This week I want to delve into an optimization concept that zeroes in on some really small daily habits, but with substantial long term gains. Specifically, we are looking at vampire drain, and how we can stop it from siphoning away our valuable resources.
Ok – What Is This Vampire Drain You Speak Of? And Didn’t the Vampire Trend End in 2005???
Not to worry – I’m not about to pitch a theory on how personal finance, life optimization and overall happiness are just like the Twilight series. I promise.
In fact – we are going in a very different direction.
Do you own a property with baseboard heating? What about small appliances? Do you leave your toaster, coffee pot, or blender, plugged in when not in use?
If so, your electricity bill is going to be suffering from vampire drain. Meaning, even though you THINK you aren’t using those appliances, the mere fact that the remain connected to the grid means they are still drawing small amounts of electricity.
And yes, even when your baseboard heaters are turned to zero, they are doing the exact same thing.
Vampire drain is effectively the slow, hardly noticeable siphoning of valuable resources, EVEN when you think it’s not happening.
Today we are stopping to examine the effect of vampire drain on our time. Those slow, almost unnoticeable things in our every day life that steal our time, and detract from our overall enjoyment of life. The ones that surface on a near daily basis.
*While this post isn’t about how to save $10 on your next electricity bill, I still recommend you unplug small appliances when not in use. And in warmer months, consider shutting your baseboard heaters off at the panel.
Where To Start
We ALL have things we don’t like to do. And the reality is, some of them are unavoidable. At least in the short term. Sometimes you just have to knuckle down, and get ‘er done.
BUT – there are many instances when the things in our life that we hate doing can be altered, reduced or eliminated. Giving you back your precious time to allocate elsewhere. Or by modifying said activity so it actually produces a positive net gain to your bottom line of enjoyment.
The place to start is by having a little vent session with yourself.
What are the things in your day to day life that you hate? You know, the ones you endlessly procrastinate. That can easily get in the way of doing things you actually like, because they are hanging over your head. Sucking the life out of your very existence.
Things like commuting, battling busy grocery stores at the dinner rush, or the never ending what’s for dinner question.
At first it might seem hard to identify these tiny areas, but to get you going, here are a few of my own.
The Toilet Time Suck
#1 on my hit list is cleaning bathrooms. I hate this little chore. And with 3 bathrooms in our house (not to mention three boys) it felt like there was always a bathroom up in the rotation for a deep cleaning.
Because I’m cheap…..er…….frugal……..I put off the obvious solution to this problem for far too long. But finally a few months ago we decided to actually use some of our lifestyle inflation budget, and went ahead and found a cleaner.
Best decision ever. On a low estimate, it’s given me back about eight hours per month. That’s two hours each week that I can reallocate to doing something I actually enjoy. Oh, and did I mention that my happiness level sky rockets every time I have the pleasure of walking into a thoroughly cleaned house (that I didn’t have to clean?!?!)
Yes – this solution came with an associated cost of bi-weekly cleanings for our house. But frankly, from an ROI perspective, it’s been worth every single penny.
The Freezing Cold Procrastination
#2 is much more innocuous, and took me awhile to notice. Let alone clue in that I should just come up with a solution for it.
I am generally a very cold person. Like physically cold. I’m almost always freezing.
I also HATE to be cold. This is especially true when I have to get out of my warm cozy bed. Which translates to a lot of mornings where I lay in bed, delaying the inevitable shock of cold to my body inflicted by merely getting up.
My procrastination results in far too much wasted time. Particularly now that I don’t HAVE to be up for work at a certain time.
To combat this, and make my life a little happier, I decided that every night I would simply move my big fluffy housecoat all of 20 feet. From the back of my bathroom door where it usually hangs, to the nightstand directly next to my bed.
This allows me to wake up, immediately wrap myself in cozy comfort, and stagger towards my morning cup of coffee. Not only do I start my day a happier and warmer person, it also alleviates an easy 15-20 minutes of morning procrastination each day. All by just moving one item the night before, during a walk from my bathroom to bed that I was going to do anyway.
This tiny adjustment, that is free (both from a time and money perspective), translates to about two hours of reclaimed time each week. 2 HOURS!
My Mortal Enemy
#3 is probably an aversion I share with a few people.
I loathe Costco.
