Taking Advantage of Planned Lazy Days

I woke up to the sound of rain on my roof. Which was a delightful sound this particular morning. This was our break – a day to do nothing but laze around the RV. And we’ve been waiting for it to start raining for a few weeks now.


For at least the last couple of months it feels like my wife and I have been running full blast, with after burners on. Between planning our trip, remodeling the RV, gathering supplies, winding down jobs, narrowing down personal items to fit in the RV, and selling the extras – it’s been non-stop! I kept joking that I’d finally get a break about 3 days into our trip. Apparently I was wrong – it took 5.


Three states in, two National Forests, and two National Recreation Areas later, and it was finally scheduled to rain. We settled in to our campsite and looked forward to a day of rest.


But just doing nothing is hard! The rain let up in the mid-afternoon and both of us mentioned that we could get in today’s training bike ride, or run to the grocery store on the motorcycle, or maybe go for a hike. But we adamantly said no, we have been planning a sit-at-home day for some time now, and we are going to take full advantage of it.


So we have. After sleeping in we ate breakfast while watching most of our neighbors pack up and head out, back to their every-day lives (it was a rainy Sunday at a state campground). Then we enjoyed our coffee and tea and soaked in the scenes out our windows. Eventually we looked through some paperwork that we had been collecting during our travels and took care of a couple easy chores inside the RV.


As the sun peeked out we strolled down the trail and checked out a historic cabin and meandered down the shore of Lake Michigan briefly before heading back to our cozy home. Then it was time to put together some chili for supper, eat, and later have some popcorn as an early evening snack.


Throughout the day, we both had to remind the other that it was our day off. We have definitely gotten into the habit of always doing something. Fortunately we have been planning for a break for a few weeks now and helped each other stick to that plan.


We definitely needed a break. The Good Lord knew what he was doing when he appointed a day of rest each week. After our day of rest, we are both exited about tomorrow. Which is good, because we have a 30-mile bike ride, a 250′ dune to climb, and more!

The 30 in 30 Project

It’s not the outcome that matters. It’s the decision to act.
~ Chris Guillebeau

A few months ago I read Sebastian Marshall’s post about strategically checking off a bucket list and I continued to mull that idea over. I can do the same thing. Most of the items on my life list are things that I could do relatively easy with a direct application of time or money. Though I might not have the money at the moment, completing many of my goals will cost far less than I imagine, and I do have some time available if I make these goals a priority. So I came up with a new list to work toward for now.

I will be 30 in a few days. To start this decade off right I am going to focus on strategically completing a few of the goals on my bucket list, in addition to some goals that hadn’t quite made it to that list yet. In no particular order, here are the 30 things that I want to complete by February 6, 2013.

  1. cross-country motorcycle trip
  2. stop in DC to visit the Wall
  3. read 1/2 of Personal MBA
  4. have a business of my own
  5. pay down school debt
  6. become conversationally fluent in a language
  7. hot air balloon ride
  8. see Grand Canyon
  9. become a publicly recognized expert
  10. see moonbow (again)
  11. see Northern Lights
  12. read the Bible
  13. buy an Airstream
  14. take flying lessons – airplane
  15. 30 informational interviews
  16. make 30 things
  17. learn to sail
  18. hang glide
  19. go on 30 dates
  20. learn a skill of some sort – welding?
  21. some sort of fitness goal – to be further defined
  22. learn to program
  23. go on 7 day backpacking trip
  24. circumnavigate Land Between the Lakes
  25. get in touch with old friends on a regular basis
  26. move
  27. buy coffee for 12 strangers
  28. find 576 more geocaches
  29. learn 5 magic tricks
  30. visit the lower 48

Come back Monday to see how I plan on completing all of these.

List Making

A month ago everyone online seemed to be reviewing their lives in 2011 and putting together their action plans for 2012. For some reason that I couldn’t quite explain, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to do the same.

