tools for doing more

Be Free to Do More

In my last post, we talked about how my lifestyle leaves me free to do less. That’s a pretty obvious result. Today we’re going to talk about something a little less obvious: how this lifestyle leaves me free to do more and motivates me to do so too.

As I’ve mentioned before, the life I’ve built for myself leaves me with a lot of free time. That’s great, but it can be a trap too. You can actually get into a rut of doing nothing. And like any other rut, it can be tough to get out of.

Stuck in a Rut

I fell into that trap. There was a period in my life where I basically did nothing of note. What did I do with my time:

  • Worked literally 10 minutes a day
  • Went out to eat and to clubs
  • Played computer games
  • Exercised

And that’s pretty much it.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. I worked hard to be “freer tomorrow,” and when tomorrow got here, I took advantage. I had been working tons of hours and dealing with huge stresses for years. So just hanging out and catching my breath for a while wasn’t a bad idea.

But… This went on for 2 years!

I was stuck in a big rut. Even after I realized it, I found it hard to get unstuck. I felt bad. I was drifting through life and I hated it. I’m happiest when I feel like I’m making some sort of progress. It was clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere during this time, but breaking out of that rut was surprisingly tough.

It took a 10-week stint working at a stealth 3D printing startup in Puerto Rico to finally snap me out of it. The company failed in a scandalous manner, and I never got paid a cent, but at least I was unstuck.

One thing I learned from all this is that anyone, even someone as hard-driven as I used to be, can get lazy and lose direction. Another thing I learned is that too much freedom and too much free time can be dangerous for someone who is used to working hard. If you don’t believe me, try talking to some retirees. Many suffer from having too much time on their hands. It can happen to anyone.

Sometimes Being Free to Do More is the Answer

The solution to the problem of too much freedom, of just drifting through life, is to do more. If you have something you want to, or need to do, then you eliminate the problem of drifting. When you have a regular job, and a regular life, this isn’t a problem. Your job gives you things you need to do (whether you want to or not).

When you are truly free, you need to figure out what it is you’re going to do. But if you do this right, you will have the time and the energy to figure it all out. You are free to do more than just hang out for a few years. And best of all, you get to choose what your “more” is. Some people donate time to charity. Others work on improving their health, or develop a new hobby.

Right now, I’m taking advantage of my free time and energy to administer my mother’s estate. I could pay an attorney to handle this, and if I was still living and working in the USA, I would. But now I have the time and the energy to do this myself. It certainly isn’t a fun project, but it is important to me and my siblings. It’s also important for keeping me from falling back into a rut of doing nothing in particular.

free to do more legal forms

Legal forms are boring but exercise the mind.

Doing this is forcing me to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do. Deciphering all the legal gibberish involved isn’t fun, but it keeps my mind active. Living in Ecuador and dealing with an estate in New Jersey also requires a lot of problem solving. Even something as simple as getting a document notarized can turn into a project. Not exactly fun, but something to keep me motivated and thinking.

What This Means to You

What should you be taking away from all this? If you work hard to be freer tomorrow, someday you will be. At that point you will face the problem of being too free and needing to find things to do with your time and energy. Don’t waste years of your life like I did. You need to plan for freedom. As you go along, spare some thought for what you will do when you are free to do more.

We’ve talked about being freer to do less, and freedom to do more. Next we will talk about one more freedom you will want to take advantage of, the freedom to change your priorities.



Being free to do less

Be Free to Do Less

Have you ever thought what it would be like to be free to do less?

If you live in the West, particularly in the United States, you are likely on the run every waking minute. Part of that is necessity. With the economy falling apart, jobs scarce, and raises non-existent, most people have to bust ass just to keep from drowning.

But a big part of this is cultural. In the USA, there is always pressure for more. More stuff, bigger stuff, better stuff. Already got more stuff than you know what to do with? That’s not important. Buy more.

