More or Less

Regarding my previous post about consumerism and the idea that we have to have more and more, I believe that less is actually more. The more you have, the less productive you can become.

I’ve learned this the hard way and spent a lot of money trying to find the best devices for myself over the years. In doing so, I’ve acquired more than I needed. Why is our mindset programmed to think that more is better?

This has led to my embrace of minimalism, or “essentialism.” Only buy and use what you need. More things leads to more distractions and makes us less productive.

My digital toolbox includes the MacBook Pro, the iPad Pro, the iPhone Pro Max and all the essential software I want and need to produce the work I want to. If I could, with confidence, manage my photo archive on the iPad alone, then I would not own the MacBook. Yes, it is possible, but I do not want to find workarounds. I’ll get there someday, hopefully soon, and then Mac & I will part ways.

The iPad for me is both a creative and consumption device and has quickly taken over as my primary tool. It has been upgraded with outstanding cameras but do I really want to carry Paddy around everywhere to snap photos? Nope, that is what Max the iPhone is for.

I do not need most of the things that others want. I need what is essential to me at the moment. But if we really want to become more productive and happy, then we will continue to work with less, not more.

From left to right: Paddy, Max and Mac

Dirty Santa

Material possessions have ruined what used to be known as the most wonderful time of the year. Why are we so miserable and feel pressured to find that gift that someone had put on a long list of “wants?” Ol’ Saint Nick went corporate and then we see how holiday season morphed into holiday shopping season.

A long time ago I chose to resume control and choose to celebrate people and joy instead.

Minimal & Maximal Design 

I’ve always been fascinated with design, especially design that invokes an audible “ooh.” My first, impressionable experience was watching a Lamborghini Countach rocket past a highway patrol car in the movie “Cannonball Run.”

Here are some examples of next-level design, engineering, aerodynamics, technology, magnificent and minimalism: Apple, Tesla, Lamborghini, Nike, Ferrari. All these brands represent the best in the industry by utilizing great design and materials.

Electric engines that go from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds? A superconductor hybrid V-12 engine? Autonomous driving? 32-Core GPU, & 32GB Unified Memory? Hell yes.

Monotone, grey, silver, black, navy, chrome, white are my signature colors. Clean, goes with everything and minimal.

I cannot afford the best in all situations. But I do when and where I can. It makes me appreciate what I have just as well as I can appreciate the best from afar. And yes, I used “maximal” in the header.

The Future of Digital Currency

If I stopped to think about it, and I have, most of my money is digital. My paycheck is directly deposited to my account. My transactions are digital. I frequently pay for goods and services with the flick of the Apple Watch and the built-in Apple Pay. These are tied into my bank accounts. If the point of sale terminal does not accept Apple Pay, well then out come the plastic cards tied into the same banks. Transactions made online do not use paper currency. Rare is the moment when I use folding or metal currency.

My state is partnering with Apple Wallet to include digitized driver’s license. Same with my health/auto insurance providers, passport, TSA approval, transit pass, vaccination card, etc. No more physical wallet for me to lose. This is just how I like it. Minimalism at its best.

The Apple Wallet

Again, most of our money is digital. Are we all leaning towards cryptocurrency? Why not expect and embrace a transition into the digital future present?

PSA: Do have access to paper money for emergencies and/or power loss.

Microfiction

Long-form writing is becoming a lost art during these days of short attention spans. With all the media content available to us, our time feels limited, so we want to maximize our consumption time. Blogs have been taken over in favor of quick social media posts. Twitter limits a tweet to 140 characters. Tik-Tok and Instagram promote short video clips, etc.

Microfiction is the natural progression of all this. It is considered to be even shorter than the short story genre. Much like a haiku, it forces concise wording to tell a story. There is no set word limit, but the general guideline is 100-101 words to tell your story. The trick is to make it meaningful enough to make an impact, as opposed to having your reader hop on to the next nano story.

How to start: Come up with an idea, create a rough draft, check your work count and revise to fit. Ulysses writing app is brilliant for this.

Where to publish: On your website first, of course. Then, save your work as a PDF and distribute to your interested followers, either for free or fee. Thereafter, use the same social media platforms if you must. There are even publishing houses looking for microfiction authors.

