Category: Personal

Minimalist Manifesto (part 1)

I have been meaning to write this for a while now. As I am sure this will turn out to be a 'work in progress', I added the 'part 1' to the title with some foresight.

In the past years I have become more and more interested in the concept of minimalism. Not in terms of art but in terms of a lifestyle. For some time now, I have started reading up on minimalistic lifestyle approaches through blogs and ebooks.

At the same time, I been feeling weighed down by things - both professionally as in my private life. Both material things (stuff) and non-minimalistic approaches (workflows etc.) have been slowly wearing me down - weighing heavy on my mind.

I long for a simpler, more meaningful approach and believe that minimalism can help me fulfill that longing. Minimalism has already resulted in some major and minor changes in my life(style). Writing this 'minimalist manifesto' is the next step in that process. It can both serve as a future promise to myself and as a list of what I have already accomplished. I do not believe in extreme 'minimalism' (e.g. trying to live with almost no material goods). I also do not think minimalism has all the answers or has to be exclusive as a lifestyle.

My minimalist approach to life:

  • Stuff - I will try and limit the amount of stuff I collect around myself. I love nice things, I love quality things, but they need to serve a purpose. Items that are not used or do not serve any purpose, have to go. As I used to be a packrat/collector, this is sort of a slow process for me. With the help of my wife, I have been throwing out a lot of things. There is still more work to be done though. Sometimes it can also be a tough choice. We like for example to host dinner parties at home and enjoy different kind of foods. That can lead to a lot more stuff: tableware, specialized cooking gear, etc.
    What I do buy, has to meet certain quality standards - better invest in something durable than in junk.
  • Organizing - the things that I do own, have to be organized and stored in such a manner that they do not get in my way while at the same time being easily accessible. That also goes for my digital life.
  • Digital - organizing my digital life has already become harder (more time-consuming) than organizing my offline life. I have tried to find the right tools to help me organize my files, pictures, notes and email. I follow a specific email archiving approach with a (near to) zero-Inbox policy. I use Simplenote (online, iPhone and Ipad) for my notes and ToDo lists. I use Evernote to archive receipts and letters.
  • Mail and receipts - my (snail) mail and receipts archive has been moved online. I try and throw away every single piece of paper that comes in through the mail, now. I take a picture of any important letter or receipt with my iPhone and sync and store it with Evernote. I will probably refrain from doing something similar with my old paper archive. This problem will solve itself in the future as I can throw these papers away eventually.
  • Furniture and decoration - my wife and me both like a clean, tidy and rather sparsely decorated house. At the same time, we like decorating and hosting people. These things are some times at odds with each other. Over the past few years, we have accumulated more and more furniture and accessoires. At least our walls are still almost all empty (white).
  • Clean - having a clean house/work area should be central to any minimalist approach. Having little stuff helps with keeping things clean. I definitely need to do more work on this. Thorough cleaning still comes mostly in spurts.
  • Food - my wife (again) taught me to appreciate food more. Though we enjoy the occasional Big Mac, we try to steer away from the processed 'corn syrup' staples most of the time and invest in good quality food. Finding high-quality (organic) food in the Netherlands, proves quite the challenge however.
  • Time - time is limited, it is the single most important thing that we have to offer. I am a pretty awful time-manager in the sense that I always take on more (tasks) than I can possibly handle in a given amount of time. Though I do end up accomplishing a lot because of this, there is certainly room for improvement here.
  • Health - our body is our vessel. I do not understand why we would not try our best to take care of it. It does not take much, to keep your body in good shape: sufficient sleep, healthy food and plenty of exercise.
  • Wealth - I have the luxury to live a minimal lifestyle (and even write about it, on a blog). Acquiring some wealth to take care of yourself (and people around you), should be a main task for everyone. We are entitled to nothing.
  • Professionally - most of the points above also affect my professional life. More specifically, both in the software that I develop and in the advise that I give, I try to adhere to a minimalist philosophy. For example: I believe in simple, clear software that does not need much explaining (on how to use it) and does not offer more than that what is needed.

That is it for now. I went through the list fairly quickly and could have focused more on every item. Do not be surprised if I revisit some of these points in the future. There is much room for improvement on most of these points - trust me, I will be trying.

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon

What really motivates us! - how to motivate yourself and other people

This is an amazing animated adaption of Dan Pink's talk at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The talk in itself is amazing. The accompanying animation beats any PowerPoint slides by a million.

I highly recommend anyone to watch this video completely. For everyone working in a high-skilled profession it is particularly relevant. In my field of work - IT, Internet, creative technology business - there are plenty of examples of companies who manage to motivate their employees in different ways besides monetary rewards.

My short conclusion: to get outstanding results from an individual or group of individuals, you need to:

  1. Take money out of the equation ("pay people enough to take the issue of money of the table). If you don't pay people enough, they will not be motivated. So you pay people enough so that they will not be thinking about money but they will be thinking of work.
  2. Focus on the three factors that lead to better performance: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
  • Autonomy - provide enough space (time, room, budget) and responsibility for someone to find the best solution/provide the best result.
  • Mastery - provide enough opportunity for someone to master what he or she is pursuing. I for one am always looking for better ways to use the tools that help me in my work (mainly software) - it is often frustrating that there is little time for this.
  • Purpose - we all need purpose in life. The "why am I doing, why am I here"-question might run through the head of an intelligent person more often than a less-intelligent person but in the end, we all need purpose. Remember the huge success of the self-help book "The Purpose Driven Life".

