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New Year’s Resolution: Getting Your Brain Back

braindanceWhen you think about it, that brain of yours is both the cause of and the solution to every one of your problems.

With the right thoughts, you can trigger yourself into actions that will change your life – or even the entire world. With the wrong thoughts and actions you can just as quickly end up dead. And in between, you can experience complete joy or utter dissatisfaction purely through different perceptions of an identical set of circumstances.

It is both obvious and miraculous to state all of this, and thus it is pretty ridiculous that we don’t put a higher priority on maintaining our and improving our own noodles in a more systematic way.

Imagine that you’re an Olympic athlete, or at least a well-muscled Underwear model. Your body is the key to your success. What if you were forced to live on a cruise ship with no weight training facility and a 24-hour buffet stocked mostly with beer and cake? Would the input to your body affect its performance?

Similarly, suppose that you’re a rising star of an Engineer at Google (which is statistically much more likely given this blog’s readership). Your career will live or die based on how much brilliance you can crank out of your brain and deliver to the world in usable and elegant form. Given this fact, should you feed your mind with whatever happens to be sloshing past in society’s slop trough? Viral posts forwarded by your Facebook friends or the latest update from the stock speculators on Wall Street? Or is there a better diet available for that high-performance machine?

Let’s take Mr. Money Mustache himself as an example. I’ve always had a cordial relationship with my own mind, and it has helped me accomplish some worthwhile life goals in the past. But as I worked through my twenties, I found I was renting that mind out to an ever-greater degree for pay as a software engineer. The more information and algorithms I burned through at work, the less fire I had left to do much real thinking about anything else after hours.

It wasn’t always like that. When I started that career, my phone was a dumb brick with an LCD screen, and only rarely did the odd email trickle in to my computer’s small, low-tech Microsoft Outlook window. Social networks were not yet invented, books were made of paper, and I was in heaven whenever I could spend a long day deeply wired into the compiler, debugger, logic analyzer, and on a good day even the soldering iron. The concentration I could summon back then seems to be in another league, considering how long it has taken me today to get even to the fifth paragraph of this completely non-technical article.

But a funny thing happened over the years. Wi-Fi was invented so suddenly my laptop was always offering up servings from the Information Buffet. I advanced a rung or two on the corporate ladder, so I became ensnared in more emails, documents, and meetings. The Internet started producing ever more distracting options for slacking. And I started a construction company on the side, which opened up a whole firehose of new information to guzzle. Gradually, I became less and less effective at my job, and I started delegating the fun but difficult technical stuff to people who could dig in and get it done properly. I started to feel pretty useless.

Luckily for me I had also been working on the early retirement project in the background, and at this point in the story it came to fruition. I quit the entire corporate world in 2005, never to look back.

Ahhhhh…

Suddenly, everything was great again. I felt like I got my brain back. I would wake up each morning and break into a broad grin as I realized that all those projects, meetings, and emails I had been dreaming about no longer existed in my world. They were gone, replaced only by that blue Colorado sky outside my window, and the short walk to the kitchen where there was food and equipment in place for the preparation of a fine breakfast. I started learning again – reading books, doing new things, and meeting new people. Although we had a new baby at the time, plus I stumbled into some foolish business hardships during those first few years of retirement, there was no question that they were a time of great education, easy focus, and some pretty good accomplishments.

But secretly, complexity was brewing in the background and planning its next attack. In 2007, Apple dropped the iPhone bomb on the world, and within just a few years there were two of them in our household. Two otherwise capable adults found themselves unnecessarily swiping and pecking around on the little screens for hours. The baby became a boy, full of information, curiosity, and urgent requests for attention that did not care what you happened to be working on at the moment. And worst of all, Mr. Money Mustache was born.

This blog started as just a quiet writing outlet, where I would collect a few of my own thoughts, and send them out to a very tiny collection of strangers throughout the Internet. But gradually, the blog grew and the tide turned. More information started coming back in my direction. Comments, emails, tweets texts, and Facebook messages started as a trickle, but grew and grew into an overflowing torrent. Not a torrent of crap like you get by watching the news, but one of fascinating, useful information from genuine and brilliant people. So much information and so many opportunities to have fun and do good things for the world.

This is a wonderful problem to have. I’m ridiculously lucky. But it turns out it is still a problem, since human attention only scales up to a certain degree. At a certain point, you end up hearing from amazing people and thinking about amazing things all day and still not keeping up with it all. I started ruthlessly skimming and archiving emails, turning down anything involving more commitment than walking down to the Indian Buffet for lunch, and still not keeping up. Dropping the ball on even the most golden of opportunities, and probably mildly pissing off a friend or two due to email inattentiveness. Although my mind was busier than ever, my productivity was dropping in most areas of life. You can see the results in the slowing writing schedule on the list of all posts.

Getting Your Brain Back

Luckily, this problem has a solution: I call it Getting Your Brain Back, but it is a time-honored problem that has been solved by many people in the past. Originally limited only to company CEOs and world leaders, the excess of information has trickled down to the rest of us. To survive in this flood, we need to learn how to swim, in much the same way as busy and important people have always done.

The problem is that I’m taking in too much peripheral information and scattering my attention around. Instead, I should be feeding my mind in rich, controlled meals and giving it plenty of calm resting time between them.

Paradoxically, if you take in less random information, you will find that you can devour more useful stuff, and produce much more as a result.

New Year’s Resolution

byebye_twitterIn the olden days, I would have just made some top-level plans: “In 2015, I will spend less time and get more done. I’ll finish the house, publish my first book, write a blog post every week, and move up another level of physical fitness.”

But we’ve learned from the study of human habits that if you want macro-level changes in your life, you need to attack them with micro-level changes in your daily routine. Through the 365 chances we get every year, tiny things add up to surprising results more quickly than your intuition would suggest.

So this year, I resolve to change only a few things to change the balance and focus of information:

  • I removed the phone charger from my bedside table and put it in my office instead. No more mindless surfing before bed or immediately upon waking.
  • I uninstalled the Twitter app completely from my phone. This will seem insignificant to normal people, but any blogger will recognize it is a massive change. A nonstop stream of information candy and ego dopamine, gone from the day. I can still use Twitter from the real computer.
  • I cleaned up the longstanding pile of move-in debris from my office and replaced it with a tidy arrangement of heavy barbells and dumbells. Now instead of being faced with a mess when I come in here to write, I get the invitation to do a few quick lifts, then sit down and get some shit done.
  • I am giving up pointless casual drinking (disguised as the well-deserved beer or red wine at the end of a good workday), although keeping social drinking because it’s less frequent.

These changes alone have been very powerful (I actually cheated and started in mid-December), but to make them even better, I am using the concept of the keystone habit to replace the sad craving left behind by each bad habit with something good and equally rewarding.

  • When I wake up (usually before sunrise), I still immediately feel the urge to check my phone. This urge reminds me to go to the couch in my quiet office, flip on a little lamp, and read more of whatever book I am currently working on. I write down notes as I read each book and it tends to lead to a better and more motivated day.
  • When I find myself swiping through the screens full of apps on my phone and find Twitter is missing, I am reminded to put the phone back down and pull the little oldschool notebook out of my pocket – this is where I keep current ideas and my to-do list.
  • When the sun goes down and I suddenly feel the usual craving for an adult beverage, it reminds me to do something useful and physical instead. I pour a glass of cold water and step out to the back patio where I keep the squat rack permanently loaded to remove all barriers to this ultimate of exercises.