Finally: Microfiction is a tiny sub-genre (see what I did there?) in the writing/reading world. You won’t earn a lot of money from it, but the challenge itself can be very rewarding.

The Digital Life

I go back and forth a lot on physical and digital possessions. This week, I am all in on a digital kick. I’m sure in a few months I’ll start accumulating more physical items. Perhaps digital possessions are superior to physical possessions?

With digital items, I can take them everywhere I go. They don’t take up space. As someone who has moved back and forth across the country, this is always a good idea. This lines up nicely with my current desire to approach minimalism again. If that word or philosophy sounds too pious, I’ll simply call it “essentialism.”

The physical things I own are for me and the relatively few people who visit for me to show off to. I can easily share digital with potentially millions of people if they are interested.

Furthermore, in case of a disaster, my digital files are all backed up and archived. Just purchase another physical device to access, and I am good to go. In the same disaster, I would have more to lose had I invested in physical goods. Most could not be replaced so easily or cheaply.

Digital + minimalism = the way to go for me.

Less Books, More Reading

A few days ago I mentioned I am back in minimalist mode. I want to reduce the amount of possessions, or stuff that I do not need and appreciate what I have. I want to make everything I have useful and appreciate it. I’ve had a lot of success, donating clothes, shoes and trading in physical media like record albums, movie discs and yes, books. I know, I know. Getting rid of books is tantamount to blasphemy to some.

I enjoy reading, always have. If I am not reading a book, then I am reading content online or e-books. But I am drawn to books because of the tactile nature. The feel, the smell and the looks of them. Drop me off at a library or bookstore and pick me hours later.

Reading books transports me to the places I want to go and explore, it stimulates my mind, they relax me right before I go to sleep and they have been comforting while in my home office when I take a break, grab something from the bookshelf, sit in the comfy chair and relax.

I’m learning to let go of physical books for long periods of time. I don’t need an anti-library. But the process of removing them was easier than I hoped. I sorted what I wanted and parted with those I don’t. During a move across country, I would squeeze my vast library into about 25 totes that were a burden to carry and transport. I am down to sixteen physical books after ruthlessly culling the herd.

The winter season is almost here and I anticipate a lot of free time will be spent reading. So my thinking is to plan what to read specifically for the next few months.

A minimalist’s approach to reading can be just as rewarding as having your own physical library but without all the occupied space.

Screenshot from Libby, the public library app

Here’s what I plan to do:

  • Purge those books I haven’t gotten around to reading or are a one-time use.
  • Borrow from the library, either physical or digital books.
  • Seek and find books from the Little Free Library systems
  • Sell, trade or give away the rest of the books I no longer need.
  • Get comfortable reading from the iPad.
  • Organize my digital library using my BookTrack software much like a librarian, or curator would. I can enjoy thousands of books on one space-saving, portable device wherever I go.
  • I will no longer purchase digital books. After closing my Amazon and Google accounts a few years ago, I lost all ability to read them because I purchased a license and not a product.
Screen Shot 2021-10-14 at 9.29.56 PM
Screenshot of one of my bookshelves in BookTrack

Early this year I covered RSS and Read-It-Later apps in the past but I’ll be relying on these tools even more now.

I’ve mentioned books in this post but the same can be applied to all physical media like record albums, DVDs, etc. Streaming or borrowing digital media on multiple devices is quite liberating and minimal.

Plain Text

Regarding technology, I suggest that simpler is better. Lately I am keeping it even simpler by using plain text or markdown files after years of more complex formats and software programs.

Complex file formats are slow, bloated and usually only works if you have subscribed to the proprietary software and in a few years fail, and no longer support it. There goes your data.

Simple file formats are quick, lean and light. They play well with multiple software applications, no one owns it, and are almost always guaranteed to work in the future. Want proof? I can take data I stored on a 1.44MB capacity floppy disk back in the day and still open and read it- provided I had a floppy disk reader, but I don’t.

