Posts Tagged ‘Lifehacking’

No comic on Monday, birthday, driving, living expenses

September 13th, 2008 by Reinder

Some miscellaneous things:
First off: there will not be a new comic next week. My 37th birthday is tomorrow, and my present to myself is a day off the treadmill. No deadlines, no accomplishment targets. I may or may not do any work, but I'm releasing myself from all obligations for just one weekend in my life.

Driving class is going well, though it doesn't always feel like it. My instructor is sending me into more difficult areas to navigate and is finally letting me pay attention to traffic. As a result, it feels like I'm stagnating, because the more difficult things I'm doing don't go smoothly. I find some of it hair-raising, in fact and come home from the class all tired and sweaty. Give me a stretch of road I'm familiar with, though, and I do notice a difference.
I do now believe I should have done this much earlier. Not so much because learning ability declines with age (it does, but not by as much as people think; indeed, the biggest factor that causes adults to learn more slowly than young people is that adults typically aren't immersed in a learning environment), but because it's much more difficult for me to find the time and schedule the classes than it would have been 18 years ago. The cancellation rate on my classes is about 50%, because I can only make it outside ordinary work hours, and those hours happen to be difficult for my instructor to make.

Grocery expenses today: €21,10. Not bad, especially keeping in mind that I was able to buy for the pantry: various dried bean/lentil products will keep me fed for months, and I did the shopping while hungry (I had no breakfast foods in the house, which meant I had shop before breakfast) which is normally a big no-no. The general frugal advice is not to go grocery shopping while hungry. I overcame this problem by sticking to the periphery of the supermarket as advised by Michael Pollan and giving myself very little shopping time. Compared to the farmer's market, the selection of fresh produce was poor, but I got enough of what I needed for this week's meal plan (cauliflower korma, spaghetti bolognese and dal curry, each for multiple days) and probably will have to go back only once to buy odds and ends.

I got an € 609 tax refund, which is less than I expected. But I'll also be getting part of the nationalised part of my health insurance premiums back, which could well make up most of the total. If you actually look at your tax form, the actual income taxes in the Netherlands are pretty low in the lowest bracket or "box". Most of what you pay is for health insurance, which is a separate bill (and is topped up by a part that you pay to private insurers. Yep, it's a complex and expensive system, but as compromises between private and socialised medicine go, it could be worse). I'll be spending the refund on rebuilding my financial buffer, which has suffered a bit from my plane ticket and the cost of driving lessons. On the personal finance front, I'm also untangling the final issues with the rent of the studio, which I will be leaving on October 21. And I'm thinking of having another go at budgeting. I tried that in February, but I don't think I was ready for it at the time. Now, though, I've realised that my plans for the future will make it essential to save a lot more money than I do. Also, I have become aware of how much anxiety about money stresses me out. I have never had any significant debts, but I have no significant assets either, which means that it doesn't take much to cause my buffer to run out. Time for me to start dealing more intelligently with money.

Live by the list, die by the list

September 4th, 2008 by Reinder

I am disorganised, and this is hurting me at my job, at a time when I feel very strongly that I need to maximise my career and perform as well as I possibly can. I have tried to get more organised by keeping lists, but today, I ran into the limit of what lists can do for a person, hard.
And I was actually quite satisfied with my progress over the past few weeks. This morning, for the first time in weeks, I had enough peace of mind to sit down at the start of the work day and spend half an hour doing nothing but plan: write up my early-morning list (one of two - the other is the end-of day list which is a memo of things that need to be done the next day, in a rough order of priority. By the time morning has arrived, new urgent work to be delivered the same day has usually arrived in my mailbox and that planning has to be revised, but at least I have a starting point for the next day ready before I leave the office), prioritise in some detail based on how best to prevent surprised and then talk to people about that. I was doing well.

Right until a client e-mailed me about a job that was due yesterday that I'd forgotten about completely.

And that's where lists reach their limit: if you live by the list, you will die by the list. Because I rely on my lists so much, and because one of the ways I use them is to jot things down to enter into the company Intranet later so I won't have to drop everything I'm doing and lose my place in my ongoing work, what isn't on the list doesn't exist. As a result, a job that would normally take a day to do but would have been completed easily if I'd started on time just disappeared from my planning. Needless to say, I'm very frustrated with this, and a bit despairing about what I should do to prevent this. It needs to be solved otherwise I can't perform well at my job; but I can't go back to dropping whatever I can to prepare and administer incoming projects, because in the work environment I'm in, I wouldn't get anything done.

I don't have a solution yet. Sites like The Simple Dollar have endless lifehacking recommendations. That site particularly recommends the book Getting Things Done but implementing some of the solutions in that takes a time investment upfront that I simply don't see myself having in an environment where half an hour of idle time is a rarity, and as for implementing the most important step of that, listing everything, I've just demonstrated the risks inherent in that approach.

What do you do to keep track of things? Please let me know in comments. If you're a fan of the comics I make, your solution just might help me to spend less time in the office and to come home with more energy left to work on them. I did get the project back on track with the help of some of my co-workers and a new deadline, but at a cost of me coming home much, much later than planned, putting in overtime which I'm not going to get paid for.