With these tricks, I have cut out most of the brain’s junk food and replaced it with things that are actually good for mental function. I still need plenty of computer time to keep up my cherished hobby of being Mr. Money Mustache, but now it comes in shorter, focused sessions at this bigass desktop computer in a quiet room with no distractions.

If all goes well it will mean getting more done with less unsatisfying gear-grinding. Better days and calmer nights. All in all, a worthwhile resolution in my books.

What are you changing this year? Are you going after big objectives or tiny habits?

 

  • Nicola January 8, 2015, 2:21 pm

    An excellent post. I frequently find myself on my phone, and, before I know it, 30 minutes have gone by and I’ve done nothing. There are so many distractions out there! We’ve decided that 2015 will be our year of enough. We are going to continue down our path to a more simple life, which does tie into your post. Looking forward to seeing where 2015 takes you :)

    Reply
    • Dividend Growth Investor January 12, 2015, 10:11 am

      I agree that this is an awesome article. We have so many items these days that fight for our attention, this actually decreases our attention span. Plus, spending time on social networking is usually mostly a waste. 10 minutes/day every day equates to 60 hours/year, or a whole two and a half days. You can read a whole book for 60 hours, and learn some valuable knowledge.

      Slowing down is tough in todays environment. But if you can manage to turn off the “noise”, your overall happiness will increase.

      Reply
    • theFIREstarter January 26, 2015, 6:49 am

      I removed Twitter and Facebook from my phone over a year ago, best thing I ever did!

      The thing is I’ve replaced it with signing up to and reading loads of PF/FI related blogs, which is still a big “time sink” and needs to be monitored! But at least I am learning some good stuff, rather than just what random people I may have met 3 times had for dinner that night.

      My issue is when I am busy with real life stuff and then I get a backlog of unread blog posts in my inbox…

      I had a clear out a week ago and managed to blitz through about 300 by evaluating the titles, speed reading a bit of each one, etc… and then reading some in full that looked the most interesting, and deleting the rest pretty quickly.

      I have got this weird, I guess form of OCD, where I feel I need to read every single one though! I guess the best advice is just to delete anything over (say) 4 days old that is unread!?

      Any other methods that are working for people keep their blog post reading / inbox in check, let me know!

      Reply
  • Kalie January 8, 2015, 2:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great perspective on resolutions and focusing mental energy. I am also aiming to read less random social media posts and replace it with more real books to enrich my motivation and perspective for my life and financial goals. It’s astonishing how powerful the thought life is on our actions.

    Reply
  • ShelbyKauth January 8, 2015, 2:26 pm

    I will be keeping Twitter. I follow two accounts: Pure Michigan for the inspiring pictures, and Mr. Money Mustache so I’m not actively checking everyday for a new post. My vice is Video Games.
    Whenever I have the urge to play a mindless video game, I try to play a different game instead, like ‘Untrusted’ by Alex Nisnevich, or ‘Kohctpyktop:Engineer of the People’ by Zachtronics Industries, games about JavaScript and circuit design, respectively. Alternatively, I try to work on whatever project I’ve got going at the time.

    Reply
    • Pengepugeren January 11, 2015, 3:55 pm

      Hey, I’ve never herd of Untrusted or Kohctpyktop. They seem like really great games.
      Thanks for sharing :)

      Reply
    • wrkirk January 11, 2015, 11:27 pm

      Uggg. Video games…when I get into them, I cannot stop. Thankfully, we were out of town a week for Christmas and I have not had the same craving to get on Destiny every…single…night. I have been accomplishing and learning so much more with all the extra hours. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the call to a game will show up again at some point.

      Reply
      • Jorge January 12, 2015, 12:02 pm

        Fighting the urge now for about a year! so happy i could resist. no problem with saving money, but lots of poblems to save time :(

        Reply
    • Rolo January 15, 2015, 10:11 pm

      Same here, Shelby! When I rebuilt my computer a few months ago, I decided to ditch the mindless “casual” gaming that found its way onto my Master Race PC. I’ve missed the real computer gaming that challenges, stretches, and entertains the mind.

      It’s funny you mentioned Zachtronics Industries; I am currently playing SpaceChem, a nice design puzzler. Wife & I ditched the mind-numbing MMOs and play story/adventure/solve-the-mystery games together.

      I feel so much better being deliberate in my gaming choices and that led to being more deliberate in my other choices involving spending time and money. I also spend _less_ time gaming because my thoughtful choices lead to a satisfying conclusion.

      Reply
  • EarlyRetirementguy January 8, 2015, 2:27 pm

    There was a great TED talk a few years ago where the lecturer demonstrated that most ‘habits’ can be formed by effectively forcing yourself to continue them for 30 days. After that time it becomes auto pilot.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days

    For this year I’m starting with the relatively easy challenge of not drinking for January.. and hoping the habit may be formed (or at least a habit of reduced consumption) for the rest of the year.

    A saving of health and wealth.

    Reply
    • Jason G January 11, 2015, 9:25 am

      I have read many self help books on habits and it is truly remarkable how our body and mind adapt to our normal routine. Ideally then it is best that we pursue the perfect routine. Since this is a daunting task; this year I am adopting “new month resolutions”. At the end of each month I will reflect on what Habit needs the most attention and it will be my area of focus for the new month. While the New Years resolution will reflect my macro goals the new month resolutions will reflect micro goals or simply add another mile to my runs,etc. I am happy to see that the Ted talk supports the idea that these “new month resolutions” and the new habits they reflect have a good chance of sticking :)

      Reply
  • Ron January 8, 2015, 2:31 pm

    Although I’m too much a non-conformist to make resolutions based on an arbitrary changing of the calendar, I find your example helpful. Managing personal data is increasingly challenging and your personal case study is appreciated.

    Philosophically though, I question your premise that the key is just changing our thinking by paying more attention to our noodles. I would argue the key is who we choose to spend most of our time with. We are at least as much a product of our close circle of friends’ influence as we are our solo thinking. Do the bulk of our family and close friends mindlessly skim data all day or are they managing it more thoughtfully?

    I think more sociologically than psychologically and in terms of concentric circles of relative influence. . . family, close friends, and maybe the authors you spend time with each morning. Small, but maybe significant point of difference.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 8, 2015, 2:40 pm

      Great point Ron, and one that was I totally forgot when I wrote this.

      Some of the best advice is to hang around with people who ARE the way you WANT yourself to be, since we tend to become become the average of our closest associates.

      Since I spend most of my time with my wife and boy, I haven’t done much to control the situation. And our house is a struggling environment right now, sometimes with too much conflict and not enough focus – this is surely part of the insanity of the last year. So let’s add a resolution to get out more and hang out with the great and badass friends that I have right in this town.

      (No offense little MM, but you can definitely be a bit hard on the ears at times, including right now as you whine in the background ;-))

      Reply
      • must_stash January 8, 2015, 3:40 pm

        Sometimes we have to be those good influential friends. I didn’t have a Facebook account because I saw how much time it was taking out of my life, then my girlfriend noticed my free-time and dropped hers (I’m sure some people can use FB in moderation, not me) . I think being an example of a new habit to our friends can help reinforce the habit for ourselves and hold us accountable.

        Reply
        • Ellen January 9, 2015, 1:12 pm

          I agree! After signing up for a FB account two years ago, for an online class, I found that most of the postings outside the class were sophomoric. When it was over, I closed my account.

