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.


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?


  • Michael Hedgpeth January 9, 2015, 5:54 am

    It’s nice to hear that you deal with some of the same things I deal with. Sometimes I wonder if MMM is on some other planet where the normal vices of man do not apply. :)

    Thanks for the encouragement to continue the fight.

  • Jonny January 9, 2015, 6:44 am

    Fascinating article. Really inspiring, and thought provoking, so much so that:

    1) I’m posting my first comment on the MMM blog
    2) I’ve decided on some important goals and keystone changes for my own Personal, Financial and Professional lives. Though I’m not going to share them*

    * Because this 3 minute TED talk suggests that sharing your goals immediately gives you a feeling of reward (as people congratulate you) meaning you have less motivation to actually get the goals done! – http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself?language=en

    What I will say is that I recently listened to an older episode of the Back 2 Work podcast, in which the hosts spoke in detail about getting a good night’s sleep, where they suggested that reading from bright screens is actually really bad for your sleep (as are any lights in the bedroom apparently). I realised at the same time that I was wasting an hour (of my life!) in bed a night, ‘killing’ time reading ‘noise’ on the internet. I started cutting the habit in December, but ironically got back into it in the new year. Your post has inspired me to quit this wasteful habit again and do something productive.

    To paraphrase Merlin Mann “Bedrooms are for two things, and one of them isn’t reading”.

    I plan to get that one hour a day back. Now what shall I do with it? ;)

    • Mr. Frugal Toque January 9, 2015, 1:20 pm

      “Because this 3 minute TED talk suggests that sharing your goals immediately gives you a feeling of reward”
      Although it works well as a substitute for willpower.
      If you loudly declare that you will not partake in doughnut days at work, for example, it would be extra embarrassing to give in in front of everyone.

  • Jon January 9, 2015, 7:35 am


    1) No “output oriented” apps on smartphone. This way you pick when you use it, and you’re not tempted to impulsively scan contextless information. Because you *will* give in, especially if life isn’t all roses all the time (like when your kids are going ape shit). Camera, texting, and phone calls only. Eschew texting for phone calls, and eschew phone calls for face-to-face conversation. Advertise this: if it’s important, they should call you. If you do less than this then you are being weak at your own expense.

    2) If you do need internet access for work or while traveling, depend on tethering your laptop to your phone. This increases the marginal cost of doing something that is essentially bad for you.

    3) Focus on being *here*, *now*. Technology is awesome, but the more you use it, the more you focus on the future, which essentially is where insecurity, anxiety, and all the bad things come from. Once you realize for yourself that true satisfaction comes from enjoying and working in your immediate, physical surroundings, the happier you’ll be, the more people will like you, and the better off you’ll be.

    “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr (2010)
    “The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts (1951)

  • Chris January 9, 2015, 8:21 am

    My wife and I implemented no tech Thursday nights. Limit of 1 hour of TV a night otherwise. No binge watching shows. It feels too much like a buffet. Holding each other accountable may feel like an attack at first but usually moves to “I’m glad we did that” later on (like going to the gym).

  • Rebecca January 9, 2015, 8:29 am

    I used to work in special education. What you doing to change your behavior is exactly what we do to children to get them to change behaviors. It is almost impossible to quit something. But adding in a new behavior, called a Replacement Behavior in the world of behavior modification, will help to eliminate the old behavior in place of a new one. I took all of the distracting apps off of my phone. I give myself full permission to check them on the Laptop. But I replaced the apps on my phone with a link to Evernote where I keep my ideas/to do lists/drafts ect… When I feel the urge to pick up my phone there is only one option.

  • Ava S January 9, 2015, 8:32 am

    Our only goal for this year is to spend 25% less than we did in 2014. This is coming with the purchase of a new home and baby #5. I have read everything here since day 1, and know that by putting many of your principles into play, we will be able to pull this off. Thanks for all your writings!

  • Mr, 1500 January 9, 2015, 8:39 am

    Hey MMM-

    I have a couple posts that may help you out:
    This one should help you overcome your Twitter addiction: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/10/01/the-low-information-diet/
    Here is a pretty good one that discusses habits and how to break them: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/03/19/a-lifetime-of-riches-is-it-as-simple-as-a-few-habits/

    Just kidding MMM, Happy New Year!

