I talk a lot about various things I try out, and I don’t always follow up on how they work out. However, there are three things that I’ve been using that have really made a significant difference in the way I work, the things I accomplish, and more. I wanted to share them simply because one of the missions of this blog is to provide “practical tools to make hard times happier.” These three things definitely fall in that category. And yes, they are next to affiliate links, just so there’s full disclosure.
1. Pebble: I was really lucky, in this age of Apple Watch envy (I’m looking at you, Will!) that a friend of mine upgraded his Pebble Watch and decided to let me take his old one for a spin. It’s like a minimalist smart watch – grayscale display, only one real color at the base model, and only eight “slots” for apps (as opposed to the thousands on the A.W.). But there are a few ways that it does some things that simply make life better:
- I can push a button on my wrist and my phone starts beeping – no more “Where’d I put my phone?”
- I can have directions on my phone (say, from Google maps) sent to my wrist. No more fumbling with my phone, no more voice interrupting my podcast listening…
- I can remote-control the music playing on my phone, or answer the phone (especially handy if my phone isn’t ready to hand).
- All the alerts are vibrating – which means my notifications no longer interrupt conversations, music, etc. Life is quieter.
It’s almost more useful in the things I can’t do. I can’t really surf the web. I can’t really look at pictures, or twitter, or read facebook. I can receive texts, but I can’t really reply to them (except maybe through the “Yo” app). And it has one killer app for me: a pomodoro timer, pictured at left. The screen slowly fills with black for 20 minutes, and every minute my watch “taps” my wrist – just enough to remind me to focus on work. Then it switches to “rest”, and so on – and when I stop it, it shows me how many cycles I did. This one tiny app has me doing more focused work than anything else.
2. Productive (the App): A while back I was talking about how Chris Brogan recommended some “chaining” apps for habit change, and I mentioned I was going to give “Productive” a try (because at the base level it’s free). Turns out it’s a better app than I expected: multiple times I’ve only done whatever thing I was trying to keep a habit because of that annoying little colorful icon. It’s dead simple to create a habit, and to mark it off. Yes, you could do the same thing with a calendar, a notebook, a piece of paper – I’ve used all of those things, and this is the thing that’s worked the best, simply because it does one thing and does it very well.
3. KeySmart: There’s a lot of talk these days about the idea of “microagressions“. One of the similar phenomena is what I call “microaggravation” – tiny inconveniences or frustrations inherent in the systems of your life that cumulatively build up to affect your mood and generally decrease your slack. One of the most effective triumphs over microaggravation I’ve found is the KeySmart. It’s simply this: when I come to my door, there is no searching for the key. None. I know exactly where each lock key is, and I just reach for it – no jangling, no searching, no nothing.
I know. What’s the big deal, Gray? But I think that’s the thing about microaggravation: you don’t actually notice it until it’s gone. I didn’t realize how much it was frustrating searching for the right key until I borrowed Natasha’s keys one day. Suddenly my beautiful system was gone…and I realized how much I dreaded being back in the “where’s-the-key” zone. I wish – oh lord how I wish – that I’d had this back when my kids were babies. Groceries, kids, maybe a phone ringing and you’re trying to open the door? On the other hand, it means I’ll never have that scene in the thriller where the person is frantically fumbling for the right key on a large ring. Nope, I’ll just pop out the right one, and totally ruin the dramatic scene.
That’s ok with me.
Those are my three most practical tools for making life happier lately. What’s yours?