the simplify guy

Daily acts of simplification

Month: June, 2012

Day 60 – Sane Stopped Play

Firstly, big kudos to the Wordress iPad app that allows me to post to this blog without a high bandwidth connection. Very slick indeed!

Having a fabulous holiday so today’s Daily Act was to cull the first thing that entered my consciousness uninvited. A “1 Day Deals” email from Play.com was waiting for me when I woke up. Now I have nothing against Play but I can’t remember the last time I bought from them and I am pretty sure I have NEVER bought anything as a result of one of their emails.

To be fair to them, their “unsubscribe” process was very easy and executed in seconds. I am sure I’ll buy from them in the future, but when I do I will go looking for them rather than the other way round!

Day 58 & 59 – Unsociable Media

Well, I have arrived at remote(ish) Scottish location No.1. There is enough data signal to use email and social media but it is weak and very slow. In one sense, that is annoying, but in another it’s perfect. Perfect to see what annoys me the most so that I can nuke it!

Email wasn’t too bad, Twitter was ok because it’s such a fast server. My Facebook feed took way too long to get through, and even then some content hadn’t downloaded. So I’ve subtracted two of the main offenders, one for each of Day 58 and Day 59, and will take another look tomorrow!

Days 58-74… The Plan

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A glorious two-week break has just begun. We are off to the wilds of Scotland for a fortnight for some much needed R&R.

This means that there will only be so much within my control for Daily Acts of Simplification, but I am very keen to keep it up so I have a plan.

This whole journey began because of an idea that popped into my head on the long drive back from our last holiday. The amount of time and energy I wasted trying to operate my mobile communications and social media, from areas of zero to poor signal, was staggering and I vowed to take action not to let that happen again. The idea then spread to everything in my life, trying to make things a lot more simple, and time a lot more fulfilling.

So I am interested in two things:
1. Are things better this time around? My mindset has changed to understand how these distractions occur and to avoid them. Also I have done a lot of work to reduce the amount of unnecessary information that flows my way. In theory things should not be half as bad.
2. What are the things that still crop up that are trying to divert my attention or distract me? How much of this is required at the time, or can wait till I get home versus pure junk?

Provided I can get enough signal/wifi I should be able to nuke any of the latter that comes my way, and I’ll commit to at least one per day that I am away.

I will post updates as regularly as I can to let you know how it is going!

Day 57 – Assisting the Out of Office Assistant

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Today I finish up work for just over two weeks – holi-holi-day! The only problem with lengthy time out of the office, however, is the build up of our old friend – the email. They seem to breed at an exponential rate in your inbox while you are away and you come back to hundreds. Before doing the usual drill of turning the “out of office” message on, I decided to have a ponder and see if there are any ways I can make the return to work a bit easier. I came up with two main problems with my usual drill:

1. I come back to hundreds of emails that I don’t need to read, generally the ones I do need are sprinkled lightly throughout the clutter. Clutter includes regular updates that are superseded by the next one, and being copied in on things that are useless to you by the time you get back.
2. When I am away for an extended period I often find that people forget that I am away and send urgent things through which are then chased, or worse, I get back and have to work out what has been taken care of in my absence and what hasn’t. The “Out Of Office Assistant” is great but it will only send a note back to the sender informing them of my absence once. Subsequent emails don’t receive the note and people easily forget.

So rather than relying on “The OOO Assistant” this time, I took the following steps today:

1. Emailed my colleagues and stakeholders to tell them I will be away and not to send me emails
2. Set up some rules using Outlook’s “Rules Wizard” to automatically file or delete certain emails that I get everyday but will be out of date by the time I get back
3. Set up a rule in the Rules Wizard that will do the same job as “The OOO Assistant” but will reply to every email from every sender with an out-of-office message.

I think these steps should dramatically simplify my return to work, and of course I will update on how effective it has been.

