A Preview Thought on “Aaron Proofing”

Over the past few years, I’ve been “Aaron Proofing” my life.  In essence, I have been observing myself in the wild, recognizing my faults, and correcting them as I can.  More important than correcting the faults is preventing them.  When I find something that I do which effectively sabotages my life, I do everything I can to avoid it.  Avoid places I make poor choices, learn about possible good choices for those places that I can’t avoid, organize like a motherfucker, schedule things, and employ helpful life tools.

My best example of where I used to sabotage myself like crazy is bills.  I’m not counting the times that I’ve been broke from just being poor, but rather the times I spent too much or became broke from being a dumbass.  Wrangling your spending seems to be a difficult task for a lot of people.  It really wasn’t for me.  It just one month of mostly passive Quicken use to see just where and how I was wasting my money.  Maybe I’ll go into more detail later, but it become painfully obvious just how poorly I was managing my money and I started trimming the fat immediately.  Also – coupons.

Being a dumbass was a lot harder for me to tackle.  After all, I am quite a dumbass.  A common bit of dumbassery I performed was not paying bills, and not for lack of money.  I wouldn’t pay them because I would forget that I needed to.  Yes, I know, this is extremely stupid.  How can I be such a piece of shit?  It’s because I need reminders.  With paper bills, you are at least prompted to handle them.  Unfortunately, once prompted, it’s very easy to toss aside and ignore.  You come home, grab your mail, walk through the door, and drop your giant stack of bullshit in some forgettable place.  Sometime later that night you open your mail and find a bill or two to pay.  You could handle it then, but you need a stamp, your checkbook, and maybe an envelope.  I don’t have that shit just hanging around my lounging area, so that encourages another spot of procrastination.  Eventually, you see the bill one evening and pick it up.  You look at the “pay by” date, realize it’s only a few days away and put together the payment.  The bill, the check, the envelope, the stamp – everything is filled out, sealed, and ready to go.  Then it sits on a table or couch for a day or two because you have to bring it to a drop box (they don’t pick up the mail from my mailbox… not sure why).  Before you know it, the bill has gone unpaid and now you have a late charge.

Electronic bills are worse, and possibly stupider-er.  Once I’m aware of the bill, it’s really just a minute (if that) of doin’.  The problem is a lack of a prompt.  No emails, no alerts, nothing.  The bill is just there and you have to remember when to pay it.  My days all run together, so how the hell am I supposed to know when something is due?

These are problems that have been solved long before my dumbass started having them, and it’s sad that it took me so long to figure them out, but… yeah, I don’t have any good excuses.  Here’s how I dealt with my shitty self on bills:

  • Turn as many bills to “autopay” as possible (I know that I could set them all up that way through my bank, but I’m not completely comfortable with all of them)
  • Put everything that I need to pay paper bills in one place and make that place where I open my mail
  • Program calendar alerts for electronic bills on my phone
And I haven’t had a problem since.
On that note, there’s actually a problem that I fixed years ago which I see so fucking many people of all ages struggling with – forgetting shit that you need to have with you.  It blows my mind how often people forget keys, key-cards, badges, wallets, phones, documents, medication, blah blah blah.  This problem is so fucking easy to not have.  There’s a phrase – “Organization will set you free”.  I don’t know who first coined this brilliant oxymoron, but I first heard it from Alton Brown on the cooking show Good Eats.  It might seem dumb as shit to begin with, but it’s genius.  Organize all of your stuff, make set places for your stuff, and put your shit back where it belongs when you’re done.  The night stand works great for me, but I find that a simple end-table or a tray on the kitchen counter works wonders for most people.  Just a simple, clear space to toss your keys, phones, day-vibrator, reading glasses, and so on is great way to keep from being a piece of shit.  And keep in mind – when you forget the stuff that you use every day, people around you are thinking, “Wow, that dude/chick is a total piece of shit.  How do you forget your (insert thing you stupidly forgot here)?  You use it every fucking day!”  I know that I think that.
Too much work for you?  Here’s a compromise for the truly stupid/lazy/shitty.  When you get home from work, all of the shit that you need to go to work the next day is already in your pocket/bag/purse, right?  It’s right there with you in the stuff that you are wearing or carrying.  Are you going to forget your briefcase?  I suppose it’s possible, but for most of us, grabbing our work bag is just something we do.  You certainly wouldn’t forget your pants… by accident, at least.  So take all of your shit out of today’s clothes/bags and put them in the clothes/bags you’re going to wear/bring tomorrow.  Problem solved.  You have started down the path you “Me Proofing” your own life.
tl;dr – I’m a dumbass, but I’ve been working on fixing me.  If you don’t already, you should give it a try.

I find the hardest things to “Me Proof” are usually related to attitude and habit.  Like getting home, pouring an adult beverage, and doing nothing productive until I wake up the next morning.  Or worse, not giving a fuck when I do but getting really salty at myself the next day for wasting the time.  It’s tough to get a hold of, but worth while to work on fixing.