I don’t use that word lightly. I physically loathe it. The bright fluorescent lights, echoey interior, and worst of all, the throngs of people who all seem to have left any recollection of basic shopping etiquette firmly at the entrance to the Costco parking lot.
Move your cart to the right? Absolutely not.
I’m going to walk in the middle of the aisle, really slowly, so as to ensure that I don’t miss seeing another $20 item that I didn’t think I needed before I got here, but which I now realize I clearly need.
Also – while I stop to look at this item that I didn’t need, but now really need, allow me to just park my cart at an angle across the entirety of the aisle, effectively conveying in Gandalf style “You shall not pass!”.
Samples?! OH MY GOD!!! SAMPLES…….MOVE. OUT. OF. MY. WAY. *Customer forcefully shoves 82 year old senior across the aisle to madly dive for a bite of a free fragment of a granola bar.*
I really don’t understand what it is about this store that makes people immediately and strongly oblivious and/or downright ignorant to all others in their surroundings. It’s some weird voodoo Costco consumerism magic spell that comes into play the minute you drive onto the lot.
I JUST CAN’T DO IT.
But my frugal side recognizes there are some things Costco sells that I can’t get anywhere else for a similar price. Fortunately for me – the solution to this little issue was an easy one. I just get Mike to go.
Somehow, don’t ask me how, but…….he actually likes it. I think he see’s it as a challenge to park, find the fastest and most efficient route through the store, grab only the essentials, slide into the shortest check-out line, and get out, all in under 20 minutes.
I actually don’t understand how he does it, but he tells me it has a lot to do with not taking a cart.
Avoiding Costco saves me an easy two hours every other week, averaging out to an hour saved each week. Not to mention a WHOLE lot less frustration, anger, and desire to yell at random Costco shoppers.
Notification Compulsion Disorder
#4 I most definitely share with a lot of people. And I think it’s a residual effect from my years of carrying a work blackberry around non-stop.
That was seriously the worst.
But it engrained this anxious/angry internal response to the sound of a phone notification going off. And this compulsion to immediately check it. While my IDEAL solution is to ditch my cell phone completely, I have yet to take the plunge on that initiative.
Instead, I turn my phone on do not disturb. This means there is no audible or visual cues from my phone that I have 20 new e-mails or messages. I just check it when I check it. Absent the sense of urgency.
I’ve also got in the habit of putting it down in a corner of our kitchen, where I’m less likely to be compulsively checking it when I’m spending quality time with my kids, or having a conversation with Mike. My next step is to start leaving it in my purse when I get home, and also leave it downstairs when I go to bed at night.
I haven’t tracked exactly how much time these steps have saved me – but I’d be willing to guess that it’s at least thirty minutes a day (it’s probably much more). But more importantly, it’s saved me untold instances of feeling my blood pressure rise just from my phone notifying me of some incoming communication.
Okay – Back To Your Vampires
Alright – that was just a few really quick examples of some of the things I’ve eliminated/modified over time. But I highly recommended sitting down and identifying five to start.
I’ve been repeatedly doing this over the last couple years, and it really helps to foster a day to day life of intentionality and mindfulness.
If something about your life sucks – even if it’s small. Find a way to fix it, or at the very least, improve on it. Don’t just accept the life sentence and grind it out indefinitely.
So find the five things that you do every day/week that you hate the most.
Write them down. Analyze them.
Now figure out a way you can eliminate, reduce, or modify them. To change them from being a negative factor in your life, to a positive net gain.
The Best Part
In just those examples I gave, I saved myself an average of 8-9 hours each week of either wasted time, or time I would spend doing something that detracted from my overall enjoyment of life.
By utilizing this simple exercise to examine my daily habits, I was able to substantially reduce the vampire drain on my time and happiness, reclaiming 8-9 hours each week that I can reinvest elsewhere.
Not to mention, these small changes create compounding positive effects DAILY.
Thanks For Reading
As always thanks for taking the time to visit our little corner of the internet. We’d love it if you let us know what your top five vampire drains are, AND what you are going to do to eliminate them. Drop a comment below, or flip us an e-mail.
Next week we’ll move on to the really fun part of this exercise. Re-distributing those hours in a way that provides the highest happiness ROI available to us. See you next Monday!