An Easy $1,500

What is it about our cable bill that arouses such anger?

In my case, it’s paying money for someone to pump fear, anger and violence into my wife and children.

I’ve been working since 2008 to cut the cord. However, my wife made an excellent point that the kids programs are useful.

Seven years later, I came up with a strategy that will save me $1,500 over the next year.

Here’s what I did:

  • Buy a Roku box
  • Unplug my cable box, plug in my roku
  • Set up amazon direct and netflix
  • Netflix – we went for the two streaming plan so we can use an iPad as well as the Roku
  • Run the above in parallel with cable for a month to prove concept to my wife
  • Head down to Best Buy and get a basic cable modem
  • Call up my cable company to activate my owned-modem
  • Return all my hardware and change my account to broadband only

Time investment 90 minutes.

One year net savings $1,500.

If you are married to an athlete then make the shift in a non-Olympic year during the off-season of her favorite sport.

I play a long game!


Less Misery, More Efficiency

It’s been over 1,000 days since I realized that my relationship with email had to change. Not only was my inbox making me miserable, it was consuming my life.

What follows is a summary of how I spent three years changing my workflow and improving my life.

#1 – Reduce the fire hose of inbound flow by:

  • Using inbox-zero techniques
  • Making your default reply not more than two words long. For example, “got it” or “ok” work well. What works even better is my preferred response – “can I delete this message now.” Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete
  • If you’re in management at company that doesn’t use a threaded email client then you should be fired. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then switch yourself, and your company, to gmail.
  • Let others reply for you – wait a day before you dive into mass email threads.
  • Unsubscribe as much as possible – if it’s important then you’ll track it down. Once you unsubscribe to everything, you’ll realized that most of the internet is waste and noise.

Recognize that your subconscious mind is terrified of being out of the loop!

Until you remove it, you won’t see how the noise in your life is ruining your capacity for effective thought AND making you miserable.

If you can’t see it in yourself then look around. Most people are not informed – they are filled with useless, and ever changing, noise.

If you find that describes everyone around you then what makes you think you’re different? This was a powerful, and painful, realization for me. Email, social networks and constant connectivity were making me miserable AND clueless.

Once you’ve created the space to think…

2 – Improve your ability to retain information by:

  • Take one slow breath (in and out) before reading any email that you can’t delete, or unsubscribe.
  • Take two slow breaths before any reply that will extend beyond one line – you’ll find your composition is better.
  • Give the sender what they need and no more.
  • Take one slow breath and re-read every reply before you send it. You’ll be amazed at the number of type-os you catch.
  • Take an honest inventory of your productivity across an entire week. At best, you’ll be productive for three hours per day (broken up into 2-4 segments). Once you realize that you’re spinning your wheels go for a walk.

If you think the above sounds hokey then pay attention to how much you hold your breath when working, driving and waiting in line.

Walking is useful to consider, and compose, your best work.

3 – When you must do your best work:

  • Exercise early
  • Eat a healthy meal
  • Wear earplugs
  • Close the door
  • Shut the internet browser
  • Write it out by hand
  • Review when you transcribe it into your computer

Let’s review…

A – reduce the fire hose of inbound to create space for thoughts that matter and reduce the misery you’re experiencing with email

B – stop holding your breath and triggering irritation with your current habits

C – with a less cluttered mind, create a routine for producing high-quality work

The above will make you FAR more happy with your work life and this will make you a better employee, spouse, parent and person.

Living behind a screen, and the back-and-forth nature of email, reinforces habits of inefficiency. Once you start to increase your own free time, be proactive about not wasting other people’s time.

  • Schedule a telephone call for any email that will require more than three replies
  • When you set a call, specify two choices and a preference
  • In advance, send a written agenda
  • Take notes
  • Write (or review) a summary of the call

What I tell myself:

  • It’s incredibly hard to say no and reduce the background noise in our lives.
  • Keep chipping away.
  • Change is difficult but worth it.

Start to pay attention how your current work habits are making you feel.

Even if you are the only person that changes, it’s still worth it.

Be grateful that you had the courage to change!

Anchoring and Priming

People are constantly trying to con us.

One defense is to share examples of people setting us up before we draw a conclusion.

I follow cycling. I might have to stop, but that’s a topic for another day. Cycling has a credibility problem because the public has been forced to discover that it’s a corrupt society. This is very bad news if your personal happiness depends on pro cycling.

Two questions – say them out loud before you answer:

Cycling has a hundred year history of corruption. What percentage of the current peloton do you think is doping?

What’s your answer? Play the game and write down the first answer that popped in your head.

Wait a bit

Wait some more

Answer this question:

Cycling has made great strides with cleaning up. Improvements in cycling are shown by the top riders climbing under six watts per kilo. What percentage of the current peloton do you think is doping?

What’s your answer? Play the game and write down the first answer that popped in your head.

Did your brain arrive at a different number? I wrote the questions and I can’t help revising my estimate downwards.

What is happening?

The first question contains “100” and “corruption” – the 100 anchors me at a high number and corrupt prepares my mind to think about crooks.

The second question contains “six,” “cleaning” and “improvements” – the 6 shifts my anchor downwards and cleaning/improvements sets me up to revise my opinion in favor of clean sport.

My point is not to tell you that elite endurance sport is filled with cheats. My point is to challenge you to become aware of how people influence our reality.

The true masters of this are the media, particularly anything connected to News Corporation. Watch Fox News (with the sound off) or read the headlines of the Wall Street Journal.

Creeping Clutter

A year ago, I laid out a vision for my life at 45. Four months later, I had made significant progress and shared that process with an outline of What To Keep.

With ten months until I’m 45, I find myself slipping backwards.

  • Twitter followers creeping up
  • Constantly checking Twitter #connect for validation/approval
  • Checking Twitter #discover as often as I used to check Google News

Perhaps I have seasonal dissatisfaction disorder and this will clear once I’m able to ride more.

Sounds like I need to:

  • Get Twitter off my phone
  • Check Twitter every other hour (now to April); then every 4th hour (May); then 2x per day (June)
  • Declutter the seven spaces where I spend most of my time (office, kitchen, living room, bedroom, car, garage and closet).

Perhaps I’m over-sensitive to the fatigue I experience from clutter and kid noise. Just in case, I actioned #1 and scheduled #3 across the next week.

Clutter seems to require constant clearing!