Three tiny habits that will make you happy, rich and sometimes productive

Oh well, hello there. It has been a while since I have written anything of particular substance. So just a quick update. Otto is still overseeing what I’d call a burgeoning and fast growing industrial farm and my team Sprinkles United keeps racking up one Men’s Recreational, Over-40, B-League, Indoor championship after another. Life is grand.

Hopefully, this post will lead to more regular writing. But no promises because I am pretty sure I said that three years ago too.

Anyhow, this post is about habits. Tiny habits that make me happy. That keep me healthy, and that will allow me to retire before all hair has left my head. Habits that help me get s..t done.

There certainly are more habits that help keep me productive. And many others that ensure a lack of productivity. But these are three small habits that have made a big impact for me. Habits I have been really grateful for as of late.

Hope you can get some value from them.

One. Commute by bike, bus or foot

When I moved back to Montana, I made a very conscious decision about where I wanted to live, and it was based on mainly two factors.

1. Can I establish a large-scale farming operation in my backyard?

2. Can I commute by bike, bus or foot at least 90% of the time?

Not having to drive my car on a daily basis (sometimes I go for weeks without using it) is probably the single biggest contributor to my happiness. I usually ride my bike to work, which provides me with a mild dose of exercise, time to listen to my favorite podcasts and zero stress about where to park my car.  Sometimes I even practice some sort of meditation on my bike ride or my commute, where I try to intensely focus and think about a single topic or problem. My bike ride is a bit short for that, so it works best when I walk to the office. By the time I get to work, I am relaxed and usually excited to get to my desk to write down whatever I learned in the podcast du jour.  Also, my transportation costs are only around $2,000 per year (gas + insurance + maintenance), compared to the average person’s $9,000. I am and have been saving those extra $7,000 annually (I still make “fictional” car payments to my savings accounts, even though I don’t have any) which will likely allow me to retire about 10 years ($7k per year, returning about 6% annually over 30 years) earlier than expected.

Do whatever you can to make your commute healthy. It makes a huge difference to both your mental and financial wellbeing.

Two. Automate my lunch decision

When I lived in Los Angeles, I usually ate a food truck burrito for lunch. When I lived in Portland, I usually ate a food truck burrito for lunch. And living in Missoula, I too usually would eat a food truck burrito for lunch.

Two things.

1. When measured by the quality of my Mexican lunch choices, my career appears to have a straight downward trajectory.

2. I am actually not recommending that you automate your lunch decision by eating burritos every day. Even though you do get used to the beans after a while.

Lunch has always been a problem for me because I don’t really like to eat leftover microwaved food and sandwiches are just too carby for me (silent…I know Burritos might be worse). Prepping lunch and then riding it in on my bike just never seemed compelling. Hence, I would usually not eat lunch or eat something last minute and not healthy at all. About a year ago I started drinking Soylent for lunch. It’s a complete meal replacement that claims to be perfectly balanced. It’s made out of soy, or people. I should probably research that.  Regardless,  I have been having a soylent shake every day for lunch, mixed in with some peanut butter powder. While it doesn’t taste as good as a burrito, it also doesn’t taste horrible. Unlike my other choices, it’s actually pretty healthy. It requires zero thought. Zero prep. There is no post lunch food coma. From a nutritional perspective, drinking Soylent is the only change I made last year and saw a significant drop in both percentage of body fat as well as my “bad” cholesterol numbers. So this small change made a big impact for me.

Ps. A serving of Soylent and PB2 costs roughly $3, which is much cheaper than what I’d usually eat. So I am sure this might give me an extra year of retirement as well but that’s not what this post is about. I’ll write a finance post soon.

Three. Censor my technology usage

Most of us are addicted to technology. This guy included. The other day I tried to make the case to my girlfriend that an iPad doesn’t count as a device in the bedroom, as I mostly use it for audio consumption.  Most of us struggle to find the healthy balance when it comes to our technology devices. Having a supercomputer in your pocket can be incredibly convenient when it comes to checking the bus schedule while on the go, having music everywhere and navigating Google Maps while on the road. Unfortunately, it can also be the ultimate distraction when it comes to getting anything done.  Checking your email or text messages every 10 minutes is not productive. Ditto for continuously checking who just liked your cat picture on Facebook. One doesn’t need to look at gardening hacks on Pinterest all day long.  A 2015 study by Deloitte learned that Americans check their phones 8 billion times per day, in aggregate of course. My guess is that number is only going up. And every time you look down on your phone, you’re distracted from doing whatever it is that you were meant to be doing at the time. Attention is like an adhesive and a little bit gets stuck on the prior activity every time you switch.

That is NOT a device. That is NOT a device.

Most of us struggle to get deep work done.  Cal Newport wrote an entire book on the topic of Deep Work, which is terrific and really helped me diagnose my addiction. And it is just that, an addiction.

Here is how I try to limit and censor my technology usage. It’s not perfect and likely will become more stringent over time.

  • No phone in the bedroom. And I only get to use my iPad to listen to podcasts.
  • No screens (other than my Kindle) after 10pm.
  • No work email after I leave the office. I go through this shutdown ritual to make sure I don’t die from anxiety wondering if I forgot to do something super important.
  • No Facebook app on my phone.
  • No notifications (other than phone calls and incoming Stripe money transfers) on my phone.
  • No notifications (other than phone calls and incoming Stripe money transfers) on my Apple Watch. Gosh. this sounds ridiculous. Why did I think getting an Apple Watch was a good idea?
  • During my work day, I block all distracting websites (social networks, German soccer sites, gardening sites) from my work computer with a program called Hey Focus.
  • Also, I use a service called SaneBox which automatically filters out all unimportant/bulk emails. It’s by far the best software purchase I’ve ever made, as it saves me hours every week.

That’s it.

What habits do you use to help you get things done?