the simplify guy

Daily acts of simplification

Month: July, 2012

Day 92 – Visualising Elegance

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Today, I decided to use the subtraction exercise in my living room. It actually resulted in finding a number of things that weren’t in my ideal vision of the space. I then spent a couple of minutes throwing, tidying, and putting in place a neat temporary storage solution for some items that we do need in the room, but haven’t yet got the furniture to house as we would like. 5 minutes well spent!

Day 91 – Sports Nutrition

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I watched a TV programme last week on the BBC about the science (and lack thereof) behind sports products. The programme came from the angle that manufacturers of products like carbohydrate energy drinks, protein shakes, running shoes etc make very bold claims that aren’t actually backed up by hard science.

Whilst I have mixed views on the subject (sports nutrition is certainly convenient even if it isn’t any better for you than real food), it did cause me to have a think about my own use of these products.

The programme attacked running shoe manufacturers and questioned why you would need to spend significant sums on the right shoe, when many run in cheap shoes or even barefoot. They gave different types of shoe to the South African army and concluded that the injury rates were the same for both. I think this was flawed for two reasons:

1. Armies are trained and conditioned to run huge distances. They don’t have the same brittle bones and weak muscles of the average person. Shoes are much less likely to make a difference to them. Not really a fair test if you ask me!

2. I have run on a treadmill in different shoes, and watched a video to see the effects of each. The difference is obvious. I know from direct experience that some shoes are better for my running style than others, and have switched over to them to prevent injury. I do agree however, that this isn’t buying shoes based on their marketing claims (which isn’t necessarily a good idea), but the shoe DOES matter for the average runner, and you should try them out at a specialist store.

Ok, so I am happy with my shoes, but what about nutrition? I go to the gym regularly, run a lot, and usually take in fluids etc whilst doing longer but less intensive sports such as tenpin bowling. For each of these I have used specialist sports nutrition. I’m not sure I have been taken in by the marketing as such, but more the fact that these products are the “norm” nowadays. Using them is just what you do, right?

The programme has caused me to challenge this assumption. When running for long distances (1-2 hours or more) I still feel it is important to fuel your body on the move and straight afterwards. This can be achieved by real food if possible, or sports products if that isn’t convenient (i.e. just finished a long running event away from home, and need to refuel on the move). However, for gym sessions and shorter runs, and especially bowling, why would I need these things? These are activities that drinking water and eating a banana are more than capable of fuelling!

Following the programme, I stopped using all such products as a trial. A week later, I honestly feel no different. Admittedly I haven’t gone for a run of 1hr+ in that time, but when I do I will continue to ensure I fuel and refuel properly, and will use convenient products where relevant, but for the shorter stuff I will no longer buy fancy products.

How does this simplify things? Financially for one thing – I dread to think what I used to spend on protein shakes and sports drinks! Also no need to cart a protein shake shaker to and from the gym, or to remember to clean and refill it each day. Finally listening to my own body and consuming more simple things like water, fruit etc should be a much more natural experience.

Day 90 – Photography Lost Focus

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Today’s Daily Act Of Simplification is a big one. Not in terms of effort, but by virtue of the fact that it is challenging who I consider myself to be.

I subscribe wholeheartedly to the Franklin Covey method of life planning. In it, you plan your time by reviewing your “roles” and “goals” on a regular basis and allocating yourself tasks to move you in the direction of your goals, and to ensure you are performing brilliantly in your roles (I’ll write more about this method, and how I do it in a simple way in due course). This process starts with understanding your roles and goals. I did this a couple of year’s back, have a list of each, and review them daily to ensure that the tasks on my to-do list are the ones that will create maximum value to my life.

On my roles list is the identity of “photographer”. I’ve considered myself to be a photographer for about 10 years, and have derived a huge amount of pleasure from it. I’ve successively upgraded my camera gear, and now have pro-level kit. I’ve taken landscape photos which have pride of place on various people’s walls on large canvases, and have created happy memories for friends at their weddings on a number of occasions.

Somewhere in the dim and distant past I remember reading an article that asked the question “how do you know that you are a photographer rather than just someone who takes photos?” The answer was along the lines of “If you think about photography when you are not doing it then you are a photographer”. I’ve used that as a yardstick for most of the roles that I have chosen for myself.

Lately I have noticed something. I’ve stopped thinking about photography when I am not doing it. I also can’t remember the last time I went out with the sole intention of “doing photography”. Also, I can remember a number of times recently when I’ve been out and about, not intending to take pictures, and wished I had a camera on me to capture something fun or interesting. I didn’t have a camera on me because my pro kit is so big and bulky that I don’t carry it around on the off chance. On a recent two-week holiday, I took a total of about a dozen photos. Something was seriously wrong!

Having noticed this, it is time to ask the zero-based thinking question. The question needs tweaking slightly in this case though. If I ask the standard “Knowing what I now know, would I have gotten into this in the first place?”, the answer would be a big “yes” because I have enjoyed so much fulfilment from it in the past. However, if I ask it like this – “If I was rewriting my roles list from scratch today, would I list photographer as one of them?”, the answer is sadly “no”.

