Kim and I moved into a new house on July 1st. Well, it’s new to us. The house itself was actually built in 1948 — or before. According to neighborhood gossip, the house survived the 1948 Vanport flood, was sawed in half, moved here, then put back together. (I’m not sure why somebody would haul this house twenty miles and up a massive hill, but maybe they got a great deal on it?)

Anyhow, when we moved in, we knew we were downsizing. The condo we’d lived in for the previous four years had 1550 square feet of space. We each had individual offices. This new place only has 1250 square feet, and there isn’t room for both of us to have an office.

After some thought, I decided it made sense to construct an outbuilding to serve as my writing studio.

Picking a Building

First, I had to research zoning laws in our area. Because we’re in unincorporated Clackamas County (and not inside any city limits), we don’t need permits to put up any building less than 200 square feet in size — as long as the average height is less than ten feet. (The building can’t have wiring or plumbing either. Those also require permits.)

With those basic parameters, I began doing some research.

First, I emailed my friend Pete (a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache), who recently built a fancy studio of his own. Because Pete is handy — carpentry is his hobby! — he did everything himself. Having seen his studio first-hand, I can tell you it’s awesome. “That’s probably outside your skillset,” he told me. “I recommend you order a pre-fab building from a place online.”

Pete recommended a company in Colorado. While their buildings were indeed awesome, they were also expensive. I wasn’t willing to put $25,000 into my writing studio. But I might be willing to spend half that amount!

Further research online revealed even more awesome custom sheds, but always at custom prices. I was frustrated.

Then one day while at Home Depot, I noticed they had a bunch of garden sheds in the parking lot. Most weren’t really suitable, but a few were. I took home some propaganda. I also stopped by other hardware stores to see what they offered. Turns out there are lots of options. Most of these building are suitable only to store Christmas lights and garden gear, but some could be converted to use as a writing studio.

After a few days of research, I settled on buying from a company called Tuff Shed. I spent several hours on their website, playing with their custom design tool. (Fun fun fun!) In the end, this is the building I created:

Tuff Shed design

In retrospect, I could have saved some money (and headache) by reducing the number of windows, not choosing the sloped ceiling, and electing to paint the shed myself. But at the time I designed it, all of these things seemed awesome and right.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

After designing my Tuff Shed, I placed the order. And waited. And waited. I knew in advance that there’d be a lot of waiting, so that’s not the issue. The issue was that it was tough for me to be patient. I wanted the building now.

Ultimately, it was good that my shed wasn’t delivered until the end of September. Up until that time, our attention was wholly focused on remodeling the house. If the shed had arrived any earlier, there would have been some serious logistics issues. (We don’t have a big driveway, and there’s no place to park on the road. We would have had contractors colliding!)

While I waited, I leveled the spot I had picked for the shed to be built. We live in a very slope-y neighborhood. There aren’t any flat spaces anywhere for hundreds of feet. Our lot is no different. Because Tuff Shed requires a flat area to build the building, I had to spend several hours using a spade to dig things to level. It was actually kind of fun.

Tuff Shed prep

Finally, on a morning at the end of September, two young men pulled up with a pickup and trailer. While one guy hauled the pre-fab pieces to the bottom of our property, the other guy started putting them together.

Tuff Shed delivery

Tuff Shed base

When they were done hauling and piecing things together, I had an empty shed that looked more or less like this:

Tuff Shed construction

Now it was my turn to get to work.

Finishing My Writing Studio

I am not a handy fellow. Or, I should say, I never have been before. But the older I get, the more I enjoy trying to figure out stuff like this. I’m cautious with wiring and plumbing because there’s just so much that can go wrong, but I’m happy to tackle other aspects of home improvement. And when the “home” in question is a writing studio, the pressure is especially low.

First up, I knew I had to insulate and install some sort of moisture barrier. This is Oregon, after all. I spent a day stapling pink fiberglass insulation to the ceiling and the floors. While it wasn’t tough, it was a bit itchy and nasty. Next, I installed some rigid foam insulation in the floors. The stuff doesn’t have a high R-value, but it’s better than nothing.

