I know, still light on the technical content, but I’m thinking about it. In the meantime, it’s probably some combination of hitting my mid 50’s and becoming empty -nesters and grandparents, all in 2014, that caused me to stop, poke my head up above the proverbial cubical walls, and take a good look around.
Education: here is the list of non-fiction books I read in 2014 and early this year:
- The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
- Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses…
- Jump Ship: Ditch Your Dead-End Job and Turn Your Passion into a Profession
- Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
- The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life
- Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind
- How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Think and Grow Rich
- The New Psycho-Cybernetics
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
- The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life
- Where Good Ideas Come From
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad
- The War of Art
- The Alchemist (Technically, probably a book of fiction.)
- Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence
- The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
- The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books)
- The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
- The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity
- Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
- What Do You Want to Create Today?: Build the Life You Want at Work
- MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom (Actually I only read the 1st half. It’s a big book and the library wanted it back.)
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
- Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters
- Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
- The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
- Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less
- Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual
- Being Geek: The Software Developer’s Career Handbook
It appears I’m concentrating on Self-Help, Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Software Development books right now.
Work: Soon after I started working at my present job in 2009, I was surprised to hear a co-worker casually mention they would be working from home the next day. Really? I thought. You can do that? Without needing a reason? All of the technology employees are issued laptops that we are supposed to take home with us, so I guess makes sense that you should be able to telecommute. So I did telecommute, now and then, but I didn’t have a regular spot in my home where I would work from. Sometimes I used the kitchen table, sometimes the dining room table, sometimes my desk in the basement, sometimes our home office, but then the wife couldn’t use our home PC at the same time. In the meantime, I had to move to a different office at work, so my commute got quite a bit longer. I complained to my wife that I would telecommute more, but I didn’t have a regular spot to work from. She called my bluff and let me take over one of the now empty bedrooms in our house. So I moved my desk and bookshelf out of the basement, and although I didn’t consciously plan this, my home office now is set up quite similar to my work office. I didn’t like having to connect and disconnect all of the cables to my laptop, when setting up at home, so I bought my own docking station, power supply, keyboard, and mouse. I have a couple large monitors at work, so I bought a couple for at home. So now whether I’m working at home or the office, I just plop my laptop down in the docking station and get to work.
I also stopped taking my lunch to work. I never buy a lunch except for special occasions, but it was a hassle packing a lunch every day, and carrying it to work. So except for grabbing a piece of fruit, on my way out the door, I just don’t do lunch. People ask, “Don’t you get hungry ?” Well yes, I do, but I think the benefits outweigh the discomfort.
Physical Fitness: Speaking of commuting, parking became an issue in 2014. In my last office move for work, in 2013, parts of my department ended up in the main office in a downtown metro area. Parking is not free. So $22 a month was deducted from my paycheck for the privilege of parking in a remote lot, and taking a shuttle bus the 1/2 mile to the office building. In 2014 there came an email, stating employees in other metro areas don’t get subsidized parking, and shuttle buses, and neither shall thou. Henceforth there will be no shuttle bus, parking will be $50 a month at the remote lot, and $100 per month at the ramp next to our office building. I’m not exactly what you call frugal, but I sensed an opportunity to save money and get a workout. There are free parking spots, near the remote lot, you just have to get there early enough. No problem. I like to leave for work early because traffic is much lighter. So now I get a mile walk in each day that I come into work, and did I mention my office is in a 20 story building? Yeah, I hit the stairs, too. My office is on the 10th floor, but I always hike to the 20th floor to start my day, and if the weather is really bad I telecommute.
Finances: I started using Mint sometime in 2014 to track finances, and it was OK, but it would not accept one of my 401K accounts, which was irritating. I know you can manually enter stuff, but what I ended up doing starting January 2015, was to create an account in Quicken, which I already was using, and started to manually enter every financial transaction. Whether cash, check, credit card, debit card, auto bill pay, each purchase is entered separately. For paychecks, the income and all of the deductions for taxes and insurance, etc. are entered as separate line items. I got the idea from the book “Your Money or Your Life”. The authors state you should track every penny, but I’m good as long as I’m within a buck or two. I’m not about to empty the change jar and count that. The problem is you have to enter the transactions almost every day, or you will quickly fall behind, and forget about the few dollars you spent on lunch last week Monday. Quicken, of course, can memorize repeated transactions and enter them for you, which saves some of the hassle. At the end of every month, I generate a report that totals by income and expenses. I created a simple spreadsheet, that has a column for each month, and a row for each account we have, checking, savings, 401K, etc. I enter the month end balance for each account, total that, and compare it to the last month. That’s how much out net worth has increased or decreased. Below that I have rows for the monthly income and expenses. The difference between those number is how much we saved or overspent. Finally, I calculate how much our investments gained or lost that month, and calculate a percentage. I know it’s pretty simplistic, but I get a complete and accurate picture of our finances once a month, without too much work.
In conjunction with this, I have forced myself stop constantly checking my retirement account balances, and watching the stock market. Trying to follow the lead of Paul Merriman, I decided to spread my investments across some low cost index funds, and bond funds, and just leave them alone, and revisit the allocation in a year.
How about you? Have you been doing any life-hacking lately?