          Reply
        • Brenton January 13, 2015, 8:44 am

          The key is to uninstall the facebook app on your phone, tablet, etc… Make yourself consciously choose Facebook by typing in the URL, username, password. Turn off all the e-mail notifications too. Sort of like TV watching. With cable, you have a tendency to just sit and flip the channels. Without cable, you tend to only watch something you are really interested in.

          Also, MMM, love the idea of the weights in the office room. You don’t work anymore, but for people who work from home alot(like me), lifting when you great frustrated with office politics works pretty well.

          Reply
      • Enyar January 8, 2015, 3:45 pm

        It’s hard to soar with eagles if you surround yourself with a bunch of turkeys.

        Reply
      • Eldred January 13, 2015, 6:45 am

        This is one of the things that’s always puzzled me. If you want to hang with wealthy people but you’re not, how do you make that happen? It’s not like I could afford a country club membership opera tickets, or fly-away retreats. Where do successful people hang out that’s accessible for the ‘average’…?

        Reply
        • Tom January 13, 2015, 9:24 am

          I think your place of employment has to be one. It should be clear to you who’s been successful career-wise there, and you could make an educated guess at their wealth status. Another option would be to join a local and inclusive group or club (think more along the lines of Rotary club or other volunteer organizations than country club) to find a mix of people with diverse backgrounds of wealth and achievement.

          I also thought of a college campus as one place where the inexperienced can have an opportunity to interact and build relationships with people farther along the path than themselves.

          Reply
        • Gretchen January 16, 2015, 6:22 am

          Ewww. It’s not just about “wealth” (I know this is MMM) but these comments sound very “up-and-comer”-ish and just gross. How about you hang around with people you enjoy who make you feel warm and happy and laugh, regardless of their wealth. This bit about country clubs and such…really?

          Reply
          • Eldred January 16, 2015, 2:12 pm

            The implication(both here and on other sites I’ve read) was that your income/wealth closely mirrors that of the people you most associate with. So if you want to be wealthy, you should have more of such people around you. I simply don’t have any wealthy people in my circle, and I was inquiring on how to increase(or improve) that circle. I fail to see how that’s ‘gross’…

            Reply
            • Justin January 22, 2015, 4:03 pm

              Eldred, I suggest you read Millionaire Next Door if you truly think that all wealthy people hang out at country clubs, soirees, or galas. Cheers!

              Reply
              • Eldred January 23, 2015, 9:46 am

                I’ve read that book, although I can’t find it at the moment. I can’t remember – does it MENTION how to find millionaires to seek advice from?

      • Maximus January 21, 2016, 11:44 am

        Gents,

        I have been working towards my early retirement since I was 28. I have followed MMM’s blog advice, read all the recommended books, watched related podcasts, financial freedom articles and implemented as many changes in my life as possible! I am now 33 and in a few months I should be calling the quits on my 66 hour work week job to venture into my own version of financial freedom. As I evolved I learned that one of the most challenging things and the one thing I was not able to conquer during this whole was exactly that…To Hang Around People who I want to be like or at least that were like minded. Maybe in the near future once my new journey begins I will have better control of that…any thoughts?

        Reply
    • Danny January 9, 2015, 10:13 am

      Yes, but who our friends are is also a direct result of our thoughts. Thoughts, over time, become calcified into beliefs and we naturally find people who share our ideals, attitude and worldview. I know personally that improving my own mental health caused me to leave some toxic friends behind – where previously I had accepted their negativity, I grew to the point of getting sick of them and moving past it.

      MMM is basically paraphrasing stoicism here, which states that the only things we can truly control in this universe are our thoughts and beliefs. Take good care of them and the rest will follow.

      http://philosophyforlife.org/philosophies-for-life/stoics/

      Reply
  • Frugal Buckeye January 8, 2015, 2:36 pm

    I am definitely looking forward to quitting the 9to5 and getting my brain back in a big way, even if it is still a few years away until I can pull the trigger. I’ve been cutting my consumption of crap information (news, tv, websites, facebook, etc) to try to bring the noise level down a bit. I also find that by focusing on just one thing at a time, like learning a new skill or improving a habit, in the manner that Leo Babauta and other people talk about makes it easier to concentrate. Keep up with those small habits every day and they build into the larger effect you want to achieve.

    Reply
  • Mike January 8, 2015, 2:37 pm

    After reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, I’m working on analyzing my consumption and cutting it down as much as possible….

    Reply
    • BikeCommuter January 9, 2015, 11:53 am

      I’ve heard about this book and it sounds intriguing…do you recommend it? My to-read book list has grown quite large since the new year..

      Reply
    • BikeCommuter January 9, 2015, 11:55 am

      My to-read book list has become rather large, but do you recommend this book?

      Reply
      • Joanna January 10, 2015, 11:58 am

        I recommend the book. She can be a bit pretentious at times, but that doesn’t mean that she has bad ideas. At the very least it will shock you into taking a hard look at the amount of trash you produce.

        Reply
        • BC January 13, 2015, 3:18 pm

          Fantastic book based on her blog! I totally hear the tone you are talking about but I would call her highly committed to her ideals rather than pretentious. Not any more than MMM but without the cus words. :)

          BikeCommuter, If you want some idea of what kind of things are in the book, check out her blog zerowastehome.com The recipes in the book definitely make the book worth it, even if you read the whole blog, which I have. Unfortunately she hasn’t blogged much since the book project started, but I think she’s covered most everything. And instead of churning more out, just because, she’s finding the technology balance in her own life and encouraging it in mine. :)

          Reply
      • Mike January 11, 2015, 1:26 pm

        I would recommend it. It made me more aware of the waste that I produce. It’s full of tips on how to cut out waste/unnecessary consumption. It doesn’t cover everything but it’s a good start..

        Reply
  • B January 8, 2015, 2:40 pm

    First I must admit that I feel your blog is getting away from financial badassity and more towards a philosophical outlook on life that can be achieved post-FIRE.

    However, I enjoyed this article and have been considering also implementing the changes you have. Once my cell phone contract is up I’m going to get an old school dump flip phone. My only concern is loss of a quick Google and GPS when I’m out and about and need to find something on the way, which is a big loss in efficiency. But the savings in the cell phone bill should easily make up for the loss in efficiency. This will also stop me from messing around on my phone before bed and first thing in the morning.

    Reply
    • Kevin January 8, 2015, 3:04 pm

      Hey B,

      Just wanted to state here that the philosophical outlook doesn’t have to wait until post-FIRE. Actually, the philosophical outlook is likely a HUGE part of what actually makes FIRE achievable by people living on normal levels of income. I think financial badassity becomes a lot easier after the philosophical badassity has already progressed.

      Reply
    • Yuriy January 8, 2015, 9:09 pm

      B,

      Switched to Republic Wireless thanks to advice from Mr. Money Mustache right on this blog. Achieves the much smaller bill you are looking for without giving up access to data when you need it. If you are constantly near WIFI, like I am, you can cut the bill even more and opt for their Cell Calls and Messages + WIFI Data option.

      Definitely need to stop messing on my phone as much myself. So you do have a point there. It’s like junk food. If you don’t have it in the house, you won’t be tempted to eat it.

      Reply
    • Pat January 9, 2015, 7:21 am

      Just a quick comment – you can drop the data part of your plan now and turn your smartphone into a dumb phone. It will still have the useful features that do not depend on the data plan, and no shopping for another phone. Amazing how much lower your phone bill can instantly become.