    • Frugal Bazooka January 10, 2015, 1:31 am

      lol…maybe he should go back and read all his old posts since he has more free time now. He could probably teach himself a thing or two.

  • dude January 9, 2015, 8:41 am

    But a glass of wine a day is good for my health!!!! I go in spurts with the no-midweek-drinking thing, but invariably I slip back into that old, comfortable habit, using the aforementioned justification. Not sure of the cost-benefit of this one, and so not very motivated to change it. Will have to do some research.

  • Joe January 9, 2015, 8:43 am

    I did exactly this with the Facebook app on my iPhone. Took it off completely. Now, I have to log in on my laptop, and the result has been amazing on how little I have logged in. The majority of it is becoming a crap stream anyway, and I’m going back to my original goal of using it to keep up with out of town/state relatives and friends.

  • Shelly January 9, 2015, 8:52 am

    Just curious – what book(s) are you reading now, MMM?

  • Ashley January 9, 2015, 8:58 am

    MMM, I’m interested in your take on “screen time”. Is screen time itself bad? Everyone used their screen time to get to this blog and have hopefully benefited from it. It seems I keep hearing (even in the comments) about people always trying to reduce their screen time. I probably spend more time with a screen than away from it, but I don’t see that as bad. My phone wakes me up in the morning and tells me how cold its going to be so I can dress appropriately. I read books on my tablet while sitting on the bus to work. I’m a software developer, so I spend the entire day looking at my computer at work. On the way home its either more reading, a crossword puzzle, figuring out what I need from the grocery store, listen to a podcast, or Duolingo practice. At home I use my tablet to display the recipe I am cooking that night, I do something from my todo list that exists on my phone, and finally I spend time on my computer at home. I might do a Duolingo lesson, play video games, do a Treehouse lesson (website that teaches programming), watch Netflix, browse Reddit, or read blogs. I basically spend my entire day looking at a screen, and I am able to put it down when interacting with others. The only problems I have are spending too much time watching Netflix or browsing Reddit. So, why is screen time so bad? What problems do you have with screen time, and why is reducing screen time the answer?

    • Professor Ecks January 9, 2015, 1:05 pm

      Perhaps I’m missing something, but this post has me confused. You start by asking MMM for his take on “screen time,” then end with “So, why is screen time so bad? What problems do you have with screen time, and why is reducing screen time the answer?”

      Did I miss the part where MMM responded and told you screen time is bad and you should reduce it? I re-read the article and didn’t see anything to that effect.

      As far as the other commenters, I suspect screen time is akin to eating. There is nothing wrong with screen time in and of itself, just like there is nothing wrong with eating. But, if one eats low-quality food, they will start to see negative ramifications. If they do so excessively, it can (and probably will) lead to disaster. If you cut out the low-quality food and replace it with healthier options, you are almost guaranteed to see improvement in your life. Same with screen time. I think most people are simply trying to improve their screen time lifestyle, by limiting or eliminating their low-quality screen consumption.

  • Patricia January 9, 2015, 9:00 am

    I’ve started creating a ‘Want To’ list to help focus more fun in 2015 and less on the nagging ‘To Do’ list that worries my brain so much! Inspired by MMM’s post, I’ve just deleted FB from my iPhone and the iPhone isn’t coming into my bedroom anymore! I also just moved some dumbbells and a yoga mat neatly but visibly onto the main floor instead of the basement. I am also on day 5 of 30 days of no booze – the ‘I deserve a glass of wine to unwind’ excuse is gone. Hoping to pick up those dumbbells instead – I deserve fitness and health!

  • Jenna January 9, 2015, 9:20 am

    I love the way you’ve set up your goals! I love the idea of replacing the urge to check your phone with reading an actual book. I’m going to have to try that one.

    This year, I’ve set a number of process-oriented goals. To help myself lose weight, I’ve made the goal of recording my food and weighing in every day. What gets monitored gets managed, right?

  • Kayla January 9, 2015, 9:32 am

    Great post and great ideas here Mr. MM. Simplifying your life in that way is a great “new years resolution” to have. I too started my new 2015 goals a few days before the actual new year to get a jumpstart on them.

