Digital Minimalism Book Review: Parallels With Time and Money Management

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I initially stopped reading the NY Times bestseller Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport midway through because it seemed to target a problem that I did not have – I don’t spend much time on social media and deliberately avoid the front page news cycle. However, I’m glad that I went back as it contained many useful parallels with time management and financial independence.

Here is my favorite definition of digital minimalism:

A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

Read that quote again but remove “of technology” and “online”, and isn’t that just a good philosophy for life in general?

This thought process also aligns with the book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals:

A truly practical approach to making the best use of time demands that we stop trying to deny the undeniable, acknowledging not merely that we might not get around to everything but that we definitely never will. That we’re guaranteed to have to abandon certain ambitions, disappoint certain people and drop certain balls in order to make time for doing a few things that count.

I also appreciated this description of the digital maximalist:

Notice, this minimalist philosophy contrasts starkly with the maximalist philosophy that most people deploy by default—a mind-set in which any potential for benefit is enough to start using a technology that catches your attention. A maximalist is very uncomfortable with the idea that anyone might miss out on something that’s the least bit interesting or valuable.

Put another way: minimalists don’t mind missing out on small things; what worries them much more is diminishing the large things they already know for sure make a good life good.

This comparison of minimalism vs. maximalism was the most useful part of the book for me. You can apply it to everything – your monthly spending, your collection of clothes/gadgets/stuff, the food you consume, how you spend your time every day. Minimalism is about where to draw the line, and how that line is probably closer to “less” than you think.

Happily missing out. I am working to identify my maximalist tendencies, and I like the phrase “happily missing out” as the opposite of FOMO. Instead of trying to moderate your use on something that isn’t clearly awesome, it’s easier to simply cut it out completely. Delete the app from your phone. Cancel the subscription. Don’t let the junk food enter you home. End the toxic relationship. Get rid of the widget that didn’t work out (even if it was expensive). Sell the regrettable investment (even at a loss). After the initial shock, I usually end up saying “Why didn’t I do that earlier?”

If you are interested in changing your tech habits, here’s the basic actionable strategy of the book:

  • Perform a 30-day “Digital Declutter” where you completely stop using social media and other optional digital apps.
  • During this reset, explore and rediscover activities and behaviors that you find satisfying and meaningful. Socialize in-person, spend time alone without your phone, build something with your hands.
  • After 30 days, reintroduce the apps carefully into your life one-by-one. They should only return if they are the best way to help you achieve something you deeply value.

Even this could have parallels to personal finance:

  • Perform a 30-day “Expense Fast” where you stop every optional expense.
  • Experiment by replacing your expenses with alternatives. Think of ways to eat everything edible that is already in your house. Realize that you have 10 different subscriptions and you don’t need them all. Walk outside instead of the gym. Ask someone to walk with you. Talk with an old friend on the phone. Don’t buy a single piece of new clothing.
  • After 30 days, reintroduce each expense life one-by-one. Some things you may realize should be a high priority. That’s good. Some things you may realize are low priority. Happily spend your money on the high priority items, and happily miss out on the rest.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Practical Time Management: The Won’t Do List vs. Must Do List

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80 years times 50 weeks a year is 4,000 weeks. If we’re lucky, that means we’ll have about 4,000 Mondays, 4,000 Saturdays, and that’s it. I’ve started reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman, which suggests that all those productivity hacks look at this number the wrong way. “If only you did X, you could fit in Y more stuff into your day and then you’ll be happy!” But the more likely result is that even if you do X, and fit in Y more stuff, you’ll remain just as stressed and unsatisfied.

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandkids would work just 15 hours a week due to increases in productivity. Well, the productivity per worker did increase, but we still work close to the same number of hours per week. We can have food delivered to our door with an few taps, but how many of us feel an abundance of free time? Even worse, we are “busy” but not because we are working on the things we want to be working on. We have an ever-growing “some day” list, so that we won’t have to face the truth that it is actually the “never” list.