      Reply
      • Bob Heckel January 10, 2015, 7:21 am

        That’s a great idea – I’ve implemented a variant of it. I use Ting with my phone disabled (via the Ting app), relying on Google Voice/Hangouts for calls & text over 3G. The bill is $6 + $3 for the 50-100MB of data I use.

        Your idea is better for more reliable delivery of calls & texts, mine might be better for those times when you need Google Maps, etc.

        Reply
        • Sandy January 11, 2015, 6:57 pm

          Hey, another Ting user! I was going to suggest that on this post. We have had Ting for 2 years now and our bill is normally about $37. We have two smart phones, but really don’t use them for much more than calls and messages. With the Ting plan, you don’t pay for it if you don’t use it, but data is there if you want it, that works out great!

          Reply
        • Sean January 13, 2015, 11:06 am

          Unfortunately, although Ting is a Canadian company, it can’t operate in Canada. Same with GOOGLE Voice. I hate Canadian laws sometimes.

          Reply
    • Kenoryn January 12, 2015, 12:00 pm

      I find this comment funny because I have always thought this blog was about a philosophical outlook on life which can coincidentally lead to early retirement. It’s never been about spending less money to get to early retirement so much as reconstructing your life to optimize happiness by living simply with a focus on the things that really matter and that improve your life, and ditching all the other crap. As a side effect, you may become wealthy.

      Reply
  • Steve Adcock January 8, 2015, 2:41 pm

    Having something to focus on is definitely the key to life in my opinion. In fact, I just blogged about this very topic a few days ago. I get myself excited over the little things in life. It keeps me focused and under control of my own mind, every damn day. I used to be a political junky, but not any more. I no longer crowd my limited cranial capacity with useless data spewed by highly-paid mouthpieces over the airwaves.

    Instead, I focus on ME, MY FAMILY and MY RETIREMENT, through and through. Cell phones and cable television be damned. It only adds stress to most people’s lives, not true happiness.

    Long live mental bliss!

    Reply
  • Bennett R January 8, 2015, 2:42 pm

    Damn you, MMM! I started reading your blog about a month ago, brought by a link on nytimes or CNN or another news site. Now I find that reading it, thinking about it, and implementing its recommendations consumes nearly half of my conscious life. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed (after The Four Pillars of Investing, recommended by The Man Himself) and the first thing I think about in the morning as I pack stuff into my messenger bag so I can bike to work (would you believe this practice began shortly after my introduction to the blog?)

    When I first arrived on site, my first thought was, “Why do so many people obviously care very deeply how they’re perceived by this dude?” As I read further, I realized that people are so genuinely enamored of MMM that when they are unable to conduct their lives in a Mustachian fashion they will WRITE THE MAN WITH EXCUSES FOR THEIR BEHAVIOR. Who is this mysterious man, I wondered, and how does he yield such power over an apparently rational, literate readership?

    Now I get it. I’ve never read a blog before. In my perception, they’re either an exercise in narcissism (“I’m going to start the paleo diet soon! Enjoy pictures of my slowly shrinking middle-aged belly!”) or self-serving commercialism (“Click here to buy my books, t-shirts, and ‘essays’ that are in fact old blog posts!”) But MMM, it seems, is different. Maybe if I can figure out why I can be magical too. Is it because he seems so sincere in his desire to help people live better lives? Is it his effortless hilarity? His tough-love approach? Is it because he’s just a great writer? It can’t be just because he forthrightly advocates a path toward early retirement. Right?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 8, 2015, 7:53 pm

      Wow, thanks for becoming such a dedicated Mustachian in such short order, Bennett!

      If I ever do start selling T-shirts, I think one of them will simply be the entirety of that comment you just posted, scaled to fill the whole front of the shirt ;-)

      Reply
      • Jason G January 11, 2015, 10:44 am

        Even the frugal need to buy cloths. As long as the MMM shirt does not cost more than a typical t shirt I would be a customer. I can think of worse things to represent across my chest. The problem is for every shirt you sold you would get 20 haters saying your not retired anymore yada yada.

        Reply
        • Diane C January 15, 2015, 6:49 pm

          Nah, the frugal make cloths out of old clothes, usually to eradicate the need to buy paper-towel-like cleaning products. These clothes are ideally purchased at the nearest thrift shop, or better still are hand-me-downs/ups/overs from less badass people.

          And please don’t get me started on your vs. you’re. If you want to be a true badass, look it up and commit to knowing the difference.

          Reply
    • PeachFuzzStacher January 8, 2015, 8:34 pm

      Way to let off some steam, Bennett!

      I couldn’t resist, and welcome.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19R2fDXCzcM

      Reply
      • 9 O'Clock Shadow January 9, 2015, 8:51 am

        As philosophical as things get here, a well-placed line like that can bring me to tears (of laughter). Thanks PFS :)

        I’ve also replaced reading the shitty Metro paper in the morning with playing an App for the Dual-N-Back working memory game. The iPhone I use is my sisters’ old one with no data plan, and the app was free.
        I also wanted to get my mind back, and I thought the best way was to increase capacity (working memory) and displace a bad habit. This does both. I also started in November on and off to ensure that by 2015 this was a well-oiled habit. It is working so far!

        As for any bad habit that you want to eliminate, if you can do it a few times Ahhnold’s Predator advice stands “If it Bleeds, we can kill it!”

        Reply
  • Jay January 8, 2015, 2:43 pm

    I got rid of the Twitter app a few months ago. It really helps!

    This year, for the first time, I wrote up personal and professional targets for the year on my blog (no link because I’d prefer to remain anonymous on this website). Some personal goals are pasted here:

    – Learn to do at least 5 keepie-uppies with both feet and thighs
    – Squat at least my own bodyweight (ie a bar loaded with as much as I weigh)
    – Go on at least 5 day hikes over 10 miles
    – Go camping at least 5 times
    – Read at least 20 books
    – Leave laptop out of the bedroom at night

    I like your idea of building better keystone habits. Checking my phone first thing in the morning is a problem for me too. Because I have my alarm on my phone, picking up my phone is almost the first thing I do when I wake up.

    Do you think it’s worth buying (hopefully on Craigslist) an actual alarm clock, so that I don’t need to keep my phone in the bedroom at night? This will also ensure no pre-bedtime aimless browsing on the phone; the phone stays out in the living room.

    Reply
    • EcoCatLady January 8, 2015, 4:13 pm

      If you’re not opposed to cheap stuff made in China, you can get a simple alarm clock for a dollar or two at any of the “cheap crap made in China” stores.

      Reply
    • ickabug January 8, 2015, 8:52 pm

      What is an alarm clock?

      Reply
      • Eldred January 9, 2015, 9:53 am

        How I envy those of you who don’t need to ‘start your stinking job to get your pay’…

        Reply
    • Tonto January 8, 2015, 11:58 pm

      You can still use the alarm on your phone as long as it´s not too far away to be heard. The wake ups ar even more efficient when you need to run to the next room to silence the damn thing.

      Reply
  • Mark Ferguson January 8, 2015, 2:43 pm

    This is an awesome post! I found myself getting more and more distracted this at the end of this year and my happiness and success suffered as well. I used to take time out every night for myself with no phone, tv, radio or computer to go over my day, think about my goals and relax without thinking about anything at all. It is amazing how just a few minutes of dead tie can recharge your body and clear those ugly thoughts out.