You are bombarded 24/7 with advertisements and subtle pressure to work harder and borrow more money to buy more shit you don’t really need. And recently it has gotten even worse. Now the governments of the West are busy flogging you to buy more stuff too.

After 9/11, President Bush said that everyone needed to go shopping to get the economy moving again. Since then governments everywhere say it is your duty to buy shit you don’t need to stimulate their economies and save the world from a recession or worse. And of course the central banks (the Fed, or Federal Reserve in the USA) are manipulating interest rates to punish you if you are evil enough to save, instead of borrow and spend.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. I have figured out how to change my life to (mostly) free myself from these pressures. Because of the way I’ve organized things, I am free to do less. I can live within my means, even while working for myself and putting in far less than 40 hours a week. And I don’t feel the pressure to have the latest, greatest, most expensive version of whatever the marketing guys are trying to ram down my throat this week. I even put my money in banks in places where you earn a decent amount of interest.

In other words, I am free to do less while maintaining a good quality of life.

I’m not perfect of course. I grew up in the USA and still get those occasional mad urges to buy something new and shiny and expensive that I don’t really want or need. But those impulses are mostly under control now.

What You Gain When You Are Free to Do Less

When you are free to do less, your stress levels will go down and your health will likely improve. Over the last few years I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I look and feel much healthier than most of the guys I went to school with. And because I am not constantly working, I am free to actually live.

Yesterday we spent the entire afternoon visiting with friends, playing pool, and watching a soccer match on TV. It was a Tuesday and you were probably busting your butt at the office. If you keep working to be freer tomorrow, you will eventually be free to do less. You’re gonna like it.

Being free to do less is great. But sometimes that’s not what you want. You can also be free to do more.

Phone with no signal.

Kill Interruptions with Android’s Do Not Disturb Mode

I love my smartphone as much as the next person. But when it comes time to get serious work done (or I just want some peace and quiet), I sometimes want to throw the thing against the wall. The constant beeping and buzzing and ringing of incoming messages can make it impossible to concentrate. But things are much better now that I have started using the Do Not Disturb option built into my Android phone.

I’ve known about the Airplane Mode on smartphones for years. I use it all the time when flying. And I use it at night when I go to sleep and don’t want to be awakened by spam email, or somebody’s drunken Facebook post at 2am. It works great for this.

But Airplane Mode is hard-core. Your phone’s built-in radios are deactivated. No calls or messages arrive from anyone. You can’t place calls either. And you have no GPS or Internet either. You are completely out of touch when Airplane Mode is on.

Do Not Disturb mode on Android phones gives you much more control. In this mode, your phone is still connected to the world. You can use the Internet, make calls, send messages, all that good stuff. And people can still send you messages.

But Do Not Disturb mode stops the phone from notifying you about those calls and messages. It mutes all incoming calls and alerts. In other words, you still get messages on your phone. And people can still leave you voice mail. You just won’t get the noise and flashing lights that would otherwise distract you from what you are doing.

You can also use this mode to block only certain people, or set it to activate automatically on a schedule. But in this post I’m going to show you how to find and use the basic Do Not Disturb mode. If you want details on the fancier aspects, leave me a message below and I’ll do another post specifically on that.

This puts you in control. Instead of incoming stuff grabbing your attention whenever it arrives, you only see the stuff when you want to. Using Do Not Disturb makes it easier to concentrate when you need to and gives you a bit of control over the endless distractions that bombard you every day.

So if this all sounds good to you, let me show you how to put the basic Android Do Not Disturb mode to work.

How to Turn Do Not Disturb Mode On and Off

I’m going to walk you through this step by step. But before I do, I have to make a disclaimer. Android phones don’t all work exactly the same. Each version of Android does things slightly differently. And phone manufacturers often add their own bells and whistles to the stock Android setup. On top of that, mobile phone companies (the guys who own the phone networks, not the ones who manufacture the phones) sometimes add their own unique twists to the interfaces of phones that run on their networks. And if you are using a non-Android device I am virtually certain it won’t work but you shouldn’t be reading this post anyway.

