The Quick Guide to Designing Your Ideal Lifestyle In Less Than 24 Hours (Using The ACE Method)

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. – George Bernard Shaw

Books, blogs, forums, summits and more abound in the world of Lifestyle Design (LD). Minimalism is a very particular and specific niche in the world of LD. This blog is about minimalism, as well as myriad concepts, tips and tools in designing your life the way you see fit.

But first thing’s first. What IS Lifestyle Design?

Lifestyle Design Defined

Simply put, Lifestyle Design is about experimenting with lifestyle choices and methods to get you to where you are having the most freedom, fun or adventure (or all of the above). It’s about opening up the world of possibilities that is available to you in your life right now so that rather than dreaming about the ideal lifestyle, you instead take the reins and MAKE IT HAPPEN.

What Is The ACE Method?

This post is a quick guide to designing your ideal lifestyle in less than 24 hours using what I call The ACE Method. I use this, along with other refined ways to get my minimalist lifestyle to where I am the most free, happy, optimal, and having the most fun. If you want this too, read on. What I recommend is what works. Adjust it to how you see fit, and design your own life.

ACE stands for Automation, Concentration, and Elimination.

In reality, the method should be employed in the manner of Elimination, Concentration, and Automation, but ECA didn’t sound or look as simple as ACE does. People don’t remember mnemonics (any learning technique that aids memory) if the mnemonic isn’t memorable. Make sense? Okay. And now here we are. We’ll still go through The ACE Method as A.C.E. but for maximum effectiveness, use it as E.C.A., or vary it up as you see fit (already, that’s LD in action!). See how fast you’re learning already? You’re awesome.

The Quick Guide to Designing Your Ideal Lifestyle In Less Than 24 Hours (Using The ACE Method)

A Is For Automation

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. – Bill Gates

These days, nearly all mundane, time-consuming tasks and must-do’s can now be automated and completed online with minimum to zero effort.

There will be some initial effort in the beginning, like:

  • Setting up online payment with your bank and the bills you need to take care of on a monthly basis
  • Creating a PayPal account to pay people (like your affiliates or sending your niece in college some spending money as a Christmas gift) or for things you buy online (anything on eBay, Amazon, etc.)
  • Setting customer orders to ship automatically from your supplier/wholesaler
  • And so forth

Switch from paper bills and statements to paperless options. Must DO.

Some staggering facts and statistics as obtained from

  • The average person gets only 1.5 personal letters each week, compared to 10.8 pieces of junk mail.
  • Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year.
  • That’s 4.5 million tons of junk mail produced each year! (What the hell?! That’s a LOT of waste!! Poor Earth …)
  • 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread. (For me, that figure goes up to 100%. All the time. I make no exceptions.)
  • In 2010, approximately 48% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste. (Again, very sad.)
  • 100 million trees are chopped down each year to produce junk mail. That’s 333,000 acres of trees each year, nearly half the size of Rhode Island! (No amount of 4th graders planting their little tree as part of Earth Day will save us from the staggering amount of trees that we kill each year.)
  • Lists of names and addresses used in bulk mailings are put in massive databases, compiled from phone books, warranty cards, and charity donations (to name a few).
  • Your name is typically worth 3 to 20 cents each time it is sold. (Yikes! Now they’re making money off of your name.)

Never receive another single paper statement in the mail ever again. I hardly check my physical mail, if ever, because I don’t ever receive anything through it, except for the rare wedding invitation or greeting card from a family member or friend. Never checking mail and automating all your payments and banking online saves you a crapload of time and saves millions of trees. Win-win.

Why automation?

Why not just handle things yourself, especially since it only takes you about 1 hour a week to take care of all this? Then you KNOW things have been looked at, filtered, and done, rather than trusting the system (what if the system that pays your bills somehow crashed, oh no!) to do it for you while you sleep.

The answer is because that 1 hour you spend a week doesn’t seem much in the short-term scheme of things, it’s easy to brush it off as a non-issue. But when you add it up, the 1 hour a week is actually 4 hours a month, covering 48 hours in a year. That’s two full days you spend non-stop, paying bills, taking care of your orders, paying your people, checking mail, etc. One hour is just a standard number I gave. Some people spend way more time than this.

The real underlying enemy here is our internal desire to always want to be in control.

That is the real culprit here. More often than not, the system does not crash. You won’t miss a single payment if everything’s set up properly. And if something messes up? It’s usually not irreverisble or something that can’t be fixed in a few minutes of your time. Remember, these occurences are very, very rare. But what’s more rare is your TIME.

That is what Lifestyle Design is about, folks. Freeing up your finite time so that you can do whatever you love to do, be it sailing around the world, tending your garden in your backyard, taking your kids for a walk in the park, training in Judo at your nearby dojo, picking up an Improv Comedy class, learning how to salsa, and so on.

Examine the areas in your life that you can start automating TODAY.

C Is For Concentration

The first rule of focus is “Wherever you are, be there.” – Unknown

I know and I understand. It’s hard to sometimes focus in our crazy-busy, highly caffeneited society we live in. Hell, it’s not just sometimes, it’s more often than not.

So when designing your ideal lifestyle, you need to concentrate your efforts on what matters.

Defining what matters to you is different for every person. For instance, what matters to me right now is my writing, my art, my Karate training, and reading. That’s it. Believe me, it keeps me busy alright. But not busy for the sake of being busy and wanting to “look” or “feel” productive.

