Doing a Digital Declutter

I recently read Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I was more or less convinced before I picked the book up that I’m wasting too much time on social media and my ability to focus is becoming fragmented. I read this to hear his solution to this issue: Ruthlessly cutting out digital tools that don’t bring you value.

I’d consider myself, in Newport’s parlance, a digital maximalist. I have accounts on every major platform, am an early-adopter of new digital platforms, social networks, and tools, and evangelize tools I find useful. My always connected.

While I generally love this, I’ve noticed that my ability to focus for long periods of time and to sit and observe without needing a distraction (my phone) has diminished significantly. This is a problem. I value my observation abilities and don’t want to lose them. I also have so many things I want to do: Blog posts to write, spoons to carve, places to explore, etc.

  • How much am I missing by mindlessly scrolling through my phone?
  • What could I be doing instead of scrolling?
  • How much value am I getting from the scrolling anyway?

Following Newport’s advice for doing a digital declutter, I took stock of what I think is causing me the most harm: Mindless scrolling. Here’s where it shows most:

  • Computer
    • Reddit
    • Twitter
    • Hacker news
    • Kottke
    • Daring fireball
  • Phone
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Reddit
    • Instagram
    • Email
    • Slack
    • Hacker news
    • Kottke.org
    • Daring Fireball

Only particular cycle that is bad for me is checking Slack, then my email, then Twitter, then Slack, then my email, then Twitter in an endless loop on my phone. I have no idea why I do this. Sometimes I’ll zone out and do this for 15 minutes straight without seeing anything new. Crazy.

I saw that my friend Chris Johnson is doing a digital declutter, so I decided to join him.

Here is my Digital Declutter plan for the next 30 days:

Removing Distractions

  1. Use Focus to block all social media on my Mac.
  2. Use 1Blocker and Screen Time to block all social media in Safari on my iOS devices.
  3. Remove the native social media apps from iOS and macOS.
  4. Reorder my home screen to be productive apps: Writing and journaling apps, workout apps, reading apps, weather, and train/subway schedule apps.
  5. Move work-related and email apps to a folder on the farthest-right screen. The idea is that I need to have them for the workday, but I need to take a deliberate action to get to them. This keeps me from doing the Slack > Email > Slack > Email cycle.
  6. Using the Downtime feature in Screen Time to block access to everything but writing and journaling, iMessage, and Phone between 8pm and 7am.
  7. Removing everything except writing, journaling, coding, and drawing apps from my iPad. Keep the iPad a dedicated device for creation and reflection.
  8. As much as possible, leave my phone on the bookshelf by my desk. This means it is out of my line of site while I’m at my desk, but if I get an important text message, I’ll hear it.
  9. Turn off notifications for everything except Slack, Voxer, and iMessage. The essentials I can’t miss. Pare down the notifications in Slack to just direct messages and @mentions. Channel posts can wait.
  10. I’ll monitor my pickups and phone usage with Screen Time.

Replacing with valuable activities

  1. Instead of scrolling through my phone immediately after I wake up, instead go work out first thing, then make my list of what I want to accomplish for the day.
  2. While at work, focus on work. Don’t take social media breaks. If I need a break, I can go for a walk or write.
  3. Spend my evenings cooking, writing, reading, and spending time with Amanda.
  4. Keep a running list of productive things I can do when I feel the urge to zone out and scroll:
    • Write (cooking blog, journal, main blog, Crash blog)
    • Carve
    • Sharpen my carving knives
    • Take photos
    • Read
    • Draw
    • Go for a walk
    • Listen to an audiobook and clean the house
    • Find a new recipe for my Cooking the Books challenge
    • Sleep
    • Spending time with friends
    • Exercise

You’ll probably still see my post my blog posts on social media, but I’ll be doing that through Buffer so I stay away from the feeds. I still want those readers, you know.

After 30 days I’ll reintroduce some things back into my life, but probably not all, and I’ll probably slim things down quite a bit. Probably some Instagram and Twitter, but restricted times. I’ll probably keep the main phone restrictions. We’ll see.

I’m looking forward to this. I want my attention, observation, and creativity back. And along the way, my happiness.

