Save Up

Are you automatically transferring money to savings or retirement funds every paycheck?

If so, good. It's time to take a look and see how you can do more. Those tips I mentioned about cancelling a service you don't really use (hello gym membership or cable tv you never enjoy or magazine you don't read!) can free up a little cash here. Apply it first to high interest debt or, if you've conquered that – go you!, then increase the amount heading into retirement savings. Don't count on social security; might be there, but, I'm just sayin', governments change…

Even if you're living paycheck to paycheck find a way to pull out $10 and automatically put it into savings. Figure out the things that would save you the most money – moving to a new apartment closer to work, perhaps – or which would help increase your cash flow – a good outfit for interviews and some nicely printed resumes, perhaps – and do that as soon as these special savings allow.

One thing to note is that this does not need to be an ever upward climb; just think about what really makes you most happy and relaxed and continually reposition your world a little closer to getting more of that.

For most people it turns out not to be yachts and diamonds; just a job they like, while living in a place they love, and getting to spend time with people they enjoy. That's not as expensive as you might think, so take another little step closer to it today.

The Special Sauce

If you have to work through a surprise stressful situation – say, oh just for example, a family member having major surgery* – it's very likely that you'll get short on sleep, or at least have somewhat disturbed sleep. You'll certainly be working yourself harder mentally and emotionally to bear this extra load along with whatever else is going on in your life.

You're gonna get stretched a little thin when it comes to restedness.

You may find that when the initial danger passes or when other people arrive to help take the load or after a week or so without relief, a lot of tension that you'd been fending off suddenly falls square onto you and you become exhausted and emotional. It's completely natural; don't feel bad.

Do the minimum you need to do that day and then go home. Eat something nourishing – stop for takeout if you need to – and drink some water or juice, then go to bed. Never mind it being before 8pm.

Here's the important part: if tomorrow is a workday, set your alarm clock right now.

It may be that you won't fall asleep right away, but that's okay. Don't watch TV. Just feel safe and cozy and read a bit. If you need it, you'll conk out soon and you may sleep for 10-12 hours. If you do, you needed it.

Charging your batteries is part of helping get you and the people you love through anything hard going on; don't try to get by without it.

*By the way, he came through great and is already enthusiastically on the mend.

Safety Nets

If something suddenly takes up all your time & energy, it's very helpful to be able to give it the necessary attention without it throwing things even more out of balance.

Direct deposit and automatic bill pay can really save you when what you most need to do to get yourself through a demanding time is to come home and think about nothing at all.

Drinking enough water and getting decent meals – especially breakfasts – and as much sleep as you can will help keep your body supporting the stress on your mental focus and your emotions.

Clear communication with friends, family and significant others can reduce the potential for drama, which is usually the last thing you need. Say something like "I'm winding up putting all my energy into [whatever is going on] and I'm afraid it's going to make me [spend less time with you, be unfocused, be unusually emotional, …]; I'm sorry in advance if that turns out to be the case and I truly do appreciate any slack you can give me while I'm getting through this." It won't solve everything, but it should weed down the number of "Why didn't you come to my party?" whines.

Most of all, be honest with yourself. Prioritize and let stuff go as you need to. Do some things well that are most important and skip or skimp on other things that aren't. You can't always do it all and that's OK.

Ahhhh… Sunday.

Sundays are really good days to kick back and let go of your usual obligations. Sleep in, read the big newspaper, putter around, work on projects, or just sit in a café with a book.

Hmm? Discardian tip?

Oh yeah, uh, well, turns out you can remove common warts with duct tape. Who knew? Do note in the comments the citation of a clinical study supporting the folk wisdom and giving a clearer description of the method to be used.

Discard terror

I really liked Ze Frank's comments in his show on Thursday. Here's some good clear thinking:

[T]he Brits caught some douchebags who were going to blow up some planes.

Now, the way I see it, you can't have terrorism without terror.
The strategy of terrorism is to use isolated acts of violence to
instill fear and confusion into the population at large. A small number
of people can incapacitate a society by leveraging our inability to
understand risk.

Airline industry stocks plummetted today, while the industry
braced for a rash of cancellations. This, despite the fact that even
with the risk of airplane bombings it's still more dangerous to drive
your car. Or smoke cigarettes.

