The ‘Get My Shit Together’ Afternoon

Even the most diligent of us has loose ends we can tie up: unnecessary costs, insurance, emergency preparedness, and so on.

I’m no different. I’m pretty responsible, but I’m not perfect. So I built a list of things I can do in an afternoon to get my shit together.

This isn’t about eliminating risk from our lives. It’s about spending just a little time to build healthy buffer and reduce the risk of problems disrupting our lives down the road.

(I know we could go much deeper in all these areas. This isn’t about that. It’s about quickly and efficiently doing a bunch of things up so regular folks with busy lives can reduce risk and get on with our weekends. That said, suggestions are very welcome.)

Protecting Your Stuff

  • Get some home security stickers. Put them on windows and doors. If you want to increase security further, a system like SimpliSafe might make sense, or even piecemeal measures like Dropcam, SmartThings, or Liftmaster.
  • Trim back foliage and clean up areas around points of ingress.
  • Put fresh batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Sign up for Nextdoor to know what’s going on in your neighborhood.
  • Make sure your car insurance is up to date (has usage changed? Do you want to change your exposure?).
  • Make sure your home insurance is up to date (Have you moved? Changed the value of your stuff?). Take 15 minutes to walk around and take photos of valuable things and their serial numbers.

Protecting Your Data

I’ve now lost my data twice — once to a stolen laptop, and once to a failed hard drive. I’ve finally learned my lesson.

  • Reset passwords. Use guidelines for strong passwords: decent length, combination of different characters, uppercase and lowercase, etc. Use different passwords for different services and categories. For bonus points, use a service like 1password to increase your security across the board. Set a reminder in your calendar to do this a few times a year.
  • Delete unused apps by scanning through device home screens and removing what you don’t use.
  • Make sure the settings on your OSs make sense for you. The big one is probably location services. I’m always amazed at how many services want to know where I am.
  • Remove unused apps that are using your Google, Facebook, Twitter data. Every time something says ‘Login with Facebook’, that service remains an active app on that platform. That’s fine if it makes sense and you’re using the service regularly, but cut off the stale ones. Here’s where you do that on Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (Groups, Companies & Applications -> ‘View your applications’).
  • Update software on all of your devices to reduce vulnerabilities.
  • Back up your data. Set up Time Machine for Mac. Buy an external hard drive (so cheap now!). Shift your files to the cloud, using Dropbox.

Building Financial Buffer

This is all about taking a few simple steps to increase financial buffer. Don’t over stress about this stuff, but do know what’s going on, and take action when necessary.

  • Spend 15 minutes and check out Mr. Money Moustache to radically rethink your financial life. Start here.
  • Set up Mint to scan through purchases, set up budgets, and monitor your spending.
  • Sign up for Billguard to easily scan for fraudulent credit card charges.
  • Sign up for CreditKarma to passively monitor your credit score. If your credit score is shitty, there are some behaviors you can change and ways to fix credit errors.
  • Call your credit card company and threaten to leave. They’ll often give you a break on annual fees or interest.
  • Set up your bank to passively withdrawal and save money every month and put it into a dedicated savings or investment account that you don’t normally touch. This adds up fast. Digit.co may be an easy way to do this (thanks Zack!).
  • Index your recurring charges. Car insurance. Netflix. Phone. Cable. Spotify. These add up fast. Write down the complete list of recurring charges. Cancel those that don’t improve your life. It’s amazing how easily you can save a few hundred bucks a year. (Edit: Niket recommends subscript.me in a comment.)
  • Speaking of recurring charges, consider changing your phone plan, either to a lower cost plan (it’s amazing how easily you can save data costs) or a cheaper provider.
  • Consider signing up for Airbnb or Getaround to generate income from your spare rooms or car.

For more advanced stuff like refinancing loans, read this guide from MMM.

Getting and Staying Healthy

  • Monitor your activity and health data. I use a Withings scale, which I love. My girlfriend uses Fitbit. There are many other ways to passively monitor your health.
  • Get better sleep by establishing time and no-screen routines in the bedroom. Track your sleep or set up smart alarms with Sleepbot. Or go farther: I’ve not regularly used an alarm for almost a year, and still get up around 7 am. Habits.
  • Schedule a check-up if it’s been over a year. Here’s decent guides for men and women on specific things you want to consider.
  • Check that your health insurance makes sense. You may want to dial coverage up or down, or find a better plan.
  • Check if you’re using all your benefits. If not, schedule appointments. For example, in my case I didn’t realize I had $2000/year for general dental benefits. When I did, I got a bunch of maintenance work done (still didn’t fix that gap though!).
  • Build routines and habits for activity. My strategy is a target of 5 activities per per week, which I log. Yours might be joining a league, signing up for Classpass (awesome!), selling your car to cycle to work, or finding surf or climbing partners. Either way, it’s about building systems for ourselves so that we are active more regularly.
  • Build 1–15 minutes into your day to relax, using meditation or something that works for you. Calm.com works well.

Getting Prepared for an Emergency

Supporting Your People

Even in rich countries with good safety net systems, there’s nothing more stabilizing and strengthening than a community of great people around you.

  • Call your mother. Let her know how your week was. Ask her about her week. Set up a reminder in your calendar to do this.
  • If nothing else, send important people a quick ‘how are you doing’ email, even if only a couple lines. Just that touchpoint lets people know they matter. Set up a reminder in your calendar to do this.
  • Schedule couples therapy. I’m a strong proponent of therapy not only as trauma response, but as a way to proactively strengthen ourselves and our relationships. And there may be no more important relationship than with your partner. (There’s certainly little more destabilizing than a breakup or divorce!). Ask a few trusted friends who they’d recommend as a therapist, or check out Yelp for a few options. Arrange short phone consultations with a few to find a fit. The worst that can happen is you waste a couple hundred bucks. But you might learn something fundamental about your partner, and yourself.
  • Find a good therapist for yourself. It gets expensive (and may not be necessary) to do this on an ongoing basis, but we all have some shit to work through, no matter how minor it seems. Is there something blocking you in life that you want to tackle? Find someone good to talk to about it. It’s that simple.
  • Get a will. At very least complete a simple one online. While I’d recommend a proper attorney, you can do it through Rocketlawyer for as little as a few dollars. It can always be replaced later by something more sophisticated.

Creating Space to Exist

As our lives get divided into distractions, it’s important to find space to exist.

  • Change contexts regularly. Set up a time to walk daily, or get out of the city regularly, even if just for an afternoon. These context changes reduce stress and allow us to think about important things in new ways.
  • Get rid of stuff. There are so many advantages to getting rid of stuff that doesn’t regularly and currently add value to your life. Roll through the house systematically and get rid of unwanted stuff. The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up gets rave reviews. Use Moveloot to do this quickly, or haul a load to Goodwill.
  • Clean up surfaces. Desks, tables, beds, etc. Build habits around this.
  • Reduce spam. Unsubscribe from or roll up unwanted newsletters with Unroll.me. Do the same with paper mail with Paper Karma.
  • Turn off notifications. You don’t need to be notified on four devices every time an email arrives. On iOS, go to Settings > Notifications. On Android, go to Settings > Notifications > Mobile Push. On Outlook, do this.

Reward Yourself for a Great Afternoon of Getting Your Shit Together

  • Pour whiskey.

(Thanks for reading. Recommend this to show love, or follow me here or on Twitter, where I mostly tweet about loving the surf, and hating United Airlines.)

Published in #SWLH (Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking)

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