Switch to mobile version
Post image for Where Personal Breakthroughs Really Come From

This article isn’t ultimately about money, but it does include a simple technique I can almost guarantee will save you tens of thousands of dollars, years of needless toil, and relieve you of an enormous amount of financial stress.

If you do this one thing, you’ll have a lot more money and a lot less worry, without any concerted efforts to earn more or restrict your spending. Probably the only way it won’t change your life is if you’re already doing it.

It isn’t difficult and it requires no new skills, only a few minutes here and there, and perhaps a daily alarm, or a strategically placed sticky-note, to remind you to do it.

Here it is: you ledger your income and expenses. Any money that enters or leaves your possession, you track in a spreadsheet or ledger by category. Then look at the totals at the end of the month. As a failsafe, sit down once a week for twenty minutes to make double-sure you did it.

That’s the entire commitment—just tracking the income and out-go. You’re free to buy whatever you want, as long as you track it. Go order $85 worth of tapas and wine, just make sure you ledger it. Go get a $350 handbag if you like, as long as you’re willing to type that “$350.00” into the “Clothing and accessories” column later that night.

Without any budgeting or self-imposed restrictions, you’ll automatically make far better use of your money, at least doubling or tripling the efficiency of your discretionary spending. You’ll gain a sense of control over your financial life and experience far less money anxiety, all without any conscious effort to spend less or make more.

It works because it’s impossible to be aware of the actual numbers behind your behavior without your priorities changing. It becomes easy to see where you’re getting value and where you’re not. A natural aversion to wastefulness emerges in your daily behaviors, with no self-scolding necessary.

In other words, the things that tempt you towards trouble become considerably less tempting, and that’s the vital point here—tracking your behavior, without striving to change it, gently reduces the amount of willpower and self-scolding required to do the right thing.  Read More

Post image for Want More Time? Get Rid of The Easiest Way to Spend It

For the month of May I time-traveled back to 2007, when social media platforms were still just websites you visited. I removed Facebook, Twitter and Reddit from my phone. Throughout the month, if I wanted to use those platforms I had to log in manually at my desk.

This decision came after experiencing a through-the-looking-glass moment while listening to an interview with Tristan Harris, former “design ethicist” at Google. I had always known it was easy to waste time on social media, but I hadn’t quite understood how engineered our social media habits are.

The big services are designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities, particularly our need for frequent signals of approval from others: thumbs-up, gold stars and hearts. These small hits of pleasure are enough to keep us checking in early and often, so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. That is the business model. (More here: How Billionaires Stole My Mind

I didn’t want to quit outright, as many people have. I just wanted to get away from the ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. I didn’t want them in my pocket. I didn’t want to find myself swiping through them without having decided to. I wanted them to return to what they used to be: fun websites you may or may not visit on a given day.  Read More

Post image for You Never Have Time, Only Intentions

In my new house the top floor is a single room with gabled walls and a single window that looks out over the street. I go up there twice daily to meditate for half an hour, so every time I’m in that room I can’t help but think, at least once, about how much time I have left in the day.

During those sessions I’m more aware of my thoughts, and the effect they have on me, than at any other time. And I’ve noticed that the amount of time I have left after my sitting—before I have to be somewhere, or before bedtime—makes a big difference psychologically. Given what I plan to do for the rest of the day, I always have one of two distinct feelings: I have enough time, or I don’t have enough time.

I’m learning not to trust either of these feelings, because they’re based on an error in perception—when you think about it, and we never really have time. Time we talk about “having” is always in the future, where we can’t see it and don’t know what it will be like. We can’t be confident it will be there when we need it, or that it will arrive without conditions or unexpected problems.

We never possess time in the same way we possess the money in our wallets, although we talk like we do. We assume we have three hours or three days to do something, but it never actually comes into our possession. The time we “have” is never where we are, and we can never see it, unlike everything else we have: our clothing, our furniture, our homes, our friends and family. We never know our time like we know those things, so we can’t depend on it like we depend on those things. Read More

Post image for Five Things I Learned From Not Drinking for Four Months

I had my first drink of 2017 on the third of May. Last December I realized how uncomfortable I’d become with my eighteen-year habit of drinking to excess once or twice a month.

Aside from being expensive and unhealthy, I could no longer deny that alcohol often made me into a person I needed to be drunk to tolerate: snarky, flippant and oblivious.

So I decided to take four months off the drink, to evaluate what it was doing for me, or to me. I also wanted to finally learn how to operate as a non-drinker at parties, concerts, and other get-togethers for which I’d normally get drinks. Would these occasions still be fun? Did I know how to be sober?

The four months was easy. I liked being sober. There were only a few instances where I envied the drinks of people around me. Most of the time I had little desire to drink.

The final act of the experiment was to drink again—two drinks in the first session, and a few more in another session—to see where alcohol and its effects stand with me now, after four dry months.  Read More

Post image for How Billionaires Stole My Mind

You may have fallen into the same trap as me, and I want to help us all get out.

You use your phone as an alarm clock, and because you do, the first thing you learn, every morning, is that while you were sleeping someone messaged you, Liked you, or Mentioned you.

The one-second task of turning off the alarm leads to ten or twenty minutes of swiping and scrolling through pictures, messages, memes, jokes, diatribes and recipes. Maybe you find reports of a violent attack somewhere, or a gaffe by a politician, or a GIF of a baby goat. Or all of those things.