Get Back On Track

Sometimes I get off track. This is what I need to do to get back on track:

  1. Turn off social media. Remove apps from phone, turn on the 1Blocker (iPad and iPhone) and WasteNoTime (Mac) rules.
  2. Wash your face.
  3. Drink a full glass of water and eat a healthy snack if you need one.
  4. Get your keys and headphones, put on a podcast, go for a walk around the building. Breathe deeply the whole time. Check the mail when you come back in.
  5. Clean off your desk, clean off the dining table, and empty/load the dish washer.
  6. Turn off the podcast and turn on music (Jazz Vibes, Hundred Days Off, or Tycho). Sit down at the dining table with your notebook and make a list of the most important things that need to get one. Evaluate each item and block out a time on the calendar to knock it out over the next few days.
  7. Pick one thing to start work on immediately. Start working.

Putting Daily Drawing On Hold

I’m putting my daily drawing exercises on hold. They tax me more than I want in terms of both time and mental focus. Instead of a fun creative exercise, pushing through these at the end of long work days ends each day on a low note.

I made decent progress in the past three weeks, but at a high cost. Instead of spending more cycles each day on drawing, I’m going to work on it on weekends when I’m relaxed and can dedicate a few hours at a time to it.

I stretched myself too thin and it is taking its toll. Right now my priorities are:

  • Physical and mental health. This means continuing my Starting Strength routine, walking more, turning off work in the evenings to spend more time with Amanda, meditating, cooking more instead of eating out, reading, and going to bed earlier.
  • Work. Make sure I recharge more each night so I can focus and work on hard problems at work.dd

A Reminder to Meditate

Reminder for myself: Meditation is good. Every time I do it I feel better afterward. Doing it continually leads to longer periods of contentment and focus. I tend to not want to meditate when I’m having a tough time because it is easier to complain and shut down than it is to clear my mind and deal with the problems at hand. But I must turn to meditation, especially when things are tough. It helps every time.

There is no right time to quit a job, have kids, or start something new. If you want something, you have to take the first step immediately and figure things out along the way. The right time will never come. Jump now.

Big Wins: Audiobooks

This is the first post of a series that will focus on improvements I’ve made in my life that have led to advances in my productivity, effectiveness, or general well-being. I call these things big wins.

Back in high school, I remember a few people recommended that I listen to audiobooks. I tried, but never got into it on a regular basis. Audiobooks were something that my family listened to in the car on long road trips, but nothing more.

That changed last summer. A post by Sebastian Marshall pushed me over the tipping point, but recommendations from multiple friends led me that far. I must have read the post at the right time. At first, I tried finding free audiobooks, but most were classic novels with low quality narrators. I listened to a few, but only on long drives. I couldn’t seem to get into them otherwise. On my quest for contemporary non-fiction books, I signed up for an Audible account. They seemed to have the best selection and had a deal going on for new subscribers.

That was June 2011. Since then, I’ve purchased about 30 audiobooks and so far I’ve listened to more than 20 of them. Most of them were non-fiction (on a wide variety of subjects), though a few were fiction. I’ve learned quite a bit and I have made many changes to the way I live my life due to what I read (er.. listened to..) in the audiobooks.

I do not use audiobooks as a replacement for reading. I still read physical books that I have to hold in my hands, as well as digital books on my Kindle and iPad. (I am currently reading Brothers Karamazov, Deleting the State, and It Starts With Food the old-fashioned way. I can read multiple books concurrently as long as they aren’t the same genre.) I use audiobooks for when I would otherwise have dead time, such as walking to work, cooking, washing the dishes, or generally doing menial tasks that do not require my full attention. Without changing my schedule, I consumed an extra 20+ books in the past year. I’ve learned a little bit about neuroscience, exercise, diet, philosophy, economics, the founding of Google, the lives of people who have accomplished great things, self-discipline, productivity, travel, and more. I’ve also listened to some excellent literature and bought a physical copy of a few of the titles so I can spend some more time with them.

The majority of the books I listen to are informational books. This isn’t a coincidence: I can listen to informational books in 20 minute chunks without getting lost since most of the information does not rely heavily on what came immediately before it. I save the philosophical books and novels for long drives, plane rides, etc.

This year, I am on track to listen to 50+ audiobooks, again without changing my schedule. I am not pushing off tasks or projects to listen to audio, nor am I cutting into my regular reading time. I am simply being more diligent about listening to audio while I am doing menial tasks. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve gone through a book and a half a week.

A few times a year, Audible runs a $4.95 sale. For a few days they list 200+ titles, mostly popular titles that people actually want to listen to, at $4.95 each. At that price, you can grab 5 great books for $25, which is an insanely good price, considering that the books usually go for between $13-$25 a piece. Each time this sale comes around, I stock up on great titles.

