Brain Change

Focus on life through a simplified mind

I am burning my Day Planner

December 31, 2010 I will be setting to FLAME my Franklin Covey Planner that I have used for the previous five years as a manager.  I guess it is my own little New Years Resolution.

I am going to start the new year out with one less bulky object to pack around as I travel for my job.  This is a definitely a change for me and I will have to challenge my fear of the unknown. 

I can see how panicked some of you task oriented peeps may be but here is a list of FAQ‘s and my replies.

How will you keep track of  Birthdays, Appointments, Events?

I-Phone Calendar

How will you keep track of your TASKS?

I-Phone/Moleskine notebook

Pretty easy anwers right?

Also remember that by having applied minimalism to my life I now have fewer tasks that need to be done anyway.  And only important ones remain.  It is not so hard to keep track of Tasks when you only have a few that matter.

I-Phone (which I already have) is going to take the place of my Franklin Covey calendar.  My phone already syncs with Outlook Calendar which my company uses.  I have been overly redundant putting dates in my planner, phone, and outlook to remember information.  I will now only be inputting to I-Phone which will sync with outlook creating a backup for anything I may have needed to remember.

MOLESKINE is going to help me take messages, jot notes, preserve thoughts, and remember tasks.   I know I could probably use the Iphone notepad but some things I feel I need to write down and preserve with ink.  It’s also a pain in the ass to type much more than a few quick words into the notepad on the phone.

 So by removing the planner from my life I will be doing my part to save trees, (no more planner pages) as well as saving myself some money, (not having to buy planner pages yearly). 

YES!!!!

I can hardly wait the HAMSTER WHEEL OF DEATH (evergrowingneverendingtasklist)will be shed from my life. 

Join Back with me as I will show the funeral pyre of the planner on Jan 1, 2011

If burning you day planner is something you would like to do but the thought may frighten you a bit, Check out my post on Challenging your Fear or this post by digital nomad Jenny 27 ways to kick fears ass

Also be sure to check out Leo Babauta at zen habits.  Leo is great at simplifying and focusing.  His writing has help me to get rid of my planner.

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November 22, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, productivity, simplicity | , , , , | 4 Comments

Challenge Your Fear

There is nothing to fear but fear itselfFranklin D. Roosevelt

I wanted to write a post on fear because lately I have been challenging my fears and the results have been very surprising. 

I want to be able to frame fear for you in the context it should be.  As a motivator to do fantastic things with your life.  Most commonly it permeates our lives by paralyzing our actions and clouding our thoughts with doubt. 

Seth Godin in his bestselling book Linchpin, details what he calls the “resistance”, or our “Lizard Brain”.  Our lizard brain is as Seth stated “hungry,scared,angry, and horny”.  These emotions are the only thing the lizard brain knows.  And evolution has done two things for us. 

1) Placed the lizard brain directly on top of the spine so every action we commit has to be filtered through the lizard brain. 

2) Ensuring our survival the lizard brain continually seeks to keep us in our “comfort zone”

Anything new, exciting, different and unknown will be promptly squished by the lizard brain.  It does not want us standing up and making a difference.  It wants us to stay quiet, sit down, go unnoticed so that the predators of life will not sniff us out and devour us.

So.. How then do we go about changing our lives from what they are now if our own psyche is trying so hard to keep doing the status quo?

Acknowledge the fear and then DIVE RIGHT IN.  You absolutely will not grow if you always seek whats comfortable.  You will never take a risk.  Everett Bogue in this Post said that risk is really fearing what you are going to lose.  And yes I am going to point to  minimalism and tell you this.  “If you have less things you will fear less things”.

Have you thought about all the stuff you would lose if you lost your job?  

Yes?

Are you working for your growth?

Are you working because you have gifts to offer the world?

Or are you working so you don’t lose your shit?

If answered yes to the last statement it is time to get rid of some stuff.  And get rid of some fear

If each item in your life was compared to a single strand of spider silk curling around your body, trapping your arms to your side then having a few items would be no big deal.  You could easily break the strands of silk and start over. 