I AM NO LONGER A PHOTOGRAPHER!

Wow – its out there and I am already feeling a sense of loss and, weirdly, GRIEF at the decision! Let’s spin this back to positive quick smart!!

I do want to take pictures, but I want to do so as a normal person would, capturing the events of their life in a fun and informal way. With a pocket-sized, simple camera, always at the ready to record memories and share socially with friends. I want rid of my prohibitive, bulky, pro camera gear and not feel guilty that I’m not taking photos. By removing “photographer” from my roles list, I could actually take MORE pictures, and get MORE enjoyment from it. I just won’t be thinking about it when i am not doing it, and won’t be going out with the sole intention of “doing photography”.

Also nothing is permanent except change itself. There is nothing stopping me from adding that personal identity back in later in life, perhaps when I retire or the motivation kicks back in again. Right here, right now though, I feel unburdened, freer and excited about the future. Once I’ve sold my pro gear, I can go small camera shopping (yay!) and will return some money to my bank account into the bargain.

With a small camera in my pocket, no self-imposed pressure to use it, and one less role to review each day, this BIG decision will have a big simplifying effect!

Day 88 & 89 – Feeding the Trash Can

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I’ve had a busy couple of days, but have managed to feed the trash can with an item of clothing from the right hand side of the wardrobe, and a pair of trainers from the shoe rack.

It has also dawned on me that the century is rapidly approaching – tomorrow is Day 90! Can I make it to 100?!

Day 87 – Process Streamlining

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I’ve found it interesting that not that many of my daily simplifications have been directly related to my job. I have however built my team and processes from the ground up so I guess I must have done a decent job of building them in a simple way, and entropy hasn’t had a lot of time to undo the good work. If you look hard enough, there is always something that can be simplified, and an opportunity presented itself today.

I paid a visit to one of our stakeholders within the business, and discovered that they run a tracking system that is essentially a duplication of one owned and managed by my team. We log work, hand off to them, they log and execute the task and then update us when complete. We had a chat and identified a way that we can give them access to our system and remove the need for theirs. This will also mean that our records are updated directly, by them, removing the need for us to request and input updates. A classic win-win!

Day 86 – Phone Liquidated

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Today I have recycled my old mobile phone and will receive a cool £56 in return. In the UK, O2 Recycle allows you to simply send off all kinds of gadgets (phones, mp3 players, cameras, sat nav, etc etc) in exchange for cash. Other similar schemes exist in this and other countries, for example Amazon will trade gadgets for online credit.

Previously I would have thrown an old phone into the man-drawer, “just in case”, where it would sit with its predecessors, but now this is a neat way to declutter for cash without the hassle of finding a buyer!

Day 85 – Take Away Take-Away

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Hanging out of my letterbox today was a new leaflet from one of the big chain pizza companies. Now I have to say that on occasion, for a treat, I do love a good take-away. And when I do have one, I like to use the money saving vouchers that come with the hand delivered menus. Discounts of 30-50% are common so well worth having.

So, when these new menus and offers arrive, I pop them in a drawer so they are ready for the next time we fancy a naughty meal. When I went to put today’s new menu in the drawer however, I noticed that throwing away any old ones wasn’t a strength of ours. We had several for the same company, with many containing expired offers. So I sifted through, kept only one recent one from each company, and binned any others with expired offers. Additionally a new commitment has been made to throw away the previous menu when a new one arrives.

Does anyone else really fancy pizza now?!

Day 84 – Shoe Me Downs

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Today, a pair of running shoes that had become surplus to requirements, and were destined for the bin, we’re rehomed to a colleague at work. They look pretty good but have too many running miles on them for me to continue to use, but were perfect for him for the gym. Getting better at this recycling lark!

Day 83 – Audible

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I love audiobooks. They are a great way to learn, motivate, inspire yourself without using your eyes. This is a huge bonus if you spend all day looking at a computer screen.

Audible is a website that has a huge library of audiobooks, and has various buying and subscription options depending on your consumption rate. I’ve used it for a while, downloading the books into iTunes so they can be enjoyed on my mp3 player. There is a .com and a .co.uk site, depending on where you reside. As an Amazon company, you know that it is as slick as a mafia dons hairdo.

Recently they’ve added a mobile app which allows you to download any book that you have previously purchased, directly onto your mobile device, without needing to go via iTunes etc.

Today I’ve added the Audible app to my iPad so that my substantial library of audiobooks is available alongside my Kindle books and Spotify tunes – making it a one stop shop for learning and entertainment!

Day 82 – Discardo Polo

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Today I decided to have another look at the right hand side of the wardrobes rail and see what was there. A white polo shirt that wasn’t quite as nice as my other white polo shirt, and hence rarely worn, was lurking there and has now been discarded. This technique is proving very helpful, as even though I couldn’t easily pinpoint unnecessary clothes if they were all randomly scattered, the evidence of use tells no lies!