Want to Get Better at Remembering Lists? Here’s a Simple Hack

Have you ever had trouble remembering a list of three or four things you needed to get at the store, or do at home?

The older I get, the worse my memory seems to get. I was having a really hard time keeping a short list of things in my head, until I remembered an old mnemonic device my dad taught me.

Years ago, my dad read a book about improving your memory. It may have been The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work,  at School, and at Play. In it were several tricks of the trade this memory expert used to recall a list of up to ten items. But there was one mnemonic that stuck with Dad enough that he continues to use to this day.

He’s used it for years to remember short lists, and it’s always been vaguely annoying to me, because it’s so weird. But it works. Probably because it’s weird.

Continue reading “Want to Get Better at Remembering Lists? Here’s a Simple Hack”

The Consumption Diet

This season of my life, that is, the last six months, has brought a mountain of consumption. It started when our family moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina. We began spending gobs of money to move our belongings and settle into our home (just look at this spending report if you don’t believe me). 

How many posts, articles, and book chapters do you consume each day? Here's my plan to take a break from an endless stream of words. @lauriethreeyear #consumptiondiet #consumeless #producemore #socialmediabreak

We bought a new dog and subsequently bought the related accoutrement: water bowls, food, shots, kennel visits, Kong toys, cages,  leashes, chew sticks, and rawhide bones, amongst other necessary pet purchases. 

We bought a trip to Disney and had a fabulous time, but in addition to the many dollars we spent, we stuffed our faces with food and drink for a week.

Since we’ve begun to work at home, Mr. ThreeYear and I have increased our food consumption. We have the weight gain to show for it.

It’s Not *That* Type of Consumption

There’s a different type of consumption going on, as well. I have been mindlessly consuming every printed piece of garbage I can pour into my brain. Romance novels (a particular vice) and crime thrillers–I average about one trashy book every two days (I read fast). Instagram feeds. Twitter. Facebook, which I occasionally stalk. Personal finance posts. My phone is in hand for multiple hours a day, according to my tracker (I read on it through the Kindle app, too). 

I’ve taken steps to slow the trickle of information flooding into my brain, but at this juncture, I’m gorging on information like I’m gorging on Christmas cookies.

Continue reading “The Consumption Diet”

3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life

Happy Monday! A new week for me feels like a fresh start, especially after two unexpected hurricane days for the boys that decimated my productivity at the end of last week.

After (another) four-day weekend courtesy of Hurricane Michael (which brought a lot more rain and wind-related damage than its cousin Florence, with only a modicum of hype), this new week filled with five beautiful days of school for my kids feels like a gift.

Speaking of gifts, I’ve been relishing some quick wins lately. There are pockets of my house that are still, shall we say, disastrous, even four months into our move, and the small things I’ve been able to do to stay sane have been lifelines.

The Closet of Horrors www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The closet of horrors, aka the guest room closet.

So, in the spirit of small wins, here are three things you can do right now to feel more in control, focused, and orderly, today.  Continue reading “3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life”

Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?

Hi guys! We’re waiting for heavy rains and possible power outages with Hurricane Florence. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post I wrote last year. Every word is as true (or truer!) today and I definitely need these reminders again, so I’m republishing. Have a good (and safe!) weekend!

I recently stumbled across this quote in an old journal, “Focus is more important than intelligence.” Is focus more important than intelligence? I certainly believe so, and I think the more I live and navigate smart phones and the beginning of the internet revolution, the more I realize that focus is essential to having a good life and making progress towards your goals. I’m sure I wrote it down because it resonated with me, and I felt it in my bones to be true. Also, focus is a struggle, each and every day, for me. I have two jobs, a husband who travels, kids to take to activities and appointments and help with homework, a Masters course, lesson plans, and this blog. It’s a lot of code switching.

Why is focus so necessary nowadays and what can we do to get more?

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, argues that focus is intelligence. He states that “focus is the new I.Q. in the knowledge economy, and that individuals who cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive,” in his bio. His theory is that workers who will be most sought after in our new economy will be those who can quickly master hard things and those who produce at an elite level. Both of these qualities require focus, he argues.

Newport is an author and professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and he’s fairly young, young enough to have had social media around in college. But he’s always been very careful where he puts his attention, shunning social media from the start.

“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction,” he says. For Newport, standing in line at a supermarket is a chance to practice letting our minds wander, rather than checking our social media accounts. The more we wean ourselves from technology and constant distraction, he argues, the better we’ll eventually get at working at a deeper level. Like anything, he argues, it takes practice, and in today’s highly distractible world, it is not a common commodity to have.

No More Social Media?

If you don’t wean yourself from a dependence on your smart phone, or something else that distracts you constantly, then you won’t be able to perform at such elite levels of focus. But how? Continue reading “Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?”

The Financial Benefits of Going Slower

This weekend we’re at the beach for three days for my cousin’s wedding (taking the boys out of school for the first time as we practice our ability to be location independent–just for a day!).

It’s amazing how nice it is to leave routine and embrace the ability to go hang out at the ocean for awhile. Lucy the Puppy is in heaven. We run her around on the leash-free part of the beach in the morning, and she sleeps for most of the afternoon. And the sun and sand has been good for all of us, giving us some time to unplug from our new school routines and enjoy nature.

This weekend has also given me a chance to reflect on how going slower  impacts our financial lives.

I raced through the first part of my life at break-neck speed, as if to cram everything possible into my day so I couldn’t possibly miss anything. I sucked hard from the orange of life and had the juice running down my chin to prove it.