What if you then owned a hundred items? The strands then become more stable and you can start to feel pressure on your chest when you try to breathe.  How about we jump to a thousand items? or several thousand as most developed countries citizens have. 

You can barely breathe from the tightness of the rope and the Black Widow called  Consumerism has it’s fangs sunk deep into your flesh, bleeding you dry, taking the life force from you.

I hope as you read this post you reflect in your own life, what holds you back? what do you fear?  Consider the fear, observe it objectively, and confront it head on. 

Chances are if your Lizard brain is telling you “stop” and “lets play it safe”.  You are on the right path to discovering some great things.

Here are some fears that I recently overcame and the results of confronting them.

1) Posting this blog on Facebook

I was scared to death about putting this blog out to my FB friends, this blog was my dirty little secret.  I stressed about what people would think, what they would say.  I finally decided that it did not matter.  What I have to say is more important than petty worries of fitting into the mold and hit the post button.  The results?  Not much.. No negative comments.  A few good view days and a few really positive comments.  My work is out for the world to see and it feels great!

2) Going to a spinning class

Spinning is exercising on a stationary bike with a group of people set to music.  It is a sport dominated by women.  So what would people think if I am the only guy in a room full of chicks doing a chick thing?  Absolutely nothing.  Inside my head I could hear my old petty self calling me every pansy name in the book but you know what?  It’s a damn tough workout, it kicks my ass and gets me in better shape, and I feel Fantastic when im done.  I would challenge anyone thinking it is just for chicks to try it out.  Most likely… if you scoff and scowl… you probably wouldn’t make it through a workout.

3) Tossing out a lot of stuff

Yes I feared tossing out all my clothes, tossing out my CD’s, tossing out multiple pieces of furniture.  Tossing out pile after pile of useless junk.  The thoughts that were pervading my mind constantly were,  “Holy crap I paid a lot for that” or, “What if I need this item again“? The peace that has come with having more space, in my closet, in my house, and in my mind.  I cannot describe… You will have to experience it for yourself Everett Bogue again made another great post about not believing anything anyone says you have to experience it yourself.  I challenge you all to the same thing…

Don’t believe me go experience it for yourself…Challenge the status quo..face your fears.

Some of the fears I am currently working on overcoming currently are.

1) Interviewing an “A” list blogger

2) Guest posting on popular blogs

3) Helping my wife become a stay at home mother

4) Becoming location independent

5) Earning full time income online (clever way to phrase it eh?)

By the way here are a few people I love to read that have crossed the limitations in the traditional sense and are doing some really fantastic things.

Gianpaolo Pietri – Gianpaolo recently quit his day job and moved to New York currently supporting himself online running the site Simplyoptimal.net

Nina Yau – Nina runs the site castlesintheair.org where she recently handed in her notice and is leaving the corporate world on November 30th.

Everett Bogue – Who quit his job last year and supports himself with his Minimalist Business and The Art of Being Minimalist E-books.  Everett is the Jugarnaught of minimalism and runs the blog  Farbeyondthestars.com

Henri Juntilla – Who supports himself entirely online and has great free content on his site.  As well as selling the great e-book Passionate Living

Leo Babauta – Who wrote The simple guide to a minimalist life and blogs about simple living on at his site zenhabits.net

The links to products are all affiliate

In conclusion I would leave you with this quote:

He has not learned the lesson of life who  every day does not surmount a fear~Ralph Waldo Emerson

what fears do you have?

What fears have you conquered?

I would love to hear your comments

(hint: leave a reply and press post comment button and lets start a discusion)

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November 17, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, motivation | , , , , | 4 Comments

Living room complete

My wife and I have been working on painting the interior of the house for the last two weekends.  We are mostly done, with a hallway and a room in the rear of the house left to do.  What we have been able to accomplish is some major paring down of stuff.  When you paint it is a great way to be able to remove every thing from a room and replace only those things that matter the most.  We also shampooed the carpets and then one by one added items back in.  Here is an example of just one room in our house what we were able to do.  What a fresh feeling to be ablet to relax in a wide open living space.