  • Michelle M January 9, 2015, 9:48 am

    Our laptop broke a few weeks ago (and hasn’t been replaced as we’ve been observing the MMM advice to put off such purchases as long as possible) and my desktop computer is used as the living room TV (and we can’t use that too much so as to avoid our toddler obsessing too much over the her YouTube and Amazon kids channels)… These factors have resulted in far less mindless internet surfing; a deprived feeling at first but almost certainly for the best. We’ve also been forced to reduce alcohol consumption as the prolonged sleep-deprived fatigue of the past year combined with our aging has resulted in both of us feeling very beat up all the next day after the smallest of servings. Probably also a good thing.

    Other than that, like you I tried to keep my resolutions more specific, things like:
    -Rest more
    -More Bobby Dean recipes, fewer Paula
    -Get at least one project on the home fix-up list done
    -Tidy up and weed out toss/donate/recycle items from house storage areas

  • Eldred January 9, 2015, 9:49 am

    Nice! I’m trying to make some changes this year. More exercise, more sleep, less weight, more salary, more work on my music, more reading. I’m still working on how to DO that, though.

  • Danny January 9, 2015, 10:04 am

    Thanks for writing this. When I was in high school from 2002-2005, my brain was a lean, mean fighting machine. I read constantly. What time I spent on the computer was mostly spent chatting with friends because our internet connection sucked, and I had not yet discovered the vast cornucopia of distraction that I would in college and beyond.

    Now, ten years later, I feel like I don’t know anything anymore. My brain feels more soft and confused. But I find it nearly impossible to stop surfing, stop Redditting. Fortunately I have given my Facebook and Reddit passwords to my girlfriend, and have only allowed myself to use them on my phone (personally I get tired of staring at my phone screen, but can plop down at the computer and get sucked down the rabbit hole). I’m going to beat internet addiction and pointless browsing, one hard-fought step at a time. I want to get my life back. I want to get my old self back. I want to *remember* things, not say, “I think I skimmed an article online about that once.” I’m going to stop reading so many random articles and read more books.

    I think it’s a struggle nearly all of us face to varying degrees, and thanks for writing about it honestly. But please do keep writing this blog! It’s very helpful to have this online community, to be reminded of my values and goals.

  • Scott January 9, 2015, 10:28 am

    Very nice! I’m going after big objectives via tiny changes: 1. build the habit of a morning routine, 2. prepare healthy snacks first thing to prevent myself from going after unhealthy snacks, 3. blocking 3-4h every workday morning for my top priority.

  • Keith Schroeder January 9, 2015, 10:28 am

    I love the way you laid out your plan for the year. Since you asked what your faithful readers are changing for the year I’ll add my idea for 2015.

    Life has been good for me. I retired early (well before the MMM blog hit the scene) and after a year or two decided I wanted to start a business and did. That was 1989. I’ve worked hard to separate my business from my personal life (I have an accounting firm), but it s impossible for me. The greatest thrill of any day is to help business owners turn the corner and pay less taxes.

    But 2015 is the big year. I’m moving. I have a management team in place to run the practice. Instead of sticking close to the business I am moving to my retirement home to avoid temptation of “just coming in for a bit”. To satiate my lust for tax work and to avoid the risk of starting a practice in my new location because I want to work taxes, I will spend six weeks, maybe a bit longer, at the office during tax season. Small steps, Keith, small steps.

    After many hours of research, MMM might be pleased that Longmont is on a short list of places I am considering. I’ll be touring potential homes in May and June. Climate, taxes and the people are all part of the decision.

    Other than that I’m doing fine. The medicine is working. Sort of.

  • EL January 9, 2015, 11:02 am

    That’s a great plan to avoid distractions and stay on track. Setting up systems that help you is a smart way to increase productivity, and the ones who can stay the course usually have great success. I’m increasing my automatic investing amounts, and also using less social media in 2015. I want 2015 to be the best year for completing my goals.

