There are 8 metaphorical boxes to tick; what’s your score?
As you may know, we’re both huge fans of heuristics. And boy have we come up with a blinder for you this week: “If you’ve used up all the standard colours on your Google Calendar, it’s time to take a proper look at what’s taking up your time.”
Yes people, we’re now onto “Custom” calendar colours – and have discovered some delightful new turquoise, mustard and purpley hues as a result.
We’ve explained before about the method behind our maddening range of side projects - projects we work on in addition to our core business, Mortified Cow. But recently we’ve been seeing some side projects really take off, and we want to devote more time and energy to them.
(Unless you play WoW. In which case, y’know, you should probably go work on that instead of reading this post.)
In this post, I’m going to run through a system that’s at least halved the amount of time I spend on email.
Because the problem isn’t email per se: it’s that most people deal with email in an incredibly inefficient way, for which it was never intended.
I mean, did people in the 1960s spend all day walking to their mailbox every 5 minutes “just in case”, and keep the paperwork for all their most important tasks in the middle of a big pile of junk mail?
Possibly, if they were doing a lot of LSD. But that’s not the point.
In our FIRST FULL YEAR as digital nomads, we’ve lived in 11 different cities around the world – some for a couple of weeks, others for up to a couple of months.
And OK so yeah… there are some we won’t be returning to in a hurry (absence, if anything, made the heart grow colder), but those places have probably given us some of the wackiest memories and the best opportunities to prove to ourselves that we really can have fun and hunker down anywhere.
The vast majority of our temporary hometowns have, however, been cry-because-we-miss-them-so-much wonderful.
We’ve zigzagged across timezones like pros (up yours, jeg lag), accrued air miles like MASSIVE losers (we didn’t bother, and friends are telling us we’re idiots), settled in, found supermarkets selling oatmeal, lived like locals (unless they don’t eat oatmeal), fallen in love with each new area, and moved on before we could risk under-appreciating it.
And to celebrate the fact that we DID IT, LOVED IT and CAN’T WAIT TO DISCOVER EQUALLY AWESOME PLACES NEXT YEAR, here’s a quick summary of each place (good and bad), what we thought of it, what you’ll get out of it, how much it costs, and whether you should bother.
We’re in Barcelona! Did we mention that? We’re not sure. But we certainly didn’t write about the brilliant tour we went on the other day, or Instagram the gigantic sandwich we had for today’s lunch. Nor, come to think of it, did we tweet our opinions on Nigella’s downfall (although OMG, right?).
And this is what puts us in a bit of a funny position: for two people who are self-obsessed enough to send a weekly email about our exploits, we seem to completely lack the impulse to share details about our lives that the rest of the world has.
It’s easier to be weird than it used to be.
When I was at school, if I’d admitted that I spent the weekend hacking my favourite computer game so Watford was the best football team in the UK, I would have been even more of an outcast than I actually was. When I first met people at university, I reflexively pretended to be into clubbing and dance music rather than going to gigs to watch weird bands that no “normal” person had heard of.
Is there any less pressure to conform now than there was back then? Probably not. But something that was the ultimate weird and dangerous thing when I met my first girlfriend in an IRC chatroom – meeting someone “off the internet” – is now a totally everyday thing. And that means that finding people who share and appreciate your weirdness is easier than ever before.
That’s great for finding people for heady weekends of translating Shakespeare into Esperanto, but what about dealing with the more everyday forces that try to shame you into smoothing off your rough edges and living your life in a certain way?
While very few people are out-and-out introverts or extroverts (we’re all on a sliding scale), it’s pretty clear that Rob and I lean towards the introverted side in a big way.
We’re not shy in the slightest: we’ll happily talk to pretty much anyone, and we don’t feel apprehensive about meeting new people. We don’t avoid social situations out of a lack of confidence, and we’ll eagerly walk up to those we don’t know and give them a cuddle (or shake their hand if they don’t look like the cuddling type).
But introversion is different from shyness. Introverts (or those with introverted tendencies) “tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.”
We can’t quite believe we’re saying this, but sometimes we’ll admit that there are more important things in life than wifi, M&Ms and a kettle.
Things like smoked salmon. And the start of the next season of The Bachelor.
Oh, and also things like health.
18 months ago, Mish’s brother Sol and his girlfriend Becky chucked in their corporate jobs and flew off to South America for a self-organised cycling tour. They had no idea how long they’d be away for – they just knew that, like us, a life that involved a gigantic mortgage on a house in the suburbs with 2.4 kids, jobs in accounting and an addiction to the John Lewis furnishings department wasn’t for them. And they wanted to try something different.
Since May, we’ve lived in a new city every three weeks on average. Yet even though this means that everyday things like buying aspirin or taking out the trash can become gigantically complicated, our lives are probably still simpler than most people’s.
A lot of the simplicity comes naturally from our lifestyle, but of course, just like I have done with productivity, I drive Mish mad by taking it way too far. I’ve developed a major aversion to expending brainpower when it can be avoided…which makes me an annoying person to live with, but does generate some (hopefully) useful insights.
We’ll get to drama and lying, but let’s start with the biggest simplification hack of all…
Back in July, after months of research and acres of virtual Google Doc paper, we launched The Anywhereist Group - our forum for people who are building businesses they love, on their own terms, from wherever they want to live in the world.
We had some very strong ideas about what we wanted the group to be like (in terms of people, discussions and resources) and feel like (in terms of tone, level of friendliness, etc.). And incredibly, all our ideas have fruitioned – which should totally be a word. We do get a bit delirious with excitement when we see all the incredible stuff going on inside the little group that we created.
Our aim is to monetise at some stage – charge new members a monthly fee that’s lower than the value they’ll get out of the group – and we think we’re nearly ready for it.
I thought I’d share a mini-case study for those who want to create their own communities. It’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done, and I want as many people to learn from our efforts, mistakes and stumbling blocks as possible.