Originally published by Robert Beisert at fortcollinsprogram.robert-beisert.com

Audit Everything

Suppose, for a moment, that you have a friend who can’t ever seem to get out of debt. Every month they work overtime, every month they pick up their paychecks and cash them promptly, and every month the debt seems to get bigger. When said friend comes to you for advice, what’s the first thing you’d do?

You’d run an audit.

If they’re making enough money that they should be able to get out of debt (that is, they make more than they actually need for basic survival), there must be a good reason why the money is drying up so fast. Perhaps they spend way too much on Amazon, or they buy five drinks a night at an expensive bar, or they buy expensive jewelry for their girl-of-the-month. Of course it could be much more subtle – maybe they’re paying mortgage on a house when their finances don’t really allow for it, or maybe they have a dozen subscription fees they don’t really need. Whatever it is, an audit will find it.

Audit your Inputs

Now consider all the thoughts you put into your head without realizing it. When you go on Facebook, you’re inundated with ads, promoted news stories, and articles by people you don’t really know. When you turn on the television, you’re inundated with whatever messages the advertisers and programs are pushing (knowingly or unknowingly). When you dive into a book or a movie, you’re inundated with the messages of whatever medium you’re engaging.

How often do you stop to think about those messages? If you’re anything like the average person, it’s extremely rare.

Most television programs operate on the premise that men are stupid, socially-incompetent slobs. They have been pushing that message on everyone since at least the 90’s. If you’re a man who watches any appreciable amount of TV, that’s the message you’ve let sink into your skull, and odds are great it’s influencing your self-talk. If you’re a woman, the impact of such messages is arguably even worse.

Modern “literature” tends to be poorly written when compared to works from the 70’s or 80’s. If there’s any philosophical meaning in there at all (and that’s increasingly rare), it doesn’t challenge your current way of thinking about things. If there’s a romance, it’s usually a Disney “fated to happen” romance instead of one in which the participants engage in a realistic manner. If there’s a hero, his heroic gifts are gifts instead of the product of hard work and determination. None of those aspects are conducive to a powerful mindset.

Think carefully about what you really want to allow into your mind, and adjust your media intake accordingly.

Audit your Time

This week, I spent some 23 hours playing video games and 5 hours watching videos on the internet. I enjoyed it very much, but there were better uses of my time.

I also spent 43 hours working, 4 hours driving, 1 hour at the grocery store, 10 hours out of the house socializing in various fashions, and 2 hours writing. While there is some overlap all-around, I keep a loose audit going at all times, so I can know how much I’m wasting and adjust my behaviors accordingly. Notice the things missing from my list:

  • Cleaning
  • Working on my side projects
  • Practicing my musical skills
  • Studying anything
  • Working Out

In a week, the average American spends some 35 hours on TV, 23 hours online or texting, and 13 hours on video games. Add it up and that’s 70 of approximately 100 waking hours wasted (though, again, there could be some overlap). If you make an effort to reclaim time you’d otherwise waste, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.