  • Heidi January 9, 2015, 11:26 am

    Oh yeah! This resonates. Like some others here, I don’t like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. But Goals & Habits make me a happy camper. These are the latest:
    – No social apps on the cell phone
    – No mindless computer time after 7:30 (ideally, no computer time at all, but sometimes it’s the right tool for a task.) I have books, magazines, kids & games that fill the evening nicely.
    – Re-implementing my “every day has it’s own focus” strategy. (Monday & Friday: Family projects, Tuesday: Community/Connection/Volunteering, Wednesday: Art & Health, Thursday: New Info/Brainy Things) Since I don’t have a “normal” job, this helps tremendously with providing structure and a kick in the tush to get things done. “Crap! Gotta do X today because I won’t make time for this kinda thing for another 7 days! Go!”
    – Track my attagirls on idonethis.com (which I learned about on the MMM Forum!)

    And now, since reading blogs doesn’t fit today’s theme, I’m outta here! Thanks for the good brain food ;-)

  • Dee January 9, 2015, 11:26 am

    I have also recently decided that I am way too addicted to my smartphone. My solution is that next month when my contract is up I’m going to downgrade to a dumbphone. I have a six month old daughter, and I don’t want her to grow up as addicted to electronics as I have apparently become! I know that this is not the only electronic influence in her life… but I think getting myself un-hooked from electronics is an important start.

  • Parker January 9, 2015, 11:32 am

    Thanks in part to this blog, I had a great 2014 and removed all debt (mortgage aside) from my life and maxed my Roth contributions. This year, I’ll continue the trend and slightly raise my goals of retirement saving, while focusing on cash savings, which has always been more challenging for me.

  • Tom January 9, 2015, 11:36 am

    This post had perfect timing!

    Gave up my iPhone in December and switched it for a flip phone. Everybody thinks i’m crazy but it’s all about simplifying my life at this point, and getting my brain back is a big part of that.

  • GU January 9, 2015, 11:52 am

    Countless studies show that moderate consumption of alcohol on a daily basis is the “healthiest” way to consume alcohol (versus completely abstaining or heavy drinking [occasional or regular]). You might not be trying to maximize health, you may have other goals, etc. But I hope you’re at least familiar with the voluminous literature on the link between daily moderate drinking and health.

    Here’s a good summary: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/truth-wont-admit-drinking-healthy-87891/

    Not meant to be annoying or judgmental, just wishing to share information with you.

    • wild wendella January 11, 2015, 12:57 pm

      I’m always wary of these kinds of claims. Be careful to read these studies you mention – not just the opinion piece summarizing the study, the *actual* study. Read it critically, looking for flaws in design. Learn who paid for the study, etc. Most studies are commissioned by a group with an obvious agenda and designed to draw a pre-designed conclusion. Personally, I find it very hard to believe that moderate consumption of alcohol on a daily basis is healthier than abstaining, though I certainly don’t disagree that binge drinking has a negative health impact. :)

      • Mike January 11, 2015, 1:29 pm

        “Most studies are commissioned by a group with an obvious agenda”.

        Can you provide a reference for this? What % is Most?

        • Gerard January 11, 2015, 10:12 pm

          Can’t help ya with that, but it seems that (to nobody’s great surprise) funded studies do disproportionately support the product/viewpoint of the funder:

          Als-nielson, B., W. Chen, C. Gluud, and L.L. Kjaergard. 2003. Association of funding and conclusions in randomized drug trails: A reflection of treatment effect or adverse events? Journal of the American Medical Association 290:921-928.

          • Obs January 12, 2015, 11:10 pm

            That could just as easily be explained by observing that people who fund studies are disproportionately likely to have an effective treatment or product. I’m sure the reality is a little of both.

      • GU January 13, 2015, 11:49 am

        The health effects/detriments of alcohol is an area I’ve been researching for about 10 years now. I have read many actual studies. The article I posted above summarizes (with plenty of citations) this voluminous literature. I assume people are more likely to read a well-written magazine article than a research paper, hence I posted the above.

        The Public Health and Medical professions, like American society at large, have a bias against imbibing. The fact that the weight of the published evidence from these academic fields suggests moderate consumption is better than abstinence is therefore even more surprising. I would venture to say that it raises the probability of it being true.

        Further, the FDA prohibits the alcohol industry from advertising studies showing the health benefits of alcohol, hence they have little incentive to fund such studies. I am not aware of any significant funding of alcohol researchers at universities by purveyors of alcoholic beverages (but I’m willing to be corrected). I am aware, however, of such funding from organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which have an anti-alcohol bias. Again, all the biases run against alcohol yet the evidence still favors drinking. This has probative value IMO.

