Clutter & space

Think of a massive pile of stuff lying on a shelf or even on a floor. Shoes, clothing, magazines, everything. If you were to de-clutter and organize it all, I can guarantee it will take more space than when you started. Shoes need to go inside boxes, clothes on a rack and magazines inside binders. Twenty pairs of shoes need twenty shoeboxes or a medium sized trash bag. Which one takes up more space?

You can either have clutter & space or you can have order & no space, but you can’t have both.

If your goal is to have as much stuff as possible, the most effective way to store it is in a big messy pile. Having a messy pile is not very helpful if you want to find things, have them accessible or keep them in working order, but it doesn’t take much space. If you’ve ever seen one of those hoarder TV-shows, you know what I’m talking about.

The alternative is to store things properly, keep them organized and be mindful of what you really need. Don’t store your valuable stuff in supermarket plastic bags, stacked on top of each other or lying on the floor. Invest a little and buy plastic storage boxes from IKEA.

Storing stuff in piles is sometimes unavoidable, but always ask yourself if it really is.

 

Tools at an arms reach

Having the right tools to do your job is important. Equally important is having them as accessible as possible.

If your job is to get fit, and your gym is a 30 minute drive away, are you going to do it? Maybe, but the harder it is for you to get to the gym, the less likely you are to go there. Same thing with learning to play a guitar or picking up a new language. If every time you want to play the guitar you have to go get it from the basement, chances are you’re too “tired” to do it. Instead, hang the guitar on the living room wall so it’s the first thing you see after you plop on the couch.

This applies to everything. Make start doing effortless as possible and you’re much more likely to succeed.

 

Professional equipment

I saw a video which was shot simultaneously with an iPhone 7 and a RED Weapon. On my laptop screen there was almost no visible difference between the two. One is a 1000$ smartphone and the other a 50 000$ professional movie camera.

Does this mean the iPhone is as good as the RED camera? Sort of, but only if the conditions are perfect. Shooting great photos and videos with a smartphone is possible when the light is good and plentiful, when the weather is nice and most importantly, you know what you are doing.

The difference between amateur and professional equipment becomes apparent when the conditions go from optimal to less than optimal. A large sensor will let in more light when it’s dark without adding noise to the image. Professional cameras and lenses are often waterproof or at least water resistant. They offer more fine tuned settings to suit every situation.

P.S. Maybe you’re not a camera guy so here’s a car reference: a muscle car can match a Ferrari in a drag race but what happens when there’s a corner?

On limitations

Some limitations are actually very useful. They push us to do better with less and get more creative. Comedians who can’t curse on the airwaves have to work around it. Old school demos are all about pushing against very limited hardware. Limitations also offer a safe harbor for excuses when we fail at our goals.

Of course many limitations are just that, limitations. The original 10 minute limit on YouTube didn’t make anything better (people just uploaded several videos). Nor did the 56k modem make early browsing any more enjoyable compared to cable modems.

Next time you blame a limitation for failing, make sure it’s an actual limitation and not an excuse.

What’s your MUST?

If a goal is a MUST then you will achieve it. We all have daily MUST goals whether we realize it or not: catching the 8:52 bus to work, brushing your teeth in the morning, watching the latest Game Of Thrones episode. MUSTs are goals which you often set even without realizing it. It’s something so important you couldn’t imagine not doing it. More than fifty consecutive daily blog posts later, writing once a day is now a MUST for me. Seven days of healthy eating and it’s beginning to form into a MUST.

What’s your MUST?

Omit the obvious

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.Mark Twain

When it comes to writing, my basic principle is to use as few words as I possibly can to describe something. vs. My writing style omits the obvious.

It takes lots of skill and time to condense your writing into something that’s short and to the point. vs. Meaningful writing is difficult and takes time to learn.

I have no problem in writing long and winding sentences with tons of unnecessary details. vs. Writing too much is easy.

Why fire extinguishers are red

I was browsing Facebook and came across a designer fire extinguisher: Phoenix by Jalo Helsinki. It’s sleek, stylish and designed by Oiva Toikka, a Finnish designer famous for working with glass. It blends seamlessly into any designer kitchen. The question is, should a fire extinguisher blend into its surroundings? 

If I buy this fire extinguisher and put it in my kitchen next to the stove, I know it’s a fire extinguisher. But if I’m having a house party, and I’m in the toilet while one of my guests sets something on fire, would they know it’s a fire extinguisher?

One of Don Norman’s user-centered design principles is “making things visible“. The user should be able to know what something is and what you can do with it, just by looking. I’m not saying a fire extinguisher should look ugly and red, I’m saying it should look like a fire extinguisher.

 

P.S. Jalo Helsinki also makes other designer fire safety related products such as smoke alarms and fire blankets. They look great and I would be happy to have them in my house.

Quick tip: update later

Always resist the temptation of updating critical software when you are working on something important. You launch your tools and it starts nagging about the latest update. There might be a cool feature which you want to try, but just resist. No new feature is worth the risk of introducing bugs to your development environment when you need to get stuff done right now.

Centralized data

Never ever keep the same data in two separate places. Meaning, if you somehow have two or more different databases where you keep a table of your customers / offices / equipment, make absolutely sure there is automated synchronization between the two. I’ve worked with data sources where there are upto five different locations (cloud services, different SQL databases)  for the “same” data. In the end nobody really knows which is the most accurate source, nor which one is truly up to date. KISS works here the best: One source of data per dimension.