I actually purposefully leave weeks on end with NOTHING scheduled or impending to do, take care of, go to, etc., JUST SO I can concentrate all my efforts on doing what I love to do and what matters most to me.

I won’t pick up my phone, I won’t go out unless I want to (and not out of guilt or obligation), I won’t do things that are unnecessary, thereby eradicating the extraneous.

One must be ruthless and learn to be a little selfish in this regard. Not for the purpose of ill will and hurting others maliciously. No. That’s not very kind and not the point of safeguarding your time and focus.

But what’s not also kind is neglecting yourself.

Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?

See all the heavy, dark gray bags under your eyes, beneath a pile of nappy, in-need-of-a-haircut-now mess of hair, your body softening and becoming increasingly squishy by the day?

Of course, these are just the physical indicators that you need to concentrate on yourself (your health). This is also a visual symbolization, a physical warning sign, if you will, that your mental and emotional health may also be suffering.

Concentrate. Focus on what matters, forget the rest. I also wrote about this topic in my eBook The Radical Minimalist, if you haven’t picked up a copy yet.

E Is For Elimination

One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. – Bruce Lee

I will tell you this right now. I am a Master of Elimination.

How did I do this?

It tooks years of experimenting, learning, designing, reading and countless trial-and-errors. And now, I know more about the art of elimination (aka minimalism) than most people ever would.

Is this being arrogant or cocky? No. This is my very own Lifestyle Design in action.

I will teach you how to minimize the erroneous in your life, by unapologetically eliminating anything and everything that does not prove to be a valuable and positive contribution to you. This includes vampire “friends,” schedule commitments, social obligations you don’t want to go to in the first place, familial responsibilities you thought you always had to do, your physical health, and your things, all that crap you lug around with you and on you wherever you go.

You must, must, MUST eliminate if you ever want to create anything of lasting value.

Repeat: You MUST eliminate if you ever want to create anything of lasting value.

Why is this so important that I’ve just repeated myself?

Because you are not understanding. Okay, maybe you do, but the vast majority do not, and that’s why they’re here on this blog, reading this post right now.

You think you can create a better work schedule for yourself by getting a nifty new FranklinCovey time management system or elaborate planner, with tabs, charts, tables, and the like?

Rather than buying more stuff in an attempt to streamline your work processes (it’s an irony in itself), eliminate repetitive and time-consuming tasks that are not output-worthy instead. Utlize the Pareto Principle (or, the 80/20 rule) to full effect. That — or delegate to others.

You have your pick. Isn’t Lifestyle Design wonderful?

You think you can have an easier time to move to your new apartment by meticulously organizing, labeling, and sorting through the massive pile of stuff before you put them into the moving truck and haul all your crap across town?

Eliminate ruthlessly and then you won’t need to organize, label, and sort.

A Case Study: Elimination In Action

Just this past weekend, I helped my art teacher and friend, Dagmar, move all her crap out of her East Bank Storage facility that she was paying $40 a month for. Boxes containing random knickknacks, old clothes, old books and papers, old paintings and gifts from friends collected over the years, and so forth. It took two full trips, each time with a warehouse-sized dolly lugging hundreds of pounds of dare I say, uselss junk.

But Dagmar couldn’t have done this without first embedding the need to eliminate into her mind first. You see, she wanted to be minimalist like I am. She saw firsthand how carefree and simple I seem to be, blissfully happy in what I’m doing (Writing and Art) and not worrying, fretting, and complaining about much (minus the freezing cold temperatures in Chicago). She wanted to be Zen like I am, at peace with yourself.

She saw the fruits of one’s labor and she wanted it. Badly.

It will take her some time, that’s for sure, but she started the process already. Dagmar’s on her way to becoming minimalist and designing her own life the way she truly wants it.

You can have the sweet fruits of a minimalist lifestyle too, if you only begun to eliminate, rather than accumulate. Take away, rather than add. Give away, rather than buy.

It can be done. If a 44-year-old painter and artist could do it after carrying around decades worth of junk with her, like Dagmar, you can too.

This is The ACE Method and can be implemented right away, thus jump starting your ideal lifestyle in less than 24 hours. If you want to focus on Concentration first, do it. If you’d rather work on your Automation options, do it.

But for goodness sake, don’t just sit there after having read this guide and say to yourself, “Hm. That was a pretty good post.” Empower yourself to actually take ACTION.

This is your life. Design it.

Additional Resources to Kick Your Lifestyle Design Into High Gear

» Absolutely recommended: by Tim Ferriss. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor, block out one entire weekend in your schedule, close the door, and devour it wholly. It is THAT valuable. You can also visit Tim’s blog for countless excellent articles on Lifestyle Design.

» by Chris Guillebeau. Lessons on setting the rules you want to live the life you’ve always desired. An excellent guide for world domination. Read my interview with Chris here.

» Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction by Leo Babauta. Best used in conjunction with the Concentration step in The ACE Method. But don’t read it just to procrastinate further. If you must, read it in focused, daily doses. Just enough to inspire you and keep you streamlined with your attention and efforts.

» by Seth Godin. Knowing when to quit is absolutely essential in Concentration and Elimination. It’s short and simple, but beyond powerful. Seth is the man.

» by Henry David Thoreau. A classic hit even after Thoreau wrote this 156 years ago. A must-read for minimalists and those who want to know through first-hand account what it really means to be one with nature, to not have more than you need, to go against society’s standards for what’s comfortable, what you “should” do, etc. For an overview of Walden, read my post on the 5 key passages to take away here.

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