Sure, I sat down and came up with a long list of things to achieve this year, but it felt forced. And since it was forced I knew that, realistically, I wouldn’t be enthusiastic or driven enough to complete them.

Taking a break

Eventually I just decided to sit back and watch everyone else post their reviews and action plans. The stress lifted from my shoulders. I was still making progress, building things, reading and growing. Serendipity would take care of the rest.

The list grows

Apparently I was just starting too soon. Starting a new set of goals on January 1st just didn’t seem important to me, but February 6th seemed just about right. A list of goals seemed to grow of its own accord.

In a few days I will be entering my third decade upon earth. Anticipating this supposed milestone I have been tossing around ideas about how to celebrate it. Something epic, no doubt. The list that formed on its own has grown into the “30 in 30” project.

30 in 30

During my 30th year I have compiled a list of thirty things that I want complete. Some are free while others will cost a decent amount. A few won’t take me long at all though others will take the whole year. A few will involve me spending time alone but most involve others. Easy and challenging. I tried to cover many things.

30 things to complete. Friday I’ll tell you what they are.

Don’t Be Afraid To Try Something New

My wife and I just returned from a handbell concert. Until seeing them mentioned on a tv show this past week, we had never heard of handbells before.

A few days later my boss just happened to receive some tickets to the concert that he was unable to attend and left them at the front desk for employees on a first-come, first-serve basis. Apparently I was not only the first, but also the one interested in them, since I didn’t get in to work until after everyone else and still managed to snag them.

So tonight my wife and I went to check out something we had never experienced before, driven by curiosity and free tickets. Not quite sure what to expect (because how trust can you really put in an example seen on a sitcom?) we went just to see what we would see.

The show was wonderful. The music was quite enjoyable, the setting was beautiful, the ladies in the ensemble clearly enjoyed themselves, and the group shared their sense of humor and love of what they were doing.

My wife and I had a thoroughly enjoyable break from our cram-before-finals evening, which wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been open to trying something new. We would certainly have missed out if I had just brushed off “handbell concert tickets” as something that I wasn’t familiar with and therefore not interested in.

What is something that you haven’t tried, just because you aren’t familiar with it?

Adventures in Dating

I love dating, even though I don’t get to go out as much as I’d prefer. That’s just part of being alive, unfortunately… never enough time. One of the awesome things about being married? You always have a date.

My wife and I love exploring, trying new things, and going new places. Many of our dates feature these activities in some fashion. Because we have been living in the same place for the last few years, however, we have noticed that our dates have fallen into the dinner and a movie rut.

And after years of exploring, dinner and a movie doesn’t always fit the bill. Sometimes we want something more. That might mean a treasure hunt where each clue leads to the next stage of the date or a date that has had details trickled out via a note a day over the course of a week. The only trouble is that figuring out the details those dates takes time. And that takes us back to the original issue: not enough time.

To solve this issue and ensure that my wife and I can focus on each other, we started keeping a list of our favorite date ideas. That way we always had ideas when we needed them.

It occurred to me that we might not be the only ones who fall back on dinner and a movie habit. Finally, I took my list and wrote an easy-to-read guide, Ready-to-go Dates. It ended up having 20 date ideas that take less than 20 minutes of preparation. Though I had more ideas, I only included ones that can be done anywhere.

Cover of "Ready-to-go Dates"

The final draft is actually at my editor right now, but I was too excited to wait. Following the Cult of Done manifesto I decided to go ahead and make it available now. The edited version will be automatically sent out to those who pick up a copy of the current draft.

You can get yours here. Go and check it out!

What I Am Tracking

I mentioned that I have implemented a daily tracking system but didn’t go into great detail about what exactly I’m tracking. If you’re interested, here are those details.