Tuff Shed insulation

After the insulation was installed, it was time to put up the ceiling, walls, and floors.

For the ceiling, I opted to use a thin plywood. If I knew then what I know now, I would have made sure to cut the plywood to stud lengths first so that it looked good. But this was my first time doing anything like this, so I just nailed it up in 48×96 sheets. “It’s all wavy and warped,” Kim said when she saw it. She’s right. Next summer, I may go back and re-do the ceiling so it looks nicer. It’s not a high priority at the moment.

While hanging the ceiling, I sustained my first injury. I was using a utility knife to cut the thin plywood to size. I didn’t think my circular saw would handle the stuff well. While pulling down against the straight edge, the knife jumped up and sliced into the tip of my thumb. Oops. Bloody mess!

Next, I nailed sheetrock to the walls. This I did cut to fit the studs. I had learned my lesson with the ceiling. Hanging the drywall wasn’t tough — only time-consuming.

Tuff Shed drywall

At this point, I had to make a decision. Most folks would opt to tape and mud the drywall so that they could then add texture and paint. This sounded like a long, tedious (and messy) process, so I fished around for other options. My brother suggested using a type of panelboard with a faux distressed wood look. I drove 45 minutes to the only store that carried it, but ultimately decided it wouldn’t work for my application. But I liked the idea of a rustic wood look.

On the way home from this distant store, I remembered that I’d seen a bunch of cedar fencing in my local Home Depot. “I wonder if that would work for the walls?” I thought. I stopped to take a look. Sure enough! The cedar was just what I wanted. I crunched some numbers while standing in the aisle, then loaded up 960 linear feet of cedar fencing. I spent the next eight hours cutting the wood, then nailing it over the top of the drywall. In the end, it looked (and smelled) awesome.

Tuff Shed cedar walls

The next problem was the floor. What should I use? Carpet? Raw plywood? Something else? I had already nailed plywood over the insulation, but I decided I’d like something a little more “finished” to make the studio look better. In the end, I opted for laminate flooring with a hickory finish. Last weekend, Kim and I spent all Saturday (and many beers and curse words) installing the floor. It was frustrating, but the end product was worth it.

Tuff Shed unpacking

Finishing Touches

After the floor was installed, I could finally start shaping the space to be an actual writing studio.

  • When we moved into the house, the previous owners had left a corner desk from IKEA. I unmounted the desk from our guest room, then installed it in the corner of my shed.
  • I had planned to build custom bookshelves for the space, but eventually decided this would be both time-consuming and expensive. Besides, when I did the math, I realized I had exactly twenty feet of shelving already. The heights weren’t quite what I wanted, but it seemed foolish not to use my existing bookshelves.
  • Kim and I debated whether or not we should put a futon in the shed. In the end, I decided I wanted the easy chair and ottoman that I bought in 1993. The colors seem garish by modern standards, but I’ve read and wrote a lot in that chair. It’s a sentimental piece.
  • Lastly, I chose to move a small table into the center of the room. This IKEA table has been my writing desk for the past five years, but now will serve as a place for me to write by hand — or to play games when people come over.

These finishing touches really pulled the room together. It feels cozy and warm. I like it. The cats like it. The dog loves it.

Because I’m trying to keep things legally unpermitted, I didn’t run electricity to the building. So, how do I power my computers? A big-ass extension cord. I chose a cord that’s rated for outside use and which can provide sufficient power. My electrician groaned when he saw what I’d done, but after a private email exchange, he seemed resigned to my choice — as long as I’m careful about everything. (I turn everything off when I’m not in the studio. I’m going to get a cover to protect the joint where my two extension cords meet. And I’m going to get a low-power wall heater that my electrician recommended as a safe option.)

In the end, the Tuff Shed cost me about $10,000 to have built, delivered, and installed. I spent an additional $2500 to finish the inside. It cost me a total of $12,500 to build my writing studio, which is exactly half of what it would have taken to order from the place Mr. Money Mustache had recommended. That seems reasonable to me.