Plain text is the way to go for my needs. It is designed to be simple, dependable and minimal.

iA Writer
TextEdit
Apple Notes
Bear Notes
Obsidian

Minimal Mac

What does a minimalist Mac setup look like? A lean, mean, productivity machine is what it looks like. My MacBook Pro with the M1 chip can handle anything I throw at it including using multiple apps and not charging it for a full day and it will still perform with zero lag. But why stress it out when I can streamline processes and preserve it as long as I can?

Most of the software applications installed are stock, meaning they are designed by Apple to take advantage of storage space, memory and battery life. The rest of the apps are what I have deemed important enough for me to install and use. The end result? Fast speeds, no bloat and my work is frictionless and efficient.

I tell everyone that asks to imitate this type of setup, regardless of what device they are using to keep it simple and make it fast.

Suggestions

  1. Remove the clutter because a desktop that is messy is a distraction. Close the windows you aren’t using, close the browser tabs, remove all those icons on the dock. Minimize your distractions and be more productive.
  2. Keep it lean. Most computers are bloated with apps, files, and junk because they look cool, but are resources hogs. I suggest against using these features, because they slow things down.
  3. Specifics apps as opposed to all-in-ones because some try to do too much. Find a simple solution for a specific task, one that does not create bloat and hogs the memory. It takes a long time to load big apps, and they will crash or slow things down.
  4. Simple formats like text files for storing documents. Most of my documents are in text format because they are future-proofed, non-proprietary and compatible with multiple programs.
  5. There will always be something new and shiny but take it from me, the one who likes shiny stuff, find something and stick with it. Choose the best one and get your stuff done.
Look ma, no clutter on the desktop!

Simple Software

These are the software applications I suggest for a minimal setup – lightweight, fast, without bloat or too many features:

Writing- Your operating system’s very own text reader. On Macs it is called TextEdit. Bloated word processors like Microsoft Word is over-the-top if you only want to write. Most writers and bloggers get swept up looking for the perfect writing software, but all we need is text. Don’t let the software distract, just write. When you need to format it, use software such as IAWriter, Ulysses or WordPress.

Notes and Tasks- Again, the built-in software could be the best. Apple’s Notes app is one of the best out there, and the ugliest but it works. When I need more I turn to Bear notes for specific formatting and design use. Both applications have the ability to use text as a task format to check things off your to-do list. Why pay $50 a year for that?

Browsing- My daily driver right now is Safari. It syncs up on all my Apple devices and is one of the most privacy-driven browsers available. Again, designed by Apple to be lean and secure. No crashes, no bloat, no excessive memory usage.

Blogging- IAWriter and WordPress. I use WordPress because it’s free and does everything I need it to do. This text is being written on IA Writer, another minimal, no nonsense, everything in text format kind of software. When I am done with this article all I need to do is send to WordPress and it publishes to my website.

The minimal aesthetic of IA Writer

Photos- Here is one of the few places I can splurge when it comes to resource hogging. I use several photography software applications but mostly use Adobe Lightroom. I use Apple’s Photos app for organizing and Lightroom for post processing and storage. Both are available on all my devices so I can work with my images everywhere.

Communications- Apple’s Mail and Messages. You don’t need Skype, or WhatsApp or any other IM app. Mail and Messages are free, can do everything those other apps can do and do it better. Why waste the storage and memory on those others?

Cloud Storage- iCloud. Duh.Alternatives-I stay away from anything that has Google attached to it. Go ahead, name one out of any Google product. The answer is nope. The truth for me is I have tried almost every software out there for various and specific needs and they all came up lacking in utility but heavy on the price for the same capability as the preinstalled software. I’ll pay and enjoy those software apps that will be the most beneficial but again, those are kept at a minimal.

Applications installed and used-

  • ACDSee Photo Studio
  • Adobe Lightroom and Bridge
  • Bear
  • BookTrack
  • Books*
  • GoodLinks
  • iA Writer
  • Mail*
  • Messages*
  • Mindnode
  • Music*
  • Notes*
  • Obsidian
  • Pixelmator Pro
  • Reeder
  • Safari*
  • WordPress
    *Apple product

These software applications are my current preferences for their design, utility and keep my Mac a lean, mean productivity machine.