        Skepticism is warranted with all epidemiological studies because we simply can’t control all the variables necessary to get a 100% level of assurance. So my point isn’t that these studies prove once and for all that alcohol in moderation is the healthiest choice. My point is only that someone who already drinks in moderation, and who decides to stop for health reasons, is likely making a mistake.

        If you enjoy alcohol, and you are capable of drinking it in moderation on a daily or near-daily basis, you should probably keep drinking if your only goal is to be as healthy as possible. If you have other goals for which daily imbibing is antithetical (e.g., rock hard ABZ), then you should probably stop drinking, but you should realize the trade-off you’re making.

        • Viren B January 13, 2015, 12:07 pm

          Good points. On a much more elementary level, I remember reading in a newspaper once that the understanding is that people who genuinely limit themselves to a glass of wine a day have higher than average self-discipline and already have many other good habits, and that this is the more likely explanation for the supposed ‘health benefits’.

          However, the article you linked discusses a study in which they controlled for these factors and still found drinking people ‘healthier’. Unfortunately, though, the author comes across as if he has an axe to grind with “health maniacs” which makes his message difficult to take.

        • Patrick January 13, 2015, 4:55 pm

          Yoga has similar health benefits (anti inflammatory ) and can be practiced for free and you won’t get arrested or maim others doing it. What’s not to like. Out with the booze, in with the downward dog.

    • Ellen January 11, 2015, 1:14 pm

      Alcohol is addicting. As someone who has struggled with it in the past I think the studies on how healthy it is are misleading. I do not drink anymore and because of it my health is much better now.

  • Jamie January 9, 2015, 11:56 am

    I love the thought of putting the charger in another room – I am very guilty of surfing before sleep even though I know it’s bad for me!

    This year my resolution was to live like I have $100k in student loan debt….because that is my reality. 2014 was an interesting year for me where I went from trying to get food stamps and panicking over rent to make $37k fulltime with benefits. I spent a lot of that salary wiping out the credit card debt I got in grad school and adopting a dog…which may not have been the most financially smart decision but I am 100% positive it was necessary. I’ve been making my monthly payments and throwing an extra $50 or so here and there towards the debt…but 2015 is all about knocking out as much of that as humanly possible – my BHAG* is to wipe out the smaller loan altogether…but it would take almost half of this year’s salary *if* I stay at this job.

    I’m working on finding a better job that will pay more and in my “spare time” I do personal assisting/cleaning/organization.

    I haven’t paid for Starbucks since Christmas Eve and this is a really triumph for me (there is a Starbies on my work’s block. I can spit on it from where I’m sitting if the wind is right) I spent $1,000 on coffee last year and seeing that number triggered something within me – it’s a little habit making a huge impact!

    *Big Hairy Audacious Goal

  • Lori January 9, 2015, 11:59 am

    We are continuing to convert to a more simple life. I am cutting down or cutting out any extra-curricular activities that aren’t high quality for me and my family. We are already buying much less, cooking more at home and now have a plan to erase the last of our debt so we can begin to have some choice about our future. I am making it a priority to connect more with my family vs. the world at large. I never have been a big social media person, so that will continue. I will convert my cell phone to a pre-paid account and will stop using it as a mini-computer. I started decluttering last year and the clutter in our home has definitely decreased. It decreased mostly by not bringing more junk into our home. Now I’ve start doing a major clean-out on each room. One room done. 7 more to go. I’ve noticed that my social circle is changing. Even the friends I set up play dates with for my kids are veering away from the people we know with a ‘buy-more-stuff-we-need-more-square-footage’ mindset and are changing to people that aren’t mindlessly busy who camp and ride bikes for fun. I am on track to live more intentionally and by the end of this year, we will be ready to max out our savings. We started growing moustaches last year and this year, we are really committing to it. In terms of health, I recently began reducing how much caffeine I ingest so I could keep up the formerly crazy pace of my life. I am down to 1/2 serving a day and it’s on the way out the door. I’m committing to actually relying on being well-nourished and well-rested to keep going. That’s a BIG DEAL for me this year.

