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

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”.

Please share this if you think it will help someone.

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

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

A small switch in thinking

In life where you focus your energy seems to enlarge itself.  Rhonda Byrne, from where I get my inspiration for this post, in her book, “The Secret” tells us that the universe returns to you what you put out into it.  That what you think about and invest your mental energy in the universe moves, people, places and events in order to fullfill your focus. 

Why is this “secret” important?

I will use my own experience as an example:

Imagine being buried under a mountain of debt and the only thing that you can think about is your debt.  How to get rid of it, being ashamed of it, wondering what happened to get yourself in this mess?  It can be overwhelming.  There are in fact many strategies to use and many books written on the subject of personal finace that we can talk about later for the sake of this post I would like to keep it to my own experience in trying to use “The Secret”. 

I happened to be thinking about my debt one day when I realized “what if all my focusing on my debt is only increasing situations where I may have to stay in debt”.  I made a point to change my thinking from always wondering how to get out of debt, into thinking about Saving, how to save, automated savings, what to save.  As well as income, How to generate more, what I could sell, what services I could offer.  A strange thing is beginning to happen.  I now have more cash in savings than any point in my life!  This only after a few months of changing my focus from Debt, (which I believe is a scarcity mentality) to Saving and Earning, (which is an abundance mentality).  I have been able to sell,donate several things around the house as well as earn top bonuses  and monetary awards in my carreer.  And you know what?  I believe you can as well.  Focusing on abundance remove barriers from your mind and opens new possiblitys instead of thinking “I can’t” you beging to think “How can I?”

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Personal Finance | , , , , | Leave a 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

Focus on what matters

I just finished reading Leo Babuata’s book “less is more” I find several interesting points he makes that goes along with my brain change I am trying to go through now.  Leo comments that one of the reasons that people fail to meet their goals when taking on a new habit change is that they take on too much too soon.  Leo suggests that we have major lifechanging goals and then create mini goals as well as mini task to get these goals done.  For instance.  Ill take my goal for example of being 220 lbs this is currently a 25 lb weight loss goal.  A mini goals would be to lose 2 lbs a week until reached or too eat healthier to help the process along.  A task you could do daily then to reach your mini goals would be to exercise 15 mins a day. or to cut 200 calories out of your diet.   I knew I was taking a hard approach when I decided to complete every goal I had within a month.  Decluttering House, Quitting Smoking, New Diet, Exercising.  So what I have done now is simply start small with things.  I am going to track my diet habits with myfitnesspal.com it is a great website to set up a goal weight and then simply enter in the food you eat as your eating it throughout the day and keeping a log. 

Decluttering:

Latest projects decluttered have been. 

Filing Cabinet ( Tossed just about everything in there when you stopped to think will I actually need this the answer was mostly no.) We had tons of old phone bills, power bills, just flotsam floating around in that cabinet I am relieved it is straight now.

Work Desk.  I got this monster decluttered and set up a filing system in the drawer next to me it does make work flow much quicker when everything I need to file or from my file is arranged and at hand.

Back Room Our house has little storage space in it so we had let junk pile up in my office space in the back room for years it was great to start putting to bed these items that have just caused untidyness in our house forever.

Bathroom painted: My wife came home one night and we (mostly her) taped off and painted the kids bathroom.  It is so much nicer to be in freshly painted rooms.

With all that we are doing a little chunk at a time we are slowly making progress to get our house to a respectable level of clutter there are a few major rooms left that we need to do.

I would eventually like to create a possesion list and limit our wordly possesions to what is on the list only being able to acquire something when we donate or sell something else.  I am not sure how big to make this list yet I have seen some minimalists publish 100 item lists.  I think that is way too small for us at this point and would be a shock to the system.  As soon as our house gets more organized I will build a list of all our possesions.  We can then chip away from there.

August 30, 2010 Posted by | minimalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

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