Life Coach Magazine

Optimize Your Life (And Your 101 Commute)

By Gjosefsberg @gjosefsberg

Traffic in BrisbaneI used to hate my commute.  If you’ve ever driven on the 101 during rush hour, you know exactly why.  The only way in which commuting on the 101 during rush hour could possibly be worse is if zombies would attack my car and try to eat my brains at random overpasses.  On second thought, that would probably make the commute better, at least with zombies I could legally try to hit them, something I can’t do with my fellow drivers.  Plus zombies would probably drive better than some of my fellow commuters (yes, I’m talking to you, the asshole in the Prius, driving in the carpool lane at 55mph!), but I digress.  Needless to say, I HATED my morning and afternoon commute.

Now I love my commute.  Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement, I don’t think anyone loves their commute.  But I no longer have barely controllable urges to smash my head into the steering wheel, which is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned.  In fact, I’m relaxed, happy and quite calm.  What changed you ask?  The obvious answer most people would assume is distance.  I am now commuting a shorter distance.  That would be a very reasonable answer but it would also be a very wrong one.  In fact, my commute is longer (29 miles versus 23 miles).  So really, what changed?

The answer is optimization of all factors involved and that’s also what this website is all about.

Optimization

The definition of optimization is “the design and operation of a system or process to make it as good as possible in some defined sense” and that is what I’m all about.  I was optimizing my route to school when I was a kid and I kept on optimizing the rest of my life.  My first job out of college was in optimization of schedules, I then moved on to optimization of revenue and these days I optimize websites.  Somewhere between revenue and websites, I realized that the idea of optimization applies to life as well.

In fact, the idea of optimization is pretty simple.  First, define an end goal.  Second, figure out what variables are at play.  Third, play with those variables, keeping an eye out for variables you might have missed.  Fourth, compare the results and pick the best setting for each variable.

In somewhat simpler language:

  • Figure out what you want
  • Figure out your options
  • Experiment with each option
  • Pick the best option

Sounds pretty simple and yet most people get it wrong.  Either that or they don’t bother to do it at all.

Rent Versus Buy

Ever get into a discussion with someone who keeps telling you that “buying is always better than renting”?  Ahh yes, we all have.  That person is an idiot.  Buying is not in fact always better than renting but it sometimes is.  The question is, have you run the variables?  Have you created the simple Excel spreadsheet and checked out what would happen if you bought versus rented?  It’s real simple and there are dozens of example spreadsheets out there already pre built for you.  This is a classic example of optimization where all you need to do is plug in some numbers and yet most people don’t bother doing that.  They’re about to make a huge buying decision (a house is most Americans’ largest asset) and they don’t even bother running the numbers on buying versus renting.  Idiots, the lot of them!

Optimizing the Commute

Another example of optimization is my commute to work.  However, my initial error here was a bit more subtle.  I did in fact try to optimize and pick the fastest route, but I was doing my optimization badly.  Here’s the thought process that was going on through my head:

  • Figure out what you want – I want to get to work quickly
  • Figure out your options – I can commute on the 101, on the 280 or on city streets
  • Experiment with each option – 101 is shortest and fastest.  280 is second fastest, city streets are slowest.
  • Pick the best option – I’ll drive on the 101.

This is a classic example of optimizing to the wrong goal.  In fact, I’m not interested in the length of the commute as much as I am interested in how much it pisses me off.  I am willing to drive a bit out of my way if gets me there in a state that resembles more zen calm and less homicidal rage.  Therefore, my optimization should have been:

  • Figure out what you want – I want to get to work fast but I am mostly concerned with quality of commute.  I am willing to sacrifice length for quality (and the women in the crowd laugh…)
  • Figure out your options – I can commute on the 101, on the 280 or on city streets
  • Experiment with each option – 101 is shortest and fastest but makes me want to die.  280 is second fastest by about 5 minutes but is always high speed and contains beautiful vistas of flowers and hills, city streets are slowest and annoying with all the stop lights.
  • Pick the best option – I’ll drive on the 280.  Yes, I’ll get there 5 minutes later but I’ll be much happier and my employees will thank me for it.

See what I mean about optimizing to the wrong goal?

Job Versus Kids

I have a friend who was spending way too much time at the office.  When asked, he said his goal was to give a good life to his kids.  Yet here he was, not spending much time with them.  When he realized how badly optimized his life was, he changed jobs.  Yes, he makes less money now but he spends most of his days working from home with plenty of play time for the kids.  Another prime example of optimization.

What About You?

Do you bother writing goals before making decisions?  Do you consider the alternatives?  Do you experiments with the possibilities?  If not, you’re losing out my friend.  One little bit of optimization changed my commute from 25 minutes of misery to 30 minutes of calm content.

But hey, if you don’t care, feel free to try some other self-improvement site out there.  It’s ok, I don’t mind.  I’d love to help you but you’re the one who needs to make the decision to try this, not me.

However, if you’re willing to try this, stick around for a while.  Together, we can come up with different ways to live our lives.  Ways that are easier, faster, better and still get you there you equally happy (hey, that name is familiar!)  Who knows, maybe we can even improve your life a bit!  And who doesn’t need that?

:)


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