  • Steve Miller January 9, 2015, 12:11 pm

    This year I’ve organized my goals around 3 things: Self, Family, Others. With that in mind, here are my goals:

    1. Learn to draw better – By end of year, produce 5 drawings I am proud of
    2. Learn Photoshop better – By end of year, produce 5 photo-edited pictures I will be happy to hang in our home.
    3. Stay in Shape – By end of year, workout 100 times.

    1. By end of year, build my new app business revenue to $50k / yr run rate
    2. By end of year, vacation at least 60 days
    3. By end of year, reduce our retirement draw to 4% or less

    1. By end of year, volunteer at least 30 days
    2. By end of year, identify 4 needy families to provide anonymous donations to

    • Ellen January 9, 2015, 6:34 pm

      “By end of year, identify 4 needy families to provide anonymous donations too”

      Awesome idea!

  • Even Steven January 9, 2015, 12:12 pm

    What are you changing this year? Are you going after big objectives or tiny habits? Thanks for asking MMM.

    Changing financially, more like continuing but my student loans will be gone in April and my investment contributions will become more MMM like.

    One of the habits I am changing is writing everything down in relation to food and exercise, this makes it increasingly difficult to eat a whole pizza when you are going to write down what time you ate each slice. It’s a work in progress currently, but 2 weeks strong.

    Enjoy the new year, everyone!

  • Paula January 9, 2015, 12:20 pm

    I don’t really believe in resolutions because I don’t believe they work. That said, since I had to clean house in advance of having guests during the holidays, I am trying to keep up with the housework and keep a cleaner house, because I can (an do) describe myself as a lousy housekeeper. It’s just not something for which I prioritize my time.

    Usually, I just try to do goals for the year. During the last quarter of 2014, I finally clued in that I have an autoimmune issue, so in order to get healthy I quit ingesting a bunch of things I dearly love (adult beverages in all forms- I will really miss my husband’s excellent beer; cheese- which should be its own food group; a host of other tasty things) . So that’s the goal for 2015- improve my health. If I lose weight in the process, so much the better.

    I also quit working for my toxic boss last June, so finding work is something I need to do this year. But I’m determined not to go back to the corporate world, because if I’m going to work that hard again, I’ll do it for myself instead of some some rapacious company that will grind me up and spit me out when it’s done with me.

    The last thing I need to do is get my spending under control. I know all the tricks and reasons why I should, and I’m motivated and everything. I just haven’t prioritized it yet. I need to get our total monthly spend down to $2K or less, including saving for the income and property tax bills.

    These are all good ideas. I should probably write this down somewhere.

  • Edward January 9, 2015, 12:45 pm

    Realized at some point last year there was too much junk in my head. I have Twitter, but have never known exactly what I’m supposed to do with it. Try and talk with celebrities? I use it almost daily to text for free with a friend who lives in Florida and that’s it. No data plan needed. I blocked all Facebook reposts of things like Huffpost or DailyLaugh or Whatever.com so I don’t even see them. I log on, play for about 10 minutes once or twice a week “liking” friends’ photos, get bored, and turn it off. My vices seem to be really good British police dramas and video games. Even an hour a day on video games is too much, I think. Need to re-evaluate that time waster. Good post!
    (On a sidenote–I do spend too much time on the MMM forums filling my head with junk by needlessly arguing with people who think buying jetskis, going out to dinner 4 nights a week, having a butler/chauffeur/maid are all justifiably Mustachian principles.)

  • Mr. Frugal Toque January 9, 2015, 12:50 pm

    “If you don’t want to waste time, don’t log into Facebook and Twitter” rhymes with “If you want to lose weight, don’t hang around in the kitchen.”
    Facebook will always offer some savoury clickbait to eat your brain and time. Your kitchen will always have a snack you don’t actually need to eat.
    Very well. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and get to work on that novel instead of checking with the Internet.
    Huzzah to 2015!

    • Marcia January 9, 2015, 1:19 pm

      Well, I find that hanging out in the kitchen is crucial to my weight loss. It’s where I wash lettuce, peel carrots, chop cucumbers, roast cauliflower, etc.

  • marvin mcdude January 9, 2015, 12:57 pm

    Okay, reading the first few paragraphs… TOTALLY thought MMM was about to retire from the blog. But I kept reading and, hurray, the show goes on :)

  • Marcia January 9, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Very much awesome here.

