Sensible Defaults

Variety is the spice of life

Life can be like a massive shopping carts. We fill it with experiences, products, people, memories, food, drink, laughter and sorrow. These items in our carts sometimes are easy to find and sometimes are hidden deep underneath a bunch of other crap we either didn’t need in the first place or that we used and have no need for. And this works across three dimensions. Physical, mind and digital. Managing this cart can either make our lives easier or more difficult. To make things easier we look for sensible defaults. These are knowing traits that address our current, immediate needs. Finding our sensible defaults means that we are not overwhelmed or distracted. Our cart is lighter.

At the start of our journey, our tastes are immature. We’ve not really had the time to sample things to see what we like and what we definitely don’t like. There is a period of exploration that precedes settling on the thing that makes the most sense, most of the time, for the time. Life doesn’t need to be heavily spiced. Equally when it does not have enough spice, it becomes bland. Sensible defaults let you reach a sweet spot of balance.

A sensible default is a the steady state we reach after experimentation. As we grow older, we begin to settle into place. Our go to wine. Our favourite type of slipper. The optimal notebook. Sensible defaults allow us to spend less time feeling cheated by something that is not meant for us.

Somehow I have ended up putting my dropbox folder of notes on the side and concentrating my efforts on putting everything into the I’m following the PARA method (Projects, Areas, Resources, Archive). The reason for Notes is the fact that I can put photos and pdfs straight into the note itself. Also adding todos and tables is infinitely easier and less cumbersome than plain text. The main disadvantage is that it doesn’t seem to be as mobile as I would like, but if I am actually using the notes and getting all my threads organized, it’s a small price to pay.

🍱 The single most important tool in my kitchen is my digital scales. The thing is I have been focusing on measuring the ingredients that go into a meal. Portion control has been left to my hungry eye. Today the penny dropped and I will be measuring the amount on my plate.

  • Keep the carbs around 180-200g.
  • If a sauce is involved go up to 300g.
  • If a meat/chicken/fish is involved aim for 100-120g. Top up with the vegetables to reach the 500g mark.

I am also really looking forward to meal prepping. It totally is a sensible default.

We had a mindfulness workshop at work last week. My biggest take away was maintaining a daily gratitude log. Minimum of 3 things that I am grateful for and that I made a direct contribution to. The 2nd part is what made it all click. This makes me look for these small contributions throughout my day and by reliving these at the end of my day.

Initially I was going to do this in my paper journal but I have found that using DayOne is the perfect place for these thoughts.

Sensible Defaults / Chapter 02

Understanding Collecting

As human beings we are constantly accumulating and collecting - information, data, objects, memories, scars, pain, email, experiences and so on. This explains why there are so many methods, courses, apps and products designed to help you categorise, manage, store or replace items within your collections.

You will never cease to collect until the day you die. It’s part of being a human. The intention of Sensible Defaults is to start making you more mindful of the existing items in your life and allow you to consider any new ones that you choose to add. The intention is not to achieve the perfect equilibrium, as this will likely be a fools errand. Your needs will change throughout your life and constantly reviewing the items in your life in this manner is exhausting.

The aim rather is to allow you to arrive at a moderate point along your journey whereby most of your surroundings blend around you and where everything has it’s place and provides a specific function in your life.

There will be outlier elements that will likely need to be considered separately. Don’t get bogged down with these items to begin with. Turn your focus to the low hanging fruit first.

The Physical, the Digital & the Mind

Most people’s world is occupied across three distinct containers, the physical, the digital and that vast expanse of the mind.

This does not define every human being on earth. There are people in this world with no electricity, much less internet access and for those millions a digital container is irrelevant. However the other two containers definitely remain relevant.

Each container plays an important role in defining many aspects of our lives. Left unchecked, the containers have the potential to add infinite amounts of weight and baggage over time, like weeds in a garden.

The physical world is the most readily apparent, as everything associated with this container ultimately surrounds us, in plain view. While the digital world can be infinitely larger and potentially more dangerous if not taken into account and understood and managed. Finally, the mind has the absolute biggest impact on everything, as it will impact the way you interact with each of the other two container and has the most power over you.

The first step is to accept the concept of trying to divide your life into these three spaces and then providing the necessary maintenance to each one throughout different phases of your life.

Sensible Defaults / Chapter 01

We all need a system that aims to reduce the noise and clutter that manifests in our lives, be it physical, digital or mental. We all have a great deal on our minds. We have too much stuff. We all need a better system than the one we’re currently using. Fundamentally, the issue with humans is that we are natural hoarders. Although it seems to takes considerably less amount of effort in accumulating as it does to discard. We seem to have more difficulty letting go. To reduce our mental overhead, the journey begins by defining those elements that are essential. This is then followed by carefully assessing what can be considered enough to our overall wellbeing, with as little excess as possible.

Any system seeking to define a universal approach to life is going to fall far short for all people. When it’s too broad it becomes harder to tailor to everyone’s unique situation. I’m a teacher. I’m a father. I’m an Engineer. I’m a mother. The intent in this sporadic series of articles is to try and find a common an implementable school of thought, such that anyone can gain something of use and merit.

Once you are able to see the elements of your life for what they truly are and what they actually mean to you, then you can decide on what to do with them. The challenge with the things that we all collect is that their status in our lives shifts in importance the longer they stay with us. They also shift in importance depending on where in your life they appear. Being able to understand these shifts and react to them is an essential skill that needs to be developed in all of us.

Our lives are complex, with a number of moving parts that are all competing with each other for attention and oftentimes supremacy. As we carry these parts around with us, they occupy physical, conscious or subconscious space. The issue being that each one of these parts contributes overall to our mental overhead. Becoming aware of these parts, then being able to categorise them and place them, first into main categories and then into smaller compartments. Once these categories and their compartments are clearly defined, managing them is the next step. Once you understand the pieces in a defined format, the enormity of the task becomes ever more apparent.

Why is this even important? Why change the way you are doing things? Being able to reduce and understand will give you agency. Agency over the world around you. Agency over your belongings (be they physical, digital or mental) that oftentimes you are beholden to. Many (most?) of us where never give clear direction on how to manage these pieces. They were just given to us and we were tasked with understanding and managing them. They called it experience. They called it life lessons. While much of this is true there has to be a better way. Others have tried in part to address this, but there are flaws in their systems. The flaw is trying to distill everything into something you can hold in the palm of your hand. Something simple. Most importantly something that can reduce your mental overhead. You need sensible defaults.