It’s almost April! 2018 is flying already – so, in this email I want to point to specific ways you can make it a healthier, happier and more comfortable year.
Quality of Life (QOL) is a vague concept, but, according to Google, you can pin-point it to your personal health, happiness and comfort. Specifically:
– Health – are you strong, fit, high-energy? – Happiness – are you enjoying yourself, are you cheerful? – Comfort – are you minimizing friction in your life?
It’s not a perfect correlation, but, as a rule, the higher your QOL, the easier it will be for you achieve your goals.
If you’re bursting with energy, enjoying what you do, and with few obstacles in your way, you’ll be in pole position for at least giving success a very good shot.
I want to succeed. I want to do big things. This is why I’ve been obsessing about QOL lately. In this email I want to share the specific strategies and actions I’ve been taking.
First – QOL Personal Philosophy
In this debate, I’m tight on the two extremes – I want to have as high QOL as humanly possible, but I really don’t like spending money.
Thing is, you need money for QOL. Cash doesn’t buy you health and happiness, but it will definitely help.
What has worked for me is:
Set a QOL Budget. More on this, below.
Buy Few, Selected Things. I’ve lived with 100 Items. I’m a bit more flexible now, but still minimalistic, focusing on getting the best.
Prioritize One-Off Purchases (Variable Cost) vs. Recurring Costs (Fixed Costs). Minimize – and if possible eliminate – fixed costs. Buying that iPhone X won’t get you broke – but signing up for HBO, Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime and two dozen more subscriptions you’ll have to pay every single month will.
The QOL Budget
For me, it all starts with the following questions:
If I had $100 extra a month to spend on improving my QOL – what would I use them for?
What about $300 extra?
What about $1.000 extra?
What about $5.000 extra?
I then brainstorm answers for the good part of two hours. The answers vary from the easy ones – e.g. “hire someone to clean my flat every week”, to the more far fetched ones – e.g. “go to Japan every year”.
I do this exercise every December, as part of my Annual Review. I then test the more interesting ideas in the day-to-day.
Seneca talks about “practice living like poor” – like, setting a few days aside, each month (or quarter) to live with the bare necessities. In 2018, this can mean to use your old clothes, eat basic food (rice and lentils), sleep in the floor (or on a yoga mat), etc. for a weekend, for instance.
It’s a good, powerful exercise to give you strength, resilience and persistence. I wrote about it in my book, but you can find tons of references for it online.
I also suggest you – once a while – try the other extreme: live like a king or queen for a weekend. Live your dreams and fantasies for once, and pay up if needed:
Make a short “dream trip”. Be it to Lake Como, to Kyoto o to the Maldives.
Stay at fancy, high-end hotels. This is expensive, but you should have enough for staying for one or two nights if you save up.
Rent a fancy car. Be it a Tesla or a Mercedes.
“Free trial” high-end, expensive stuff. You can “try and return” everything from high-end fashion to the most expensive iPhones and Macbook Pros. If you only get the items for a weekend, you can get away with it (legally!).
So, go all-in for your “quality of life” list, and get it all – even if it’s for only a few days. Just put enough safeguards to make sure you stay on budget and return any items you can’t afford.
(Just as with Seneca’s exercise, this one will give you, over everything, perspective. You’ll notice that some things are a big deal, but many other luxuries are not so.)
QOL – The Major Strategic Choices
There are a ton of specific ways you can improve your QOL. Most of that, though, is tactical – you can have the most comfortable bed in the world (tactical), but if you hate your job and your husband is an idiot, your life will be a pain regardless.
So, before you dive in the tactics, you need to figure out and nail the “big three” first:
– Where You Live. Where you’re based is a very big deal. It’s not an easy thing to change – obviously, but the city and town you live will make a huge impact on your QOL.You can live in New Dehli and struggle with the pollution and traffic, but have a maid, a cook and driver; or you can live in Amsterdam, bike everywhere, spend a good chunk of time in the green areas, but forget about cheap house-help.
There’s no right or wrong place to live – but you should know yourself and what you prioritize. In this day and age, if you were born in Mexico City, it doesn’t mean you need to stay there until the end.
For reference, I moved to mid-size European cities (Vienna, Copenhagen), because what they offered – very short commute, biking (vs. driving a car), green areas in abundance, pretty people, good jobs, easily accessible airport and central location, outweighed their cons for me – bad weather, bad food, uptight people – relative to other options. I love Buenos Aires (my hometown) and miss the weather, steaks, family and friends a lot – but I recall my hour-long commutes and the remoteness of the airport and I sigh.
– What You Do. If you’re unhappy with your job – be it in a corporation, as a freelancer, or as an entrepreneur – do something about it! The world is full of opportunities, so go and work your ass on finding (or creating) a better work for yourself. Don’t settle for less.
I wrote a couple years ago on how I turned down three better-paid jobs because I thought I would like (and learn more from) my current job. In the big scheme of things, it was the right choice to make. You spend the majority of your time working, so do something you like to do.
– Who You Hang Out With. It’s said that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most of your time with. If these people – your partner (if any), your best friends, your closest family and colleagues/business partners – are low-energy, pessimistic and chronically complaining, you need to move on.