And best of all? I love the space. It’s awesome. It’s the perfect place for me. I look forward to many years of writing about money from my Tuff Shed writing studio.

{ 4 comments }

Twenty years ago today, I started blogging.

I didn’t know I had started blogging, of course. Back then, “blog” wasn’t even a word. The other folks who were writing for the web — and there were plenty — called what they did “web journaling”. So did I.

At first, my web journal was solely about my weight-loss journey. I documented my daily exercise routine and wrote about what I was eating. I didn’t really have an audience in mind other than myself. And that was fine. Though it might be hard for younger folks to believe, in the olden days there weren’t that many people reading the web!

Although I didn’t start my first blog (or web journal) until 16 August 1997, I’d actually been creating websites for several years before that. My first page went up sometime in 1994. I was constantly posting new stuff but none of it would be what we would now consider a blog.

After tracking my fitness for a little more than a year, I decided to start a proper web journal, which I called Great Expectations. That lasted for about a month before I gave up. You see, writing and publishing entries to my web journal was just too tedious. I had to code everything by hand. This wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming. I didn’t like it. So, I let Great Expectations lapse.

Time passed.

Foldedspace

Sometime in the spring of 2001, I discovered a service called Blogger. This cool tool — although very buggy — automated a lot of the process behind creating and maintaining a web journal. (The downside? If you composed in the Blogger software itself, you were liable to lose your work because it’d crash. I soon started writing my material in a text editor, after which I’d cut and paste to Blogger. That remains my method to this day!)

I launched my first official Blogger blog in June 2001. Foldedspace was a place for me to write about cats, computers, and comic books — and anything else that crossed my mind. Again, my audience was mostly myself. I was okay with that.

Something strage happened though. In time, more and more of my family and friends began reading Foldedspace. We had some great discussions in the comments section, debating things like politics and religion and how awful the new Star Wars movies were.

Then, on 26 April 2005, something very very important happened. I published a post about personal finance. The article summarized several money books I’d recently read and it came to this conclusion: There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a proven method to get rich slowly.

For whatever reason, my article about the basics of smart money management garnered a lot of attention around the web. It went viral — or what passed for viral twelve years ago. “Neat,” I thought — and I moved on.

Starting Over

On 11 October 2005, another important event occurred.

I had long ago moved from the clumsy Blogger software to a program called Movable Type, which I loved. But unbeknownst to me, Movable Type had a fatal flaw: it was buggy. So buggy, in fact, that after years of use it decided to corrupt the database that contained my entire blog. Without any warning, hundreds of articles suddenly became inaccessible.

To be fair, the articles didn’t become completely inaccessible. While I could no longer log into my Movable Type account to manage Foldedspace, my old articles were still there. Unlike modern WordPress, which creates pages dynamically, Movable Type created static pages. Once you published an article, it was there on the web. All of my old articles are still there, twelve years after losing them. But I just can’t access them via an automated method.

One of my long-term plans (and I’ve had these plans for a decade) is to write a script that converts these static pages to a format that can be imported to WordPress. Then I can republish all of my old posts!

Meanwhile, I was starting to turn my financial life around. I was on a quest to conquer my debt. As part of that, I wanted to make more money. I was already doing some computer consulting on the side, but I wanted to make even more money. To that end, I decided to start a blog with advertising. (I was steadfastly against advertising at Foldedspace.)

At first, I tried to write a blog about comic books. It seemed like a natural fit. I liked comics, and there were folks willing to advertise on comic blogs. The problem? I didn’t like modern comics, and nobody wanted to read about the old stuff.

On a whim, I decided to start a blog about personal finance. “People really liked my article about getting rich slowly,” I thought. “Maybe I could start a blog about money.” And so I did. On 15 April 2006, I launched Get Rich Slowly. I had no clue what I’d unleashed…

Get Rich Slowly

Get Rich Slowly grew quickly. Within days, I had a thousand regular readers. Within six months, I had over 10,000 subscribers. By the end of its first year, Get Rich Slowly was receiving over 250,000 visitors each month. It was crazy!