    What I’m tracking

  • Wake time – Between my wife and I’s school and work schedules, our daily routine fluctuates greatly. Out of curiosity I’ve started noting what time I actually wake up each day. There is a strong possibility that I will also start noting what my mood is during the day, as I assume these (combined with my sleep amount) strongly reflect each other.
  • How long sleep? – Likely just as important as wake time, I will eventually compare this metric with other items such as how I feel during the day, mood, energy level, etc.
  • Did I floss? – A habit that I’m trying to build, and that I’ve noticed is much easier to do when I have this external motivation to do it.
  • Active? – I explained this in the previous post. Working up from being fairly sedentary to more active each day.
  • Productive? – I have so many projects going on each day that it’s easiest to simply note if I did some worthwhile work each day than anything more specific. The goal is to do something that moves a project forward. Tiny steps consistently done will help me get to my destination.
  • Network? – Take at least one action each day to connect with another person. This may be a business, scholarly, or personal connection. It can be a face-to-face meeting or a quick email. Like the productivity goal, a consistent effort in connecting with people will help me grow a strong network over time.
  • Write love note for my wife? – Sometimes it is easy to overlook writing a daily love note for my wife, but this daily reminder is helping me to meet that goal.
  • Complete school work? – There is always something to be done, even if it’s not due just yet. Why not go ahead and do something, so that it’s not all left till the last minute.
  • Read? – I read a lot, but so much of it is online or purely for school. I am making myself read some for personal reasons, whether it is fiction or non-fiction.
  • Sketch something? – I will soon be a certified artist. To build on that I am in the process of incorporating art into my daily life on a more regular basis. Like networking and being productive, the goal is to simply work on art in some form each day with the knowledge that a lot of little steps will help me to achieve long-term goals.
  • Drink more water than other types of beverage? – I’ve noticed that when I don’t drink enough water I run out of energy fairly quickly. To further complicate matters I’ve noticed that I might drink a lot (coffee, juice, tea, etc) but they aren’t as effective as water. So the goal is to drink more water than anything else. – So far, so good. Consciously being aware of this has helped me to feel better for the last week.

It’s amazing how such big goals can be condensed down into one or two word questions, each of which can be tracked so simply. Those tiny, daily steps make huge progress possible, and far faster than one would expect.

What daily steps can you take toward your goals?

Tracking Equals Improvement

Have you ever tried to implement a new habit in your life and struggled? I have, all too often. Recently I stumbled across Sebastian’s posts about his personal tracking system and decided to try it out for myself. In roughly a week I’ve gone through three different versions of my own tracking system as I’ve worked to discover the version that works the best for me, personally.

The basic idea

“What gets measured gets managed.”
This is a principle that I’ve run across in a variety of business books, but that can be applied to most aspects of one’s life. The simple act of actively noticing (measuring) something forces you to be conscious of it. As you grow conscious of the results and inputs that cause them you will automatically change the inputs to help achieve the desired results.

“You don’t want to break the chain.”
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld measures his productivity by getting a big calendar and crossing off each day that he actively writes with a big red X. After a few days he has a chain of X’s, and then his only goal is to not break the chain. As the chain grows longer the motivation to not break it grows stronger.

My current tracking system

My tracking system combines these two ideas in a very easy-to-use, mobile format. I’ve used a piece of grid-lined paper that easily fits into my pocket so that I always have it available. There are 8 columns: one for each day of the week, and one with a list of the 11 tasks/projects that I want to complete/track. For each item I simply check it off once completed, put a dash if I don’t, or write down the information that I want to track. The checks quickly formed a chain that I don’t want to break, encouraging me to keep completing the tasks each day.

    What I’m tracking

  • Wake time
  • How long sleep?
  • Did I floss?
  • Active?
  • Productive?
  • Network?
  • Write love note for my wife?
  • Complete school work?
  • Read?
  • Sketch something?
  • Drink more water than other types of beverage?

Start simply

It would be easy to add a lot of detail to this system, quickly making it cumbersome and something that I wouldn’t actually use on a daily basis. To stop myself from doing this I’ve tried to keep each item to something that can be tracked with a single number or Yes/No answer. Each of these represent a personal goal that I am currently working on, so over time the list will change.

