It’s Raining… Umbrellas?

It’s been roughly seven years since I moved to London. One thing I learned about London is you always want to have an umbrella (or a brolly, if you’re local) handy. You never know when it’s going to start raining.

I used to buy them from just any old store on the street for £2 or so. And every single time they’d snap at the lightest of breezes.

So, as with everything else, I did my research. Umbrellas come in many shapes and forms. They have many optional features. So I came up with a wish list. My umbrella needs to be:

  • Small
  • Wind-resistant
  • Automatic

It needs to be small so that I can fit it in my backpack easily. It needs to be wind-resistant because I don’t want it flipping or breaking when there’s a gust. It needs to be automatic because I don’t want to struggle with opening or closing it in a crowded environment (remember we used to have crowded environments?).

Funny enough, it’s not easy to find a really good umbrella. Even with no budget constraint, the options are limited. I ended up with the Ergonauts Windproof Travel Umbrella. It ticked all my boxes, and surprisingly wasn’t even expensive.

I’m so happy with it I could start singing in the rain. But I won’t. It’s a good umbrella, though.

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

Serve Me Your Best Dish

I love good food. When I travel, I love exploring the local kitchen.

The problem is, quite often other people appreciate good food, too. This means the best places to try a certain dish are often packed to the brim.

A former colleague of mine once shared a really useful piece of advice with me. Before he and his other half go traveling, they do some homework. They find the restaurants they want to visit. They then reserve a table in advance.

It sounds so simple and so obvious. And yet, I’ve never thought about it myself!

I’m passing on my colleague’s advice to you. Reserve tables in popular restaurants abroad before you travel. Bon appetit!

Do You Have Our Loyalty Card?

For years I turned down all offers of loyalty cards. Even if they were free. ESPECIALLY if they were free. I usually am suspicious of anything that’s free.

It turns out, in this case, that I was wrong. A few years back I changed my policy. I started signing up for memberships. So long as the card isn’t a credit card, I’ll take it. Even if there’s a fee involved, I’ll consider it.

The reason I changed my mind was, I finally did the math. Many of the loyalty cards offer significant discounts. Others allow you to collect points which add up to nice sums of money. There are even ones that offer free delivery.

Most loyalty cards are really easy to use, too. You register them on the website and you’re done. For in-store scanning, I use Stocard. I don’t even have to carry my loyalty cards with me.

I’m not saying you should sign up to every membership club you come across. I am, however, suggesting you do the math. Some of these cards can save you money.

What loyalty cards have you found most rewarding? Let me know!

You Only Had One Job

Things can be done better. Everywhere I look, I see mediocrity. It’s like people have given up. The bar is low, and very, very few are struggling to push it up.

And it’s everywhere. It’s in products we buy. It’s in services we consume. It’s our service providers. Every single thing could be done better.

How often have you called a service provider, and had to repeatedly describe your problem as you were being passed around from representative to representative? How many times have you had to return a faulty product?

There are many reasons for this. There’s Peter’s Principle. There’s office culture of discouraging competition. There’s sheer laziness.

So what can we do? Not much, I think. We can leave detailed feedback and hope the company takes it to heart. All too often I come across a restaurant where the food and service are objectively sub-par, yet the reviews are very complimenting. Why? It’s a mystery. Speak up.

We can also be patient and persistent until we get what we’re after. We pay with time and energy for getting our way. At least we sometimes get our way, right?

But really, I’m not hopeful of there being a noticeable, across-the-board change. It seems we can better ourselves, but we have to live with mediocrity around us. Rant over.

Have you experienced mediocrity? How do you approach it? Let me know!

99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall

There are many aspects of my life I could improve. I could be spending less time, less money, less effort. But I can’t address all of these improvements at once. Where do I start?

This is a known problem, also known as the Theory of Constraints. Software engineering has a solution. The idea is to find the bottleneck and unblock it.

For example, let’s say you’re not very productive at work because you attend too many meetings. You can ask the inviting individual if you’re really needed in those meetings. If meetings aren’t productive, make suggestions to improve them or ask for them to be cancelled. Maybe a few meetings could be grouped into one.

Another example would be having a really good internet connection but an underwhelming router. Upgrading your internet connection further would not improve your internet speed. Upgrade your router.

Your computer may be slow. You may be advised to switch from an HDD to an SSD. Or to add more RAM. But really, you should find out what your limit, or bottleneck, is. Are you at 100% memory usage? Upgrade your RAM. Is your computer doing a lot of read/write operations? An SSD would boost your performace.

You may find you’re taking out the trash several times a week. Maybe getting a bigger bin would save you time.

Are you rushing out in the morning only to find out to have to stop at a gas station to fuel your car? Try keeping the tank full rather than half full. Fill it when you’re not under pressure so that when you want to rush, you can.

How often have you wanted to do something, only to find out you can’t because another task had to be addressed first? Those cases are good candidates for optimisation.

Most things can be improved. You will likely not be able to improve them all. Spend your limited resources wisely. Find the bottleneck.

And keep improving!

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!