    I have been much more selective about what I do online or with my phone. My biggest problem lately is I have been doing a fairly good job of monetizing my blog and I have been addicted to looking at the sales and affiliate earnings as well coming up with ways to do things better. I am in Florida with my family on the beach and I have been doing a great job of clearing my head, ignoring my phone for the most part and relaxing. I even started running! I do take an hour or so in the afternoons to catch up on emails and work like I am right now.

    It is amazing how much my staff got done without me while I was gone. Gives me confidence they can handle things when I am away, which is a great feeling.

    In 2015 I have some monetary goals like make $20k a month from my blog, but I also want to buy many more rental properties to provide passive income.

    Again great post.

    Reply
  • M from Loveland January 8, 2015, 2:44 pm

    Great post!. I totally agree with all the slacking produced by the damn “smart” phones. I think I can manage mine just to be my source for reading your posts, Jim Collin’s investing series (that I’m devouring those days), and skip the news.
    Lots of stuff going on for this new year, in the personal, professional and financial areas. But already made some plans to keep them simple and doable :). I know you’re a very focused-oriented person, so you’re gonna achieve succesfully your goals. Or as the GPS always says, you can always recalculate the path ;)

    Reply
  • Eric January 8, 2015, 2:45 pm

    MMM,
    Great article as always. Right on point with structuring success into your physical day rather than conceptually into your consciousness to get real results. You’re essentially making a decision once to reap rewards permanently–much easier on the mind. I did this after my wife had our first baby last February. I got up to 211 lbs (from 180) on the scale during the pregnancy. I knew I had neither the discipline or commitment to lose that weight if I had to make decisions each day. So I just turned my desk into a standing desk (which looked ridiculous) and, boom, lost twenty pounds over the next few months–no other changes or decisions necessary.

    Reply
  • Sue January 8, 2015, 2:52 pm

    My phrase for this year is “Less screen in 2015.” I used to play Candy Crush and check my email every night to “relax” when I got into bed. But, now, I’ve been trying to read some in a book instead and it has worked out well so far. I’m 200 pages into my first book of 2015 already! :)
    I also chose the word “recalibrate” and I’m trying to adjust my behaviors without requiring wholesale changes of myself. Because wholesale changes are hard, but adjustments seem much easier! I love your idea of doing something productive every time you have an urge! Great idea!

    Reply
  • the idiot January 8, 2015, 3:41 pm

    I decided to do something similar. When the laptop is on I’d noticed it had become the sloth option of keeping my brain entertained. Internet rabbit holes can go on for way too long without realising it. And when you let it go on at the wrong times, like night, it ends up interfering with your sleep. So that went.
    Same with no checking tv or internet in the morning. I jog off to work with a clear head.

    I don’t have a phone, so my only problem there is needing to dodge all those head down phone people who nearly run into you on the street!

    Reply
  • Carolina January 8, 2015, 3:50 pm

    Funny, we ( as a family) had just decided to cancel our Facebook account when I read this MMM post. We can’t live with fb ‘s privacy policy (just changed over here in the Netherlands), and it’s an unnecassary distraction. We weren’t quite prepared for the social backlash tough. It is truly interesting to see how many of our friends got upset. We will miss out on Important Things! We won’t know what everyone had for breakfast. O dear. Just want to warn our fellow mustachians: you will take some heat when making these changes. Don’t worry though: totally worth it in the end. Also: all your friends with half a brain will follow suit. So just hang in there and get your brain back!

    Reply
    • Jay January 8, 2015, 7:30 pm

      One thing I’ve learned these past few years: people sometimes get mad when you opt out of doing something that they (and most other people) do. People who are upset feel (I think) like you’re attacking their life choices when you reject something they do. Although in this particular case, they may just be upset about not having an effortless way to stay in touch with you.

      I support your decision though; I quit FB almost 5 years ago. Staying in touch should take some effort IMO.

      Reply
  • Michelle January 8, 2015, 3:51 pm

    Excellent post. Back in September I choose to almost completely withdraw from Facebook. Are any of these people truly friends? Nope. None are family that I care to keep in contact with either. Just lots of mindless bullshit coming into my brain. Only yesterday I got an e-mail from my husband’s cousin asking if she had done something wrong because she wasn’t seeing me in social media anymore and why wasn’t I communicating online. Good grief. You know what? I’d like to grab a cup of coffee and sit down with a friend and have a face-to-face conversation. I’d like to develop actual, true relationships with people.

    For a couple of weeks we lost two television news channels due to a battle between Dish and Turner and at first I was mad because I regularly watched both of these channels. After a few days it wasn’t even a big deal. I was glad to have the “news blackout”. Now they are back and I’m back watching and it may be time to turn off the damn tv.

    Years ago when I was a single working chick, I lived in a small cabin in the woods with a primary heat source of a wood stove. I didn’t have tv. I chopped wood and read books and snowboarded and crafted and shoveled snow. Now I sit on my ass, after having turned up the thermostat, sit on the couch with a beer, let my brain cells rot, and it takes me forever to get a project done, if at all. Still a big reader, though. Books about homesteading, books about financial responsibility, lots of mysteries, and also a cookbook here and there and then a new recipe gets made. Sometimes it turns out, sometimes it doesn’t. This year I want to drink less, push my body around more, become more financially independent, learn more about . . . . anything! Everything!

    Reply
    • Jay January 8, 2015, 7:34 pm

      “For a couple of weeks we lost two television news channels due to a battle between Dish and Turner…”

      You are very brave to admit here that you have cable :-)

      +1 for logging off FB though.

      Reply
  • Mr. FI January 8, 2015, 4:03 pm

    This is a great post. I struggle with this and it even gets in the way of my relationship with my wife. I’m constantly in trouble because my attention is being split between my wife talking to me and me reading my Twitter timeline. I’ve been working on being better, but I believe you are right. I should just get rid of the apps that are so easy to access and distract me.

    My other big detractor of productivity is sports. I love sports. And since they are seasonal, I’m always hooked into one sport or another. Again, I’ve done better not to let them rule my life, but it’s gone from something I enjoy to almost like a job. Like I’m not a real fan if I don’t consume every pointless article about team bonding or injuries.

    1st world problems are real problems when we’re not improving our world because we’re too distracted to care.

    Reply
    • MetalCap January 9, 2015, 11:47 am

      This has been my struggle as well. I’m a huge Hockey fan and have been with the Capitals since they were realllllly bad. I gave up my season tickets but not without immense guilt and fear of losing some really close friends.

      My best way to combat that has been playing pickup with them monthly. It gets my body moving and relationships close without the massive expenditure and time. The guilt remains though.

      Reply
  • skunkfunk January 8, 2015, 4:19 pm

    Going to buy some weights, do those squats and such.

    Learn trumpet. (Free!)

    Learn piano. (Also free!)

    Maybe learn to cook? Wife does this now but she’s about to birth our first child, so maybe I should pitch in there.

    These things will help crowd out things like obsessively checking reddit or watching hundreds of sporting events per year, with any luck.

    Reply
    • EMML January 8, 2015, 6:48 pm

      Yes, by all means, learn to cook!!

      Reply
    • smbysw January 12, 2015, 2:50 pm

      I assume you already have the piano and trumpet?