As the site grew, so did its revenue. Get Rich Slowly only made $8.29 in April 2006. But in May, it earned $85.03. In June, it earned $473.22. In October, it earned over $1000. By July of 2007, I was earning more from Get Rich Slowly than I was from my day job! Thanks in part to this new stream of income, I was able to pay off the last of my debt in December 2007.

In March 2008, I quit my job at the family box factory in order to blog full time.

A funny thing happened about this time: Whereas blogging had been a fun hobby, once it became my job, that job seemed onerous. It was just the same as any other job. Plus, as the site’s revenue grew, so did the pressure. I didn’t increase my spending, so there wasn’t any added stress there; nonetheless, I felt a drive to boost readership and revenue from month to month.

Before long, I wanted out.

At the start of 2009, a company approached me about buying Get Rich Slowly. I thought they were joking at first. After they submitted a formal offer, I realized this wasn’t a laughing matter. I recruited an investment bank to shop the site around and got an even better offer. On 01 April 2009, I sold Get Rich Slowly — but I didn’t leave the site.

For the next three years, I stuck around as the site’s editor-in-chief and primary writer. Eventually, in the spring of 2012, I decided I’d had enough. I retired. Sort of.

Money Boss

After leaving Get Rich Slowly, I continued to contribute the occasional article. Meanwhile, I wrote a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. I wrote articles for Time magazine’s money blog. Most importantly (to me), I started writing again here at this site.

In March 2015, my girlfriend began a 15-month RV trip across the United States. We documented our adventures at a blog called Far Away Places.

On that trip, while stuck for ten days in rural South Dakota, I realized I wasn’t done writing about money. I missed blogging. I missed interacting with an audience. Plus, I’d spent the intervening years developing a clear financial philosophy (as opposed to the piecemeal ideas I’d shared at Get Rich Slowly). In October 2015, I launched Money Boss. Today, that’s my primary focus.

What’s Next?

You might think that after twenty years of blogging, I’d be burned out on it. Truthfully, I do get burned out from time to time. My most loyal readers (and there are a few hundred that seem to follow me no matter where I go) have noticed that I go on hiatus from time to time. (Heck, I haven’t published an article here in nearly a year!) But make no mistake: I love to write — and I love blogging.

Even when things are quiet on my various websites, I’m often working behind the scenes in preparation for bigger, better things to come in the future.

Writing is in my blood. I can’t stop. It’s how I express myself. Plus, I love the spontaneous nature of blogging. I sat down at my computer an hour ago to write about my twenty years as a blogger; in a few minutes I’ll press “publish” and share this article with a couple thousand people. That’s amazing! Better yet are the discussions that arise in the comments section of this blog (and others). While many bloggers are killing their comments, I doubt I ever will.

So, what’s next for me?

I’m reluctant to commit publicly to anything because as you all know by now, my plans are subject to change. That said, I’ve been working this summer on developing a WordPress theme that mimics some of what Jason Kottke does at his site. You can see this new theme in operation at Animal Intelligence, one of my older blogs that I’m in the process of reviving.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll gradually roll out this template to a few of my blogs over the next twelve months. I want to be careful, though, not to take on too much at once. I have a tendency to way overcommit, then not follow through on anything. I want to take this slow and steady.

Meanwhile, after a slow summer at Money Boss, I’m ready to dive into that site full-time. And, believe it or not, I want to publish more often around here. (That should be easy. It’s not tough to publish more often than once a year!)

If all goes well, I hope to still be blogging twenty years from now. Who knows? Maybe on 16 August 2037, I’ll publish an article here entitled “Forty Year of Blogging”! A fellow can dream, can’t he?

{ 4 comments }

Last week, I attended the sixth annual Fincon in San Diego. It was awesome. I love the financial blogging community. The people aren’t just colleagues, they’re friends. It makes me happy to see how sharing and supportive the community is, how we’re willing to help each other succeed.

That’s not always the case at blogging conferences. Many have a collective “scarcity mentality”. Not Fincon. At Fincon, there’s an “abundance mentality”, and that manifests itself in everyone being willing to help everyone else.