That’s all to say that while what I am about to tell you works on my phone (a Samsung Galaxy J7 running Android 5.1.1), I can’t guarantee that it will work on yours. It probably will, but I can’t guarantee it. The bright side of the story is that what we are about to do here can’t break your phone in any way so there is no risk in trying. Ready?

Finding Do Not Disturb

The first step is to find the Do Not Disturb option on your phone. If your phone has this capability, you should be able to find it somewhere on the Settings screen. On my particular model of phone, it is an option in the Notifications section of the the Sounds and notifications page. This is the logical place for it, and if your phone supports it, you will likely find it here.

Do Not Disturb on Sounds and notifications screen

Look for the Do Not Disturb option here.

Using Do Not Disturb

As I said, today we are not concerned with the fancier options under Do Not Disturb. To activate this mode, tap Do not disturb. You should then see a slider or similar option that allows you to turn this mode On or Off. That’s all it takes.

You can tell when Do Not Disturb is active by looking for its icon on the phone’s notification area at the top of the screen. In the image below it is the leftmost icon at the top of the screen.

The Do Not Disturb icon

The Do Not Disturb icon is the one in the top left corner of the screen.

Turning this mode on and off is easy once you get to the right place. But if you are going to be using this option regularly, you probably would like it to be easier to get at. We can make that happen too (depending on the capabilities of your specific phone of course).

Adding Do Not Disturb to the Quick Access Settings

Until recently, I was clueless about this aspect of Android. In the standard (stock) version, you can place two fingers side-by-side at the top of the phone screen, then drag them down to display a group of Quick Access Settings. These settings are typically thinks like WiFi, Sound, and so on. However, these may not be the only options you have available. Chances are, you will be able to put Do Not Disturb here in place of one of the other options. Let me show you how this works on my phone.

When I originally did the two-fingered drag, this is what I saw:

My default Quick Settings

Here’s what my Quick Settings used to look like.

Notice the blue text that says, EDIT? When I tapped that, the phone gave me some new options:

More Quick Settings Options

More possibilities to display as Quick Settings.

Note that Do Not Disturb was one of those options and Airplane Mode another. All you need to do is long tap (press and hold) an icon and after a moment you will be able to drag it around the screen. I dragged those two up there, displacing Screen Rotation and Location. Once I was finished, my Quick Settings looked like this. Mission accomplished!

Do Not Disturb on Quick Settings bar.

Do Not Disturb as a Quick Setting for easy access.

Me, enjoying the freer tomorrow I've made for myself.

Be Freer Tomorrow – I Can Show You How

Welcome to Freer Tomorrow. For the last few days I’ve been wrestling with what to write for the first post on this blog. Do I talk about a typical day in my current, much freer life? Do I hit you with some philosophical rambling about freedom and dignity, blah, blah, blah?

Then the power went out.

While it was out, I read an online news story that said lame-duck President Obama had, without the approval of Congress, given away US control of the Internet domain naming system. Control now moves to an international body that apparently includes the biggest advocates of Internet censorship on the planet. Not at all a step toward making people freer tomorrow.

Since you’re sharp and observant, you may be wondering about that last bit. Not the bit about Obama giving away the Internet (he’s had that in the works for a while now). The bit about reading the article online while the power was out.

The reason I could still be online even with the power out is of course the data plan on my smartphone. The power was out here at my house, meaning no WiFi and no Internet access through my normal provider. But my phone’s data plan is with a different company, located far away from here. They weren’t at all affected by the lightning strike or whatever it was that knocked out my power.

“Wow dude, you’ve got a data plan for your phone. That’s not very impressive,” you say. You’re right. Having a data plan normally isn’t a big deal. In this case, it was simply a short power outage. Nothing more than an inconvenience.

Bad Stuff Happens

But what if something more serious had happened…

Ecuador Earthquake Photo at Freer Tomorrow.

Earthquake devastation in Ecuador, April 2016.

…like the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit us here in Ecuador in April, 2016.

