With a new year, comes a new you. This upgraded version is delivered via resolutions, goals, and habits. But these lists are always a bit dated and lack originality (wake up earlier; start a bullet journal). So instead of these tired tropes, I racked my brain on your behalf to come up with some original suggestions to catalyze an Epic 2019.
1. Leverage Gmail contact groups
One of my key networking philosophies is to be of service to others. But this requires you to know – and more importantly – remember what the people in your network care about. While this is typically the domain of the CRM, the reality is that for casual friendships and acquaintances, any off-the-shelf software is probably overkill.
Enter groups, an unheralded feature within Google Contacts. You can think of groups of customizable tags (or labels) that can be assigned to individual contacts. The labels can be professional, personal, or geographical – it doesn’t really matter as long as it means something to you.
For example, I use four types of classifiers (which tbh is probably overkill for most people): function, industry, interests, and superpowers. And within these classifiers there are 20-40 subcategories. So I’d tag my friend Jill as consultant (function) in the healthcare space (industry) who’s into rock climbing and poetry (interests) and is an incredible debater (super power).
This is information becomes helpful for two reasons. First, it helps me connect likeminded individuals (note: ALWAYS double opt-in) to “engineer serendipity.” But more importantly, it helps me be of service to others – as I encounter articles, events, and tidbits relating to any of these tags, I’m able to effortlessly share them via an email or text.
Download the free Full Contact Chrome Extension. You’ll be able to do this tagging from within your Gmail window.
2. Make every friggin penny work for you
I’m always blown away by how often financially savvy people leave money on the table. And am not even talking about overly engineering your financial life with complex spreadsheets; instead I’m referring to three tweaks that will collectively take you less than an hour to add a hundreds (and possibly thousands) of Benjamins back into your coffers.
- Get one (or more) High Yield Savings accounts
- Get a no-fee 2% cash-back credit card
- Get a no-fee 5% back Amazon credit card
A high yield savings account: Online banks crush physical banks when it comes to their savings rates. Online banks like Marcus, Ally, and CIBC are currently offering rates in excess of 2.2% (as of 1/12/19) where as brick-and-mortars (Citi, Chase, Wells) are below 0.05%. (Always check the latest rates on BankRate.)
As long as on online bank is FDIC-insured, you’re covered for up to 250k. Just don’t dump all your money into these – the tax treatment isn’t favorable and you won’t beat inflation over the long-term.
A true cash-back card: I don’t have time to be a credit card ninja and scour the internet for the best ways to collect and optimize points. So when it comes to credit cards, I KISS (“Keep it simple, stupid.”)
I use the Citi Double Cash Card (review) for a clean 2% back. No annual fees. No complex rules. Just cold hard cash. (And no taxes on the 2%.)
Prime the pump: 64% of the population has Amazon Prime, yet 1% of my friends have the Amazon Prime Rewards credit card. It’s super-straightforward: 5% back for all Amazon (and Whole Foods) purchases and no fees if you’re a Prime Member. Nuff said (but PLEASE don’t use this as an excuse to spend more on Amazon – Marie Kondo will hunt you down and find you)!
Any time I get one of these bonuses, I treat them as “surprise money” or “house money.” I keep a separate (ahem, High Yield Savings) account for these surprises. Once they hit a critical mass, invest them into the market. Now I know that this type of mental accounting is a behavioral bias, but hey – I’m just gonna run with it.
And please join the RadReads forums to chat all things Personal Finance by clicking below.
3. Focus on the Important, Not Urgent
By now you’ve all heard of the Eisenhower Box, the four Quadrant prioritization strategy popularized by our 34th president.
I’ve written about these methods ad nauseam but want to focus on the quadrant where the magic happens, yet remains sneakily difficult to execute upon: Important, not Urgent.
Why? This is the classic snooze button category. Their lack of deadlines (thus lack of accountability) make them delicously tempting to punt these tasks into the next quarter. Here are a few examples:
- Health: Sleeping more. By now we all know the benefits, but we put it off until the next promotion occurs.
- Recruiting: Great candidates don’t just show up at your company with their resume in hand. You’ve got to find them, sell them, and be in service to them. This is some long game sh*t.
- Relationships: Sadly, my marriage often gets my worst energy. It usually goes work -> kids -> health -> marriage. I recognize the dangers in this “waterfall” but readjusting the order will require readjusting priorities.
I crowdsourced some tactics about how RadReaders engage with the Important, not Urgent life category. Here are some of the top responses:
- Having many, many, small bets spread out across a frontier of interests, each one slowly gathering ideas and material in an Evernote note. When an opportunity presents itself, graduate that note to a full blown project and go after it. @fortelabs
- Turn the goal into a set of activities I enjoy independent of the end goal (i.e. be healthy = cook healthy food and eat it everyday). @autotrnslucence
- Only pursue things that you’re ready to do 100x @ftinterested
- Reduce activation barrier to zero. Make it take less energy to work towards the goal than to do whatever else (e.g. watching TV or surfing the web.) Then there’s no conflict between this important/non-urgent work, and the important/urgent work. @brianluidog
- Create “to do” items for each part of a project and set deadlines for them to come back into my TODAY box — aka when I’m going to tackle them or when I need to start working on them in order to hit the deadline @cshweitz
- Tell a friend and give them permission to bug you. @nikillinit
IMHO David Allen’s GTD system is the best way to ensure that the Important, not Urgent category gets reviewed with regularity. Omnifocus and Things 3 are two apps that fully embrace this type of thinking.