So what’s the solution? This FT article Endless to-do list? Here’s how not to waste your life is an excerpt from the book. Here’s a good quote:

A truly practical approach to making the best use of time demands that we stop trying to deny the undeniable, acknowledging not merely that we might not get around to everything but that we definitely never will. That we’re guaranteed to have to abandon certain ambitions, disappoint certain people and drop certain balls in order to make time for doing a few things that count.

In the words of the creativity coach Jessica Abel, borrowing an insight from the world of personal finance, that means “paying yourself first” when it comes to time. What she means is doing at least a little of what you care about now, as opposed to banking on finding time for it in the future, once the decks are clear and life’s duties are out of the way. Life’s duties will never be out of the way. And so if you really mean it when you say you’d like to write a novel or spend more of your time with your ageing parents or fighting climate change, at some point you’re just going to have to start doing it.

We need to remind ourselves to drop the relatively unimportant things in order to elevate the truly important ones.

Turning this into something little more concrete, here is my proposal:

  • Won’t Do List. Identify 2-3 lesser things that “would be nice” to do, but will simply end up a distraction from the really important things. Give them up. Leave them off your To Do list forever.
  • Must Do List. Identify one thing that you really want to do but have been putting off for too long. Do it for an hour early in the day, even if it pushes other things out of the way. You must work on it, even a little. It’ll probably be hard, which is why you put it off earlier. You may even discover that you really don’t want to do it after all, but at least now you know and can move on. (This is similar to the Charlie Munger “work for yourself an hour each day” advice.)

On a daily basis, I try to cut out the following things to add some time to my day. I haven’t solved my huge pile of e-mail, but I have given up on “Inbox Zero”, check it less often, and am more at peace that I will miss some things the first time around. This isn’t right for everyone, but I also limit myself to an average of 15 minutes a day on Twitter, 5 minutes on Instagram, and zero minutes on Facebook and TikTok. Social media just reminds me of junk food that tastes great in the moment but has little nutrition and I’m hungry again in 20 minutes. I believe Twitter has the most useful information, but filtering can be time-consuming. (I need Instagram to know where my favorite food trucks are at.) I finally decided cut cable TV and gave up following most live sports in 2020. I will miss watching it, but it does free up a lot of time.

Bottom line. You can’t have it all. Don’t fit more in. Cut things out, and lift a few key things up. The finance/time analogy is that you can afford nearly any one thing, but you can’t afford everything. Trying to do everything will keep you “busy” until you run out of weeks:

(image credit: Financial Times)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Are You Unknowingly a Time Billionaire?

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The 2021 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting is streaming live on Yahoo Finance this weekend, and I am reminded of a lesser known quote from Warren Buffett about what is truly valuable. I believe he has said this elsewhere, but I found it repeated in a 2020 commencement speech (YouTube link) at the University of Nebraska:

There is nobody I would rather be than a young person graduating from the University of Nebraska today. […] I would say this to the current year’s class: ‘I would love to trade places with any of them.’ They feel they’re going out into an uncertain world and all of that, but there’s never been a better time.

During a Tim Ferriss podcast, investor Graham Duncan discussed the concept of a “time billionaire” and how it is hard to understand the magnitude difference between a billion and a million.

Graham Duncan: I was listening to a guy introduced a speaker a while ago. And he was saying people don’t really understand the difference between billionaires and millionaires. He said a million seconds is like 11 days. A billion seconds is 31 years.

This means a 20-year old is technically a time multi-billionaire. If you’re in your 40s or even early 50s, the odds are likely that you still have a billion seconds left as well. Have you considered how valuable that is? One of the richest people in the world would gladly trade places with you. I’m betting that nearly anyone with a billion dollars would trade it for a billion more seconds.

This Pomp Letter article and Wealest article both expand upon this idea of appreciating the value of time, including how young people should use this time to their advantage. Don’t take for granted the ability to throw yourself at something nonstop. I think short periods of crazy 100-hours-a-week focus is underrated. Take your shot. If you fail, so what?

If you fail, you have nothing, which is the same position you’re in right now.