Note: I’m please to report that Money Boss, my latest project, won the Plutus Award for best new financial blog. Makes me grin from ear to ear, actually.

Because I’ve been dubbed the “grandfather of personal-finance blogging”, a lot of people ask me for advice. I’m always happy to help when I can. (My skills are dated, though. I haven’t run a site regularly since 2009, so I’m not current on things like SEO and social media and monetization.)

One question I get all the time is: “How has blogging changed in the decade between starting Get Rich Slowly and starting Money Boss?” To me, the biggest change is that people are more parsimonious with links.

SEO Killed Blogging

In the olden days, everybody linked to everybody else. (It’s that abundance mindset thing again, right?)

  • If my buddy wrote a good article, I linked to it.
  • If I found a piece about debt reduction that was better than mine, I linked to it.
  • If I thought something would be of use to my readers, I linked to it.
  • If I discovered an amazing new blog, I linked to it.

The rise of SEO seems to have destroyed this sort of sharing economy. Nowadays, bloggers are too worried about diluting the value of their links. Links, after all, are the currency of the web. A link to a post is like gold — especially when it comes from a high-value site. The game is to get as many links as possible to as many profitable pages as possible. And if you link out to other people, you make your own links worth less.

Or something like that.

Today in 2016, bloggers are far less likely to link out than they were in 2006. I’m talking an order of magnitude less. Maybe more.

That sucks.

In order for the web to be useful to readers, we have to help them find useful information. If we know where useful information is and we don’t share it, we’re doing a disservice to people who trust us. Where’s the good in that? I suppose it makes sense in some short-sighted way, but it’s not a good long-term plan.

This same problem manifests itself in reverse.

Money Before People

This morning, I posted in the private Fincon group asking for people to share one article they’d like me to link to. I’m setting up some automated social media stuff — because I suck at social media and need to make it automatic or I’ll never do it — and I wanted to spread the love. (Because I still operate like it’s 2006, not 2016.) I wanted to populate my social media queue with one article from each of my friends.

The responses I got disappointed me. Sure, some people pointed me to their best work. But many (most?) pointed me to profitable pages that they wanted to pimp more. Or SEO-laden articles that they wanted to give more “juice”. Instead of trying to make the web a better place by providing readers with quality content, a lot of people just saw an opportunity to get a quick link to make more money.

I hate that.

I don’t know the source of this switch. I don’t know why in 2016 we’re reluctant to link to others, and when we get a chance to have a link, we link to money not to content.

Honestly, the origin of the problem doesn’t matter. What matters is fixing it. That’s not something I can do alone, obviously. All I can do is call attention to it — and make sure I’m not perpetuating it. There’s no way I can convince other bloggers that they should link to other people more often and that they shouldn’t focus on money. All I can do is try to set an example.

Grandpa Remembers

Some people will say, “Yeah, but you made bank with Get Rich Slowly. Aren’t you being hypocritical?” No, I’m not.

  • At Get Rich Slowly, I threw links around like they were nothing. Readers loved it. Sure, they left my site. But they also came back because they knew I’d point them to good shit. (At Money Boss, I still throw links around like they’re nothing. I even have a blogroll in my sidebar. How quaint is that?)
  • At Get Rich Slowly, I didn’t write articles purely to pimp affiliate links. If I wrote about something and there was an affiliate program, I might join the program and make some money. Or I might not. But I certainly never altered the content to emphasize the money-making opportunity. (At Money Boss, I’m only just beginning to monetize — but selectively. Only if doing so helps my readers.)
  • At Get Rich Slowly, when somebody requested a link for a blog carnival (remember those?) or a roundup or anything else, I didn’t just give them a sales page. I gave them whatever I thought their readers would find most interesting and/or useful. Then it’s a win-win-win, right? A win for me, a win for the other blogger, and a win for the readers. (If I were to give a link to a sales page, it’s only a win for me.)