You learn some things your friends have been up to—someone checked in at Olive Garden, someone ran in a 5k fundraiser, someone bought tickets for Yo-Yo Ma, someone doesn’t like some country’s labor minister, and someone plans to make cake pops later, or is at least thinking about it.

This ritual seems benign enough, but sometimes you think it takes up too much time. Twenty minutes a day (if somehow you only fall into this pit once daily) adds up to a lot of your life gone.  Read More

Post image for The Art of The Hard Part

I was always moved by a particular line in The Godfather: “Mister Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.”

The line stuck out to me because it was so clearly the opposite of my natural tendencies. I always tried to move away from unpleasant realities. When I started to worry about money, for example, I avoided looking at my bank balance. When one of my friends was mad at me, I would avoid talking to them.

This is an almost perfectly terrible life strategy. Virtually every personal victory I’ve had amounted to doing exactly the opposite—finally confronting some reality, or some experience, that I had historically avoided. Monsters grow in the dark, so if you like your monsters small and manageable, you probably want to go and meet them at your earliest convenience.

The story arc of my adult life has essentially been a long process of learning and accepting that fact. A few weeks ago my friend Hélène taught me something that brought this principle to a new level of clarity. Her suggestion not only destroyed a specific problem I was having, but also seems to be a master key to all sorts of long-standing problems in other areas of my life.  Read More

Post image for How to Do It Tomorrow Instead of Never

My Dad had a clever way of getting me to do the things I typically avoided, like homework or cleaning my room.

When he interrupted my Nintendo-playing to remind me of the task, I would explain that while I absolutely intended to do it, I was simply planning to do it later rather than now.

Rather than argue, he would say, “That’s fine, you don’t have to do it now. All you have to do now is tell me when you will do it.”

I hated this tactic. Giving later a definite time spoiled my true plan, which was to do it never. I preferred later over now not because 2 o’clock the next day is a better time than the current time, but because from where I was sitting, later seemed closer to never than now did.

Or in other words, if you squint just right, shirking your responsibilities for another day vaguely resembles having no responsibilities, which is what I always wanted.

But my Dad’s clever question of when dispelled this mirage. Later is just a different now, and there’s no good life that’s free of responsibilities.

Unfortunately, I didn’t internalize this wisdom. Instead I saw his question as one of the shrewd tactics of the opposition in my war against responsibility. I became a dedicated procrastinator and difficulty-avoider for a host of complex psychological reasons I may never fully untangle.

I get more emails about procrastination than any other topic, even though I only write about it once or twice a year. Apparently there are many, many adults who suffer from an uncanny inability to do what it seems like every grownup should be able to do: simply work through a to-do list with the time they have.

Seemingly, most adults can move steadily through their day-to-day workload as though it’s a pile of logs to be split—the only limitation being time and energy, with nothing psychologically fraught about it, and no self-sabotage or existential fears involved.  Read More

robot hand

When I was a kid in the early nineties there were no apps to remind you of things, so mostly you just hoped would remember. In particular, I hoped I would remember to check, on the futuristic date of August 29th, 1997, if Judgment Day had indeed occurred, as Terminator 2 said it would.

In the movie, that was the date a military artificial intelligence called Skynet became self-aware, according to time-travelers who had been there. The A.I.’s first decision, when it realized it was a thing, was to start a nuclear exchange in the hopes that it could eradicate human beings before they could unplug it.

I’m not sure what I ended up doing that day—today you can recall what happened on a given date by checking what emails you sent and received—but I don’t think I remembered what day it was supposed to be, and I am sure there was no nuclear holocaust.

Human beings are not great at predicting the future, but we have had a long-creeping suspicion that at some point overly smart computers will cause us huge problems. 1997 is now twenty years ago, and while our computers haven’t started any wars yet, they have begun to take our jobs.  Read More

garden tools

A tiny article about Stoicism has had a significant influence on my life since I read it. Maybe for the first time in my adult life, I don’t feel like I’m wasting much of my time. I feel unusually prepared to do difficult things.

It was a short personal essay by Elif Batuman, about how reading Epictetus helped her through a strained relationship, political turmoil in her country of residence, and other messy or insoluble worldly concerns.

It also prompted me to start reading what are sometimes called the “big three” Stoic works, The Discourses and The Enchiridion by Epictetus, and The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, who in his spare time was the Emperor of Rome.

I knew the basic idea of Stoicism, and it made sense: don’t freak out about what you can’t control. It’s perfectly logical. But logical isn’t always practical, at least for a species whose members typically can’t even fulfill their own new year’s resolutions.

Humans have never been short on sensible-sounding advice: spend less than you earn, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today, be patient, don’t drink coffee after 6pm. What we’re short of is whatever quality it takes to get ourselves to do those things.

But I wasn’t giving the Stoics enough credit. So far, their advice is very practical—more self-improvement suggestions than philosophical ideas.  Read More

camping desert

I received a little hailstorm of lessons in being human this week.

Aside from the everyday stuff, Raptitude went down inexplicably Monday, right as I released a new article. Then Wednesday there was a major server outage—apparently caused by a single typo—and half the internet went down. My first response was to make coffee, and instead of pouring water into the coffeemaker I poured it into my electric coffee grinder.

After some significant cleanup efforts, the website, the grinder and I survived, and Camp Calm’s doors are open again.  Read More

Desktop version

Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.