Small changes

I wrapped up 2016 on vacation from work, but unfortunately I’ve also been battling a cold almost the entire time.  Since December 27th, cold-induced bronchitis has limited my activity.  My wife jokes that every time I take a winter vacation I get sick, and it’s hard for me to remember one when I didn’t.  Last year. I worked through Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, and I didn’t get sick.  This year, I’ve been sick twice: After Thanksgiving, and after Christmas.

So while that may seem convincing to some, I think there’s another factor:  consumption of alcohol. Both of these rounds of colds were preceded by drinking a little too much the night before.   There seems to be some research to suggest heavy drinking can affect our immune system’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours.   Maybe it’s common sense that I just had never considered…

After I factor in the expense of drinking, I have decided I’m going to curtail my drinking for both health and financial reasons.  There’s probably at least $1,500 annually (and maybe upwards of $2,500 when I consider all spending) I can cut from my spending on alcohol, which when I think about it is a lot of alcohol.  I have slightly expensive tastes, though, so it’s not like I’m pounding cases of Milwaukee’s Best every weekend.  Of the things I buy, bourbon is $30-$50+ a bottle, craft beer is $30-$60 a case, and wine is about $10-$12 a bottle.  And drinking at a restaurant or bar is just crazy expensive, even the few times a month I do that.

So since I’ve spent a majority of the Winter Holidays not drinking,  I might as well continue the trend.  I think it will have a very positive impact on my overall life.  Having a drink after work or with dinner often relaxes me and leads to an evening of not getting stuff done.  If I’m going to ramp up the side hustles this year, I’ll need to be more productive in the evenings.

I think the benefits from reducing alcohol consumption may also carry over into my real job as well.  I’ll be more active, which should improve my overall health.  More activity in the evenings should lead to better sleep, which will make me better rested for the next day.  It might even lead to more “real” exercise.   So overall, it seems like a good idea, and deep down I’ve been feeling like I drink a little too much some nights, so it’s time for a change.

It’s less a New Year’s resolution and more of a product of having  11 days to think about ways to improve my life and the ability to realize our financial goals.   Regarding the finances, it’s not about the money directly, but more about what the money represents: freedom.  If reducing my alcohol consumption affects that realization of freedom on so many levels, it would be foolish not to change my ways.

In December, I added a Habit Tracker to my notebook.  It looks like this:

December Habit Tracker

I found it useful and enlightening, and I plan to continue it’s use over the coming months.  If you’re working on creating some new habits in 2017, perhaps a similar tool will be helpful to you.  Whether it’s in a notebook, on a piece of paper posted on your wall, or maybe even on a chalkboard in your kitchen, visually tracking your adherence to your targeted habits can be very beneficial in cementing the change.

Whatever you choose to use, find a visual way to track your goals and progress towards them.  If you do, I bet you’ll find you hit more of your targets in 2017.




Waking up to chirping birds

I think I got a taste of what early retirement might be like.   In contrast to most weeks, we didn’t have a lot of plans this weekend.  It had been a busy week, I had awaken at 1:30 am the previous morning, and we didn’t feel the need to get moving early, so the alarm wasn’t set.  Somewhere around 6:45, I awoke to the sounds of the birds outside as the sun began to brighten the morning.   We eventually had breakfast outside, ran errands, did some yard work, played with the dogs, cook dinner on the charcoal grill, etc.  Then we went to bed a little after 9 o’clock.

Sunday was almost a repeat:  Wake at 6 am to the sounds of nature, eat breakfast outside, take a long walk with the dogs, do some yard work, go to a party, cook dinner on the charcoal grille; went to bed around 10 pm.  Monday was  similar, but we never had to jump in a car.  It made me really start looking forward to achieving our goal of early retirement.   Sitting around chatting with family after dinner, I mentioned my favorite part of the weekend was waking naturally with no alarm clock.  So started thinking:  Do I really need to get up with an alarm?

So after checking my calendar, I decided that only on Friday do I need to make sure I’m up by a certain time.  So Yesterday, no alarm.  Today, no alarm.  I was up and moving by 6 am again.  Even on Friday, that would be early enough this week, so I’ll probably set it for 6:15 just in case.

Where did this reliance on waking to an alarm start for me?  It started in grade school, and has mostly continued since.  So it makes me wonder:  How much of a disservice are we doing to the kids of today?  Why in the world do kids need to be waiting for a bus at 6:45 am?  Fixing education is the next frontier for Lean, I think.  As i think of this, I realize that for a large part of the last 4 years, I wouldn’t have needed an alarm.  Even without it, I’m up relatively early by most standards.  But yet I continued to cheat myself of sleep pretty regularly due to a habit of getting up to an alarm.

Maybe that ended last Thursday.  That was the last day I used an alarm since I woke up so early on Friday with the solution to a problem at work in my head that came to me in a dream.  Occasionally, I’ll still need to wake early to be at a 7 am meeting, or to catch an early morning flight, but in general I think I’m going to stop using my alarm.

But you know, it just feels so weird.  It’s like I’m doing something almost taboo; like someone is going to come and bust me for NOT getting up at 5am.  I’ll consider this my next step in not being normal and preparing for an early retirement.

(The bird in the picture ate breakfast with me in Perth, Australia.  I’m no good at taking pictures of birds; I need to get better.  But don’t you think this bird looks like he was awaken too early by his alarm clock ?)