Simple goals
I have become rather sedentary and am working back into a regular exercise routine. Instead of jumping into something that I wouldn’t sustain, though, I have set the goal of simply being active each day. This might mean going and playing a physical game, talking a walk, or working out. This simple goal empowers me to complete it instead of limiting myself to a specific activity, location, or required equipment.

Simple tracking
It takes only a few seconds to note what time I woke up and calculate how long I slept (to the nearest 10 minutes). A yes/no response is very quick to write down. The only further details that I am recording is what action I take to network each day, a few words that mention how I contacted what person. Because it takes so little time and I can always have the paper with me I have made this as easy as possible for myself. Since the answers are so easy I don’t have to remember a lot of details and can record all of them at a single time if I need to.

Simple archiving
A piece of paper folded and stuck in one’s pocket doesn’t last for a terribly long time, but I do want to store the results in order to compare them over time. To do this I have created a spreadsheet that is stored online with the same categories. It takes only a few minutes each week to transfer the information from the paper to digital version, and then I have the entire history available to compare.

Quick improvements

Over the last week I have spent less than a total of twenty minutes and begun to build good habits (flossing daily), become more productive (creating on a new business), and started noticing patterns in my life (sleep and mood).

What would you like to change and improve in your life? You need only a few minutes each day to get there.

Sharing Their World

Have you ever wondered how other people see the world? I do. Fortunately, I recently realized how easily one can get an insight into another person’s viewpoint.

People interact with the world around them based on how they see it. So by watching someone go about their day, we can learn something about how the world looks to them.

  • A few days ago I was able to watch two skateboarders filming a video of some tricks. Skater A held the camera and moved along following the action as Skater B performed the same sequence of tricks over and over. From my vantage point (both physically and knowledge-wise) I could not tell any difference in most of the takes (the ones where the board was left behind during a jump were pretty obvious) but it was fun to watch them do the same moves for a number of minutes. Those 20 feet of sidewalk were far more interesting to them than I would have ever thought possible.
  • I complain about school. Quite often. Sitting in one of the campus coffee shops frequently helps me gain perspective. Fellow students come in and discuss their projects and I realize how much more time consuming my courses could be. Listening also provides the opportunity to vicariously experience the trials that other students seem to be putting themselves through; I am much more appreciative of my wife as I listen to the tangled relationships that I sometimes hear about.

Now, I don’t recommend spying on anyone. However, it’s almost hard not to notice the people around you once you have begun to think about it. Don’t force it; bask in the worlds that float around you as they pass by.

This is something that I’ve added to my weekly to-do list. Take a few minutes just to listen to the conversations around me or to take note of how people interact with the world as they see it. After all, learning from someone else’s point of view can’t be a bad thing.

What is something that you have noticed or learned from viewing someone else’s world?

We Are Rich

Over the weekend I was reflecting on how good life is and it occurred to me just how rich we are. Maybe we don’t have a lot of money in the bank, or invested. Perhaps our car isn’t the shiniest on the block. Our house might not even be the largest or newest in the neighborhood. However, we are, undoubtedly, rich.

  • We don’t have to worry about whether we will have food, but what sounds good for the next meal.
  • Perhaps that new job hasn’t worked out, but we still have our smart phones.
  • The great concern is if we will find something on television to entertain us tonight.

Those don’t sound like the concerns of a poor person, no matter what the bank account might say. We have food, clean water, and shelter available to us.

Still not convinced?

  • Even if we don’t buy anything, we can take an afternoon (or a day!) and spend it shopping and chatting with friends.
  • We drive our personal car to the above shopping trip.
  • Most likely we stop at a restaurant where, again, there are more food options than we even bother to look at.
  • The restaurant has to throw out any extra food at the end of the night, for tax purposes.

We live in amazing times. Life is good, especially when we take a moment to stop and think about it. We are rich.