You have no mortgage to pay, no family to support, and nothing to lose.

This makes you powerful. Your upside is many times greater than your downside.

Also mentioned is the Life in Weeks calendar from WaitButWhy.

Time is a limited resource, and just like with money, you have to spend it wisely and consciously. Don’t waste it without intention. Look at how many hours we spend on consuming media, via Visual Capitalist.

Bottom line. We can look up to certain wealthy people for knowledge and wisdom, but there are other important resources beyond money. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it is still so easily forgotten in this busy, competitive, stressful world. Many of us are extraordinarily wealthy in time, wealthy in love and relationships, and/or wealthy with a healthy mind and body. Someone out there would pay billions of dollars for what you have. I must remind myself to appreciate my wealth in all forms, and use it intentionally. I worry about running of out money, but also running out of time.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Money Buys Happiness… If You Outsource Your Unwanted Chores

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happyfaceFirst, you were told that the best way to buy happiness was to buy experiences, not things. Other research then said happiness can come from buying the right things. Here’s another academic study making the rounds (WaPo, NYT): Buying time promotes happiness by Whilans et al, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Abstract:

Around the world, increases in wealth have produced an unintended consequence: a rising sense of time scarcity. We provide evidence that using money to buy time can provide a buffer against this time famine, thereby promoting happiness. Using large, diverse samples from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and The Netherlands (n = 6,271), we show that individuals who spend money on time-saving services report greater life satisfaction. A field experiment provides causal evidence that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. Together, these results suggest that using money to buy time can protect people from the detrimental effects of time pressure on life satisfaction.

The study found that spending money on time-saving activities was more efficient than material purchases in improving life satisfaction and decrease stress. This applied across different countries, careers, and income levels.

Here are some examples of time-saving activities:

  • House cleaner
  • Grocery delivery
  • Dry cleaning, laundry
  • Lawn care
  • Home repair
  • Cooking service
  • Shopping service
  • Shorter commute (taxi vs. bus)
  • Moving services
  • Junk removal services

For example, instead of spending $125 on clothes or gadgets, you’ll be happier if you spend $125 and the house is cleaned for you every two weeks. The more the activity is a chore that you dread doing yourself, the better.

This seems perfectly reasonable. I’m betting most of us have washing machines and dryers. Many also have dishwashers. That’s paying money to save time. I also paid more for a house with a shorter commute. This article about “extreme” commuting (4 hours+ total every weekday) sounded quite horrible. Amazon… enough said.

I must admit, I still have a hard time outsourcing many household tasks. I don’t love doing home repair, but I do like that after something breaks (and I spend a couple of hours on YouTube and trips to Home Depot), I have learned something new. I should think about what tasks I hate doing the most.

Bottom line: You can buy happiness by spending money to have more positive experiences. You can also buy happiness by avoiding negative experiences (i.e. having to spend your time on unpleasant tasks).

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

My Hard Things + What I’m Willing to Give Up

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myhardthingsAs a follow-up to my post on choosing your hard things, I decided to share what I came up with. Keep in my these are MY hard things. You could have the two lists completely swapped, and that would get no judgment from me. The entire point is to do things aligned with your values and stop caring what anyone else thinks!

My hard things:

  • Save enough money and set things up to live off my investment income with minimal worry.
  • Spend lots of quality time with family, especially my three daughters. (I have 3 kids?!? How the $*%# did that happen?)
  • Spend some time alone reading and thinking about things I find interesting (ex. finance, cooking, off-grid living).
  • Exercise regularly, mostly by running around outdoors with my daughters. If I’m lucky, this will also include hiking or playing tennis with friends. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be skiing.

The things I am willing to give up:

  • A steady, prestigious job and high W-2 income.
  • “Better things” like a larger house, faster car, or nicer toys/clothes.
  • Watching television.
  • Regular ski trips, partying at bars and clubs, and Las Vegas runs with friends.
  • Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

I’m not there yet, but it’s nice to have them written down. If I’m not spending my time working towards one of my hard things, then I’m not being productive even with the newest To-Do List app, ergonomic standing desk, and pristine e-mail inbox. I should also be careful to stop doing the things on my “Give Up” list.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Choose Your Hard Things: You’ll Never Be Productive Enough for Everything

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stopwatch2

I was catching up on some longreads and enjoyed Why time management is ruining our lives by Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian. Here are some quick notes.

