The year that was 2016, as I put it a few days ago here, wasn’t fun for a lot of people including myself. The frightening part of all of this is now that it’s 2017, it’s not necessarily going to be any better of a year than 2016 was. We’re on this roller coaster, and taking into account everything that happened last year, I don’t think we’ve even crested the first hill. I can hear the clicks and clacks of the chain pushing the cars up the first hill before we drop, weightless, to the inevitable just beyond the horizon. How high we are and how steep that hill is going to be is anyone’s guess, but this is potential bubble bursting territory in proportions we’ve never seen before. In just over seven years, we’ve added $9 trillion to our national debt to have it almost over $20 trillion. Math lesson: How many years would it take to spend $20 trillion if you spent $100 million per day? 547 years!!!

This isn’t the point of this post though, I am just venting a little. If more people realized how much, seriously how much money we had in total debt, it would be a major issue. I’ve been kept up at night thinking of the consequences if the U.S. economy completely collapsed. The Great Depression would look like a sunny day compared to a completely collapse right now. Ahh, I digressed again…..

So, what is my 2017 going to be about? Well, it won’t be resolutions, I learned long ago that I made them just to break them a few weeks later. It also isn’t going to be about non-resolutions as in refusing to not make resolutions is a resolution in of itself that I’ll end up breaking a few weeks later. Instead, I’m going to continue life endeavors that I started several months to a few years ago that is more experimental in nature than anything else. The scientific method is very helpful here. I see a problem, make a statement to the problem, decide on a solution, execute the solution, review the results, move on to the next problem or re-evaluate the original problem. It’s a work in progress. With that said, here are the problems that I’ve been working on recently.

  • Technology usage
  • Family time
  • Mental balance (related to introversion)
  • Minimalism
  • Consolidation and Purging (new)

I’ll speak to technology usage and consolidation in this post as I’ve already written about the other three over the past several months. On technology usage, it’s a positive outcome of my minimalism. I’ve found that removing complexity in some aspects of my life has allowed me to group similar events together and create efficiency. For example, I process the finances twice a month, reconcile once a month, and discuss upcoming spend that I’m not aware of with my wife. While I’m on the computer already, I use about 30-45 minutes after I’m done to go through the non-important email and junk/spam review that I stopped doing on an almost daily basis. I’ve setup inbox filter rules that puts email from specific addresses into my inbox and whatever remains is moved to a folder for bi-monthly review. It reduced several interruptions I’d have through the day checking email that didn’t need to be checked because my phone dinged.

That brings me to my other topic on technology, my mobile phone. The only alerts I get on it now are text messages, phone calls, and work email when at work. I have the Twitter and WordPress desktop apps installed and will review both between meetings (no more than 10 minutes at a time) and at lunch. The alerts are non-intrusive so they don’t catch my attention when something comes in. I’ll admit that I’m not always disciplined with this and will often spend much more time than I should in both apps, it’s still a work in progress. My mobile phone however has become less important as a part of my daily routine and often just sits upside down or in my bag. Part of the reason for this is that I don’t have the social applications (like Facebook) demanding my time and attention. The other reason is that I don’t have a phone that can handle really more than one thing at a time and it has consistently frozen on me requiring a battery pull. Rather than get angry and throw it against the wall, I just don’t use it as much. I’m getting a new one in February and plan on getting something more capable, but I don’t think it will hold as large a place in my life as it once did as I’ve become accustomed to life not revolving around it. Technology in general is on the outs with me and I’m using it to enable my life, not control my life.

Now, consolidation. It means different things to different people. In my case, I’m consolidating everything electronic into a single location. After moving, I realized that I had 5 external backup drives of various sizes. After finding the largest one, I started to bring all the backups onto a single drive while performing a de-duplication of files. It took several weeks as I did it on spare time and I now have a single drive with backups from my laptop and home desktop that operate as the “backup to the backup” since all my files are in the cloud as well. Windows 10 made it quite simple to backup to an external drive, just a click, provided that all your files are in their default locations. The four drives I no longer needed were given away (after a DoD wipe) or recycled. For several years now, I’ve been purging myself of useless technology that I’ve kept around in the spirit of “I might need it someday”. Boxes of stuff dating back to the late 90’s. I don’t need 4 3.5″ floppy drives, I don’t need 3 5.25″ floppy drives, I don’t need 9 CD-R/RW drives, etc. In the end, I kept the best hardware and got rid of the rest of it. The interesting thing is that I no longer have a computer I can install most of this stuff in, so had to add a cable kit that converted the interfaces to USB; they’re all in a single container though. I cleared out an entire closet over the last 8 months!

Saved magazines have been purged (recycled). Saved newspapers and clippings have been reviewed and mostly purged (also recycled). Purging is in line with minimalism in that anything that doesn’t have value to me or serve a purpose, I get rid of it. At first it was difficult to let go and I often would go through boxes of stuff to only get rid of a few items at a time. I’ve since realized that having the stuff around, that I only looked at when deciding whether to keep it or not, was self-defeating the whole idea of minimalism and purging of stuff. Moving certainly helped with this as it became a question of whether I wanted to move it or not. Our trash guys got a good work out a few weeks while we were packing as I quickly decided to not keep a lot of the stuff that had accumulated for more than 15 years. My wife and daughter are now starting to pick up on this and are starting to clear their respective piles of stuff, though not quickly. My daughter seems to have embraced the spirit of purging and is actively making decisions. My wife still has her box of New Kids on the Block memorabilia that she only looks through when I make a point to show her she still has it. Baby steps 🙂

What this means is that I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. Deciding to do something in the coming year, usually to fail, is a waste of time. Plans are made to benefit everyone around me, not just me personally. Experiments that I think will benefit me in the long-term are a much more efficient use of my time and energy. To demonstrate my point, all 5 endeavors listed above support balance for an introvert in an extroverted world. Achieving balance not only makes me easier to be around, it makes others around me want to spend time with me instead of avoiding me. I guess you can say to a certain extent that my laser focus on my introversion allows me to be extroverted in short bursts to socially engage with others around me. These social engagements made the questions stop, let people stop worrying too much about me and made it easier for people to invite me to certain things. I no longer say no given enough lead time.

My 2017 will be just like every other year since 2015, just another year where I have to learn to write 17 instead of 16 for about 2 months.