things I discovered as I was quitting smoking was that when I had an urge to
smoke a cigarette, I didn’t really think about it. I wasn’t aware of the urge on a conscious
level. And so I would automatically start justifying the urge, without realizing I was
doing it.

And so I discovered that one of the most powerful things I could do was to start being
more conscious of those urges. A good exercise is to go through the day with a little piece
of paper and put a tally mark for each time you get an urge. It simply makes you aware of
the urges.

This can work for any goal, because with any goal, we get urges to quit, at least for that
moment. We might not feel like running today, so we automatically begin justifying it to
ourselves. We might feel a lag in motivation about spending (and spending urges are
strong!) or about dieting or anything else really. Become aware of those urges, those
moments of crisis that are mostly unconscious.

The next step is to have a plan for when those urges hit. Plan for it beforehand, and write
down your plan, because once those urges hit, you will not feel like coming up with a
plan. It will be too late, usually. The plan could include such tactics found in the other
motivation hacks here on this site, such as ―just get started‖ or ―remind yourself of your
powerful reasons‖. My strategy for quitting smoking was to take deep breaths and drink
water, and never have a cigarette without goiing on the quit smoking forum and posting
about my urges first. Then, if that didn’t work, I would first enlist the help of my
supporters (my wife and mom). I made it very difficult to have that cigarette. And that
worked for me. I suggest you have a similar plan, with a series of obstacles to get in your
way.

First be aware of those urges. We all have them, and it’s no shame to get them. Just know
that they are happening. And have a plan to conquer them. They are strong, but not
unbeatable.

0 comments
Labels: hack, motivation

15 July 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #8
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #8: Have powerful reasons. Write them down.

When I decided to quit smoking (well, the last time I decided … I’d tried and failed
several times before) , I realized that I needed a better reason than just ―it’s good for my
health‖ or ―I want to prove that I can‖ .. so I found my real reasons: I wanted to do it for
my kids and my wife. I wanted to live long enough to see all my kids grow up and have
kids of their own, and play with those grandkids in good health. I was also worried about
my kids growing up to be smokers … most people who smoke had parents who smoked.
I didn’t want that to happen to them. Finally, I was worried about my wife’s health. I
wanted her to quit, and she had temporarily while pregnant, but I knew that if I didn’t
quit for good before she gave birth that she’d immediately go back to smoking. She had
every time before.

So I had some powerful reasons to quit, and I wrote these down. Even more, I took it a
step further: I made a solemn promise to my oldest daughter, Chloe, that I would quit I
told her that even if I failed, I would try again, and keep trying, until I was successful.
Finally, I made a commitment and promise to my wife that I would quit, and got her to
promise tht she would stay quit even after giving birth. It was a deal. We would not back
out of it.

Now, when I was going through my quit, there were many times when I wanted to give
in. But one of the things that kept me going was the promises I had made, and the
powerful reasons I had written down. I ekpt those reasons in my mind as I went through
the tough times, and they sustained me, and kept me going.

This can work with any goal. Know your reasons. Give them some thought … and write
them down. Working out to lose weight isn’t enough. Most people who do this will give
in. Have more powerful reasons. Those who exercise because their doctor tells them that
they will die if they don’t exercise … they have a pretty good reason to exercise. And
they usually stick to it. They know their reasons, and they are powerful ones.

Think about your goals. What are your reasons? If you have loved ones, and you are
doing it for them, that is more powerful than just doing it for self-interest. Doing it for
yourself is good too, but you should do it for something that you REALLY REALLY
want to happen, for really good reasons.

Write them down. Post them up. Keep them in mind every time you get the urge to give
up, or your interest flags.

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Labels: hack, mindset, motivation

12 July 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #9
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.
Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #9: Get a coach or take a class.

Yeah, I know. Too much trouble. Well, stop making excuses! :)

Having a swim coach has been very motivating for me. Not because the coach yells at me
like a Marine drill sergeant, or encourages me every step of the way … but I show up
simply because I know the coach is there waiting for me, and I try hard because of course
I want to look like a good student. And then there’s the added motivation that you’re
paying for this, so you better not waste it!

I’ve only missed a couple session with my coach, and they were both cases of life getting
in the way (my daughter’s soccer game, for example), not of me not being motivated.
Yes, there have been times when I didn’t feel like doing my swim workout for the day,
but I went anyway, because I had made a commitment to my coach.