 

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon

Wedding website released: Rina Mae and Bram

Rina Mae and I have finally launched our wedding website at www.rinamaeandbram.com. So far we really enjoyed building this website together and we will continue adding content and updates to the website. I am quite a perfectionist and there are still a lot of things I would like to improve.

At this moment we have the following information and functionality on our website:

  • Secure registration (with registration code needed) and login
  • News blog (with comments)
  • Pages for Wedding information, Our story and Travel information (all with comment option)
  • Media pages where we display photos and videos (no videos uploaded yet). The photos are grouped in galleries with a Javascript slideshow playing them and music playing on the background.
  • pre-RSVP form through Wufoo.com - for this purpose I decided that opting for the Wufoo form service was the easiest solution even though it is not perfectly styled in our website theme.

Registration is for invited friends and family only but I will share some screenshots with you:

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
19 March 2010 • PersonalComments (0)Permalink

Cleansing my digital life - minimalistic resolutions (Give it up for Lent)

Overdose at Christmas
And give it up for lent
My friends are all so cynical
Refuse to keep the faith
We all enjoy the madness cause we know we're gonna fade away
Robbie Williams - Millenium

Early January is the time of New Year resolutions. Yet for some years, I have tried to steer clear of those. Any time is a good time for resolutions, one might say. What me and my fiancée like to every year though, is try and find something that we can give up for Lent - which will start on February 17th this year.

Every year we try to be creative with what we "give up" for a period of 44 days. We do have an unwritten rule that whatever we give up, should not inconvenience our professional life too much and should not deliberately interfere with our day-to-day functioning and general health. We did give up 'alcohol' one year, which some might say would definitely interfere with their "day-to-day" functioning. Giving up meat was quite a challenge as well, but enriched our food experiences by searching for fish alternatives.

This year I am quite early with the 'giving up for Lent' business. The most likely reason for that is that I feel I need to purge my life of some activities that take up too much time. Lent would be a good way of starting that 'purge'.

I am an avid Google Reader user and over the past year my Feed subscriptions have grown in numbers. Keeping track of all these feeds has been taking an increasingly amount of time of my day. Though I like to keep up-to-date with news and technology - having to spent a few hours every day to sort through hundreds of posts has become a little wearisome. So my resolution for Lent (what I am planning to give up) is to clean out most of my Google Reader subscriptions.

As I follow some of these feeds for work, I doubt I will decide to give them all up (and then having to reside to visiting different websites/blogs on a regular basis). But I will promise to give up the most time-consuming ones that I can easily live without for 44 days (and maybe for much longer).

In trying to be more minimalistic about my Google Reader usage (online reading) I am going to have to unsubscribe to the "minimalism" blogs I follow as well. No more "minimalism" blogs in order to pursue minimalism...

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
12 January 2010 • Minimalist, PersonalComments (0)Permalink

Minimalistic tendencies

Recently I have become somewhat of a minimalist convert. After my partner successfully made me do the "switch" (to Mac) a couple of years ago and after she taught me that "holding on to stuff" not only clutters the apartment but also literally clutters our mind and soul, I have started to appreciate a leaner and cleaner lifestyle.

Less clutter, less things that I keep, less things to keep clean. Less things to move or carry around. Less baggage for the soul. A clear and free mind.

I am trying to follow the same approach in my work and digital life now. A cleaner Mac OS (emptier dock, clean desktop - almost there). A organized mailbox (work, still working on my private mailboxes). These are all little steps that help me focus.

Our lives (and our software and the Internet) are way too cluttered.

These blogs might help you follow a minimalist approach as well:

I wrote this post with Writeroom - a Mac application that is designed to help you focus on writing. Amazing. It kind of reminds me of Dougie Howser and the archaic computer he used for writing his journal.

Writeroom - Distraction free writing software for your Mac

 
  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
06 November 2009 • Geek stuff, Minimalist, PersonalComments (0)Permalink

Take a deep breath

The past few days we have been blessed with an out of town guest staying over. It reminds me of how pleasant it is to:

  • Talk to someone older with a lot of life experience;
  • who has experienced all these different cultures (Dutch, German, American, Australian) in her life;
  • who is so full of life energy;
  • with an infectious holistic approach to everything in life;
  • and is an excellent Yoga instructor.

So this morning we got to enjoy a private Yoga lesson which brought us to extreme relaxation.

I am also more aware now about how much I enjoy entertaining a house guest. Or at least in the sense that the sharing of food (and other little comforts) really makes me happy. I have my partner to thank for that: I have never before enjoyed food this much in my life. The sharing of food (and looking forward to eating it) has become an increasingly important part of my life. I am definitely on a "seefood" diet...

