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Introduction

Hi. My name is Eran and I’m a software consultant since I can remember myself. But this blog is not about me. It’s about something I care deeply about and want to share my experience of with you.

This blog is about how I’m endeavouring to optimise my life. Hopefully some of my experiences will apply to your life as well.

So, what do I mean by optimising my life? Quite a few things, really. I mean automating menial tasks so that I don’t have to spend time and the cognitive drain that ensues. I mean improving my experience when menial tasks are unavoidable. I also mean improving myself so that I can do things better, both at work and at home.

Now, these will be my personal experiences I’ll be sharing with you. I don’t believe there’s a one-fits-all solution to our daily problems. I’m hopeful some of my advice will be relevant to yours. If any of it is – I’ve achieved my goal.

Enjoy your read!

Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine

I work from home. Like many others, the pandemic got me working entirely from home. But even before the pandemic, I used to spend many hours in my home office.

Since my work involves me sitting in front of computers, what I mostly do is, well… Sit. And I’m not as young as I used to be. My body isn’t as forgiving. Gone are the days of being content with any surface for a chair. Now, without proper back support, I suffer from terrible back pains.

This is the reason for me having spent so much time looking for the right chair. Well, that and my tendency to invest a considerable amount of time researching any purchase.

Finding a good chair isn’t easy, let me tell you. First of all, chairs are EXPENSIVE. I struggle to find the justification for it, but they just are. What is considered a good office chair can easily cost over £1,000 (!). That is just mind boggling. Second, you don’t want to get stuck with a chair you’re not comfortable in. Assembling usually takes a decent amount of time, as can the trouble of returning it. And I had quite a few expectations. I wanted an adjustable back. I wanted adjustable height. I wanted adjustable armrests.

So, my research led me to a surprising conclusion. There was another kind of chair that fit my requirements, and did not cost half as much as the top-end office chairs. It turns out gaming chairs are really, really good.

I bought the GT OMEGA PRO gaming chair on Amazon four years ago. I didn’t pay for assembly. I managed to assemble it myself without too much trouble. Four years later, it still feels like new. Everything about this chair is adjustable. It’s super comfortable. And it costs less than fifth (!) of the top-end office chairs.

So, my advice to you is this: if you’re sitting on a chair that’s slowly ruining your back, upgrade. But don’t bother with the expensive office chairs. Get a gaming chair instead. Your back will thank you.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

What’s Your Worth?

How much am I worth? I often ask myself that question.

I believe the answer is relative. At the highest end of the scale, we have very few people. Elon Musk, at the top of the list, is evaluated at roughly $200 billion. That’s $200,000,000,000. That’s 2 followed by 11 (!) zeros. His worth is greater than that of many countries. In 2020, he made almost $432 million per day.

In the middle of the scale, and so far below the top that it’s hard to grasp, is the median salary. The median salary in the UK stands at a little over £31,000 a year. That’s about $42,000.

Does Elon Musk really contribute (To the world? To society? To his Country? To his business?) 5 million times more than anyone making the median salary in the UK?

I can only deduct one’s worth has little to do with how much they contribute.

How much would our body cost if broken down into its basic materials? Someone did the math. It turns out the answer is just over $160. Clearly that doesn’t help us either.

So, what IS my worth? Well, it depends. The context in which I ask myself this question is usually my daily rate. In that context, my conclusion is you’re worth as much as someone is willing to pay for you. And, in my experience, there will always be someone willing to pay you what you believe you are worth. All you have to do is figure out your worth. Then, stick to that number. It may take some time, but you’ll find the company that will agree with you on that number.

I estimate my rate based on those of a similar role around me. I then add to it a rough estimate of my personal added value. Can I charge more than I do? Looking at some of my colleagues over the years – probably. I tend to increase my rate gradually over time, as I feel more comfortable with my current rate. I also know I am worth more to my clients with every passing day, as I keep learning and improving.

So what’s your worth? Unfortunately, I can’t figure it out for you. But I can suggest you spend the time figuring it out, and then stick to that number. Don’t settle for less than what you believe you are worth.

Smile

I drink a lot of coffee. I mean, I could easily drink ten cups a day.

While I enjoy my coffee, it does come at a cost. One of the most noticeable side effects of drinking plenty of coffee is the stains on your teeth.