Again, context is everything. Look to be around inspiring, high-energy, smart and fun people. It’s going to make a world of difference. If it means letting go of some old friends, so be it.
QOL Tactical Choices – the 52 QOL Changes You Can Make
If you’re happy with your town, with your work and with the people around you, then you can work on the details – the tactics, the specifics.
Mind, 52 is an arbitrary number. If you know of more ways we can improve our QOL, do ping me. I would love to hear about them!
Note, the items are not in any specific order.
1- Your Home
I just bought a flat, so I’ve went through these first points in my head a million times over.
Personally – and, again, this is my opinion, when it comes to home, there are three things that are important over all:
Location. For QOL, my personal specifics are: central, easily accessible by public transport, close to green areas, quiet street and with water-view. (In this itself, it helps to prioritize too – I got all the above points sans the view. I could have got the view as well, for the same money, but preferred something a bit more central and bit bigger.)
Size. As in square meters, number of rooms. I’ve learned to live in smaller spaces, but believe still that having spaces for yourself (ideally a whole room, even if married) is a huge QOL boon.
Building Quality.This as in insulation, heating systems, wall thickness, etc. Personally, I looked for building with high-quality materials (you can see when something’s good), floor heating (better for allergies, air quality) and very thick walls (I hate outside/neighbor noise).
Then again, that’s me. Perhaps, for you what matters is to have a big garden, or to live at a fancy, upscale neighborhood. You just need to know what really matters to you. Your home is a huge deal, so you need to prioritize accordingly.
(In general, focus on things that will remove friction from your life.I focus on the three points above as commute, clutter and noise are all stressors, at least for me.
2 – Inside Your Home
2.1 – Sleeping
You spend a third of your life in bed, so make it good. There’s almost a perfect correlation between amount (up to a point) and quality of sleep and high performance. Spend as much as your budget allows into:
Bed. For example, I got one of the fancy “Tempur” ones – simple, good looking, very comfy and made out of good materials.
Mattress. You can get a lot of high-quality mattresses online (and with 100-night trials, too!). I got the Simba and the Leesa, but there are many good ones.
Sheets. Get five-star sheets – for example, high-density Egyptian cotton. It’s a whole world apart from the IKEA or generic sheets.
Pillows and Futon. Again, try multiple ones until you find your best fit. I’ve settled for shredded bamboo foam pillows and down futon, topped with more Egyptian cotton cases.
Curtains. You need curtains that completely block off light.
Again, go hotel-quality. . For example, try asking yourself the “hotel test” – what does sleeping in a $500-night hotel look like? The upscale hotel chains have all the above optimized to the detail
Sometimes, you might notice a few patterns than could click – e.g. you can start changing your bed sheets every day. Quantify cost vs. benefits, and it might not be too crazy
Bedroom Temperature and Humidity. 18-20 C (~65 F) with 45% humidity is roughly the “sweet spot” for sleeping. To get that, I vouch for floor-heating when possible, thick futons and humidifiers (if necessary).
Bedroom Air Quality. Then there’s dust, VOCs (chemicals), CO2 and ever more air particles that impact sleep. I’ve bought and use the Awair Air Quality monitor to track all the above and adapt my sleeping accordingly.
2.2 – Cooking
In most countries, it makes sense to often cook home, and, for that, you should’ve a stellar, happy kitchen:
Fridge. Specifically, a quiet one – (if you’ve noted yet, I hate noise in all its forms).
Cooking Stove. I’m researching and looking forward to switch mine to the newest induction hobs.
Cooking Knife. This one is a good chance to go Japanese 😉
Dishwasher. If you ever have people over for dinner, a dishwasher is a saviour. (I didn’t have one until 2018, and I’m in love with it.)
+ What You Eat. Organic, unprocessed food – like, lots of vegetables, organic meat and eggs, legumes and beans. More expensive than a Big Mac or a frozen pizza, but a huge lever for your energy. I started buying only organic food last year and, while it was more expensive, it was much less so than I expected.
Personal Cook. Like, if you don’t like cooking – why not? In many countries, this is affordable.
Food Delivery. The cheaper alternative to the above. In Denmark, the options are bad and expensive (it’s getting better, though). In Argentina, on the other hand, food delivery is ever-present, for example.
2.3 – Cleaning & Chores
If you’ve a busy life, don’t spend your little and precious free time doing chores. Pay up.
Pro Cleaner. It’s getting more expensive the world-over, but it’s still a worthwhile investment, even if only weekly or bi-weekly.
Robot Vacuum. The perfect complement for the pro cleaner. I got the Eufy Robovac 11 – it’s solid, mine cleans for over an hour. It doesn’t have wi-fi nor Alexa/Google connectivity, though(some do).
Clothes Ironed. I know nobody – not even one person – who enjoys ironing. I hate it. Instead of doing it, for years I’ve used a dry cleaner or service at work and – for a fee (usually expensive) – had all my shirts ironed.
2.4 – Personal Care
For the below, there’s a huge leap in quality – and expected results – from going from the Walmart branded to the very best:
Shampoo & Toiletries.