Inbox Zero. I’d heard of “Inbox Zero” where you keep your e-mail inbox completely empty, but didn’t know that the inventor Merlin Mann later gave up pushing the concept because he found himself “typing bullshit that I hoped would please my book editor” instead of spending time with his daughter. Meanwhile, we now have the (finished) book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford that proposes that being messy can create better results.

My personal theory is that the organization level of your e-mail inbox simply doesn’t matter. If something is truly urgent they’ll get in touch somehow, likely by sending you another e-mail!

The productivity treadmill. Most of us have never had to walk a great distance to gather water. We no longer have to chop wood; we just turn on the heater. We have separate appliances to both wash and dry our clothes. There are countless ways to avoid cooking. Yet, we are all so busy. I found this paragraph quite observant (and sad):

The time-pressure problem was always supposed to get better as society advanced, not worse. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that within a century, economic growth would mean that we would be working no more than 15 hours per week – whereupon humanity would face its greatest challenge: that of figuring out how to use all those empty hours. Economists still argue about exactly why things turned out so differently, but the simplest answer is “capitalism”. Keynes seems to have assumed that we would naturally throttle down on work once our essential needs, plus a few extra desires, were satisfied. Instead, we just keep finding new things to need. Depending on your rung of the economic ladder, it’s either impossible, or at least usually feels impossible, to cut down on work in exchange for more time.

I would add that the average person spends hours of time watching TV to recuperate from the stress of each day.

Less is more. Don’t work harder to fit more stuff in. Sit quietly and figure out the really important stuff. Do that. Drop the rest.

But in the meantime, we might try to get more comfortable with not being as efficient as possible – with declining certain opportunities, disappointing certain people, and letting certain tasks go undone. Plenty of unpleasant chores are essential to survival. But others are not – we have just been conditioned to assume that they are. It isn’t compulsory to earn more money, achieve more goals, realise our potential on every dimension, or fit more in. In a quiet moment in Seattle, Robert Levine, a social psychologist from California, quoted the environmentalist Edward Abbey: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Being productive doesn’t help if you just add on more things. Don’t use being busy as a form of psychological avoidance:

The more you can convince yourself that you need never make difficult choices – because there will be enough time for everything – the less you will feel obliged to ask yourself whether the life you are choosing is the right one.

With so much noise, is it any wonder that “mindfulness” is in? When your mind is quiet, it is easier to realize the life that is true to yourself, as opposed to the life others expect of you. To loosely paraphrase Merlin Mann: Choose a select few hard things and stick with them. Because they’re your things.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

William James Told People to Automate Their Lives in 1892

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william james headshot

Inside the book that taught me the parallels of grit and financial freedom was a brief mention of another book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. While reading about the daily routines of notable individuals, I came across this quote from philosopher and psychologist William James (emphasis mine):

The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. It is to fund and capitalize our acquisitions, and live at ease upon the interest of the fund. For this we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague.

The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.

The quote is great, but I was surprised by the date – James wrote this in 1892!

Creating good habits means that it takes little effort to doing the right thing. If you’re forcing it, like going on a crash diet, every time you do so you’ll expend energy. Willpower is like a muscle. If your house is full of junk food, you’ll constantly spend energy trying to not eat it. If you spend hours online shopping, you’ll spend energy trying not to buy things you don’t need. Your willpower muscle will weaken, and eventually you’ll won’t have the energy to say no. If you have to consciously make the decision to save money every month, you’re likely to forget.

Make life easier for yourself. Automate everything you can. Remove all the junk food in the house. Unsubscribe from that daily “sale” newsletter from Groupon or Macy’s. Sign up for automatic paycheck withdrawals into your retirement account. Make the default choice – the one that happens with the least energy – the one that is best for you.