      Reply
  • Tina January 8, 2015, 4:20 pm

    Be Intentional. That is my goal for the year and years to come. It’s too easy to easy to fall mindlessly into the world around you – whatever it may be. Eating, spending money, social media, drinking, working, reading…..everything! The “good” and the “bad”! I also removed my social media apps from my phone and turned off my email notifications. My phone is simply a phone again. I will never set myself up for failure by saying things like “I will never drink another beer”, “I will work out every single day this year”, “No more eating out for me!” because let’s face it; none of that is ever going to happen. But whatever I CHOOSE to do, I am going to do for a reason; with intention. If I have a beer, it’s going to be a dang good one and I’m going to really enjoy it. If I’m going to work out, I’m going to put effort into it and not just go through the motions. When I am working, I’m going to be effective (ok – this one has a lot of room for improvement seeing as I am sitting at my desk right now reading this blog and thinking only 2031 more days until FI freedom!) Whatever I am doing or whoever I am with, they (or that) deserves my full attention and I deserve the ability to be fully engaged.

    Reply
  • RobbyJ January 8, 2015, 4:33 pm

    Excellent idea to keep yourself away from the phone for a while. I’ve taken to turning all Data completely OFF throughout the day so I don’t get notifications for emails, etc. (re-activating once or twice per day as needed), and putting the phone face down on silent as soon as I start to settle down for the evening. It’s amazing what’s out there in the world when your gaze goes past your hand!

    Reply
  • Mr. FC January 8, 2015, 4:40 pm

    Hey MMM – glad you referenced the keystone habit! The first time I read about it was in Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, easy read but definitely recommend.

    1/1/15 brought about a fair bit of change for us as well, not least of which is trying to cut back on the amount of mental crap we ingest daily. Facebook is the #1 time suck out there for me – even after paring back the “friends” list to really just friends, it’s still too much and probably time to just ditch it altogether. It’s off my phone now and it ain’t coming back.

    Having a 2 week break just to spend time with family and friends was a seriously needed rest after a really long year, spending some time in reflection about what worked for us in 2014 and what didn’t. It felt really complicated and difficult to sort through at first, but in the end it all comes down to focusing on habits that will allow me time and energy to devote to what makes me a happy human being – reading, writing and running. And work, for now, fortunately. :)

    Also was lucky enough to spend some time with Jim Collins (!!!!) on his swing through LA over the break, so many awesome inspirations and an amazing way to kick off the New Year!

    Reply
  • Diana January 8, 2015, 4:50 pm

    Thanks for the inspiration MMM, just deleted FB from my phone, 10th try is a charm, right?! (Can’t bear to quit completely because I’ve connected with too many long lost people through the magic of FB. Also keeps me updated on the relatives I never see.) Pre-smartphone, I used to get out of bed and out the door in under 15 minutes, now with a smartphone I’m lucky if that’s 45 minutes. Going back to an old fashioned alarm clock and successfully keeping the phone out of the bedroom would do wonders for me. I tried that for a while, and I would get out of bed in the morning, grab my phone from the other room, and get back in bed. I am truly my own worst enemy.

    Also trying to do the no drinking in January thing. I have to admit, this was easier a few years ago when we had no money for drinks and spending money on them felt super irresponsible. Now going out with friends and not buying a drink makes me feel like mrs.stingy mc.cheapskate. And you can only have so many ginger ales in a night..

    Reply
  • Michelle January 8, 2015, 5:01 pm

    Love this! I am trying to become less attached to the internet, my laptop, and my phone, but it’s been a rough start so far in 2015. Hopefully I can kick this habit and not feel like I have to be on it 24/7.

    Reply
  • DrFunk January 8, 2015, 5:08 pm

    This post reminded me about the book I have waiting for me on my Kindle. Essentialism by McKeown. The first chapter is good, if directed mostly at the true business grinders. How to focus on the things that really matter.

    I’ve committed to doing more of the little things that make me more badass. Cutting out time wastes and adding to my productivity.

    Reply
  • Abner January 8, 2015, 5:16 pm

    This reminds me very much of a portion of Walden (by the wise Henry David Thoreau) that I just read a few minutes before reading this post: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.”

    Reply
  • The Roamer January 8, 2015, 5:42 pm

    Wow I got a little scared ( which is kind of sad) when you said worst part is MrMoneyMustache started. I though you for sure where quitting.

    Well I’ve made some resolutions and most are big picture focused but I’ve broken them down to monthly steps.

    I appreciate this post because I’ve been going far and wide reading different blogs trying to connect with people but I think it is affecting my productivity.

    I’ve also made it a goal to read more just started the 7 habits.

    Well I hope you get the results you are looking for… Maybe you should even consider removing comments I’m sure those take time too

    Reply
    • joseph January 8, 2015, 5:54 pm

      I was pretty certain it was a quitting post as well! I had to skim down and make sure it wasn’t true.

      Reply
  • Gen Y Finance Guy January 8, 2015, 5:44 pm

    Great Post! I find myself turning a lot of the noise off this year as well. Unsubscribing to tons of email lists, removing social media from my phone. I stopped keeping up with any regular news source a long time ago. If it is not immediately relevant to my world, it is filtered out before ever reaching me. I canceled cable a year ago so I don’t get pulled into that time suck. I still occasionally watch a show or a movie with the wife. Like you I started leaving my phone downstairs when I go to bed.

    This stops the brainless surfing before lights out, it also keeps me from waking in the middle of the night to a buzzing when work related emails come in from the East Coast (leaving me more rested). Although I still check my personal emails first thing in the morning while I am making my coffee at 5 am. The emails have shrank substantially. So instead of spending an hour going through emails in the morning, its more like 5-10 minutes, and then I pick up a read for the remainder of the hour whatever book I happen to be reading at the time.

    Another thing I stopped doing is checking my work email before getting into the office (started this about 3 weeks ago). Before I changed this I found myself compelled to answer and even start work from home, which would eat into my morning workout time from 6am to 7am. This is no longer happening, which is good because I have some pretty ambitious fitness goals for 2015 and beyond.

    That’s the small stuff that will make all the difference in accomplishing my big goal list for 2015:

    My 2015 Goals: Themed around Connection, Contribution, Vitality, & Serendipity.

    1) Get back into the best shape of my life at 187lbs with 8% bodyfat (my 2012 personal best). [Vitality]
    -Complete 1 round of P90X
    -Complete 1 round of P90X-2
    -Complete 1 round of P90X-3
    -Complete 1 round of a hybrid combo of Insanity/Asylum V1/Asylum V2

    2) Start my MBA in the Fall of 2015 at my Alma Mater CSUF. [Contribution]
    -Submit my application by 1/15/14
    -Register to take the GMAT before 4/1/14
    -Submit Application packet by 4/1/14
    -Start classes in the Fully Employed MBA program in August-2015

    3) Take 3 weeks worth of vacation with my wife & friends. [Connection]
    -Vegas Trip at the Wynn in January
    -Road Trip to Texas in the Spring
    -Summer trip to New Hampshire with friends at the lake house

    4) Make room for serendipity to do its thing. [Serendipity]

    5) Add an additional investment property to our portfolio towards the middle of the year. [Contribution]

    6) Pay additional principal payments towards our primary mortgage to stay on track for our 7-year pay off plan. That means increasing our payment by an additional $800/month in 2015. [Contribution]

    7) Max out 401K with $18,000 (new limit in 2015). [Contribution]

    8) Add $6,000 in 12-month CD’s to our portfolio through Navy Federal at a 3% interest rate. [Contribution]

    9) Increase Networth by $100K in 2015.

