Software development keeps me constantly on my toes. I am always learning and growing my knowledge about languages, techniques, and extensions. Sometimes it can be downright exhausting. Google, Stack Overflow, Wikipedia, Forums, and blogs are always on my reading list. Seeing that I can keep up with the ever changing technology environment, I started applying similar techniques to my life as well.
Money usage and time usage are key areas to focus on when iterating on personal optimization. These are a few questions I use to start figuring out what areas of life can be optimized:
- Where do I spend a majority of my time and money?
- Are these things worth the investment?
- What can I do to optimize the spending in those areas?
Considering these questions usually gets me thinking about things like TV (both for the time and money spent on it), video games, eating out, and leisure spending. One of the optimizations might be using Netflix or Hulu in place of cable TV. On average, a 30-minute TV broadcast is only 21 minutes of content and 9 minutes of ads (which are not shown on services like Netflix). The cost of Netflix is also significantly smaller than an average cable bill.
Considering your routines of spending is another way to optimize costs. Where do you have regular spending? Buying a coffee 3 to 5 times a week will cost you an average of $2 or more per cup. Switching to home brew coffee will bring you down to about 20 cents a cup for coffee ground brewing and about 50 cents for pod brewing (like K-Cups) — much less than your average Starbucks! Not eating a donut or drinking a 20oz soda can reduce calorie intake by 200 to 300 grams, which adds up if you are dieting.
Just because you are not in school anymore doesn’t mean you should quit learning. It just means the onus is on you to continue learning. Something as simple as reading a “random Wikipedia article”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random) each day can help you learn about the world around you. Subscriptions or single purchases of magazines outside of your interests can also boost learning (try a cooking, photography, or handy-work magazine). You could even turn on nature or history programs to satisfy your TV habit and learn.
Another controversial area of optimization is with diet and exercise. There are more diet plans and exercise routines than you can shake a stick at, but not enough time or money. Start small in this area: change up one meal and snack a day on the weekdays or start with 20 pushups and 30 sit-ups. As your body gets used to the changes, increase them – more reps less junk food. You will notice it will get easier as you go.
I find that the more I try to improve myself, the less time I have. Fortunately, there are many ways to remedy this. If you are watching the 21 relevant minutes of a favorite TV show, do some exercises (like 3 sets of the “7 minute work out”:http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2013/05/12/health/12well_physed/12well_physed-superJumbo.jpg or similar) at the same time. If you are driving or biking into work, practice a new language with the “Pimsleur audio language learning”:http://www.pimsleur.com/. There are plenty of ways to combine necessary tasks and personal improvements.
Applying Agile to Personal Optimization
Constant optimization can be approached in many ways. If you think about it in a red/green/refactor manner:
* Red: Find an area of your life you want to improve
* Green: Figure out how to improve it
* Refactor: Modify your approach
When you are making changes to your daily habits, be agile: start small and iterate. You won’t know all of the changes you want to make, and you will be able to iterate on your requirements as you go. Check your bank account, weight, general knowledge about a new skill set every couple weeks and adjust. If things are going well, add more improvement steps. Otherwise you can try different methods.
Constantly making changes and minor improvements can be hard to track, but you can start small and introduce one thing at a time. A good way to do this is to track new habits via a “Kanban board”:https://spin.atomicobject.com/2013/06/22/kanban-task-cards/. I realized how easy it was to improve myself, save time, and money by doing little things and it became addictive to constantly optimize.
How do you employ constant optimization to yourself and your routine? Leave a comment, I would love to learn more myself!