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
13 June 2009 • PersonalComments (0)Permalink

There are limits to being social

I consider myself to be quite social yet I do not believe I am a socialist. When someone is in need, there should be help. From family, from firends, from other humans, from society and the government. When someone loses his/her ability to work in an accident, that person should be taken care of. When a rich banker is cut on this multimillion dollar bonus because he screwed up, then screw him (or her). When that same banker can not be blamed for his company screwing up because he/she worked in the one department that was actually not making any bad investments and is still turning a profit (without government involvement), he/she can still say bye bye to his million dollar bonus. Or any bonus whatsoever.

How the United States has turned into one of the most socialist countries in the world in less than a year, I still can not understand. Do not blame the Democrats, the Bush administration started this all. Knowing that this form of socialism is of the most unfair kind in the world (Socialism for the rich), can really get my blood boiling.

The Netherlands have always been an outrightly socialist country. Though day-to-day warmth and kindness in the society or sometimes a lot harder to come by. The amount of government interference and rules can literally drive a person crazy. This has left the country in a state where it is more than often considered to be "OK" or excusable to live off other people. Those who know how to "play" the system well enough, - and do not have any moral hesitations in doing so - can get away with living their life in this country without making any effort to stand on their own.

I have learned to be quite tolerant with this kind of behavior. I do not like to see it legitimized though. The TV commercial from one of the health insurance agencies in the Netherlands talks about a guy named Jan Willem Bos. Jan Willem has a job (lucky him) but Jan Willem has a lot of stress. He is scared of losing his job because of the Great Recession. Jan Willem is so stressed that he can not go to work anymore. Jan Willem's boss does not know what to do with that. But that is ok, because Menzis (the health insurer) will take care of that.

Jan Willem gets to ride his bike around the city and sits down reading a newspaper. Jan Willem looks like a loser. To be honest, Jan Willem's behavior makes him a loser. Jan Willem is afraid of losing his job and therefore thinks it is ok to not do his job anymore. Not exactly the appropriate behavior for an employee? Definitely not something that we should be promoting in a TV commerical. Jan Willem should be fired right away. Jan Willem's boss should probably be fired as well because he obviously can not explain to Jan Willem that it is NOT OK to refuse to do your work. Jan Willem should feel lucky that he still has a job. That he lives in a wealthy country and that he probably only has to work 36 hours a week with a zillion holidays. Menzis should be scolded by our government for spreading such harmful propaganda. What if everyone suddenly feels like Jan Willem? And the worst thing about it: in this country Jan Willem can not be fired anymore. Since Jan Willem expressed his fear of being fired and now has mental issues - firing him is virtually impossible. Or at least not without a huge severance pay. I am all about being nice (and social) to each other. But here I have to draw the line. Jan Willem and Menzis have both crossed this line.

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
16 May 2009 • Personal, PoliticsComments (0)Permalink

Gaming addiction

In my 'younger' years I used to play a lot of (PC) video games. I must have spent hours playing games like the Settlers or Warcraft. When I grew older, I successfully fought the urge to immerse myself in these games. I also did not keep up with new game releases as frequently anymore. The time was spent well on other things. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of the times when I did play games, I always wanted to finish a game as quickly as possible. Not that I did not want to enjoy the game - I really did. But more that I wanted to experience the game completely, get through it and be done with it. In the case of First Person Shooters I often ended up using cheat codes to finish the game as quick as possible. I was not that interested in being an expert shooter, I just wanted to have finished the story.

A couple of times a year I still have this urge to play a computer game (aside from the occasional Wii-ing that I do). The last couple of times that went something like this: I install a game and start playing it. More and more hours are 'used' up on playing. I get frustrated with how much time this is costing me. I decide this is a waste of my time. The game is deleted from my computer and will not be played again.

Every time this happens (it does not happen a lot), I feel like I have overcome some kind of addiction.

On another note. If I have to choose my all-time favorite game it would probably be Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. Sushi in fishbowl did not end the game well with me. She had to be transferred into that desk lamp and then somehow I could not resist the urge to "Turn on + Lamp".

These early (graphical) adventure games did wonders for my English btw.

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
13 March 2009 • PersonalComments (0)Permalink

What color is ‘morally grey’?

In the latest Heroes episode (season 3, episode 17), Noah Bennett uses the phrase morally grey again. Apart from me joking that morally grey would not make a nice wedding color, it also made me wonder what shade of grey it would really be. I actually believe 'morally grey' should not really exist - a contradictio in terminis maybe. Isn't something either 'good' or 'bad' and making any excuses just pulls it in the grey area and therefore admits it was 'bad'? I guess it also depends on what definition you go with.

As for the current state of the world: it seemed that for a lot of people in business and politics 'morally grey' was (and is) their favorite color. Makes you wonder when the day of reckoning is going to come.

  • Enjoyed this post? Please share it with others:
  • del.icio.us Favicon
  • Digg Favicon
  • Facebook Favicon
  • Google Favicon
  • LinkedIn Favicon
  • Reddit Favicon
  • Technorati Favicon
  • TwitThis Favicon
25 February 2009 • PersonalComments (0)Permalink
Page 1 of 1 pages