Our Living Room

Electronics/entertainment: 

TV/DVD/Dish network reciever/Xbox/Wii/Games for machines

Furniture:

Sectional couch/coffee table

Decoration:

Area Rug/Clock/Grandparents Whiskey Bottle collection on corner shelf/Rubber Tree/Ivy/Plant

14 items total, I know I grouped up the games and whiskey bottle collection.  This may be far from minimalist but it is fantastic.  The rooms is filled with space that we never knew we had before.  Here is what we were able to eliminate from the room. 

Bookshelf/Small Corner Table/Dishes hanging on wall/3 Porcelain Dolls/2 8×10 mirrors/40-50 DVDs (to be stored as digital media per previous post)/DVD shelf/6 framed photos and many unframed that were propped up around room/60 or so VHS tapes/Potpouri container/decorative jars/Wind Chime/Coin Display(moved to my office)

So by minimalist standards we are still crazed consumerists but by our own standard we are moving slowly toward the lifestyle that more is not betterBetter is better.  When you start to pare down your possesions to those that truly matter you end up with those items of exceptional Quality and those of exceptional meaning in your life.  I could post how our dining room, front room and kitchen have all changed but it would be almost redundant to the living room.  We cut and slashed a lot of stuff over the last two weekends freeing our space up significantly.  I am getting closer to being able to create a list of everything I own without being innundated with useless objects on the list.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | decluttering, minimalism | , , | Leave a comment

Can you make the move to digital?

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”

Antoine de Saint-Exupe

You should not have a single CD left in your house!  The pile of plastic boxes with silver discs inside has plagued us long enough.  It is time to eliminate another needless space waster.  Will you be able to rid yourself of these?  I did.  Well not quite but im close.  Here is what I am doing..

 Two days ago I was trying to figure out the next step on my journey and I read a post by Sara Raush at her website Life more lived.  Sara mentioned going to digital with all your movies and CD’s and I was all in.  I have an entire crate of Compact Discs in my garage.  (around 200) and I also have around 150 DVDs.  I began to understand that I could place all of this information onto one sleek, sexy, portable hard drive.  I would eliminate approximatley 350 possesions and still retain the same amount of information.  What could be better?

So after walking into my local Radio shack and purchasing a portable hard drive.  I began to load CDs into my Itunes and save them over to the hard drive.  After loading all my discs onto the drive i put them up for auction on E-bay.  I am trying to recoup the cost of the hard drive with my CD auction.  I also believe time would be better served by selling them as a lot vs. trying to sell them individually.  Next step… load all my movies onto the drive and auction them off as well.   Any movie  can then be watched over my laptop, of course its not a big screen TV with surround sound but I could watch a movie I wanted pretty much wherever and whenever I want,  I will have portable media over my computer.  Start thinking about what you could eliminate.  After my DVD’s are gone I am going to try to go paperless with bill payments. 

What else could you move to digital?

Have you had any luck reducing clutter in your life?

I would love to hear your stories.  Use the comment button to share them.

Please share this with your friends if you think it will help.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | decluttering, minimalism, Personal Finance, simplicity | , , , | 4 Comments

Bedroom closet complete

Finally!! I did it I took on the bedroom closet and got this monster put to bed.  Since posting in a previous blog that I was going to tackle it I have procrastinated and rationalized and let it fester until I was almost causing myself a brain tumor in worry.  The closet had become a huge mental stressor.  My bedroom closet is a huge walk-in and (was) packed from floor to ceiling with every item thats ever needed a place out of sight.  It was also completely filled with loads of clothing that my wife and I never wore.  I finally got the courage to make it happen using the approach recomended by most decluttering/minimalist authors.  I spent an hour unloading the closet completly taking everything out of it and I gave it a good scrubdown and vacuuming.  I then started sifting through the pile and decided on each item. 

KEEP/TOSS/SELL. 

I probably could have filed another pile for donate but most items that were in the toss pile would have made me feel funny to try to donate it was junk old paper cardboard boxes torn and ripped clothing among other things.  It didnt seem right for me to donate my trash just to feel good about donating.