I didn’t get rich quick at GRS with a scarcity mindset. Jim didn’t get rich at Bargaineering with a scarcity mindset. Harlan didn’t get rich at Consumerism Commentary with a scarcity mindset. It wasn’t intentional, but we each operated with abundance mindsets and it helped all of us.

Long-Term Beats Short-Term

Look, I don’t mean to sound harsh. As I said at the beginning, I love my Fincon family. These people are awesome.

But I hate the trend in modern blogging to focus only on the short term. (And trust me, SEO is all about the short term. It’s sneetches in action.) I want bloggers to provide long-term value. A lot of times, that means making choices that aren’t optimized for the short term. And that’s okay.

When you write a blog, there’s always a balance between what’s best for you and what’s best for the readers. Finding that balance is key. It’s different for each person and for each blog. (But some things are fundamentally always reader-hostile. Pop-ups, for instance — I hate SumoMe.) Your job, as a blogger, is to be as reader-friendly as possible while still meeting your goals.

Back in Savannah, I had a sign above my desk: “Is this in the best interest of the reader?” It was meant to remind me to write high-quality content and not just fluff, but I think it applies to all aspects of creating for the web. Answering it honestly leads in the direction of an abundance mentality. Tha means thinking long term, not short.

Since arriving home to Portland at the end of June, I’ve felt frustrated. There’s so much I want to do but never enough time to do it. At the same time, I feel like a total whiner. I mean, how lucky am I to be in this situation? I have tons of free time, no job, and I’m really able to do whatever I want. I’m damned lucky is what I am.

Yet it feels like I never do what I want. It feels like I’m always doing things I have to do or things for other people.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Paula Pant about this problem. “I wish I could figure out where all of the time is going,” I said.

“You should do a time inventory,” Paula said.

“What’s a time inventory?” I asked.

“Well, you know how the first step to losing weight is tracking calories? And you know how the first step to getting out of debt is logging how much you earn and spend? Well, a time inventory is sort of the same thing. For a certain length of time, you write down exactly how you’re spending your time. Here. I’ll send you a link.”

Paula pointed me to Laura Vanderkam’s website. Vanderkam offers free downloadable PDF forms and spreadsheets to help people track their time in fifteen-minute increments. As you go about your day, you jot down what you’re doing at various intervals.

Paula recently performed this time inventory exercise in her own life and found she was wasting almost eighteen hours a week on mindless stuff. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, last week I logged exactly where my time has been going. I’m afraid my results are worse than Paula’s…

The Good

First up, let’s look at what I’m doing right. The results of this experiment weren’t all bad, after all.

For instance, I’m getting an average of one hour per day of exercise. Last week I went to Crossfit three times, yoga once, and enjoyed a few bike rides. That doesn’t include all of the times I walked to do errands or took the dog for her exercise.

Note: I haven’t mentioned it here, but Kim and I got a dog. Near the end of our trip, we stopped to visit my cousins in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. They had a littler of seven puppies, and Kim fell in love with the runt. We adopted her, named her Tahlequah, and brought her along for the last three weeks in the motorhome. Since returning to Portland, Tally has probably been the dominant theme in our lives. Puppies need a lot of attention.

Speaking of the new dog, Kim and I also adopted two kittens recently. According to my time inventory, I’m spending a full 2-1/2 hours per day with the pets. The cats don’t require much effort, of course (although they’re happy to play with humans), but Tally takes 3-5 hours each day, which Kim and I split between us. She needs two daily walks and plenty of play around the house. So far, we’ve been great about engaging with her. We hope this produces a happy, healthy dog in the long run, one that needs less time. (Fingers crossed!)

Finally, I’ve been averaging one hour per day with family and friends. On paper, that doesn’t actually sound like a lot, but turns out it’s actually quite a bit compared to most people.

The Bad

I wouldn’t be writing this post if I were doing a good job with time management. I’m not. I’m wasting more than thirty hours each week on non-productive activities. Like what?