    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  • Stacey January 8, 2015, 5:44 pm

    Great post! I think you can do a bit of both, though, on the macro and micro changes. I have three macro type goals I’d like to meet this year (re: health and fitness, writing, and minimizing), but I came up with very specific and targeted steps to get to each. While the big goals are in the back of my mind, it’s the daily steps to get there that I think about and track. You’re absolutely right that you can’t make the big changes without the small steps. And sometimes the small steps wind up being the big changes!

    Reply
  • Evan January 8, 2015, 5:58 pm

    I’m sure this has been touched on before, but one thing I’ve found most interesting about this journey toward increased frugality and early retirement is that frugality always seems to help me improve personally. In order to save more, I’ve cut down on drinking, eating out, driving, etc. This has resulted in less alcohol/empty calories, more cooking veggies at home, and walking/biking more.

    My desire to get out of the rat race, and the frugality required to get there, has given me many healthy habits, which is helping me achieve my bigger goals. It’s all one big cycle!

    Thanks for what you do MMM!

    Reply
  • Neil January 8, 2015, 6:15 pm

    As a young Google engineer, this post felt oddly targeted. In a good way, though.

    Reply
  • EcoCatLady January 8, 2015, 6:22 pm

    Oh… the culture of constant distraction – it’s a bear, ain’t it? Here’s my game plan:

    1) I’ve never had a smart phone. Yes, I’m the one! I’ve been FIRE since 2007 and see no real need for one of those crazy devices. I have a landline & a desktop computer and a pre-paid flip phone for emergencies. My tablet gets occasional use for reading an eBook and that’s about it. And if I need directions I use an ancient device called a map!
    2) I cancelled FaceBook years ago. I think it should be called “stalker-book” Seriously, who cares what people who wouldn’t give you the time of day back in high school are up to? And I don’t have Twitter or Instagram, or any of that other stuff.
    3) I cut the cable. Now I watch a little TV news (off the air) just so I know what’s going on in the world and what the weather is gonna do. And when I want video entertainment I have a ROKU player and Netflix. It’s WAY more than enough!

    The thing is, there’s only so much information that the human brain can absorb. I once read that the average person receives more mail in a week than our great-grandparents did throughout their entire lives! And that was over 20 years ago! These days it’s probably more like more “mail” in an hour!

    Personally, I find it much more satisfying to actually DO things rather than just sit around being pelted with information all the time. The brain functions best when it gets to solve problems and create – and if you need stimulation, try going outside – there’s a whole world out there!

    Reply
    • Frugal in DC January 10, 2015, 6:49 pm

      I agree completely that there is only so much information we can absorb on any given day. There’s so much more to being human than bending our necks to stare at little screens and tapping on them… Glad I never bothered with social media; well-meaning friends have tried to get me to join, but it’s not my thing. I got a so-called smartphone last year but don’t use it as much as most people seem to – no apps and I don’t take selfies – strongly considering going back to a “dumbphone.” Can’t remember the last time I sat in front of a TV to watch something. Every time I walk by a TV somewhere, I’m struck by how loud/fakey-looking people are on it and how much stuff is flashing on the screen – makes me want to shield my eyes. If there’s a series that sounds interesting, I just get it from the library and watch it at my leisure. Cosmos and Orphan Black are recent favorites.

      I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions or changes. I’ve noticed over time that I have veered away from news/politics-type information and towards well thought-out websites that help me look at things differently. Current faves on my RSS reader are MMM, Brain Pickings, advocacy sites for issues I care deeply about, blogs of a few favorite authors and artists, and a couple of hyperlocal sites. Overall, though, books from the library have always been my favorite form of entertainment.

      Reply
  • Sir Salty January 8, 2015, 6:30 pm

    Good point about renting our brains out annually for a salary. Interesting way to think of it.

    This year my main resolution is to work from home at least one day a week. A little more independence – even if not the full, fantastic-sounding early retirement you talk about. Maybe by 2017, quitting and FI will be my New Year’s resolution! Thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
  • EMML January 8, 2015, 6:45 pm

    I’m glad you brought this up. From your stories of success, and the fact that your blog is so well written, my assumption was that you never have any problems/struggles with organization or time-management. The reason I’m glad that you brought it up, is that I’ve been struggling with this big-time, especially lately. And I dont really have mucvh of an excuse. I got out of the TV habit a few years ago, but I still can’t seem to get my act together.
    I never got into Twitter, and use FaceBook sparingly, but I have so many things that I want to do, I feel like I’m spinning in circles much of the time. When I stop spinning, I fall into my default habits, which are anti-productive. Part of my problem is most likely depression, but I don’t want to go back on meds.
    I’m going to try to examine my habits (and find that book someone mentioned earlier). I know I’ll feel at least somewhat better if I can accomplish more and feel free to play more as a result.

    Reply
  • Ken L January 8, 2015, 7:46 pm

    Been off Facebook for years, now going to taper down on Twitter and Instagram. Leave phone at home just like a regular land line. #peace

    Reply
  • Solexist January 8, 2015, 7:52 pm

    I’ve been reading some of Jacob’s early ERE stuff, and it’s interesting that he believes in simply making macro level changes rather than minor adjustments to habit.

    For me, a successful 2015 will include:

    1. Clean out my house completely using additive rather than reductive techniques (everything kept must be justified rather than vice versa). Empty spot in garage will become a Mustachian Exercise Facility.

    2. Convince my family to eat in for virtually every meal. Make food from scratch. Begin to interact more with in person friends.

    3. Write/blog on a path to earn living-expense money from writing.

    If I accomplish these things, it will be a Very Good Year.

    Reply
  • TheFrugalValet January 8, 2015, 8:02 pm

    Cut cable over 6 years ago and what a breath of fresh air. Just traded in my flip phone for a free dumb phone but vowed to not be a “head down” person. The most fun I have now with my new phone is leaving it at home when I go out with friends. Telling them you left your phone at home on “purpose” freaks people out, but it also opens up so much conversation. People start asking why and what – then tend to be interested in what else you do. I share my love of money, saving and investing, and have got 4 people at work to sign up for the company matched 401K. I’m bringing social conversation back into my circle of friends and love it!

    Reply
  • LeisureFreak Tommy January 8, 2015, 8:14 pm

    I always thought for a guy who lives a simple life to retire so young that your success has made you one of the busiest men on the planet with all you do and accomplish. I am happy to see you have figured out some simple sensible ways to scale things back.
    Happy New Year and a big old “Cheers” to you, only socially of course.

    Reply
  • Suzanne January 8, 2015, 8:55 pm

    I entirely appreciate your sentiment as someone who recently got her brain back and who is starting the New Year six months post retirement! Foolishly, I brought home every possible document from work that I have slavishly maintained since the beginning of time –personnel records, memos of all ilk, letters of commendation, continuing education completed, presentations I’d given– and this month they are all going into the round file. Even if I were to give those talks again as a consultant– surely, they would be outdated. It seems amazing to me how I had put my life on the back burner for a professional life that no longer seems to matter to me. I pity the person who has no family ties and no personal life beyond a profession or career. To keep things in perspective, I have always said that regardless of where I work, I am the CEO of ME, Inc., and that career is just the means to an end. How glad I am that I now can revert, full-time, to pursuing personal goals, whether for money or for sheer pleasure. Raised with the same values for frugality, I have a much younger sister and brother, both of whom are good at piling up cash and who both retired before I did. Now I wonder, why didn’t I think to join them sooner?