Since I can’t ignore the coffee stains, I have to visit the hygienist much more often than I would have to without the coffee. This is quite time consuming and also rather expensive.

So for quite some time, I’ve been looking for an alternative. I tried whitening strips. I tried different brands and kinds of whitening toothpaste. Nothing really worked. This changed recently. I finally found a solution.

Ever since I started using Colgate Deep Clean Whitening Toothpaste, combined with Colgate Max White Mouthwash – the stains are finally gone. What a relief!

This is a good opportunity to mention dental hygiene in general. Dentists are costly. A single filling can easily cost over £60. With a good dentist, it can cost twice as much. This is good enough a reason to get serious about brushing our teeth.

My dentists have long recommended I used an electric toothbrush. So I switched to electric toothbrushes a few years ago. Now, I can’t imagine going back to a regular brush. The brush I’m using is Oral-B Genius 9000. I highly recommend it. But whichever brush you get, just get one. And floss. Save your teeth. Save money. And smile.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Nothing To Hide

My life is completely exposed. A quick Google search would tell you my name, the name of my company, my work history. My every detail lies bare.

Why, then, do I care when a company like Facebook forces me to share my details with it? Does Google really care about my browsing history? They already know everything about me, right? Well, not quite.

First, ask yourself this: if companies already know everything about us, why do they need our consent to use our information? Clearly they have some limitations on what they can access or legally use.

Next, let’s think about what this information is worth to these companies. Why do they want it? I haven’t given this question much thought myself until I watched The Social Dilemma. Now, I cannot un-see it. It’s not a voyeuristic curiosity that drives these companies. It’s profit.

So, how do these companies plan on profiting from our information, and why should we care? To put it simply, these companies use our information to program us. They learn what drives us, and what buttons to push to make us act. This is not a fair fight. We are ill-equipped to deal with the psychological tools that are used on us. We are driven to buy, to spend more time on our screens and even to change our behavior.

If you ever bought something you don’t need, ask yourself why. If you spend hours staring at your phone, ask yourself why. And then stop sharing your information. Switch to privacy-first services. Ditch WhatsApp, install Signal. Search using DuckDuckGo. Browse using Brave.

Mind your privacy. Take back control.

Turn Off The Light

It is said reading in the dark hurts your eyes. Well, that’s not true. At least, at the time of writing, there is no proof of it being so.

I actually like reading white text on a dark screen. It reminds me of my early years in front of a computer. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you dislike dark backgrounds, let me try and convert you. If you don’t appreciate the aesthetics, maybe you’ll appreciate the practicality.

It turns out that when most of your phone screen is dark, it consumes less battery. So you could dim your screen and save power. That will work fine unless you’re in a well lit space. Then it just gets really hard to read.

Dark mode to the rescue! Also known as night mode, most popular apps offer a dark mode. If any apps you use frequently has a dark mode – turn it on. This isn’t true for laptops. A laptop consumes the same amount of power in dark mode. But phones don’t. In dark mode, you’re saving a lot of battery power.

So if you care about your phone’s battery life – give dark mode a go. Enjoy the extra battery time!

Oh, I almost forgot. If your partner is sensitive to bright light at light – dark mode emits considerably less light. Win!

Inkredible

I spend hours a day reading. Whether it’s posts, articles or code, I read A LOT.

A while ago, I discovered my reading could become much easier. As an added bonus, I learned I could also reduce my printing costs.

So, what do the two have in common? Fonts. It turns out there are really good fonts out there. These fonts have distinct advantages over the defaults we use.

Back in 2014, there was a trending story. It was about a kid who figured the American government could save millions. All they had to do was switch the font of their printed documents to Garamond. This has since been debunked, but the story did bring the topic to people’s attention.

Nowadays, we have eco-friendly fonts (see Ryman Eco, for example). These fonts consume less ink, and so print faster. They also require less electricity and reduce the frequency at which we have to buy new ink.

We also have fonts designed for better legibility. Can you tell the difference between 1, l and I? Or between O and 0? If you can’t, blame your font.

Distinguishing between different characters is especially crucial if you’re a developer. Luckily, most IDEs (integrated development environment. A fancy way to say a code editor on steroids) allow you to change fonts. Try out Fira Code or Input.

Well, that’s all I have to say about fonts. I hope you have a pleasant reading experience and enjoy the printing spree!