Another way I can listen to so many books is that I play them at 1.5x speed. I think most of the narrators are fairly slow compared to how my friends speak, so listening to the books at 1.5x sounds fine to me. This allows me to listen to an hour of recorded audio in 40 minutes.

A note on podcasts: I haven’t explored them. I know there are many excellent ones that my friends listen to, but audiobooks have been more than adequate for me this past year. I will look into podcasts again soon. I am sure there are a few that I would enjoy listening to each week.

My number one complaint with listening to audiobooks is that my headphones are always tangled. I am currently looking into bluetooth headphones to solve this problem. I think not having to deal with wires will be a significant improvement. (Have any recommendations?–Let me know in the comments.)

What could you learn if you consumed an extra 20 books a year without changing your schedule? More importantly, what are you missing out on? Give audiobooks a try and let me know how it goes.

Giving to beggars: My policy, reasons, and recent outcomes

I have a policy when it comes to giving to people who come up to me in the street and ask for money to buy food or some basic necessity: I tell them that I do not carry cash (this is the truth, I do not carry cash), then offer to purchase for them what they say they need the money for. (I won’t purchase them alcohol, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, or things like that. But, who actually tells you they need those things?)

For a month and a half at the beginning of the summer, no one took me up on my offer. I would get uneasy looks, then the person would decline and walk away. Two examples:
1. A man told me a story about how he had AIDS and how he was in a shelter, and he stands in front of the post office (where he and I both were) opening doors for people so that he can get money to go to Publix and buy juice to drink. It just so happened that I was going to Publix (directly across the street), so I made him my normal offer: “I don’t carry cash, but go across the street with me and I will buy you juice at Publix.” Unsurprisingly to me, he did not take me up on my offer. He said, “Oh, I can’t go to Publix. I’ll manage.” It was obvious to me that he didn’t want to get juice… he just wanted money for other things. (By the look of him, it was likely drugs.) So, I walked away, and he continued asking people for money. (I wonder if he changed his story?)
2. I work in downtown Atlanta right now. I walk down the street multiple times a day, and get asked for money at least once a day, usually more. This story is true (and typical of what usually happens): As I was walking between my office and Georgia Pacific, a man approached me and asked me if I could spare a dollar for a sandwich. I told him that I do not carry cash, but I would walk one block down the street with him to the food court and buy him a meal. He looked kind of worried and said, “No, that’s okay,” and walked away. This happens most of the time. I can only assume these people want something other than a sandwich, but don’t want to admit it. It is strange to me that they do not take me up on my offers, though. [EDIT: It was pointed out to me that it does not necessarily follow that people want this money for other things. See the comments.]

After a month and a half, I actually had two people take me up on the offer, just a day apart. One was a woman, the other a man. The woman took me up on buying her a MARTA (Atlanta’s metro system) ticket to somewhere on the other side of town so she could get to a women’s shelter. The man wanted soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant so he could be clean for an interview. I have no idea whether the stories they told me were true or not, but that does not matter to me. I made an offer, and I held up my end of it once they accepted. I can only pray that these individuals use what I bought them to help alleviate their situation.

Some people have asked me why I do this. Here are my reasons:
-Offering to buy someone food or basic necessities instead of immediately rejecting them and walking away acknowledges that person’s human dignity. These people get treated as less them human all day, so the least I can do is acknowledge their dignity and offer to help them out.
-Offering to buy someone food or basic necessities weeds out most people who want money for something else, such as drugs or alcohol. I’ve made the over dozens of times with only two people taking me up on it so far. This way, I can help people who really need it. I know this isn’t a perfect system, but I think it is better than just giving out cash. If people actually need help, I feel an obligation to help them.
-In 2008, when I attended my first FEE seminar, Dr. Anthony Carilli finished out the week by telling the attendees that, besides being a professor, speaker around the US, and an umpire for minor league baseball, he is a volunteer fireman. Why? In his words, “If you believe in the free market, you have to be willing to do your part to support it.” I’ve thought about that statement a lot in the last four years. If I advocate abolishing government welfare programs, I have to be willing to help people out with my own time and money. I am trying to do that.