Like, I spent an average of 2-1/2 hours each day watching TV and movies. Yikes! For a guy who says he doesn’t watch much TV, that’s an awful lot of TV. All told, that’s 17-1/2 hours I could have used for something more rewarding. To be fair, seven of those hours came when Kim and I decided to have a movie night. And two more were devoted to watching my Portland Timbers defeat the Seattle Sounders. But still…

But that’s not all.

I also frittered away thirteen hours and fifteen minutes on what I consider computer-based time-wasters: browsing Reddit, playing Hearthstone, and so on. That’s nearly two hours per day of time lost. Not good.

Aside from thirty hours of total wasted time, I lost hours in other ways.

For example, I spent a total of four hours in the car last week, which is just over half an hour per day. That might not sound like much, but it’s a lot for me. That’s time I’ll never get back.

It took me over eight hours to do chores and errands last week. That seems like a lot. Now part of that was because I did a deep clean of the house on Thursday, it’s true. And another part is because I tend to walk for my errands, which means they take a bit longer. All the same, this seems like a lot of time to have used for menial tasks. Maybe I can find ways to be more efficient?

Finally, I averaged nine hours and twenty minutes of sleep per night. WTF? When did I start hibernating? In the olden days, I was perfectly content with 7-1/2 hours per night. And often I could get by with six hours per night. I’ll bet that I could still get by with less sleep, but I got into the habit of sleeping tons during our roadtrip.

The Ugly

So, that’s where my time is going. And it’s not pretty. But perhaps even worse is where I’m not devoting my energy. My stated number-one goal is to build and promote Money Boss, my new financial blog. But am I doing that? No, I am not.

Last week, I only spent 7-1/2 hours writing material for Money Boss — and most of that came on Sunday morning. I consider this my top priority, yet I’m not treating it as such. This needs to change.

I spent another 7-1/2 hours working on Money Boss business matters last week: answering email, preparing talks, tinkering with the website. That’s a total of fifteen hours devoted to my business. I want to double that. I want to spend 30-40 hours each week on Money Boss and related projects.

Meanwhile, I’m not taking care of me. Over the past seven days, I allocated a mere four hours to personal care and self-improvement — and most of that was stuff like showering and shaving! I did take an hour to practice Spanish mid-week, and I took my usual hour to work on my personal finances on the weekend. But that’s it. This too needs to change.

Time to Change

In order for an exercise like this to be useful, you’ve got to be completely honest about your habits. And you can’t try to make changes during the assessment period. When you initially log your spending, your eating, or your time, your goal is to document what you’re doing in normal day-to-day life. If you try to make changes during the assessment period, you’re defeating the purpose.

Now that the assessment period is over for me, it’s clear what I need to do.

First up, I’d like to find at least two hours more per day to devote to Money Boss. And I’d like that time to be structured so that I know it’s there and I can use it productively. Those are two separate problems.

I feel like there are several ways I can approach the first part of the problem. Just as you should tackle the big things in your household budget before trying to pinch pennies on the smaller line-items, I’m going to start by trying to trim the biggest timesinks.

I can create more time in my day by:

  • Sleeping less. I should be able to easily move to 7-1/2 hours of sleep per night, which would free up nearly two hours per day. Boom! There’s fourteen hours per week — almost the amount I want to find for working on business.
  • I don’t want to eliminate TV, movies, websurfing, and videogames from my life. I like spending a bit of time on those hobbies. But do I need to spend four hours and twenty minutes per day on these things combined? Hell no! If I budget two hours per day for time-wasters, I think that’s plenty.

With these two changes alone, I’d free four hours and fifteen minutes each day to spend on more important things, such as business and personal growth. For instance, if I take three of those hours for Money Boss, that’ll give me 36 hours per week of work. Perfect. And if I use the other hour and a quarter I’ve freed up to work on becoming a better person, that’ll give me nearly two hours a day for self-improvement. Nice.

The second part of the problem is more difficult. Where do I put this time in my schedule? The ideal situation would be to wake early or go to bed late. I like going to bed with Kim, so that means my only option is to wake early. I’ve done well with rising early in the past, but by that I mean 5:30 or 6:00. To do what I want to do, I’m going to have to wake even earlier. I’m going to need to get up at 4:00 or 4:30, make coffee, and get directly to work.