Of course, the book also pointed out that James in real life kept no regular schedule, was chronically indecisive, and a constant procrastinator. Reminds me of this XKCD comic:

time_management

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

FileThis App Review: Automatically Backup Your Online Statements

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filethis_applogo

A few months ago on my post about Paperless vs. Paper Statements, I received this helpful comment from reader Daveraham:

I like the services FileThis.com. It’s setup similar to MInt, where it stores account information, but instead of fetching dollar amounts and transactions, it grabs every statement available and stores them where you direct. Personally I store it an evernote account and then periodically pull it off to store on a removable HD that get’s stored in a fireproof box. Overkill?? Sure…. But its the point. You want to keep that snapshot of data for a long period of time.

I made a mental note to check the site out and… promptly forgot. I was again reminded in this Liz Weston article about apps to organize your financial life. In November 2015, FileThis announced their 2.0 version with new features. You can use the FileThis.com website, iOS app, or Android app (1.0 version only for now).

FileThis is now one of many “bill organizers” that ask for your account passwords in order to sift through your accounts and remind you of due dates. Personally, I don’t need or use due date reminders. I sit down at the end of every month, read through all my paper statements, track expenses, and pay my bills. I’m an old fart like that (although I do use free online billpay).

I previously shared that I maintain physical statements for critical financial accounts and have it mailed to a secure PO Box. But I also have several other financial accounts which are either dormant, temporarily opened for reviews or experiments, or have low balances which are set to paperless. Ideally, I would still log in and download those PDF statements every month and back them up. But I never do.

FileThis will log in and automatically download all your paperless statements and then save them to your cloud service of choice: Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Amazon Cloud, and more. You can even use their in-house storage (500 mb free). The cost options:

  • Free for up to six (6) connections. Checks weekly.
  • $2 a month ($20 a year upfront) for up to 12 connections. Checks weekly.
  • $5 a month ($50 a year upfront) for up to 30 connections. Checks daily.

Besides things like bank accounts, credit cards, and brokerage statements, FileThis will grab stuff from your mortgage provider, car loan servicer, cell phone bill, utility bills, insurance bills, and even online shopping accounts like Amazon. An added bonus is that they will even grab tax documents like 1099 forms.

I linked up a few accounts, the list is relatively extensive but it couldn’t find a local credit union. Here are some screenshots from my website and smartphone app.

filethis1

filethis2

Remember that the actual files are on your cloud service. Here’s a screenshot from my Dropbox app. The files are stored in the folder Dropbox > Apps > FileThis.

filethis3

This is pretty cool. The initial download basically grabbed all the older documents that were available as well (up to last 3 years, supposedly). They’ll even grab PDF statements if you also get mailed paper statements (assuming they are available), giving you an additional backup copy.

By allowing backups directly to a third-party cloud service (Dropbox in my case), I will still have all of my online statements even if FileThis shuts down some day (remember Manilla?).

The trade-off here is that another FinTech startup has your account logins and passwords. Their security measures seem fair enough (encrypted SSL transmission, passwords are encrypted on server, the documents can be stored at your cloud service). I already track my paperless accounts in real-time with Mint, but I am willing to make this trade-off as I think it’s worth it to have my old statements backed up for me. (Why can’t Mint do this for me too?) The only other service I know that offers something similar is Finovera, but I think they store the statements on their own servers as opposed to your personal Dropbox.

As an existing user, if you sign up using my referral link, both you and I will receive an additional free connection (so you’d have a total of 7 free to start) and an additional 250 mb of free in-house cloud storage.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Everyone’s So Busy. Where Does All The Time Go?

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stopwatch2In the provocatively-titled article How Everything We Tell Ourselves About How Busy We Are Is A Lie, the writer interviews the director of the Americans’ Use of Time Project and takes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey (ATUS). Here is my condensed version:

  • The average American works an average of 7.55 hours per day.
  • When comparing detailed time diaries with just asking people for a number, people tended to overestimate their work hours by 5% to 10%.
  • The average American sleeps an average of 8.75 hours per day.
  • On an average day, women spend 2 hours and 10 minutes doing housework, while men spend 1 hour and 17 minutes. That’s roughly a 60/40 ratio.
  • Most people have over 40 hours of free time per week.
  • Watching television takes up 50% of that free time.