As long as a small group of people can inflict mass panic
across a large population, the tactic itself will remain viable. One
way to deal a blow to the effectiveness of terrorism is to deal with
the terror itself.

London's police deputy commissioner Paul Stevenson said that
the plot was "intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale." No,
it is imaginable: between three and ten flights out of thousands would
have resulted in the terrible loss of human life.

Bush today said this country is safer today than it was prior
to 9/11. Personally, I don't think he knows. Whether we like it or not,
terrorist attacks on Americans are now part of the global reality. They
will continue to happen. Many places around the globe have had to deal
with a similar reality for years. India, Ireland, England, Spain,
Russia, to name a few. In many cases, these societies have pulled
together and not allowed isolated acts of violence to tear at their
fiber. Like disease and the forces of nature, it's a risk that we have
to rationally come to terms with. The government's responsibility is to
make sure that fear and terror are not disproportionate to the reality
of the situation.

Today the President said, "This nation is at war with Islamic
fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom
to hurt our nation." Generalized statements like this which instill
nebulous fear without specific information are exactly in line with the
goals of terrorism.

Damn straight. Unreasoned panic is unproductive, but worse, it's exactly the intent of terrorism.

Yes, absolutely we need to do the actions which are actually effective to protect people (e.g. the solid investigation and signal interception techniques in Britain and Pakistan that prevented disaster this past week), but throwing away our rationality and the basic precepts of freedom (e.g. intolerance of the use of torture) is not necessary.

Keep a cool head.

[Thanks to the fabulosos who maintain the transcripts in the The Show wiki!]

What really matters

If you're burning yourself out at work, coming home stressed, but
don't see a way to get your boss to balance the load better, STOP.

Stop before it stops you.

Bad resource management is the problem of your employer, not you.

This is not a nice allegorical idea I came up with out of idle
thoughts; one week ago my dad, whose work has been especially demanding
of late, felt tension in his chest which was unlike heartburn. He had
radiating pain out to his arm. His father died of heart failure. He,
wise fellow, went to the emergency room and they kept him over the
weekend for observation. On Monday they did an angiogram and found his
arteries to be over 85% blocked. They said, "Tomorrow or the day after
we will give you a quadruple bypass." On Wednesday he had surgery and
on Thursday he is, after having the front of his body opened up and the
arteries into his heart altered, recovering very nicely.

His life just hit the reset button.

He says things are going to change and his employer will just have to work it out.

Don't wait for your body to force it on you; if a situation is killing you, don't let it get away with it.

Do Your Worst Wednesday II

Here it is Wednesday again. How was it having those unfavored tasks chipped away at last week? Did the little bit of progress help unstick a stuck project? Was it pleasing to have that loathed chore done and not nagging you?

This week's worst is again in two parts:

1. Bureaucracy
Take care of one tedious bureaucratic chore that has been malingering on your list. Make that appointment to renew your driver's license, set up direct deposit for your paychecks with your HR department at work, refill those prescriptions, whatever will give you that lovely "*phew*, that's finally done" feeling.

2. The Worst Room
At home, what room is the biggest mess? As I write this, my "guest" room is so cluttered with the things I'm going to donate to charity that it would be really difficult to have anyone visit. Where's the core of your physical chaos? Give it 30 minutes of focused attention today. It may be that it's such a disaster all you can do is write down the plan of all the steps that need to happen to recover that space. That's okay, just be sure you use all 30 minutes and get started on step one as soon as you can.

My friend Mena got inspired when her husband was off on a trip and surprised him on his return with a beautiful new sitting room she'd unearthed from under the piled boxes, junk mail, and random crud that had piled up in their spare room. A whole extra room in your home for just the price of some cleaning up and maybe a little new furniture to round out the new look? That's a deal!

Time for a Time Out

When you aren't sure you're really ready to get rid of some things, seal them up in a box and write on the top, side and end of the box (so you can read it in a stack of boxes)

Re-evaluate on [the date 6 months from today]

Don't write what's in the box. When you go to open it, you may find it useful to discover things you'd totally put from your mind.

Maybe they just needed time off from use, but often you'll find that now you're really ready to send them on to a new home.

This can be a great thing to do with kids. Either the toy is now forgotten and boring or it's almost like a new toy. Either way is a win!