Country living

When you live in the country life is more simple. The sound of crickets at night and the chorus of birds in the morning are music to your ears. The treasures found in nature rival any that city life has to offer. The sky lights up at night for a full show with occasional shooting stars. The few times I’ve been unfortunate enough to be in large cities for more than a few days I’ve felt restricted and claustrophobic by the noise and pollution.

I live in a small city with less than 20,000 population. We’re on the outskirts in a nice suburb area, but even this is too much. We want to move to a place with mountains nearby. Watching the sunset at the top of a ridge, swimming in mountain lakes, walking through forest paths, these are things I look forward to. We’ll see what God has in store. Country living is one aspect of minimizing stress in your life to live more simply.

Feature creep pt 2

Electronics for household use are too complicated. The remote control is an example of consumer electronics gone wrong. Depending on how complicated your entertainment system is you may have up to six remote controls, containing hundreds of buttons. Do you even use half of those buttons? It’s likely that you’ll never use more than a third.

I’ve seen examples of people taping cardboard over their remote controls with holes cut out for the buttons that are absolutely necessary. One was called “Grandma’s remote.” The original idea might have been to help someone who knew little about electronics. But I wouldn’t mind having a remote with only those buttons for myself. Electronics manufacturers should take a cue from “Grandma’s remote” and make simplicity a reality for all of us. Making something simple takes time and thought. Confusing electronics are a result of lazy design and engineering.

We could all take a cue from Apple’s remote control, it’s simple perfection. It has four buttons. Play/pause, menu, enter, and a large circular button for volume control and switching tracks. Granted, watching TV is different than using an Apple remote for your iPod or laptop, but the principles remain. How many buttons do you really think are necessary on a remote?

Here’s a great reference article from Jacob Nielsen that provided inspiration.

Just doing

The Nike slogan is inspiring. When you cut out all the junk, the excuses and objections that get in the way of taking action, you are left with three simple words, “just do it”. Isn’t that powerful? Those words inspire energy. Forget excuses and what others might think; just do it, make your dreams come true.

I believe God is teaching me an important lesson here. There must be a law of nature involved. When I decide to take action on something, that very action causes me to want to do more. So if you want to start something go ahead and give it a try. Taking action, even if you mess up, is far better than doing nothing out of fear. Start small, but do something. For example if you want to start writing on a topic that you are passionate about, forget the excuses. When you start the very act of starting switches something on in your brain. Writing inspires more writing.

Content creation followup

Since writing about Content Creation vs. Consumption I’ve learned a few things. I’m taking time during meals to just eat and think. My mind sometimes runs at rapid speeds, constantly consuming content but not having time to think and be creative. So now I don’t read, surf the internet, or listen to music while eating, I just eat and think.

It’s great! I’ve been coming up with lots of new ideas. Last week I inadvertently stopped doing this for a few days and realized that I missed it. This is a habit I want to establish for life. I haven’t included the walking part into my routine yet, but the eating part is a first step. I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this all along!

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.