1. Don’t clean your ears with Q-Tips. It’s bad for you. Yes, it’s actually bad, and it has no benefits of any kind. Why it feels good, if you’ve been doing it for a while, is that you’ve made the skin in your ears itchy and it feels good to scratch them. Don’t feed the itch-scratch cycle. For more on why it’s bad, see this funny blog post.
2. Set every bill you can to auto-pay. This eliminates late fees and other headaches, and prevents paper bills from cluttering your desk.
3. All the places you can put stuff – desks, counter tops, chairs, floors – I call “active surfaces”. Keep them as clear as possible. If you’re not going to use something in the next 72 hours, it shouldn’t be there. Store it in a box, a cupboard, a drawer, or another place where it isn’t in the way. Active surfaces are where everything happens – they’re like freeways. Don’t park trucks in the middle of the freeway.
4. A healthy human body produces several pounds of waste a day. Likewise, a healthy house or apartment produces several bags of garbage a day. By default, garbage piles up everywhere, like a snow that never stops falling. Like human waste, it has to be continuously removed, or things get smelly fast.
5. Get a vacuum cleaner, if you don’t have one. The thirty bucks it costs are well worth it. Without one, little bits of dust, hair, grime, and other junk will (like garbage) accumulate and cover everything.
6. “Stuff”, random items lying around, is like weight on an aircraft. The more you can get rid of, the better. Everything you own is (to some extent) a drain on your attention. Sell it, give it away, or throw it out. For more, see Paul Graham’s brilliant essay. Remember: if it’s cheap, you can always buy it again later. And if it’s expensive, you can sell it used and get extra cash.
7. Most people get email they’re never going to read. Spam, chain letters, ads from stores you visited once two years ago. As soon as you get these emails, hit “Unsubscribe”, or make a filter that blocks them (in GMail, this takes ten seconds flat). This will save you from the next ten or hundred or thousand emails they send.
8. Many video games have random treasures – there’s a chest on the ground, you pick it up, and it might contain a million gold coins. The real life equivalent of this is meeting new people or new groups. Take advantage of these opportunities whenever you can. Like treasure chests, the amount you can win is literally unlimited.
When you meet a person, you don’t just get access to them – you get access to their friends, and to all of their friends’ friends. One of whom might be President Obama. Or a hot rock star who has a crush on you. Or a billionaire who gives you a new BMW on a whim. As everyone knows, the odds of running into people like that on the street are tiny – but the odds of running into one of their friends-of-friends is actually quite good, since people have lots of friends of friends. And if a new friend or a new group is boring, no problem. Just forget it, and go pick up the next treasure.
9. Do not buy junk food or soda. There is no reason, ever, to buy junk food or soda. A good test of this: at every airport, there’s a convenience store selling overpriced magazines and trashy novels and snacks. (They’re owned by a company called Dufry.) Do not buy anything you can find at one of these stores. With next to zero effort, you can always find something twice as tasty with half the poison.
10. Before you buy from a new website, Google “<website name> coupon code”. You’ve got a decent chance of saving ten or twenty percent.