Another option is to wake at 4:30, go to the 5:00 Crossfit class, come home and walk the dog, then sit down to work from eight until noon. Actually, thinking out loud, that’s probably the best option. It’ll suck at first — no question! — but in the long run, I’ll be much more productive.

The Ideal Schedule

So, there you have it. After all that, I’ve arrived at an “ideal schedule”. It looks something like this:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
04:30 wake
04:45 drive to gym (sorry, Mr. Money Mustache)
05:00 Crossfit
06:15 drive home
06:30 take the dog for a walk
08:00 grab breakfast and sit down to work
13:00 end work, eat lunch (with somebody, if possible)
14:00 personal development
16:00 go into evening mode

Tuesday, Thursday
04:30 wake, grab coffee, start working
06:30 take the dog for a walk
08:00 grab breakfast and resume work
13:00 end work, eat lunch (with somebody, if possible)
14:00 personal development
16:00 go into evening mode

Look at that! With this schedule, I’ve built in 29 hours of work — and that doesn’t count afternoons or weekends. I love it. I’ve also built in ten hours for self-improvement. Yay!

I like this schedule because:

  • I’m free to do as I please after four o’clock every weekday afternoon.
  • Aside from Crossfit on Saturday mornings, my weekends are entirely free.

The challenge for me is to be militant about protecting my mornings. That’s my time. No meetings, no appointments, no errands. Only my priorities. It can be done. (I’ve done it before!)

Today is my second day on this ideal schedule. Yesterday morning, I woke early and went to Crossfit. I didn’t make the 5 a.m. class, but I did make it to the six o’clock session. Then I came home and walked the dog. Then I worked until one. And this morning, Kim and I got up together at 4:45. Here, two hours later, I’m done with this article and ready to take the dog for a walk. (She’s ready too!)

I have high hopes that this ideal schedule will allow me to get stuff done and give me plenty of time left over for play.

Note: By chance, my pal Chris Guillebeau recently published a related article: Eight ways to have more time.

28 July 2016

Learning to Live in the Here and Now

Since arriving home from our cross-country RV trip at the end of June, Kim and I have both been overwhelmed by modern life. We’re overwhelmed by the busy-ness of it all: the pace, the scheduling, all of the requests for time and attention. “Why is this so tough for us?” I asked the other day. […]

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29 May 2016

American Nations: Why the U.S. is So Divided — and Why It Always Has Been

Several years ago, our book group read American Nations by Colin Woodard. The book has a fascinating premise: While the United States is nominally a single unified country, it’s actually a conglomerate of eleven smaller “nations”, each with its own unique history, culture, and attitudes. The U.S. is more like the E.U. than we think. […]

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16 April 2016

Money Boss — and More!

This is a brief update on what I’ve been up to for a past few months. I know I’ve been quiet around Foldedspace, but that doesn’t mean I’m sitting at home reading comic books and playing videogames. Far from it! During our six months in Savannah, the bulk of my time was spent prepping and […]

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24 March 2016

Join Me in Ecuador for the Fourth Annual Chautauqua on Wealth and Happiness

Three years ago, I joined Jim Collins and Pete Adeney (a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache) for a sort of experiment in Ecuador. We participated in a chautauqua organized by Cheryl Reed of Above the Clouds Retreats. To be honest, I don’t think any of us knew what was going to happen when we brought a group […]

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28 February 2016

The Best Films of the Past Five Years

While browsing elsewhere on the interwebs (reddit, perhaps?), I came across David Ehrlich’s picks for the best films of 2015. For the past five years, he’s compiled his annual list of favorites into a short (roughly ten-minute) videos that highlights why he loves these movies. Because the Oscars will be announced today, I think it’d […]

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31 December 2015

My 2015 Year in Review

This has been quite a year for me. In 2015, I did a couple of Big Things that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. They were scary — but fun. And while my life was mostly awesome, it wasn’t perfect. (It never is, right?) I’ve struggled with my fitness, especially. By far the biggest […]

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