Some people I know have objected to my practice. One guy said that I am just providing temporary relief to their problem and it doesn’t really help them. So, when I asked him what he recommends, he cited a privately run homeless shelter that has strict rules about work, but actively helps people get jobs and is surprisingly good at doing so. But the guy who told me this does not donate to such shelters or individuals, and isn’t actively trying to start one. That is fine with me. It is his time and his money, which he can do what he wants with it.

One of my favorite professors at Hillsdale always says, “Once you confront a situation or possibility, you have to own it.” The situation I am confronted with on a daily basis is people asking me for help. This is my way of owning it. I know it is not perfect, but I am trying to do what I can.

Summer Job

This summer I had an internship with the Foundation for Economic Education. I was based out of Atlanta where I worked with the Programs branch of the organization. We did a total of 7 week-long seminars in 3 cities (Atlanta, Estes Park, CO, and Irvington, NY) with over 600 students in attendance during the 2010 summer seminar series.

To see more about the summer, check out the Summer In Review book I put together for FEE (3.6mb pdf). It is full of my photos from the summer!

Or, for a condensed version, check out the insert I made for The Freeman (1.8mb pdf):

Ozone Falls

On Friday morning, I started my trip down to Atlanta for my summer internship with the Foundation for Economic Education. I got to my grandparents’ house in Kingston, Tennessee in the early evening and stayed with them for two nights. I had a nice time staying with them, and they took me to a few neat places on Saturday. We went to Ozone Falls and Black Mountain. Here are a few photos of Ozone Falls:
(Click on the photos to view them at a larger size)

I got to the apartment I am staying at for the summer in Sandy Springs, GA this afternoon. It is just north of Atlanta. The apartment is new and spacious, and in a very good location! I am living there with two other FEE guys- one intern and one full time employee (a Hillsdale grad). I am really looking forward to this summer!

Spring Break Part 4 of 4 – Nice

The last city I stayed in was Nice, a beautiful city in the on the French Riviera in south-eastern France. It is such a gorgeous place! David and I took an overnight train from Bordeaux and arrived around 8:30 in the morning. The train was an experience… we stayed in a couchette car with four other people and were woke up multiple times during the night by either a shaking train or children with asthema. Anyway, once we arrived we put our stuff at the hotel, freshened up, and bought some pastries and ate them on the edge of the Mediterranean. The rest of that day and the next were devoted to much exploring and eating, then I had to take another overnight train to Paris to fly home.

I hope you enjoy the photos! Click on them to see them at a larger size.

The Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean Sea:

Natural rock formations that I climbed out on many times (with a kayaker!)

The harbor and the hillside:

Arches – possibly an old aquaduct?

A small lighthouse/beacon at the edge of the harbor:

Lit walkway on the edge of the sea

Rocky beach, the sea, and the sun: (click to view large!)

Me sitting on the rocks on the edge of the sea (Photo by David):

Rough waters as a storm rolls in:

Entrance to the harbor on a cloudy day:

Thank you for checking out my photos from spring break! I hope you enjoyed them.

Spring Break Part 3 of 4 – Bordeaux

Finally, after a stressful week, I have a few hours before I have to start studying for finals.

Here are my photos from Bordeaux, where I spent the most time. There I did lots of things like exploring alone, spending a day in a French high school (not pictured), and going to a small funeral at a small village in wine country (long story, and not pictured), and ate lunch with some British folk (also not pictured). Here are my favorite photos from my wanderings in Bordeaux. I hope you enjoy them! Click on the photos to view them at a larger size.

I got caught in a downpour, but afterwards this rainbow over Garonne River and Pont de Pierre bridge appeared. Definitely worth standing in the rain to see:

The riverwalk and quays along the Garonne River:

Pont de Pierre bridge at night:

The general chaos that is a French street. Trams, bikes, motorcycles, cars, and pedestrians walking any which way:

Place du Palais:

Silhouettes:

Delightful pastries in a cafe:

The riverwalk again:

I was amazed at how much French men pee in public. It seems like they go wherever they feel like. When I looked though my photos, I was surprised to find this. I didn’t notice this guy when I took the photo!

Statues:

Cathedral St. Andres:

Behind St. Bruno church:

Check back in a few days for photos from Nice!