This can work for many goals. Want to get your finances in shape? Meet with an advisor.
If nothing else, it will force you to sit down and take a look at your finances, and think
about some strategies that will work for you. Want to learn computer programming? Take
a class. Not because you need a class to learn, but because you will be motivated to
actually show up, and to do the reading, and to do the work required to learn the skill.

This works with just about any skill — learning Spanish, to play a guitar, to learn clay
modeling. Want to lose weight? Get a personal trainer. He or she will not only motivate
you to work out, but motivate you to eat right too, especially if you have to report your
progress to him.

This might be one of the more expensive ways of motivating yourself, but it works. And
if you do some research, you might find some cheap classes in your area, or you might
know a friend who will provide coaching or counseling for free.

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Labels: education, hack, motivation

10 July 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #10
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #10: Find inspiration, on a daily basis.

Inspiration is one of the best motivators, and it can be found everywhere. Every day, seek
inspiration, and it will help sustain motivation over the long term. Here are some of my
sources of inspiration:

      Blogs by people achieving my goal
      Success stories by other people (search online)
      Forums with other people going through the same thing
      Friends and family
      Magazine articles
      Bios of high achievers (like Ben Franklin, Lance Armstrong)
      Books about my goal
      Quotes
      Photos (set as your desktop pic!)
      People I meet every day, if I get the chance to talk to them

Use these, or find your own sources of inspiration, and make it a daily habit to be
inspired. Then set off towards your dreams, energized!

0 comments
Labels: hack, motivation

9 July 2010
My Fav Procrastination Hack – 30-10

We all procrastinate — let’s admit it. And if you’re like me, you’re always trying to find
ways to stop the procrastinating. Here’s the trick that works best for me:

   1. Find something that you cannot make it through the day without. For me
      that’s email, reading my blogs on Google Reader, or posting to this blog.
   2. Set a timer for 30 minutes, and work for 30 minutes straight. Don’t stop until
      the timer goes off! I use Cool Timer.
   3. When you’re done, you get to do the activity in No. 1 above. It’s your reward.
      Do it for 10 minutes only, and then go back to your timer.

Obviously, this only works if you stick to it, and that’s the trick. But I’ve found that it’s
really boosted my productivity.

Here’s the key: resist all temptation to check email or your blogs (or whatever your
reward activity is) until the 30 minutes comes up. You will probably be tempted, but
don’t give in. You will get more done using this simple trick than you can from any
motivational seminar.

Posting this to my blog has been my 10-minute reward. Now I have to get back to work.

0 comments
Labels: GTD, guide, hack, motivation

30 June 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #14

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #14: Make it a pleasure.

One reason we might put off something that will help us achieve our goal, such as
exercise for example, is because it seems like hard work. Well, this might be true, but the
key is to find a way to make it fun or pleasurable.

To take running as an example: I began running in the morning at the time just before the
sun rises, and as I did my morning run, the sky became an amazing display of colors. I
would look up at the sky as I ran, taking in this daily miracle, take a deep breath, and say
to myself, ―What a glorious day!‖ It was truly a celebration of life. The next morning, I
would look forward to greeting the new day this way. It was a pleasure.

Another example: making your exercise or other activity a social activity can make it fun.
You might go cycling with a group, for example, and chat with them as you ride. Or run
with a group. If you do this, you don’t even realize you’re working out!
Yet another example: Let’s say you want to keep track of your expenses each day, or
write every morning. Well, you could make a little ritual where you input your expenses
in your spreadsheet, or write for 30 minutes, while taking in your first cup of coffee in the
morning. Savor the aroma and flavor of the coffee, sip it slowly while doing the activity
you want. Or it could be hot chocolate, or in my case fresh berries. Whatever would make
the activity a pleasure.

If your goal activity becomes a treat, you actually look forward to it. And that’s a good
thing.

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Labels: hack, motivation

29 June 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #15

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #15: Just get started.

There are some days when you don’t feel like heading out the door for a run, or figuring
out your budget, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do that day for your goal. Well,
instead of thinking about how hard it is, and how long it will take, tell yourself that you
just have to start.

I have a rule (not an original one) that I just have to put on my running shoes and close
the door behind me. After that, it all flows naturally. It’s when you’re sitting in your
house, thinking about running and feeling tired, that it seems hard. Once you start, it is
never as hard as you thought it would be. This tip works for me every time.