The items in the sell pile were items that I could list on E-bay right now.  What food/shelter/donation place would like to be handing out old I-pods to the needy?  it just didnt feel right donating consumerist items to less fortunate people perpetuating the myth in society that “stuff” will make you happy. 

Enough on that, I placed everthing I wanted to keep back into the closet one item at a time deciding on each piece do I need this? will I need this? (winter clothes,xmas decorations).  If not it was put in a pile and taken outside immediatley, or taken to a bin that I could start listing items on e-bay.  I filled the back of my pickup full of crap, I could not believe how much junk had piled up in that room. 

I am nowhere near what a true master declutterer or minimalist would be I still kept way to many t-shirts, way to many dress shirts, I did however reduced my dress pants down to two pair from around 10.  I also kept a collection of basketball/football/baseball cards some trophys me and my wife have won over the years and all the photographs we had stored in the closet.  I am just not ready mentally to let go of certain things.  Perhaps as I continue to reduce my lifestyle and consumption needs I will find a way to keep these memories but get rid of the physical items.

Overall the closet being done has been a huge success as it has lifted the burden of an undone task from my mind. 

What struggles are you having with decluttering?  I would love to hear how you have dealt with issues that come up when you start clearing your life of “stuff”.

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October 13, 2010 Posted by | decluttering, minimalism | , , | Leave a comment

Credit card no more

Three days ago I locked up my credit cards.  My wife and I decided to no longer carry a card and use cash only.  Am I crazy for no longer packing a card for “emergencies”?  I do not think so.  In short here is why I think we made a great decision.

It is to tempting to pull out your card for impulse buying and non emergency spending.

Yesterday I was going to take a friend to lunch,  I stopped when I realized I no longer carry a credit card with me and I had no cash on me.  Yes i went out into the world without cash or a credit card and I survived!  The result?  I could not take my friend out to lunch which may have cost me some good conversation but it also saved me around $25.  I am not advocating never buying a good friend a meal I am just saying since I didnt have my card or cash on hand, I ended up keeping $25 more dollars of my next paycheck to myself. 

You spend more when you use plastic

When I am at a restaraunt paying for a meal with a card I usually add the standard 15% tip regardless of the service and for small price meals i have even placed a standard $5 tip on my card for a $10 meal.   Dave Ramsey who wrote the Total Money Makeover explains that your brain does not associate what the “real” cost of goods are when you just write a number down and place your signature on the dotted line.  Dave mentions that there is  pain associated with handing over cold hard cash that forces your brain to challenge the value of the item or items you are buying and you will find by using cash you will not  “need” all the extra items when you hit the grocery store. 

But I have the self control to watch my spending on my card

No you can’t, the siren song of retailers, the marketing juggernaut of credit companies, or the rationalization of your own mind will in fact entice you to make a simple purchase here and there and you will slip.  One month you will wake up with more on your card than you can afford to pay.  And you will be stuck with items that probably didn’t provide you happiness and continue to accrue interest on top of the original purchase price.  The only cure for this cancer is to cut it out.  Stop using credit at all costs.

So with what I have just outlined until further notice I will be using cash only along with a debit card and only buy the essentials.   This I hope will help us further along the path of reducing consumerism that has plagued us for all of our life.  And help us focus more on what really matters in life.

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October 6, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, Personal Finance | , , | 2 Comments

Where did my day go?

The world today is challenging.  It is a world of instant communication, instant news, instant consequences, and instant gratification.  With all the avenues of information we have we should be super productive.  So why then at the end of the day do we wonder what happened to all of our time?  Why did we not get the tasks done that we were supposed to do?

One possible answer

Attention interupts

These attention interupts may be,  friends, co-workers, phone calls, web surfing, facebooking, twitter, e-mail.  With all these avenues of information we should be super productive, right?

Wrong

There is a mental state of mind that you create when you are deeply involved with an important task.  You may call this being “in the zone”.  Being “in the zone” means you are super focused at the task at hand.  You have all been here, the rush of doing important work and knowing you accomplishing something great can be so rewarding.