    I find that I already removed useless alcohol consumption in November, in trying to lose the baby weight a little faster than I was (it worked). I’m okay with social drinking, which for me is almost never.

    For exercise, I’ve been doing pretty well. I would love to get back into a normal routine, but I am challenged by my 2.5 year old’s blatant disregard for any kind of normal sleep schedule (thus: I am not getting much sleep). Nonetheless, I keep my workout gear in the living room. In the event that I wake up at least 45 minutes before I have to leave for work (so, 4 out of 5 days), I throw it on and pump out anything from 5 minutes to 20 minutes of pushups, squats, planks, crunches, burpees, dips, curls, etc.

    I am able to resist much of the tech distractions at work (alas, not all), by virtue of the fact that our WiFi blocks Facebook, Twitter (which I dont’ use anyway), Instagram, and Pinterest. I have a pre-paid account, so only a week of using my data at work would eat it up completely.

    At home I find myself reading to the boys, playing games, cooking and such, and attempting to avoid the TV (it is tough because it truly is the distraction of choice for the rest of my family, but I’ve been at least somewhat successful in getting them all to cut back.)

    Now if only there were 2 extra hours a day to work on PTA stuff; My goal for the next few months is the same as last year: spend the first hour of every Saturday soliciting donations for our auction (instead of surfing facebook). This would be the one hour after I wake before the boys do.

  • Mrs. WW January 9, 2015, 2:30 pm

    As always, great inspiration. Paring back the onslaught of information is like scaling back food. A little food is good, even needed. Too much is horrible for you, slows you down, and often even kills you early.

    My son, just yesterday, parroted back a phrase we’ve told him many times. Too much of anything is a bad thing. That goes for food, information and even stuff (my current battle cry is against the stuff.) A habit of less is a great thing.

  • jen January 9, 2015, 2:44 pm

    We recently returned to no screens (TV, tablet or phone) on school nights – too much of it made my daughter cranky – and I don’t sleep well if I’ve used screens to much before bedtime.

  • Dave January 9, 2015, 2:44 pm

    1). Work on FIRE (thanks to MMM for changing my life 2 years ago with this fabulous blog)
    2). Use travel hacking skills to take near free trip to Europe (thanks Chris Guillebeau for your blog)
    3.) Catch MMM posts fast enough to make the 1st 100 replies (I am always a day or 2 late!)

    We cut the cable TV cord 2 years ago, moved to a smaller house, cook at home more, implemented many of the tips found on this blog and, quite frankly, are now positioned for early retirement more than ever at 52. Currently have OMY syndrome so this year is going to be about combating that.


  • Jeff January 9, 2015, 2:48 pm

    1 My Android phone has a blocking mode, so I can switch off all notifications when I am in bed.
    2 The phone stays in my bedroom, but is not in reach of the bed. This means I can check the weather forecast in the morning and decide if I cycle or drive to work*. Cycled about 70~80% of the time in 2014. 2015 YTD score is precisely 60%.
    3 No Twitter. I’ve spent about 20 seconds of my life on that so far, didn’t see the point.
    4 I don’t use Facebook. OK, I have an account, but it’s very dormant with just one contact.
    5 The colour note app is very useful for job lists etc
    6 I have also just started having google calendars e-mail me every day at the time when I should do the exercise programme

    * Sadly I am still going to work. The good news is I’m already financially independent and am just working to build up a financial safety margin.

  • ks January 9, 2015, 3:03 pm

    I don’t think just because the calendar says January, it’s automatically time for change. You’ve got to be ready for it, or at least motivated by something, such as a straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back / a-ha moment, etc. I began my weight loss in March, cut cable in April, reduced my newspaper delivery to Sunday only in May, and routinely unsubscribe from digital and printed drivel. I even enjoy some days without any postal mail delivered. Less really is more and there’s no time like the present to make small changes. It takes more adults 3 weeks or 20+ repetitions to make something a new habit, especially anything done once or more daily.

  • JT January 9, 2015, 3:44 pm

    Hi – My 2015 New Year’s solution is to read one book every three months. I love reading and have not been reading as much as I would like.