A Lazy Singleton

Every profession has its own jargon. It helps convey ideas to fellow professionals quicker. Some terms are more important than others, because they encapsulate a whole solution with a single expression.

The software world is no different. We have plenty of terms we use on a daily basis to convey software (or hardware) ideas. Terms like big O, memory, function and loop are all good examples.

And just like in other fields, some terms convey more complex ideas. One group of such terms is the design patterns. Each design pattern solves a problem in a clear way that any experienced developer would recognize.

If you’re new to this world, or seek to improve, I highly recommend you get your hands on Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. This is the bible of design patterns. Learning it will enrich your tool belt considerably.

Why reinvent the wheel when you can solve the problem with a simple, recognisable and proven pattern? Why struggle explaining to your colleagues what you’ve done when you can simply say, “oh, it’s a factory method”.

Be an efficient developer. Know the jargon.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Do I Have To Do Everything Around Here?

My time is limited. Between work, sleep, eating, training, washing and tidying up, it’s hard to find time for anything. There are simply too many things to do.

Many of these things there’s no avoiding. Trust me, I tried skipping sleep. It doesn’t work very well! Other things, however, you don’t have to spend time on.

Like everything in life, it’s a trade-off. And this experience of mine might not suit everyone. I find one way to free up time is to trade time for money. You could say I buy time.

How? You might ask. It’s simple. I delegate. I don’t clean the house. I pay a cleaner (if you’re in the UK, you can get two hours of free cleaning from my cleaners by following this link). I do as little of my finances as I can to stay in the loop. The rest is handled by my accountant. I hope the next step would be to have an assistant taking some other chores off my back.

That’s how successful businesses operate. Managers delegate. I’m freeing up time for what really matters. Potentially, I can focus on making more money. At the same time, I am helping others make a living. The eco-system around me thrives, and everybody wins.

I can’t do everything myself. And I shouldn’t. I need to focus on the things which have the highest returns for me. And those I can’t avoid, of course. Unfortunately, I can’t fast forward my training. But where I can, I delegate. I buy my time.

If you book your free two hours of cleaning, I’ll get two hours for free, too.

Smooth Operator

“I’m calling about your accident”. “This is HMRC, please call us back for the tax refund you are owed”. The number of scam and spam calls made on a daily basis is astounding. It feels like the phenomenon is out of hand.

What’s more frustrating is that our phones are helpless. They can only recognize numbers saved in our contacts. Unfortunately (or not!), none of the scam callers are in our contact list. That means we can’t reliably block them. So how do we save ourselves the trouble of picking up the phone only to hear a mechanical voice urging us to give our money away? Luckily, there is a solution.

Both Android phones and iPhones have a wide range of free apps that recognize and block scammers and spammers. For Android, we have Caller ID, Truecaller and a host of others. For iPhones, we can use Hiya. There’s also a version of Truecaller for iOS. The list goes on.

These apps all maintain a global list of known scammer phone numbers. When you get a call, they match the caller’s number against that list. If the number is recognized, it can automatically be blocked. You can also set it so that you’re warned but can still take the call.

These apps can save you a lot of time and grief. To save yourself some time and the risk of getting scammed, install a caller ID app and protect yourself.

Not Now, Email

Procrastination is vastly different from owning your time. Not every task can (or should) be done straight away.

When an email comes in, it tries to bite into my time. Some emails are real time sinks. Those lead into forms or tasks I would have to perform to address them. If I actioned them all as they came in, it would seriously skew my daily routine.

I prefer to own my time. There’s a better time to address this email. Maybe it’s after work. Maybe it’s over the weekend. I usually skim through the email to determine the best time to address it.

I have a few rules of thumb when deciding when to address an email.

If it’s urgent, I may address it straight away. If it’s important to me, but can wait a little bit, I schedule it to after work. If it isn’t all that important, I schedule it to the weekend. Maybe it’s an article I want to read. Some emails relate to an event coming at a certain date. I tend to schedule those closer to the event.

Most emails have a natural time they should be read at. With some exercise, finding that time becomes second nature.

Gmail has a nifty feature you can find in its top tool bar. It allows you to schedule an email to a future date. This is pretty much the same as changing when the email came in to match YOUR schedule.

I can’t stress enough how valuable this feature can be in managing your time. Note how no email is postponed to a random future time. This isn’t about procrastination. Your time is precious. YOU should own it.