Spring Break Part 2 of 4 – Arcachon

After my short stay in Paris, I took a train a few hours south to Bordeaux, where my friend David lives. After a short nap at David’s apartment, we immediately went to the town of Arcachon, a small but beautiful place on the Atlantic (well, technically on Arcachon Bay, but we could see where the bay opened up to the Atlantic from the beach.) We were originally going to go there two days later, but the forecast was rain for that day, so we went right after arriving from Paris. Below are a few photos. As always, you can click on the photos to make them appear at a larger size.

Arcachon Bay:

The summer village:

Down in the summer village:

Down in the summer village (again):

The breakwater and oceanfront:

Two beautiful houses in the afternoon sun:

Me! (Photo taken by David Wagner)

Next up, Bordeaux! (Check back in a few days!)

Spring Break Part 1 of 4 – Paris

I am finally getting around to posting some of my spring break photos from France! I won’t write the story of my trip on here… I would much prefer to tell you in person, so call me and ask me to hang out! (Or if you are too far away to do that, call me and we can talk!)

I will post some of my favorite photos from the trip in a series of posts, one for each place I visited. This post, Paris, will start it out. Coming soon will be Arcachon, Bordeaux, and Nice. Keep checking back throughout the week! Keep in mind that these are just my favorites. If you want to see more of my photos, let me know! (I can show you them at the same time I tell you my stories!)

Click on each photo to see it at a larger size.

Luxemburg Gardens:

A typical Parisian street:

The Seine river at night with Notre Dame in the distance:

A closer view in the daytime:

Notre Dame at night:

Carvings above the Notre Dame doors:

Inside Notre Dame

Sacre Coeur:

Sacre Coeur (closer)

Two metros passing each other (long exposure, handheld)

Eiffel Tower at night from Hannah Stone’s window:

Stairway in the Hotel Herse d’Or that David and I stayed at:

Hotel de Ville from across the Seine at night:

Check back soon for more photos!

March Madness

Sorry basketball fans. This blog post is talking about the March madness of Hillsdale and my life. Complete with photos!

First off, the weather has been crazy here. It has gone from the teens to the upper sixties in temperature, and everywhere from snow to rain to sunshine.

Here are a few photos of the campus:
(Click on the photos to view them larger)

March, for me at least, was filled with exams, deadlines, presentations, meetings, photography, and occasional illness. I am happy to report that all turned out for the best.

During the fourth CCA, director Peter Bogdanovich showed up on campus to give an informative and entertaining lecture:

There was a week and a half span where the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The temperature was in the 50s and 60s, and the skies were clear and blue. I did a lot of studying outside those days. There were also a lot of frisbee games and guitars bring played on the quad during those days.

One evening, the classics honorary decided to put on a Virgil Vigil. They read all twelve books of the Aeneid on the quad late into the night:

Also, the Charger Baseball season started!

Last night, instrumental guitarist Trace Bundy did a concert at Hillsdale, which was excellent. I did not take any photos, but I am sure William Clayton will post some soon.

I am leaving a lot of things out, but it is for the best. These things are just a quick glimpse of my past month.

Now, it is finally spring break. I am home in Amherst for the evening, then tomorrow (Friday) I will be on a plane to France to spend spring break traveling around France with my friend David Wagner. I am visiting Paris, Bordeaux, Arcachon, and Nice. I am very excited! I will post about it when I get back.

Update on My Life

Wow, it has been over a month since I last updated! It was so relaxing to not have to come up with a post every day that I came up with no posts at all. For those of you who used this blog as a window into my life, rest assured after you read this. I have not taken off to the wilderness of Alaska to live in seclusion from the social world. I just took a break from updating this blog. Below is the highlight of what has happened during that time.

The last time I updated (about palindromes) I was in Tennessee for a funeral. My family and I got back home from that trip just fine, and I drove myself to Chicago two days later to visit with/drop some things off to my cousin. Though I only stayed one night and turned around and drove back home the next day, I had a nice visit. I ate some tasty deep dish pizza, got to experience driving a vehicle through the Michigan Ave. traffic, and I ate at Hot Doug’s Sausage Emporium. What an excellent place. A whole restaurant devoted to sausage! I can’t wait to go there again. Anyway, the drive back home from Chicago took much longer than normal, since a huge snowstorm hit the midwest the night before and dumped a lot of snow everywhere. It also did not stop snowing the whole time I was driving home, so once it got dark, the last 150 miles across Ohio with slick roads, 45 mph traffic, and lots of semis made for a lot of fun.