    I also wanted to say thank you for this blog you maintain. I grew up without a lot of personal finance education. I am learning a lot now. I appreciate your blog. It is refreshing. I use your posts as conversation pieces with my girlfriend. Your straight forward advice and challenges are refreshing. Thank you Mr. Money Mustache, thank you.

  • Prudence Debtfree January 9, 2015, 3:52 pm

    ” . . . if you want macro-level changes in your life, you need to attack them with micro-level changes in your daily routine.” My micro-level changes are about food. $25 less on groceries per week is the goal, and I already see a variety of ripple effects. More whole food. More time in the kitchen with family. Less inclination to buy snacks when I’m out because bulk cooking makes it easier to fill up at home. I do believe that macro-level changes will unfold as a result of my frugal grocery resolution.

  • SC January 9, 2015, 4:58 pm

    Anyone that read the news everyday last year should have felt this way. This year I’m going to consciously disconnect from the media, avoid discussing things in it (unless it directly impacts me) and spending more time connecting with positive people. Deleted my facebook, etc.

  • OrangeSnapDragon January 9, 2015, 6:36 pm

    Great article! My current demon is TV, I do paperwork all day and am switching gears constantly so the relief of shutting the brain down with TV is a big temptation. I’ve tried walking the dog instead or doing a little mindless cleaning but as I’m doing those things my brain still goes 100mph with other thoughts of my life outside of work. Struggling to find a way to quiet it down with something healthier. If I don’t get some of that quiet I tend to get physically ill or work myself into a manic state. Big challenge for me, but I’m working on it!
    I have cut out a lot of the mindless web surfing lately, sticking to informative blogs I enjoy and a few good youtube channels.

  • kathryn January 9, 2015, 7:29 pm

    Happy New Year MMM .

    I don’t do new year resolutions. I’m pretty happy with the status quo, always room for improvement, but hey.

    My husband and I retired 4 1/2 yrs ago. We live in Canada , and take off for 7-8 months to Australia each year now (husband is from there) and leave our mobile phone home. It doesn’t have a camera, we have disabled text, and no internet. We hand this phone to our property super, and tell them they can deal with the tenants :)
    Wonderful to have no phone.

    We stay at many different places, and this place doesn’t even have a tv…. do I miss it? Yes…but I will survive.
    I use FB only to chat (private messaging) with friends and family) Reading what everyone is having for breakfast, doesn’t interest me. When I did read it, it seems they all take selfies, and every comments how beautiful they are (not!)

    Already not a smoker or a drinker. I keep track of everything I eat on my CRON-O-Meter to make sure I get enough nutrients. Instead of grabbing a cookie, I grab an orange or a handful of almonds.

    Must admit, when started reading todays post, I also thought it was a “I’m quitting” …not that I would blame you.

  • AJ January 9, 2015, 9:35 pm

    I got rid of my Twitter app a long time ago and I haven’t looked back!

  • Jim January 10, 2015, 12:44 am

    Thanks for sharing. Stress is harmful. Be sure and take time with your family. If you need to, shut this stuff down and walk away from the net and the admirers, etc. You’ve done good work and will do more but if you lose what counts then none of it will matter very much. Best wishes.

  • Mark Watanabe January 10, 2015, 2:01 am

  • Jim McG January 10, 2015, 2:37 am

    Excellent Mr Moustache, but you lost me at giving up easy, casual drinking. I mean, are you mental?

  • Amy January 10, 2015, 8:12 am

    Couldn’t agree more with not keeping the phone by the bed. It’s so tempting (and such a time sink) to be browsing first thing before bed and first thing upon waking. And if you think about it, do you really want to start and end your day with your cell phone? Uh, no thanks.

  • Tricia January 10, 2015, 12:29 pm

    I don’t have FB or twitter but the same ideas apply. For me, the greatest clarity comes from taking things away from the complexity we build in our world. For instance – a few things on my 2015 “list”.

    *Stop peeling the carrots & potatoes before they go in the soup.
    *Take away the extra unused 12 hangers in the closet.
    *Buy a warm raincoat vs. deciding which of the two coats (1 warm, 1 rainproof) I need to wear today.

    It seems that when I make less decisions about all the daily minutiae, I have more brain left for the exciting stuff.


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