    Reply
  • George January 8, 2015, 9:39 pm

    Your thoughts relating to the diet for your brain remind me of some things Tim Ferris talks about in the 4HWW. Some of my favorites quotes: “Doing the important and ignoring the trivial is hard because so much of the world seems to conspire to force crap upon you”.

    And in 4HWW he quotes someone else with another good one: “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it”.

    It sounds like you recognized this happened a couple times in your life and corrected course to get your brain back.

    Reply
  • Sam in Space January 8, 2015, 9:54 pm

    Long time listener, first time caller. You on point as usual Mustache ! There was a time as a wee lad of 20-ish I worked on circuit design, mechanical projects and …. y’know learning. Over the last 15 years however, I’ve not been able to push a single project out of its infancy when I’m not at work. I was wondering whether it was fair to blame it on all the additional media/new toys, but after installing a bunch of productivity measuring tools… boy howdy. So much time spent goofing off. It always surprised me when seemingly levelheaded/ more organized people such as yourself have the same basic problems as troglodytes such as myself. I vow to immediately forget everything I’ve just said and go facebook stalk people that I dislike and see if the internet has any new pictures of cats doing something stupid. I bid thee farewell, good sir !

    Reply
  • Ted January 8, 2015, 10:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing your personal goals with us. You seem to have noticed yourself hitting a wall, but instead of backing off, You charge on in true MMM form. I also congratulate you on the no casual drinking! I have been not drinking as much( from 1 beer a night to 1 beer a week) and notice a great increase in my productivity. I used to think that I worked hard all day and deserved a break, but now my break is slowly working towards a goal I enjoy. Plus the time I would take my break, is really the only time I could have for my projects. Let’s charge into 2015!

    Reply
  • Flyingkea January 8, 2015, 11:52 pm

    Hmm interesting that you should mention this, as I have spent far too much time online lately.
    I’ve never had twitter, but use facebook quite a lot as it is way of keeping up with all my overseas relatives easily. Also it has been useful to get updates on the local bushfires. Using FB I was able to inform a friend that if she was required to evacuate she could stay with us. So it does have its uses, but I still have waaay too much time down the rabbit hole. Well, I’ve got 7 or 8 exams to do before August, so I’d better get cracker-lackin!

    Reply
    • JK January 11, 2015, 3:51 pm

      Flyingkea,

      Somewhere early in the comments, Tina provides the advice of “Be Intentional”. For you, FB is an excellent conduit for you to stay in touch with friends and family. If you want to use FB, go ahead, but do it with purpose. Don’t allow yourself to fall into any more of those rabbit holes..

      JK

      Reply
  • CT January 8, 2015, 11:55 pm

    I feel social media(s) along with just out right talking on the phone has become America’s acceptable OCD behavior. A friend walks around with a blue tooth hooked to his ear nonstop. The first time I saw it I said to him—take that thing off of you ear–you are not that important. He laughed & I said “No really–unless you are Secret Service, you really aren’t that important”. Can’t think of anyone else that is that important; because lets face it if you are that important you have people on your heels telling you everything you need to know/do.
    This year my mantra is to turn OCD into No CD.
    MMM is giving Brain Power to the People!

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka January 9, 2015, 12:32 am

    I sense an internal struggle going on in the MMM psyche. What I find most interesting is that you use the blog as therapy and as a self intervention or sorts to try and get yourself back on track…or at least on a track that you feel would be more beneficial to you. By stating these things publicly you seem to want to force yourself to be true to your word, an unusual form of self “tough love”. I can relate to the idea of creating a kind of external source of motivation or guidance system for yourself. If not you, then who?

    Having said that, I have mixed feelings about the premise of denying yourself certain technologies that you have deemed to be less than suitable for your brain to operate at full capacity. I don’t believe these technologies keep me from functioning at the same level that I did 5 or 10 years ago. If anything, it’s opened me up to more positive thinking and positive motivation – this website being an example. The key for me is simply using technology and all the gadgets in moderation. Self control over potentially obsessive behavior is not always easy to monitor, but for me it’s a no brainer. I’d much rather strap on my guitar and jam with Steely Dan or Rush on YouTube than stare at my iPhone. I absolutely loathe Twitter – which considering all the hate it seems to encourage should probably be called “Bitter” and I’d rather take a 25 mile bike ride with audacious hills than Tweet (ugh) with people who sitting around reading and writing Tweets (it’s really hard for me to write “tweet” it just sounds so fucking asinine).
    As far as emails and other stuff that I have to deal with, I created 3 email accounts. One is for business. One is for surfing the web and the important one is for friends and family only. Guess which one I look at every day for about 30 minutes?

    I know your time is being spread thin, more so than the average person – with your post retirement jobs, but success does come with a price. It sounds like you’re having a bit of an internal struggle with some of your success – at least the mundane part it. Didn’t the Roman Empire collapse partly because they extended themselves so far around the world that they didn’t have enough resources to protect the gates of Rome? Maybe your new “less tech” regime will pull back some of the troops to where they belong.

    Best of luck with that.

    Reply
  • Melecio January 9, 2015, 1:45 am

    Recently I’ve started reading about mindful meditation. I’m thinking it can be a good tool to get back your brain, as it teaches you to be aware of your acts and thoughts. Many times, if we reflected for a second on what we are paying attention to when surfing the net, we’d stop watching stupid viral videos and things like that.

    Reply
  • Sandy January 9, 2015, 3:56 am

    I held off buying an iPhone until the 3rd version was out. I was instantly punished for my poor research (I just wanted the cool gadget – everybody else had it, why shouldn’t I?!) when I found out the battery didn’t last for one day!! Shocker!

    The charger in my bedroom was an immediate turn-off. Plus I found myself sharing pictures of my dog with every friend I had on Facebook (a whopping 100+ and I never even realised I knew so many people before FB was invented!).

    The iPhone lasted not 3 months before I was done with it leading my life. The constant frustration of the battery ALWAYS ready to die out… it had to go. Simultaneously I killed my FB account. Now that I didn’t have a smartphone anymore, it was less easy to share my dog pic’s with everyone and the constant invites to join in mindless clicking games annoyed me too. Cable was already killed the year before and contrary to my husbands prediction: we lived through it (and he himself never missed it for a day!).

    But somehow distractions creep into my day anyway. Reading the news when really what I should be doing is studying and surfing for bargains on used baby clothes when I only fired up the laptop to check the train schedule… things like that.

    So really great post MMM!! I’ll get right on minimising those distractions. Really great new years resolution (so much better than the old weight loss goal!).

    Reply
  • EDSMedS January 9, 2015, 4:01 am

    It’s a sad fact that the noise is intentional. The more confounded we are, the more we must “trust” authorities to lead us in the right direction. The noise keeps us confused and permissive.

    Reply
  • Julia January 9, 2015, 4:56 am

    I have several goals for the year, both large and small, BUT my #1 goal is to stop watching so much TV. If I do this most of my other goals will be easy to accomplish. We didn’t have cable or even network television for several years, we only had Netflix. We moved into our apartment last year and the television monster was born….cable came with our apartment.

    The first day our children watched cartoons they asked why the show kept stopping, they didn’t understand the concept of commercials which was awesome. And, now….the television has become a major time-wasting brain-drain. My husband and I have discussed getting rid of the TV all together….we’ll see how that goes, I am hoping to do progressive test runs, the television should slide under a bed or into a closet easily.

    Reply

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