The wallet revisited

What do you really need in your wallet? I carry my driver’s license and two debit cards. My wallet used to be a trifold. It was large and awkward in my back or front pockets. Having a larger wallet fulfills a natural law that requires an empty space to be filled, with stuff. In went receipts, rewards cards, and other unnecessary items. If you think you need rewards cards try giving your phone number to the cashier instead of showing your card, it works. I’ve since downsized my wallet. It has a few slots for cards and a pouch for rolling up cash and putting it inside, that’s it. I think I’ll eventually upgrade to a clip or band to reduce what I have to carry around.

Minimal desktops

We all have desktops on our computers. Files sit there for quick access. Folders remind us of unfinished projects. This space can quickly become cluttered and distracting. In most cases you only need one to three folders on your desktop. I have one.

Sort files into folders based on their projects. Put unused folders into an archive folder. Use the empty space on your desktop for daily projects. Every morning you’ll turn on your computer to a clean desktop, it’s great!

A few tips:

  1. Label files and folders appropriately. Take a few seconds to come up with a logical name for every file. You’ll be able to find any file later within seconds, without using search.
  2. If you are working with multiple iterations of files, use a simple naming convention such as, “xproject_r1”. Increasing the number sequentially as changes are made to the file. Don’t ever use the word final.
  3. Go through your folders on a regular basis. You’ll recognize which files are necessary to retain and which can be culled.

Feature creep pt 1

More features doesn’t mean better. Case in point is the microwave. Ours has 28 buttons, including a help button. I just want to heat my food. I don’t need a clock, a help button, or anything else. Trying to heat food has been frustrating. I keep pressing the wrong buttons. Our office microwave requires the door to be open to set the cook time, at home the door has to be closed. I stand in front of the microwave for a few seconds trying to figure out what buttons to press. I shouldn’t have to think. Using a microwave should be a thoughtless process.

Microwaves are necessary for two things, heating and defrosting. The perfect microwave would detect what your food needs and heat accordingly, no buttons required. Since I don’t think we’re there yet with technology I’d recommend a single knob for setting the heat time and a switch for heat and defrost. That’s it. Simple. Less buttons, less confusion.

Update

Several of my friends had the same problem. They tried to get the microwave to work and spent several minutes stumped by a piece of machinery. I’m sure the manufacturers didn’t intend this, but there’s an initiation involved in getting this microwave to function properly. I finally figured it out, the first six numbers on the dial pad correspond to how many minutes you want to cook your food. If you want to warm your soup for two minutes just press the number two, that’s it. Phew, that was easy, right?

Buy now

Don’t buy for the future, buy for now. When you need to make a purchase, especially a big purchase, avoid the impulse to buy big for future needs. I’ll give two examples.

  • Vehicles
    Buy a car that matches your current needs. If you are planning to buy an SUV or minivan see if you can work your life around a sedan. Examine your actual needs, don’t go off of imaginary scenarios, go with the facts. It’s better to purchase a smaller car and eventually be forced to grow out of it then to buy bigger than your needs and take on extra expenses. You’ll save money on the purchase of the vehicle, the gas, insurance, and repairs. And when it comes to trips you can pack light!
  • Homes
    When we got married my wife and I started out in a one bedroom apartment. It was wonderful. Everything we needed was close by and easy to find. Cleaning was easy. We could have rented a larger apartment or house but chose to save money. We paid less in rent, utilities, and ultimately bought less stuff because it wouldn’t fit! We were comfortable and saving money. If you feel you need a bigger place examine your actual needs, try to do with less and make it work. Get rid of things and downsize. Living small is simpler and less stressful.

Thanks to my friends David and Wes for inspiring me to write this.

It’s never final

I’ve had emails sent to me with attached files labeled “final” or “final revision”. In the past I’ve done this myself. The problem with attaching the word “final” to any file is that it’s never final. There will always be some tweak, color adjustment, typography change, kerning, spacing, etc. to the project that will warrant updating the file name. This is where it can get funny. I’ve had files come my way called, “Document X Final 6”. If you have to add a number to the word final, is it really final? My simple advice is to lose that word from your vocabulary when it comes to projects. You’ll save face when it comes time to renaming your files. Consider going with a convention such as “revision X”. Then, if you get into double digits with revisions the name of the file will be the least of your worries.

Content creation vs. consumption

This year I want to be a content creator, not just a consumer. I’ve spent much of my life consuming content and filling my mind with information. This year I’m going to spend less time clogging my mind with junk and more time writing and being creative. Two things come to mind that I want to incorporate into my lifestyle.