4. Keep a running “Thank You List”
There’s a good chance that in 2019 people will step up and help you. A new client may take a risk on you new venture. A mentor may navigate you through a challenging period. And a friend might do something so incredibly kind. We all know the importance of gratitude, but here’s a more pragmatic challenge: How will you remember to thank these special individuals?
In Computer Science (and Accounting) there’s the concept of FIFO and LIFO: First-In, Last-Out and vice-versa. Thanks to the availability bias, our brains tend to function on a LIFO-basis – we remember things that happened more recently.
But this poses a problem for recognizing those who have helped us, say right now, in January. Taming this bias requires just a simple fix: creating a Google Doc listing everyone who’s helped you. And as the holidays roll around, manually writing thank you notes becomes a heart-warming gratitude practice.
Make your list even more dynamic with these following two steps:
- Flag individuals who have had a disproportionate impact on your entire life. Make sure you tell them that every year.
- Add birthdays. Everyone loves a personalized (and no, Facebook doesn’t count) surprise on their special day.
5. Keep a “Catastrophe Journal”
One of the hallmarks of scarcity thinking is the belief that everything we’ve worked on will one day come crashing down. So as a result, we beat ourselves up with negative self-talk in a valiant effort to remain vigilant and on our toes.
But this comes at the expense of curiosity, flow, and creativity. Living life in a 24-7 state of fight or flight reflex leaves us constantly playing “defense.” This thinking may be hard to unwire and in Why Buddhism is True, Robert Wright argues that we’re pre-destined for this anxiety: by staying “safe,” we ensure that our genes proliferate into the next generation.
Yup, Wright thinks that we’re wired to say “Eff happiness, just keep me safe.” But how can we combat this pernicious bias? Surely a yelling boss isn’t going to act as a roadblock to our reproductive capacities?
Meet the Catastrophe Journal, a super-simple note on your phone that keeps a log of these scary encounters and transgression.
When four single guys moved into the apartment next door, we were terrified of all night benders, bumping EDM and fratiness seeping across our shared terrace. I wrote this down in the journal. Similarly, when a key consulting client fell through, I thought it would mark my return into the 9-to-5 workforce. So I wrote it down.
Returning to these entries is a gentle reminder that You’re going to be OK and helps contextualize what really puts you at risk (tl;dr if you can put food on the table, not much). In fact, every entry in the journal actually disarms the next one.
Just like we’re prone to overly dramatize catastrophes; we easily dismiss successes. When something good happens, it’s off to the next thing. Remember and savoring these wins is a powerful way to appreciate the accomplishments in your own journey.
6. There are two timers that matter
A common roadblock to improving your life is the lack of time. Work, kids, and commutes make it impossible to add a new healthy habit into your portfolio of activities. But as Aubrey Marcus writes in Own The Day, “If you don’t have ten minutes, you don’t have a life.”
It turns out that 29 minutes can change your day. These timers are simple, and their names are Tabata and Pomodoro.
The Tabata timer is a DIY approach to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It consists of four minutes of exercise over 8 intervals of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. You can insert any exercise into the mix (some favorites: air squats, push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers, and burpees) and doing one a day is a decent alternative to not working out at all.
The Pomodoro is even simpler: 25 minutes of uninterrupted work. But here’s the wrinkle, if you leave the zone in any way (check email, social, reply to a text, take a bathroom break, or get water) you have to start back at zero. So make it count by ensuring all your browser windows are closed and your phone is in a drawer.
Your first encounter with a Pomodoro will feel like a religious experience. The amount of crap you can get done without interruption is staggering; I find that on 2-pomodoro-days, I confidently wrap up my work day an hour earlier than normal. And no one’s offended that I waited 25 minutes to respond to them.
Tabata. Meet Burpee. Yup, I said it. I’m convinced you could ditch your gym membership if you did one of these bad boys per day!
7. (Beautifully) define your online presence
What’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? The good, old fashioned Google. Yet instead of controlling the narrative, so many of us are still beholden to the “algo.” Enter an easy and beautiful fix: carrd.co.
Not only is Carrd is a delightful code-less site builder that lets you create impeccable one page sites, it packs a mean punch. It lets you control the page’s meta information (for Search Engine Optimization and access to Google Analytics) and lets you integrate with many of the key web services (Mailchimp, Stripe, Vimeo).
This can all be done with the free version, but for $19 a year the pro version lets you add your own domain (I use namecheap.com or Google Domains). So register your name as a domain and cement your web presence at the top of search pages.
Most digital side projects start with a landing page. They’re simple: an image, some fresh copy and enticing UX elements. Carrd lets you plug in one line of code (known as an API key) to create a payment button that links into your bank account via Stripe.
Whether it’s some old collectibles, an hour of your time, or digital photography – you can test out the demand with a landing page that collects payment. Even if you don’t hook any fish, you’ll have taken an instrumental first step towards the Unbundled Career.
I’d love to help make your 2019 Epic (and Introspective). I’ve worked with numerous professionals on accountability, changing careers, and combating the scarcity mindset. Hit me at khe [at] radreads [dot] co to learn more!
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All of these books were referenced in this post:
- Getting Things Done, David Allen
- Own the Day, Own Your Life, Aubrey Marcus
- The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
- Why Buddhism is True, Robert Wright