Three days after I got home from that trip, it was time for me to go back to Hillsdale and start a new semester. (Here is my schedule.) My classes are going very well. They are a lot of work, but I enjoy it and would not have it any other way. Besides a lot of classwork, I’ve been tutoring a local home schooled student in geometry, specifically proof writing. I’ve also been taking a fair amount of photos for Hillsdale and the Collegian. I will post a sample of photos sometime over the next week.

Two weeks into the semester, I went to Chicago again for the weekend with some friends to hang out and do some exploring. On the way there, the tread flew off the back right tire. Changing the tire, filling it up, and finding an auto parts store to replace the broken tail light (from the tread) was an adventure in itself. We had fun, though, and we got back to school safely. Sadly, we did not get to eat at Hot Doug’s, though. Next time.

I finalized my spring break plans–I am going to France to visit David Wagner! I figured that this may be the only opportunity I will have to visit a friend in France who I can stay with and who actually speaks French, so I decided to take it. I am flying in to Paris on a Saturday morning, taking a train to Bordeaux on Monday, visiting the Atlantic ocean Wednesday during the day and back to Bordeaux that evening, taking an overnight train to Nice on the Mediterranean Thursday night, back to Paris Saturday, and flying back home Easter Sunday. I will then drive back to Hillsdale on Monday. It will be a busy trip, but I am very excited!

Also, big news for the summer. I was offered an internship at the Foundation for Economic Education! I will be in Atlanta for all of June, then in Estes Park, CO (right outside Rocky Mountain National Park) for most of July, back in Atlanta for a week, then Irvington, NY for a week. I will be taking photos, helping run FEE’s summer seminars, and any other miscellaneous jobs they need me to do. I will have a couple weeks at home after this semester is over before I leave, and a couple weeks before I have to start the fall semester. I am looking forward to a great summer!

I will do my best to post more often. Check back over the next week for a sample of my photos from the last month!

Day 364 – The Fireplace

As I stood in front of the fireplace this evening, I realized that I don’t remember a time when my family has not had one. Both of our houses have had one, and so has my grandmother’s house. It is so wonderful to come inside from a cold, snowy, windy day and warm up in front of the fire. It is also a wonderful place to sit in front of and read or think. As soon as the weather turns cool, I yearn for the smell of a wood fire in the air outside and the warmth inside that it provides. It is something I miss greatly in cold Hillsdale, MI.

Back in October, when the weather first turned cold in Hillsdale, I walked out of my dorm, felt the cold air biting at my face, and breathed in deeply through my nostrils. Almost instantly I stopped in my tracks and smiled. The old familiar smell of a wood fire was in the air and it comforted me with thoughts of home.

I am taking advantage of the fire as much as I can over this Christmas break. Soon I will return to Hillsdale and it will be gone when I return later in the spring when the weather is warmer.

Day 363 – New Year’s Resolutions

I did a little thinking on New Year’s resolutions today, and they do not make much sense to me. Why resolve to do something that you think will better your life in some way starting at a future date? Whether what you are doing is trying to break a bad habit (smoking, drinking, overeating, procrastinating, etc.) or doing something positive (reading your Bible and praying more, saving money, becoming more disciplined, getting in shape, etc.), why not start as soon as it occurs to you to make a resolution for the upcoming year? January 1, 2010 is really not much different than December 31, 2009, or even December 10, 2009. If you have a change you want to make in your life, it is best to implement that change immediately. Waiting to make a change does not make much sense to me (with one exception, stated below.) If, for example, you want to lose weight but keep overeating until January 1, what have you accomplished? You have only made it more difficult for yourself. If you’ve waited until January 1, what is one more day? Pretty soon those “one more” days might add up… If you are going to do something, do it now.

The only reason I see to wait until January 1 to start a resolution is if the new calendar year offers some strategic advantage not available beforehand. Examples include a discount on a gym membership, daily Bible reading plans that go in order and start on January 1, or something similar. Keep in mind, however, that there are two sides to resolutions–the overarching ideas and the specific details. Waiting until January 1 because of a discount on a gym membership falls on the details side. If your resolutions are detail-specific, find the idea behind those details and implement other complementary details now that help you stay true to the idea behind the resolution.

A loophole I see to this is if you are a type of person who absolutely needs structured dates to start something and thrives on that. In that case, waiting to start resolutions until January 1 might help you. For everyone else, I suggest you start now. If your resolution is so unimportant that you can wait until January 1, why even start it then? If it will really make a difference, start immediately.