As the years have passed and I have become an older human being, I’ve slowed down. I don’t, frankly, have as much energy. No one is more shocked and dismayed by this than I, because who knew that stuff ran out? But the truth is, slowing down is inevitable, and because I have more limited energy, I want to spend that energy on the things that matter, not the things that don’t.

Since we’ve moved to North Carolina, I’ve been making a concerted effort to do less:

  • less work
  • less activities for the kids
  • less “to-do” lists

The more I read about crafting the simple life, the more I realize that it requires marginchunks of time that are deliberately left unscheduled to make room for the sweet stuff of life. This slower pace really does make everyone in my family feel better. Continue reading “The Financial Benefits of Going Slower”

Finding Your Personal Savings Superpower

If you (like me) have trouble saving, may I recommend a psychological trick that may help you save a little more? Sometimes, when you feel like you spend more than the people around you, it can get discouraging, and you can start thinking self-defeating thoughts. While some people are incredible at saving in all areas of their lives, I’ve noticed that many people have gotten really good at saving in one particular area. They’ve found their personal savings superpower.

Finding Your Personal Savings Superpower  www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

For Mr. Tako, it’s eating out. While his family are super low spenders in general (especially taking out their mortgage and day care expenses), they just. don’t. eat. out. Ever.

They’ve saved hundreds of dollars per month and thousands of dollars per year, compounded over time because they’ve mastered the art of eating in (and I do mean “mastered.” Check out this post and this post on the delicious food Mr. Tako prepares at home).

Liz and Nate at Frugalwoods have arguably mastered everything, but they love seltzer, so they’ve optimized the price they pay for making bubbly water. They’ve figured out the hacks and tricks to pay as little as possible for their favorite beverage.

Now, eating all your meals in or making your own seltzer may sound awesome to you, or something out of the third level of hell. But, picking your one spending habit to improve does more than just save you money in this area. It actually psychologically sets you up for more success.

If you can identify one area that you’d like to master, spending-wise, then you can become the savings expert there. Maybe it’s keeping your gas costs low even though you drive a lot. You might keep your grocery spending at $300 or less for three people (like Lily!). It could be your entertainment budget. Continue reading “Finding Your Personal Savings Superpower”

Can Optimism and Hope Increase Your Wealth?

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Is it possible to increase your net worth through optimism and hope? Last week, I was listening to this episode of the Australian All in the Mind podcast featuring American positive psychologist Martin Seligman, speaking on the power of positive psychology and optimism in changing our outcomes.

Can Optimism and Hope Increase Your Wealth? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

One of the reasons I was drawn to this podcast was because Seligman is an academician. He’s interested in quantifiable research in neuroscience that psychologists can use to improve people’s outcomes, that is, their happiness levels. Seligman is the Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and is widely known as the founder of positive psychology (here’s a TED talk he did from 2004).

In the podcast, Seligman shares how early on in his career, he realized that his colleagues were focused on the alleviation of misery and suffering, but he was interested in how to increase happiness: “I said, look, when you lie in bed at night you are generally not thinking about how to go from -8 to -5, you’re thinking about how to go from +3 to +6 in life. Psychologists have never worked on this, we’ve never worked on happiness, well-being, the stuff that is above zero.”

It became his mission to figure out how to teach optimism. Continue reading “Can Optimism and Hope Increase Your Wealth?”

How Fixing What’s Broken Helps Your Financial Life

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In the months leading up to putting our house on the market, we spent a lot of time fixing the broken areas in our house. Our kitchen sink had been leaking for months and we finally hired a plumber to install a new faucet. There were two plastered spots in the bathroom where we’d removed a towel rack and we painted over them. For the entire time that we’d lived in the house, we’d had a light fixture in the bathroom that we’d removed, because we were scared it wasn’t water safe, and had put a metallic plate over. We finally got a water safe light installed.

These fixes cost money, but not near as much as I thought they would. Once I found a handyman and an electrician who’d fix everything, I think we ended up spending around $350 to: Continue reading “How Fixing What’s Broken Helps Your Financial Life”

On Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is an idea that comes from the business world. After World War II, Japanese manufacturers invited W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, professor, and management consultant, to their country to help them improve their manufacturing and production processes.

On Continuous Improvement www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Before the war, Japan was synonymous with cheap goods and shoddy craftsmanship. Deming taught leaders that improving the quality of their products would reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share.

“It’s simple. You just take something, and then you do something to it. Then you do something else to it. And then something else. Keep this up and pretty soon you’ve got something.”

-Jasper Johns, Twentieth century American artist (who, incidentally, grew up near my hometown)

In 1982, Deming published a book, Out of the Crisis, outlining his philosophy. “Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.” Continue reading “On Continuous Improvement”

The Financial Domino Effect

Have you ever made a change in your life–maybe a huge one, like getting out of debt, or maybe a small one, like deciding not to buy takeout coffee–that in turn, caused benefits that you never imagined?

The Financial Domino Effect--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Maybe getting out of debt made you realize that your house was too big, so you decided to move into something smaller. Maybe not buying takeout coffee helped you realize you could save in other small areas, and after a few months, you ended up with enough to go on a trip to Florida.

This is the financial domino effect, and it happened to me.

Like a chain of dominoes, where one tile makes the whole line fall down, one seemingly small change in your life creates scenarios that make it more likely you’ll create other small changes.

via GIPHY

One action that is, on the surface, completely unrelated to another action, causes the start of a wave of behaviors that can ultimately change your financial life. Continue reading “The Financial Domino Effect”