The problem comes when the phone rings, or the E-mail alert in your inbox goes off, or a coworker stops by to chit-chat.  All of a sudden you experience an attention interupt.  It takes you out of your state of mind and unleashes a burden to your attention.  These type of interupts are disastrous to your productivity.  Author Timothy Ferris tells us that for a major task it can take up to 45 minutes to reset physcologically after an interuption.

As I drive deeper into the core of minimalism I am becoming aware that one of our most precious possessions is not our, money, possessions, or jobs.  It is in fact our time.  it is one of the few things in life you can never get back.  Money can be made again, possesions can be bought again, jobs can be found.  Time you can never get back.  So how do we create more time to do the things that truly matter?

1)  First thing in the morning list all the tasks and obligations that you have to complete to get a complete picture of what your day may look like. Realize that you may not be able to get through all your daily tasks and pick 2-4 of the most important items you want to get done and for the time being, forget everything else.  Focus only on these tasks and work through them completely until they are done.  Do not be tempted to add a task to your small list until all of them are completed.  Remember these should be the most important things in your life to get done.  They can be work obligations, family obligations, or other interests that you may have.  The important thing is to “focus” and complete.  When you are completely done you can add another set of 2-4 tasks or set your schedule upon completion to be able to check your e-mail, voicemail, have a meeting, or visit with co-workers.  But not before your done.  Which brings me to my next point.

2)  Quarantine E-mail to specific times of the day.  Do not check E-mail first thing in the morning to see whats happening.  It will steal your mental energy for any simple task, request, or brainfart that someone just happened to send your way.  E-mail creates a false sense of urgency in your mind that even if you just check to see whats in the inbox it will burden your mind until it is resolved.  Voicemail and Phone calls do much the same thing.   In order to focus on your most important tasks set yourself up to check E-mail, and Voicemail, at predetermined times in the day.  Turn off you E-mail alert sounder to avoid cheating when something pops into the inbox.  I would recommend starting with limiting your checking of email and voicemail no more than 3-5 times per day.  I would also advise working your inbox to empty.  While you are on the task of clearing your inbox’s be sure you are taking care of every issue.  I use the three D’s to help me through the jumble.  Do it, Delegate it, or Dump it, pretty self explanatory.   If you leave an unaswered E-mail or voicemail sitting in your inbox it may cause frustration in your mind of an unresolved issue.

3) Your phone should be shut off while you are doing your most important tasks so you do not suffer an attention interupt while you are doing your most important work.  If your job requires you to be available to answer your phone at the drop of a hat.  Remember missed calls are what voicemail is for.  Be sure to have a voicemail message that reflects the importance of the call and the importance of your work you are doing.  “Hi you have reached the cell phone of Justin Guzman I may either be driving or working on an important project, please leave a message as your call is important and I will follow up with you as soon as I can”.  See it’s not that hard, and if it truly is an important call the caller will leave a message.  If it is not that important they will most likely call the next person on their list to help them out of their “emergency”.

Limit your attention interupts by implementing  these three items to your daily lives and I promise you will be rewarded with the gift of time.  Your most important work, family, life tasks will be completed and you will be more fullfilled at the end of the day.  Please do not use your newfound free time to spend it in front of the T.V. or at the watercooler bsing with the buddies.  The point of this exercise is to create the time you need in your life to do something that matters.  Spend more time with your family, read a good book, exercise, learn a new language, there are so many productive things you can now be taking part of.

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September 24, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, productivity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Begin Small

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time…. You may have all heard this question it is a good idea to keep this in the back of your mind when you begin to de-clutter your life.  In the beggining your energy and enthusiam will keep you focused on making sweeping change, attacking each area with fervor.  Soon your energy level will drop and your enthusiasm will wane.  You will start to run out of steam before your task is complete.  This by the way happens with all habits we either try to make or break.  De-cluttering your life is entirely about changing habits.  Changing how you view possesions, changing how you clean,think,live,spend,save,study,write,work,play.  So with all this change how do you stay motivated and energized to stick with your commitments of life change?