I live far enough away from the crisis zone that the damage was minor. I was only without power for one day. Just as today, my home had no Internet connectivity (or lights or anything else), but I was able to connect to the Internet using my phone’s data plan. I was able to let my family know I was ok. And I was able to notify one of my clients that the review I was writing for him would be delayed a bit.

By paying a small amount per month for that data plan, I have freed myself from dependence on a single connection to the Internet.

Being Freer Tomorrow Can Mean Many Things

The example above may not have been what you were thinking of when you decided to check in here. But don’t go just yet. We all have our own ideas of what being freer tomorrow looks like:

  • Being fabulously wealthy.
  • Living wherever you want.
  • Spending more time with your family and friends.
  • Finding your perfect match.
  • Being free from other people telling you what to do.

You get the idea.

These days it seems like personal freedom is under assault from every direction, and all those things I listed are harder and harder to achieve. You can read all about the bad stuff anywhere. We’re going to talk about something different here. We’re going to talk about things you can do to achieve your dream of being freer tomorrow.

Much of what you will read in this blog comes directly from my life. I have become much freer than I used to be and am probably much freer than you are. With a lot of hard work, and the help of various people, I’ve gone pretty far toward reaching my idea of freedom.

Unfortunately for me, it has taken years of research and experimentation to get here. What I want to do in this blog is show you things that have worked for me and for others. I want to help you get freer faster than I did. I want to inspire you to take action.

Why Listen to Me?

I was pretty much your typical American middle-class baby boomer. I made out pretty well during the whole Internet boom in the 90’s. Nice house in the suburbs, a wife, a kid, two cars, vacations to Disney, all that jazz.

Then it all went to hell.

My parents got sick. Then my brother and my brother-in-law both badly injured their backs. My nephew got cancer. Next my Dad died and I had to take care of my Mom, who suffered from dementia. Almost everyone in my immediate family needed help at once.

Between family responsibilities and the end of the dot-com boom I got laid off (multiple times). My marriage failed. For 2 years I had to drive 600-miles round trip every other week just to see my daughter. With everything, I was unable to even think about getting a regular job. I had to declare bankruptcy.

It was not the best of times.

While I was struggling with all this I never gave up on rebuilding my life. I knew I didn’t want to go back to the way it was before. I wanted to do right by my family. But at the same time, I wanted more freedom, even more than I had when times were good.

The Struggle Was Worth It

It has taken years but that is all in the past now. Today I have a nice house in an exotic location. I eat mostly organic food and have affordable medical care that actually produces results.

I have lots of friends and time enough in my schedule to hang out with them. “Meet you downtown for coffee this afternoon? No problem! Head to the coast for a few days? Why not!” I’ve cut my cost of living so much that I can pay for everything working only around 10 hours a week.

I’ve spent the last 15+ years of my life working to working to get beyond all the problems and roadblocks that were holding me back. Now I want to share what I’ve learned so you can be freer tomorrow too. Some things, like getting a data plan for your smartphone are easy. Others, like getting out of bad relationships or financial trouble, take some significant work. And some, like moving to another country, are literally life-changing.

Aren’t There Already People Talking About This Stuff?

Yes and no. I’m not trying to claim that I am the only person who knows how to do this. There are lots of people who have become freer than before and are sharing that information online. But most of the people who do talk about this seem to be in their 20’s and 30’s. And most of the information about how to live this kind of life is written by people in that age group, for people in that age group.

There’s also an entire industry out there that caters to the needs of retirees.

But what about people like me? People in our 40’s, 50’s, even 60’s who want to be freer, but aren’t retired, and don’t want to live like a 20-something on a sex tour of Southeast Asia. When I was starting out down this road I searched high and low for information that applied to people like me. There’s very little out there for us. I aim to fix that problem with this blog.

That said, it’s my hope and belief that you will find at least a few interesting and useful ideas in the posts to come. Here’s to a freer tomorrow for you!

One type of freedom that you may enjoy is the freedom to do less.