0 comments
Labels: hack, motivation

27 June 2010
Top 20 Motivation Hacks – #16

Quick intro: I first intended this Top 20 list to be in a single post, but I decided that
breaking them into separate posts would allow me to concentrate on each a little more.
So, I present my list of the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

A number of people have commented that I must be dedicated to achieve some of the
goals I’m going for: exercise, frugality, organization, healthy eating, etc. Well, I don’t
believe in someone being naturally ―dedicated‖ … it’s all a matter of motivation. You
can achieve anything if you motivate yourself enough.

Motivation Hack #16: Get a workout partner or goal buddy.

Staying motivated on your own is tough. But if you find someone with similar goals
(running, dieting, finances, etc.), see if they’d like to partner with you. Or partner with
your spouse, sibling or best friend on whatever goals they’re trying to achieve. You don’t
have to be going after the same goals — as long as you are both pushing and encouraging
each other to succeed.

For example, my wife and I became goal buddies. We each set our top goals for the year,
and we have weekly meetings to set our monthly goals, to set weekly goals, and to review
our progress for the past week (or for the past month, at the end of each month). We
continually remind, encourage, push and reward each other. It can be a fun way to stay on
track.

I also have a workout partner. While I run with my wife most of the time, I also swim and
bike with a friend of mine named Patrick. We’re both beginner swimmers, so it’s good to
have someone at my level. He’s a more experienced cyclist, which is cool because he can
teach me the basics as we ride.

Having a workout partner or a goal buddy is a great idea because you don’t just have
yourself to answer to — you have to answer to that other person as well. You’re more
likely to stick to your workout or your goal for the week if you have someone to meet.
No one likes to stand someone else up or look bad to other people.

Think about your life goals
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

There’s never a good time to sit down and think about what you want to accomplish in
life. We have busy lives, and even when we’re not busy, we might just feel more like
vegging in front of the TV or checking our feeds than thinking about the rest of our lives.

Do it today, if you haven’t yet. It could take as little as 10 or 20 minutes, and it could
make all the difference in the world.

And it’s not that hard. You probably already have a good idea of what you want to do,
but you may not have it written down. Or maybe you’ve done this exercise before, but
you haven’t updated your goals for awhile. Now’s the time to do it.

1. How to start? First, think about what you’d like people to say about you at your
funeral. This comes from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — the
habit called ―Begin with the end in mind.‖ It’s also very effective. Imagine you are at the
end of your life, looking back. What would you like to have accomplished? What kind of
person would you like to have been?

Now here’s the key: start living your life so that you will eventually get to that point.

2. Now that you’ve given that a little thought, jot down some ideas for life goals
you’d like to achieve before you die.

They can be in many areas, but here are a few to start with: professional, education,
family, spiritual, travel, recreation, hobbies, community, charity. You can probably think
of more, and you don’t need to have goals in all of these areas. Just some topics to get
you started.

3. Refine your list, or expand it. After your initial brainstorm, you may want to trim it
down. But you may also want to expand: sometimes it’s fun, and worthwhile, to dream
big.

4. Now break it down. What should you accomplish in the next 10 years for each of
these goals? How about 5 years? How about two years? One year? And this month?

Once you’ve planned out each goal for 10-year, 5-year, 2-year, 1-year and 1-month
periods, you’ve got yourself a pretty solid plan.

5. Take action! I like to take my monthly goals, and make a to-do list for this week.
What can I do today to further my goals? And if I can get just one thing done, I’ve done a
lot to make those dreams a reality!
Take a step towards your dreams today by writing them down, and
making a plan. Think about your life goals




Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter or identica.

There’s never a good time to sit down and think about what you want to accomplish in
life. We have busy lives, and even when we’re not busy, we might just feel more like
vegging in front of the TV or checking our feeds than thinking about the rest of our lives.

Do it today, if you haven’t yet. It could take as little as 10 or 20 minutes, and it could
make all the difference in the world.

And it’s not that hard. You probably already have a good idea of what you want to do,
but you may not have it written down. Or maybe you’ve done this exercise before, but
you haven’t updated your goals for awhile. Now’s the time to do it.

1. How to start? First, think about what you’d like people to say about you at your
funeral. This comes from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — the
habit called ―Begin with the end in mind.‖ It’s also very effective. Imagine you are at the
end of your life, looking back. What would you like to have accomplished? What kind of
person would you like to have been?

Now here’s the key: start living your life so that you will eventually get to that point.