Begin small

Take your task at hand and break it into very small managable tasks.  If your goal is to declutter your house.  In the beggining you will be a whirlwind running from room to room trying to get all the clutter out.   Use this energy for sure but when the energy wanes?  Pick a small drawer in the house and choose to clean just that one drawer out.  It wont suck your energy and it will still move you toward your goal.  If you start with small tasks eventually they start to add up.  Leading you to the completion of your task. 

Starting small also allows you to easily work on the habit you are trying to form.  It takes a month of repetitive effort in order to change a habit.  So if you can do something small everyday to help you form your habit.   Eventually you will not even think of the new habit as effort.  It will be ingrained into your phsyche.

I have been trying to figure out the direction this blog is going, and have frozen in my tracks.   In the beggining words flowed easily and ideas for posts were pouring out.   I am now stuck in my own mind trying to create the perfect post.  Using my own advice to unstick myself I posted this article.  A small blurb that  unlocked my mind and is getting  me closer to the goal I have, to build the habit of posting regularly, and help others with my writing.  It really works I started this post with only the title, Begin Small , look what happened I now have a blog post to share with you.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, productivity | , , , , | 1 Comment

Who is responsible for you?

We humans, each of us individually are  ultimatley responsible for our own well being and financial future.  It is not the resposibility of our family, employer, or government to take care of us.  Each of us need to take talk up the yolk and educate ourselves daily to improve the skills that will support us in life.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | minimalism, Personal Finance | , , , , | 1 Comment

What motivates the move to a simpler lifestyle

Why would anyone on earth want to have less stuff?  Media tells us to keep up with the latest trend or you will be uncool.  Buy the new sportscar, ipad, designer clothing, atv you name it.   We are bombarded by marketing daily letting us know how we should spend our time and money.  You know why they do it?

Because Time and Money are assets of ours they would like to be in possesion of.  Apple computers does not care if buying the new gadget they came up with will benefit you or not.  They only care that they get a strong enough message across to make you think that it would benefit you.  If they can get you to think that it would benefit you they can charge a handsome price to be in possesion of their gadget.  It works similar across all goods and service providers trying to separate you from your time and money. 

If time an money are assets we control why would we not use them to create the dream lifestyle we have always wanted.  NO not more possesions.  Take an introspective look at find out what your motivations are.  Here are the reasons I want to live a simpler life.

1 I want to be free to enjoy anything I want

2 I want to be able to spend time with my family

3 I want an uncluttered house,mind,life

4 I want to be the sole master of my destiny

5 I want to vacation to new places spending as much time as I want there

6 I want experiences that fulfill not possesions that drain

7 I want to be healthier

8 I want to follow my kids in their activities

9 I want Freedom to choose how I spend my time

10 I want to make my wife the happiest woman in the world

11 I want to share my ideas with the world

Some of these seem redundant but it was a quick list I scribed as reasons I want to live simpler.  They all boil down to a few key areas. 

Freedom

Family

Fun  

Working the 9-5 grind or as in management the 24-7 there is an absence of time to fullfill your desires you are constantly interuppted or forced to stay in “cell range” to be able to fight fires as they arise.  It is a great tool to use to be able to get ourselves out of the corner we have bought ourselves into but we must persevere to find new avenues of income.   How can we ever begin to think of taking a month long vacation to a desert island when our corporate structure alots you a mere few days a year vacation time. 

Commitments to others to do things can be another way we chain ourselves down.  If we are busy running around for others using our time to do tasks for them, how can we ever be free to choose what we would like to do.  We must limit our commitments to others and take serious the commitments we make to ourselves and family the rest of the world be damned.

Possesions keep us right where they want us to be.  The more you own the more “it” actually owns you.  You are constantly worried not losing what you have and gaining more.  this creates a scarcity mentality.  Go through your possesions and give/sell them all but the neccesities.  this will create an abundance mentallity and the universe will reward you with more abundance. 

Enough for now I am going to test my theories by decluttering my closet i will limit myself to the essential and list why.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | minimalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

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