Basically, we may feel more busy, but actually have more free time than folks from 40 years ago. Half that free time is used to watch TV.

I suppose the takeaway here is that our perceptions may differ from reality. If we tracked our activities in a time diary, we’d might discover some new things about our own schedules and habits. Perhaps we should all try to carve out an hour each day to work for ourselves.

Alternatively, I’d like to figure out how to really enjoy my free time without half my mind worrying about other stuff. So far, playing sports and swimming with my babies has been the most effective.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Manilla.com Review: The End of Paper Bills?

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Most people still elect to receive paper bills, even though almost every vendor is pushing paperless. Why? Personally, my e-mail inbox is so much more cluttered with crap compared to my post office mailbox. It’s very easy for me to forget about a short e-mail saying “you have a bill waiting” with 86 other unread e-mails shouting at me. But then again, I do end up paying the bills online, so perhaps there is a better way? This is where Manilla.com comes in.

Making Paperless Billing Better

All your bills are organized in one central place. You give Manilla your login information*, and they handle the rest. If you need to look up an old bill, you don’t need to open the filing cabinet or reset your password (again) to that archaic water department website designed in 1995. You can just view or print out the .PDF from Manilla. They promise to store your bills for free, forever. I do wish there was a way to download all your stored bills at once, perhaps in a .zip file.

You may find that Manilla may not list some of your local vendors, although you can suggest future account providers for them to add. I couldn’t find my local water utility. You can also add magazine subscriptions, frequent flier mileage programs, and hotel rewards programs.

Easy-to-manage bill reminders. You can request e-mail or text message reminders to 7 days, 3 days, and/or 1 day before the due date. I need these repeated reminders, and it’s nice that they turn off automatically after they see that the bill has been paid.
[Read more…]

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Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Schedule

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If you are into personal finance, you have to respect Ben Franklin. Amongst many other things, he started a successful business and “retired” at 42, after which he devoted his time to science and later statesmanship. He wrote and published the Poor Richard’s Alamanac for over 25 years, probably the first version of a widely read “frugal blog”. Don’t miss reading this illustrated post by Maira Kalman.

Above is a peek into his daily schedule, originally from the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which by the way is available for free in the public domain. Don’t miss the questions on the left part. Seven hours of sleep, not too bad. 🙂 Found via The Big Picture.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Two Completely Different Ways to Boost Productivity

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While procrastinating today, I of course ran across a couple of tips on productivity and success that both powerful and very different.

First is an essay called Good and Bad Procrastination by Paul Graham. It includes a lot of insights into procrastination, and my favorite was the idea that it was okay to put off less important, scheduled, to-do list-type things whenever you get a chance to focus and do some really great things:

The reason it pays to put off even those errands is that real work needs two things errands don’t: big chunks of time, and the right mood. If you get inspired by some project, it can be a net win to blow off everything you were supposed to do for the next few days to work on it. Yes, those errands may cost you more time when you finally get around to them. But if you get a lot done during those few days, you will be net more productive.

In fact, it may not be a difference in degree, but a difference in kind. There may be types of work that can only be done in long, uninterrupted stretches, when inspiration hits, rather than dutifully in scheduled little slices. Empirically it seems to be so. When I think of the people I know who’ve done great things, I don’t imagine them dutifully crossing items off to-do lists. I imagine them sneaking off to work on some new idea.

The second is the Jerry Seinfeld Productivity Secret by Brad Isaac:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

This idea of incremental change is not new – see this post on Kaizen for example.

Some things are best achieved when you attack it a little every day – things like debt reduction, learning a language, or weight loss. Other things you may have to wait for the inspiration, but when it comes, it pays to put it above all else. Perhaps a great business idea or investment opportunity.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.