2. Now that you’ve given that a little thought, jot down some ideas for life goals
you’d like to achieve before you die.

They can be in many areas, but here are a few to start with: professional, education,
family, spiritual, travel, recreation, hobbies, community, charity. You can probably think
of more, and you don’t need to have goals in all of these areas. Just some topics to get
you started.

3. Refine your list, or expand it. After your initial brainstorm, you may want to trim it
down. But you may also want to expand: sometimes it’s fun, and worthwhile, to dream
big.
4. Now break it down. What should you accomplish in the next 10 years for each of
these goals? How about 5 years? How about two years? One year? And this month?

Once you’ve planned out each goal for 10-year, 5-year, 2-year, 1-year and 1-month
periods, you’ve got yourself a pretty solid plan.

   4. Take action! I like to take my monthly goals, and make a to-do list for this week.
      What can I do today to further my goals? And if I can get just one thing done, I’ve
      done a lot to make those dreams a reality!Take a step towards your dreams today
      by writing them down, and making a plan.



Showing newest posts with label making money. Show older posts

29 December 2007
15 ways to save a dollar a day




                              Sometimes you have to remember that being frugal is all
about the small steps you do on a daily basis. If you remember to do the small things it
will           all          add            up            in          the           end.

First I cannot stress the importance of decluttering your home. Energy and time is wasted
in a messy home, and it can get on your nerves too. So the first steps to saving a dollar a
day has a double bonus of uncluttering and saving you money.

OK, here goes

   1. Sell                       your                      old                     stuff
      Find all the things you do not use and simply sell them. I use QXL and eBay the
      sell my stuff. It is amazing how much useless stuff you have around the house.

   2. Sell          your           or           other           peoples              trash
      Pick up used item that have been trashed and repair them and sell.
3. Use                      your                      public                      library
   Borrow rather than buying and owning. Lets face it most books gets read and then
   never used again. Use your library to borrow the book and you won't have to deal
   with it cluttering up space and the hassle of selling it. Same goes for films.

4. Rent                      or                   borrow                       films
   Do not buy them or watch them in the theatre. Watching films in the theatre is the
   same as going out and the amount spent on candy and soda is outrages. In my
   pubic library you can borrow films too.

5. Less                                                             telephones
   Do you really need two mobiles AND a landline? Try to cancel and downgrade
   your telephone services.

6. Work                                   odd                                   jobs
   Offer to do odd jobs for your neigbours and friends. You can also do at barter
   agreement. I use no money on babysitters. When I have the time, I pick up
   another couples child at day-care, when I pick up mine. In return that couple will
   take care of my daughter when we need a babysitter.

7. Sell                                your                           knowledge
   Sell your knowledge of decluttering, shopping or brewing beer. Everybody have
   something they are better at than the average person.

8. Unplug                                      your                             TV
   OK that might sound a bit drastic, but at least downgrade what packages you have
   and cancel pay services. I just got rid of the TV all together.

9. Stop                       a                     bad                        habit
   I drink way to much cola. Many drink way too much coffee while other smoke
   too many cigarettes (any is too many). Many of these are gambling with your
   health. Oh and cut back on your gambling too. I recently did a calculation for my
   dear old dad, and if I summed up his expenses and winnings on soccer betting - he
   would have saved $200.000 US dollars.

10. Eat                                   out                                     less
    You can eat for weeks by the same amount that one meal costs when eating out. If
    you want to gently, just cut a couple of meals. It will still have a great impact.
    Remember to bring your own lunch to work. It is typically also much more
    healthy than the offers at work.

11. Turn                     down                       your                 heat
    That last degree your heating your house is the most expensive. Just lower the
    heat by one or two degrees. Same goes for air conditioning.

12. Get                         a                       smaller                      car
    The car itself is cheaper, but so is the insurance and the mileage.
13. Use                        your                       car                      less
    Drive less in your car. Using public transport not only saves money, but also helps
    the environment. Biking or walking also makes a huge impact on your health.

14. Call                    credit                  card                  companies
    Just by calling them, you can get better rates. Be humble and tell them that you
    have a plan to pay them back and need their help. Suggest one year of no
    interests, and they'll usually get back to you and have cut away a couple of
    percent.

15. Be            more            productive             and            DO             IT
    Don't just sit around the house all day, reading blogs ;-) Active people get better
    deals, they ask, they investigate, they sell, they offer their services. This tip is a
    summery of the 14 previous, and is the most important. You not only have to
    know how to be frugal, you have to do it too. The more you get done the more
    wealth you accumulate. Not only financially but also mentally.

				
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