23 Things that Unnecessarily Drain Your Brain and Time
Steve Jobs & Einstein wore the same thing everyday, what else can you standardize to free up time?
There are dozens of small moments of freedom available each day and month, find them control them. An error we make is treating everything we do each day the same, or apply the same decision making process to them. It wastes time. There are big things that really matter, and a zillion small things we do every day that matter but shouldn't be given much energy.
Our capacity to perform in life is zero sum, or finite. Our time every day is exactly finite and our energy or brain capacity is nearly finite. You can of course influence your energy capacity but I'm assuming whatever you do is pretty consistent therefore zero sum. How we use our time and brain capacity each day is an essential factor that enables success in life.
Gain hours a week in free time
All decisions we make consume brain capacity and energy, larger more important decisions burn more and smaller decisions burn less. But cumulatively, the number of small decisions we make each day far outnumber the larger ones. A small decision example is deciding what you should eat in the morning, or what shoes to wear. Whereas, examples of large decisions are what strategy I should use in my company to double revenue, or how can I help my daughter stay engaged in an activity that I know will enhance her life or how can make my marriage better.
It's the endless list of small decisions where the opportunity for more time lies. I've identified and removed dozens small decisions I used to make, the result of time gained is shocking. I now have more time and energy to focus on the most important or bigger things in life.
You may find many of these little tricks small and silly but the cumulative effect of removing all of them has had a profound effect on my life.
Automate small things you do each day and month
About two years ago I started a life experiment to see how far I could push "life-automation". Here is what I've learned and how many things I've removed from my brain. I first describe how the decision making process used to work, and why they were a brain drain, then provide my new solution. They are in no particular order or priority.
- Monthly car wash. I live in a desert and my car is always dirty, I don’t care about my car that much and have always struggled with the value of paying $15 to get my car washed, and I’m far too lazy to wash it myself. About twice per month I had to make a decision whether I should wash my car. Solution: I got the unlimited car wash package for about $30 per month. Now I get my car washed about 4 times per month, and always feel great about it, or I don't struggle with the value of washing the car. No more decisions.
- Parking at retail stores. I've watched cars park in retail store parking lots for years, I've found how people choose their spots very curious but more importantly I've calculated the most efficient parking strategy. Solution: Instead of driving around the parking lot looking for a close spot, I immediately drive to the back, park and walk into the store. I've compared my technique a dozens of times against those driving around and I get to the store faster most of the time, AND I get some exercise as a bonus. One more tip, park close to the exit of the store, because you are carrying stuff on the way out and it's better to be close to your car. Most people park close to the entrance, which is short sited and dumb. No more decisions.
- No more haircuts. Truth be told, I don't have much hair but it still needs to be cut. I used to notice that my hair was getting longer, then for a couple weeks I'd thinking about getting it cut every once in a while, then finally find the time and do it, But the decision would linger in my brain. Solution: One year ago I bought a Wahl hair trimmer, which I use a number 4, and cut my own hair every couple of weeks in the shower. No more decisions.
- Auto razor delivery. Once upon a time I used expensive Gillette razors and would wonder when I should use a new one? Knowing they were expensive I ended up using them too long which led to razor burn on my face. Each time I was in a store and walk by the razors, I'd wonder if I needed to buy some. Solution: Now I get my razors automatically each month, and use one razor per week. No more decisions.
- Amazon product subscriptions. There are products you automatically need each month, like toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, dishwasher soap, etc, etc. I was always wondering if we needed any of this stuff when I'm out, or even text my wife if we need any. Solution: I signed up for Amazon Subscription Services and perfected the amount I need on the right schedule. For example I get a big thing of toilet paper every 3 months. I continue to add products when I think about them, I'm up to about 10. No more decisions.
- No gas price shopping. I never did this much anyway, but it should be on the list. Unless you consider getting the best price for gas a sport and fun, please stop shopping for the best price. If you drive an extra few miles to get cheap gas, you are typically saving $.10 per gallon or a $2.00 per tank. This is completely irrational behavior and consumes unnecessary energy, please stop it. No more decisions.
- No electronic warranty plans. Today, every time you buy something you are asked if you want an extended warranty. Solution: Instead of trying to decide in the moment whether it's a good value, I invested some time and researched whether in fact the warranties are a good value, I decided over time, considering all things purchased they are not. I just say no, each time asked. No more decisions.
- Dressing each day. Each day we make a bunch of decisions on what to wear: shoes, shirt, pants and all in what combination? For me, I want to be comfortable, look relatively good but overall I don't care about clothes that much. Solution: I took a couple months and decided on a set of clothes that could be mindlessly combined each morning and would cover about 80% of what I wear all year. Once I found each item I bought several colors and now I just grab the next item on the clothes bar. No more decisions. Here are the clothes I wear:
- My Jeans. If you haven't tried jeans with stretchy spandex, you need to. See them
- Two types of socks (short and long) They are a mix of Polyester/Cotton/Nylon/Elastane and are magical. Short sock, long sock.
- Underwear. I have to admit this is a little bit of a work in progress because of my genetically large thighs and ass, and I used Fruit of the Loom for the last 5 years until they changed the design. Here is what I now use, Exoress
- Short sleeve shirt. Express V Neck.
- Long sleeve shirt. Eddie Bauer.