  • Walking
    Each day I want to spend time walking. Walking allows the mind to rejuvenate, the lungs to expand, and the blood to pump freely throughout the body. Getting the legs moving and going for a walk is important. Fresh air and exercise are essential for a healthy lifestyle.
  • Eating
    Meals should be a time to relax. No distractions, just eating. In keeping with my desire to relax more and have time to think, I’m going to spend more meals thinking. I don’t want to be hurried while eating. In my opinion it’d be better for most of us to skip a meal than to eat a meal while in a hurry.

I want to live a simple life, to be inspired to create and do better things than ever before. As a Christian I am called to do my very best in whatever project I take on.

Zero inbox

Zero inbox is a mentality that I’ve picked up in the last year and have applied with great success. For every email you open you have three choices. You can either delete, wait, or archive. Let’s look at each of these closely.

  1. Delete
    Try to find a reason to delete each email that comes through. Does it have future value? Is this information you really need? For personal emails l consider the value for future reference and think twice before deleting it. If I believe it will be important to remember that conversation later it doesn’t get trashed. I also use my email for sending myself personal information that I want to remember later (which then gets archived). But for anything else it’s game on. If I don’t need it, it’s gone.
  2. Wait
    Emails that are not archived or deleted stay in my inbox waiting for an action. Essentially they become todos. Since I turn to email regularly this puts my todos where they can’t be ignored. I also send texts to my email when I’m on the road with todos since I don’t have a smartphone. This has made a big difference in terms of me getting things done and not forgetting important details.
  3. Archive
    If you’re email doesn’t qualify for being deleted, then archive it. Gmail makes this easy with the archive button. I have also activated a Google labs option with a “send to archive button” every time I reply to an email. Typically if I take the time to reply to an email then I consider it archive worthy; I may need to rethink this in the future though.

Minimal email

We’re surrounded by email. We use it every day and it’s become an integral part of our lives. Here are five ways to keep your emails to the minimum.

  1. Keep it short
    We don’t want to live in our inboxes and no one likes long emails. Do others the courtesy of keeping your emails short and concise. Force yourself to write emails in two sentences or less. If the email is coming out too long ask yourself if it needs to be more actionable.
  2. Actions
    Every email you send should have an action. By making your emails short and starting with an action you’ll help keep the attention of the action first and foremost in your contact’s mind.
  3. List your questions
    This is absolutely essential. Break out your questions into numbered items in all emails you send. If you don’t do this your contact may quickly scan your email and just respond to the first question.
  4. Put a deadline
    Having a deadline gives your contact a reference point to prioritize your email. This is liberating and leaves out any possibility for loose ends.
  5. Don’t rant
    Emails are impersonal. They don’t convey inflection or tone. If you write something by email in a negative tone you risk the chance of having your message completely misunderstood. Anytime you have to deal with a sticky situation you’re safer making a phone call or meeting in person. Never send an email that you wouldn’t feel comfortable being dug up later.

Checkout the full article which was inspired by the99percent.

Minimalist packing

I pack light while traveling. It’s a challenge to see how little I can bring with me. Experience has taught me what is absolutely necessary and what is dead weight. For short trips, whether by plane or car, I bring my laptop bag and one carry on sized bag. I was even able to do this on a three week trip to Hawaii recently, it was great! Packing light is one aspect of a minimalistic lifestyle. Bring only the essentials, keep your life and trip simple. You’ll have more time to focus on your trip and less on carting around your bags. Reuse clothes, wear your jeans or socks more than once, and wash your undergarments while you shower.

Next time you travel somewhere bring less clothes than you think you’ll need. You may feel out of your comfort zone but what’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you’ll have to wear a shirt more than once. After some experimenting you’ll be a pro at minimalist packing, you may even come to enjoy the challenges it brings and have one more reason to look forward to that next vacation.

My smartphone debate

This is a hard one for me. I’ve admired the iPhone for years and considered getting one. But I’ve held off. Then there are the Android phones which get better every year, not to mention the new iPhones. A smartphone promises instant and constant connectivity, access to unlimited information at the swipe of a finger.

It’s now 2011 and I am looking at the latest version of the iPhone (Verizon anyone?). But is this a need or a want? Last summer I got an iPod Touch and absolutely love it. I use it for email, a calendar, a Bible, Facebook, and much more. I’m now more connected then ever before. What if I take the next step? I’m questioning whether this really helps in the simple lifestyle I want to live. I’ll let you know what happens.