4 Life Tools I Personally Use

I’m admittedly a sucker for learning what other people use in their regular life activities. From morning routines to diet to email management, I love seeing what others use to increase efficiency or effectiveness. So I thought I’d share quickly 4 tools that I use on a regular basis to help both professionally and personally. I also only selected those that also have stood the test of flash-in-the-pan, brief moments of utility and uniqueness - something that I’m also admittedly guilty of falling victim to. 
1. YNAB - You Need a Budget
What: personal cash-flow planning

Why: I love how it forces you to proactively plan your dollars, how it handles credit cards, how it automatically brings in transactions, how easy it is to maintain, and the reports you can generate. I typically categorize and organize from a computer browser, and the budget syncs to my phone and my wife’s phone via the YNAB app.

Frequency: daily
Cost: $84/year (free 34 day trial)
First use: 2011(ish) 
I love that YNAB pushes to multiple devices. 

2. Credit Karma
What: credit monitoring/reporting, pseudo identity protection

Why: Being a nerd in some areas of life, I like tracking numbers - my credit score being one of them. It also functions as a credit monitoring tool, alerting me anytime I (or someone pretending to be me) apply for credit, almost instantaneously. It monitors two out of the big three credit bureaus (Equifax and Transunion).

Frequency: weekly
Cost: free (will try and sell you targeted credit offers)
First use: 2013
Shows your score over time, as well as a breakdown of reasons why. (Note: not my actual account)

3. Google Sheet Habit Tracker
What: A spreadsheet that tracks my habits

Why: After spending most of my life being extremely goal-oriented, reading Atomic Habits shifted my mentality to focus more on habits, and less on outcomes. I experimented with different habit-tracking apps, but didn’t love any of them. I played around creating my own spreadsheet, but then came across this one. (Note: my version is an older one, and I added a “cue” and an “Identity” to reinforce the habits.) I try and tackle 17 habits a day, which arguably is too high, but they range from drinking 90 ounces of water, to recreational time with the kids, to writing 20 minutes a day. The spreadsheet shows me how long I’ve sustained each habit, and a visual of when I’m succeeding or need a nudge. 

Frequency: daily
Cost: free
First use: 2019
Very rewarding (and incentivizing) to see streaks of daily habits. (Note: not my actual sheet)

4. A bag of marbles
What: Literally, a bag of glass marbles

Why: When I have a long list of small tasks to do, it’s hard for me to stay motivated. I read about a similar technique used by a salesman who had a pile of paperclips, and would move one clip over for every sales call he made. A wholesaler years ago gifted me this seemingly weird bag of marbles with a note saying “Don’t put all your marbles in one basket.” If I have 15 tasks to do, I’ll take 15 marbles out of the bag and into a glass jar, and move one marble back into the bag with each completed task. Celebrate the mini wins. 

Frequency: weekly
Cost: free (or steal some from your kids)
First use: 2009(ish) 

Visual incentives are underrated. (Note: these actually are my marbles.)

Interesting Resources

Tim Keller on idols (Counterfeit Gods book)
"Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones [who had literal idols and gods and offered sacrifices to]... We may not actually burn incense to Artemis [the god of wealth], but when money and career are raised to cosmic proportions, we perform a kind of child sacrifice, neglecting family and community to achieve a higher place in business and gain more wealth and prestige."

Value Investing: An Examination of the 1,000 Largest Firms)
9 min read | Alpha Architect
Value isn't quite as dead as it may appear to be. Yes, it's hurting - but depending exactly how you measure a company being considered as "value" changes the results a good bit. This is a great read that's pretty accessible on a pretty academically heavy topic. What I loved most of all, however, was Dr. Vogel's pithy insight towards the end:

The longer I have been in the investment industry, I’ve noticed that people tend to fall into different camps or religions when it comes to investing. 

Vanguard investors — market-cap, low fees
Dividend Investors — invest in firms paying (higher) dividends than other firms
Value investors — buy “cheap” stocks
Growth investors — look for the new “innovative” stocks

Maybe the best outcome 8 is for investors/advisors to match themselves up with portfolios they feel comfortable with and will trust the process.
At the risk of suffering from Flashy New Thing Syndrome, I'd love to hear some regular (daily or weekly) tools or hacks you've been using in your life that have sustained the test of time. 

Simply reply back to the email and let me know. 

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