- Shoes. I have two pair of shoes, but wear one pair 90% of the time. They can't have laces, need to breath, be ultra-comfortable and allow me to hike with my dog. Pair one. Pair two.
- Jacket. I've been enamored with Eddie Bauer's commitment to better products and their R&D for the last 3 or 4 years. They are coming out with new materials and designs that are incredible. A great example of this is my favorite jacket ever, the material is light, wind resistant and somehow keeps me warm in the fall. See jacket.
- Body soap. I found the best soap. It's all natural, has amazing scents, and I actually look forward to it every day. No more decisions. Dr. Bronner's
- I stopped washing my hair. Granted I don't have much left, but wondered what would happen if I stopped washing my hair. It's been over a year and all seems well up there, so I stopped. No more decisions.
- Breakfast smoothie. Breakfast is bullshit and has always been a problem for me. For decades I just couldn't lock in a consistent healthy breakfast. My wife took an amazing health seminar that recommended smoothies, but I'm really dedicated to whole food or real food eating, so I've always shunned smoothies. Solution: I finally conceded and have felt great and finally have a no maintenance breakfast option, and it's been great. Here is what I make (water, Athletic Greens, blueberries, vegan vanilla protein mix, cod liver oil, a probiotic and a multivitamin). No more decisions.
- Lunch. I eat out for lunch every day. Where to eat is a decision, and for me I have pretty strict rules on what I eat and will only eat in places that vet or care about the quality of their ingredients but still want some variety. This makes the decision even more difficult. Solution: I researched the ingredients used by four places and I eat there 90% of the time. No more decisions.
- Unfollow Facebook friends. I love Facebook and enjoy staying up to date with friends around the world, I like to see their kids grow up and what they are doing in life. Then there are those that post about everything daily, that is too much for me and wastes way too much time. Solution: I found the magic Unfollow button (which is a small down arrow on the right side of posts), which keeps them as Friends but removes them from my wall. This way I can occasionally go to their page and see what's up on my own schedule.
- Parking at the airport. This is similar to parking in retail lots. I did some analysis on the most efficient way to find a spot, catch the shuttle and get back to my car. I'm most interested in parking within walking distance of the returning first shuttle stop (when returning from a trip you want to get out fast), and I found an area that almost always has spots because it's in the back. Now I always park within 50 feet, and the other benefit is I always know where my car is without much thought. No more decisions.
GENERAL PRODUCTIVITY TIPS
- No news. I stopped watching most news years ago, I consider most of it agenda based or ideologically leaning (in both directions) and not objective news reporting. Using my brain to consider the news that comes out is a waste of time for me. I read the Wall Street Journal for financial insights and a variety of magazines that align with my interests.
- Walk faster. It's simple, but I walk at a pace about 1.5 times faster than most people. I've found when I map something on Google Maps, my pace is twice as fast as their estimate.
- Have less. The key to staying organized in our busy lives is to just have less. Have less clothes, less dishes, less books, less stuff around the house that needs to be cleaned, less toys, etc. My wife and I have gone through our entire house, and I mean every room and closet and got rid of stuff that isn't essential or hasn't been used in a year. It's incredibly liberating and makes general house upkeep much easier.
- Email. Use Gmail shortcuts to handle all email, if you don't use Gmail, then I can't help you, it's the best email on the planet for spam and efficiency. Also, commit to Unsubscribing to newsletters diligently. (Tip: use the icon at the top of Gmail that has an exclamation point in it)
- Learn to type fast. If you don't type fast, that's just dumb. Take a class or use online tools to start typing faster.
- Everyday house activities. Things done every day or frequently must be organized and efficient, identify these areas and spend time decluttering, organizing and rearranging them to ensure you can do them quickly, without much thought. Examples are: washing clothes, eating and preparing food, home entertainment, toilet activities, getting dressed, changing clothes, showering, sleeping, and fixing things around the house.
- Don't return stuff. Long ago I decide to stop returning things I buy that cost less than $10. They used to lay around the house and each time I'd look at it I'd remember I need to return it, which of course uses brain capacity. Now when that stupid thing breaks, I just throw it away. It's quite liberating actually.
- Don't get sick. Since my commitment to eating properly (whole foods only), I don't get sick or only have a few times in 7 years. Being sick is a complete time sink, and I'm not interested. My biggest grip with modern day traditional medical professionals is their complete lack of knowledge of the gut, immunity and overall well being. Did you know that 70% of your immunity is in your gut, and if you don't eat well you gut isn't healthy and your immunity sucks. Read here for more info.
The other day a friend of mine was telling me she had a dream to become rich so she could help more people. She's incredibly altruistic and spends a considerable amount of time helping people. But she is so caught up in the little things of life she can't even elevate herself out of the whirlwind to create a plan to be change her life. Therefore she stays nestled in the whirlwind and is drowned and suffocated by life. Not to say there isn't moments of joy and fun in this kind of life, but I'm talking about living a higher life, doing more and accomplishing your dreams. Take a day to breathe and think about what you can remove and stop doing. I've found being successful in life is actually as much about what you don't do as what you do, do.
Initially, I treated this exercise as a game but it turned into a real time savings project and taught me some interesting lessons about what I do each day of my life (and don't do). For me it's all about living a conscious life, or being aware of what we are doing. It's the only way we can be the director of our own life.