Creams (Make Up, for ladies).
(What’s best in this case will depend from person to person – e.g. my hair is different from your hair, most likely).
Little more complicated – the stretch ideas:
Japanese Toilet. I don’t have one but it’s firmly on my to-get list.
Bathtub. Again, I don’t have one but would like to. In this case, though, it’s a bit more complicated… So maybe next time.
Sauna. If not inside your house, it’s good to have regular access to it at the gym or some other facility.
Spa Days. In case you don’t have your own pool, tub or sauna.
Massages. I’m lucky to get massages for free at work. Otherwise, I would pay up at least every couple of weeks. It’s expensive but money well spent!
Gym Membership. Yoga clases, a bonus.
Personal Trainer. I also get this for free at work. It’s good to calibrate your exercises with a pro a few times at year.
2.5 – Home Tech
This one with more explanations:
Internet Speed. The only utility bill I’m willing to spend more cash on. I get the fastest internet I can get.
Wireless Router. Because you want your phones, computers, tablets and other devices to enjoy those beautiful high-speeds. (Not all routers are created equal!)
Digital Assistant + Smart Home. “Hey Alexa, turn off the lights and play the new Star Wars trailer on the TV”. I wrote about Smart Home before (link) and absolutely dig all this space.
Then, of course, if you like watching TV, or love loud music – there are plenty of items that will “click” for you.
3 – Your Clothes & Tech
3.1 – Your Clothes
Great Shoes. Most of the time you don’t spend in bed, you spend on your shoes. Get the best you can. I dig the Nike Lunarepic Low 2 for walking and some Argentine leather ones in case you need to make an impression.
Wool Clothes. Wool is light, cool when hot, warm when cold, and keeps off odor longer than most alternatives. I’ve a lot of merino wool t-shirts and socks.
Jacket. For those in cold countries, a lightweight yet warm jacket is a boon – and there are multiple options. Worth the price tag.
3.2 – Your Personal Tech
I’m conflicted with tech. I love the march of progress, but it puts me down to pay up for new gadgets every few years. Still, for the three below, I use them so much that I still pay top-dollar for the best I can get:
Noise-Cancelling Headphones. (If you haven’t tried this – oh, man, it’s a world apart).
(I’m arbitraging with the above. I aim to buy a new computer and phone every year in the USA and sell the older ones in Denmark. I tried this for the first time in 2018 and didn’t have to pay up much. As long as the difference is as big at is, it’s good business!) Also:
Glasses / Contacts. If you need them, get the best you can – especially if you use them a lot.
Sunglasses. I love my Ray Bans – they’re are indestructible – I recommend them wholeheartedly. (Still, almost all fancier sunglasses are made by the same Italian company, did you know?)
4 – Other QOL Ideas
These are all over the place, but time and again show up as key:
Dogs. Pets in general, too. I would love to get a dog – and absolutely love dogs – but can’t square having one with my current lifestyle. (You want a happy dog, too – and dogs suffer in smaller spaces, staying home alone and with owners that travel a lot)
(Dog Walker). Because you can have a dog without the downsides.
Good Bike. (Or Car.)
Driver (or Uber Everywhere). I tried this in Panama for a few months and was delighted.
Pro (Insert Hobby Here) Gear. It’s good and healthy to have hobbies. Invest in them. If you like playing the guitar, get yourself a good one and pay for instruction. If you like tennis, do the same.
5 – Travel
(There has to be travel – right? ;))
Lots of Travel. I wouldn’t have been to 115 countries if it wouldn’t make me happy.
Business Class Travel. Expensive, but amazing. I don’t have enough to travel as much as I do and business, but really hope I do soon!
Travel Backpack. I dig the Minaal Backpack. I’ve used mine for years now, and it’s still in top-shape. I recommend it for all travelers!
+ Pro Travel Gear. Then there’s the other “pro” travel gear: packing hubs, day backpack, travel electrical adapter, etc. (Plus the wool clothes and noise cancelling headphones!)
Visit X Every Year. (Maybe twice a year). This for family (if not close), or specific places you really like – me and Japan, for instance.
That’s it! Is there anything you’ve bought or done that has increased your QOL and is not listed above? I would love to hear about it. Just reply to this email.
Hi From Lake Tana & Travel Plans
I’m right now in Ethiopia (#117), finally visiting after years of wanting to come all the way here. I’ve an itinerary including Lake Tana, Gondar, Lalibela and Axum. If you’re wondering how it all looks – all the photos in this email are from different places in Ethiopia.
There are lots of ancient monasteries, churches, and I will take a sneak peak to the (legendary, mind) resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. (That Ark – the Indiana Jones Ark!) It’s in theory kept in the church in the above photo.
For the rest of spring, I’ve trips planned to Cape Verde (#118), Spain (for work, a few times) and France. It would be good to add a few more places, as I would like to get to 120 countries before summer kicks in. But let’s see.
In all cases, you’ll hear more about travel from me in April – I’ve (finally) some good news to share on that front. But I’ll write you about that in a few weeks.