Day 56 – Battery Drain

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Those who have followed this project from the start will know that mobile communications can be a huge source of frustration for me. Brilliant as they are, if they control you rather than the other way around, then they are more trouble than they are worth. A small thing has been bugging me for a while. It seems that no matter what mobile phone I use, the battery barely lasts a day from a full charge. Now I’m not a heavy user of my phone, so I struggle to believe that a company could get away with designing a product that performed so poorly on such a fundamental feature. Conversely, I was staggered that my wife repeatedly chose phones which had a very good battery life, her handsets would regularly run for several days without a charge and her usage isn’t much different to mine.

For the last few years I have just put it down to bad luck, and thinking “when my contract ends, I’ll upgrade and the problem will go away”. Yet, each time, same problem.

The penny finally dropped recently when my wife upgraded her phone. I was so annoyed with mine that I took her hand-me-down handset to use for the remainder of my current contract. It was still going a couple of days between charges so I thought it would do the job. But guess what? Same issue. Battery ran out in less than a day. I realised that it must be something that I was doing that was causing this, it CAN’T be the phone, its ME. It didn’t take very long for my wife and I to compare notes on how we used our phones, the settings we used etc. Difference 1 – she would regularly stop all running applications on the phone, whereas I wouldn’t. I took to doing the same, and there was a marginal improvement – it lasted the day but not overnight. Another chat this weekend– Difference 2 – my wife keeps all settings like WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS etc switched off unless needed. I was pretty good with GPS and Bluetooth, but would always leave my WiFi on so that when I walked into the house it would pick up straight away. So I tried keeping the WiFi off and – hey presto – the battery is well on its way towards two days of life!

So for today’s Daily Act of Simplification, I am committing to keeping the WiFi on my phones turned off unless I want to use an app that needs it, and I’ll switch it off after. No longer will my phone usage be constrained by worries about the battery, and hopefully one less source of misplaced frustration.

A bad workman always blames his tools, and a bad Simplify Guy always blamed his phone. Poor phone!

Day 55 – Weeds and Leaves

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After yesterday’s removal of the man made unecessaries from the garden, today it was nature’s turn. The winter’s leaves were collected and removed, and the weeds that were growing though the gravel and patio were nuked. All that will now be needed to restore the garden to the state it was originally, is some wood treatment and minor repairs. That will have to wait though, not sure weedkiller and wood stain mix very well!

Not being much of a gardeny person, the challenge will be keeping it that way, but I have committed to facing entropy head on so I will aim to do so!

Day 54 – Off to the Tip

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After the washing machine episode of last weekend, I had arranged for some assistance in the form of man and van to take the old one to the dump today. I also took the opportunity to clear a load of stuff from the garden that was either there when we moved in last year, or things earmarked for disposal. A very satisfying feeling to empty a van load of junk into the great beyond!

Day 53 – Pocket

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I came a very useful app today. Pocket (formerly Read It Later) allows you to save web pages, videos etc into one app for offline viewing later. I regularly come across links to interesting pages from emails or my Twitter feed (I follow lots of success/motivation/wisdom gurus), and rather that look at them all in detail at the time, I like to finish viewing the high level updates in one go, and do the reading later. Previously I would have loads of open tabs in my browser, which would stay open until I had finished with the page, or I would mail myself the links for later viewing. With this app, by “bookmarking” the content as I come across it, it gets saved in Pocket where it can be read at my leisure. The bonus is that it can be viewed offline so I don’t need an Internet connection, which is ideal for flights, trains, remote holiday locations etc.

As I am adding an app to my collection, I thought I’d be good and delete one as well. An increase in productivity for no increase in resources. Smug-mode on!

Day 52 – Running (out of) Shoes

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I had a staring competition this morning with a pair of running shoes that I bought because I saw them at a knock down price a few months ago, and thought that I would wear. Truth is, I don’t really wear them, I got them because they were a bargain. They looked at me as if to say “you might wear me someday, keep me!” and I stared straight back asking myself the zero-based thinking question. Of course I won, and they are now outta here!

Day 51 – T-shirt Trashed

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I have spent the entire day riding roller coasters, so i needed a quick and easy act of simplification today. I decided to revisit my wardrobe and discard something from the right hand side of the rail (where the least worn clothes now collect). A t-shirt bit the dust as a result!