Travis Ennis

45 Borrowed Tips for Life

I ran across this article 100 Ways To Live Better and its followup 100 Tips for a Better Life. Both are a bit hit or miss with some tips just being plain wrong and others being relatively helpful, but the following were the ones that stuck with me. The list grew a bit longer than I expected, so I guess it was worth the effort to find the ones that resonated.

If you want to find out about people’s opinions on a product, google <product> reddit. You’ll get real people arguing, as compared to the SEO’d Google results.

Things you use for a significant fraction of your life (bed: 1/3rd, office-chair: 1/4th) are worth investing in.

Establish clear rules about when to throw out old junk. Once clear rules are established, junk will probably cease to be a problem. This is because any rule would be superior to our implicit rules (“keep this broken stereo for five years in case I learn how to fix it”).

When buying things, time and money trade-off against each other. If you’re low on money, take more time to find deals. If you’re low on time, stop looking for great deals and just buy things quickly online.

Learn keyboard shortcuts. They’re easy to learn and you’ll get tasks done faster and easier.

Done is better than perfect.

Keep your desk and workspace bare. Treat every object as an imposition upon your attention, because it is. A workspace is not a place for storing things. It is a place for accomplishing things.

The 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes of screenwork, look at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will reduce eye strain and is easy to remember (or program reminders for).

Exercise (weightlifting) not only creates muscle mass, it also improves skeletal structure. Lift!

Exercise is the most important lifestyle intervention you can do. Even the bare minimum (15 minutes a week) has a huge impact. Start small.

Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation.

You can improve your communication skills with practice much more effectively than you can improve your intelligence with practice. If you’re not that smart but can communicate ideas clearly, you have a great advantage over everybody who can’t communicate clearly.

The best advice is personal and comes from somebody who knows you well. Take broad-spectrum advice like this as needed, but the best way to get help is to ask honest friends who love you.

Make accomplishing things as easy as possible. Find the easiest way to start exercising. Find the easiest way to start writing. People make things harder than they have to be and get frustrated when they can’t succeed. Try not to.

Cultivate a reputation for being dependable.

Noticing biases in others is easy, noticing biases in yourself is hard. However, it has much higher pay-off.

Explaining problems is good. Often in the process of laying out a problem, a solution will present itself.

Selfish people should listen to advice to be more selfless, selfless people should listen to advice to be more selfish. This applies to many things. Whenever you receive advice, consider its opposite as well. You might be filtering out the advice you need most.

Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing.

Personal epiphanies feel great, but they fade within weeks. Upon having an epiphany, make a plan and start actually changing behavior.

When you ask people, “What’s your favorite book / movie / band?” and they stumble, ask them instead what book / movie / band they’re currently enjoying most. They’ll almost always have one and be able to talk about it.

In relationships look for somebody you can enjoy just hanging out near. Long-term relationships are mostly spent just chilling.

Call your parents when you think of them, tell your friends when you love them.

Compliment people more. Many people have trouble thinking of themselves as smart, or pretty, or kind, unless told by someone else. You can help them out.

Don’t punish people for trying. You teach them to not try with you. Punishing includes whining that it took them so long, that they did it badly, or that others have done it better.

Don't punish people for admitting they were wrong, you make it harder for them to improve.

Human mood and well-being are heavily influenced by simple things: Exercise, good sleep, light, being in nature. It’s cheap to experiment with these.

You have vanishingly little political influence and every thought you spend on politics will probably come to nothing. Consider building things instead, or at least going for a walk.

There’s some evidence that introverts and extroverts both benefit from being pushed to be more extroverted. Consider this the next time you aren’t sure if you feel like going out.

Bad things happen dramatically (a pandemic). Good things happen gradually (malaria deaths dropping annually) and don’t feel like ‘news’. Endeavour to keep track of the good things to avoid an inaccurate and dismal view of the world.

Stop lurking; write that comment. You know the saying about letting people suspect you’re dumb rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt? Fuck that. We know you’re dumb. You get less dumb by saying things and getting feedback.

Should you watch that movie / play that game / read that book? The formula is:

[# who rated it 5/5] + [# who rated it 1/5] – [# who rated it 3/5].

This doesn’t apply to everything, but it applies to many things, including media. There are too many options out there to waste time on mediocrity, and everything great will be divisive.

Humans are made to walk. Set up your life to encourage walking by acquiring soft-soled shoes, good audiobooks, and/or a dog. If you’re not enjoying walking and not getting your 10,000 steps you can get there with good design choices.

In case you missed it, humanity has fully optimized apples. Snapdragon, Zestar and Cosmic Crisp if you can find them, Honeycrisp or SweeTango as backup, Fuji in a pinch. All other cultivars are a distraction.

Get massages, give massages. You don’t have to know what you’re doing to make someone feel great. Use scentless oil, or simple moisturizer if the recipient is not going to shower afterward.

Once in a while, try eating only a short list of simple foods for several days. For example, carrots+almonds+yogurt+water. You’ll eat less without being hungry, and afterward you’ll savor flavorful foods a lot more.

Learn how caffeine and alcohol affect you. I know people whose quality of sleep improved dramatically once they stopped having coffee with friends after lunch; it turned out they are metabolizing coffee very slowly and it affected them 10 hours later.

If you’re moving chargers and cables around the house, you need to buy more chargers and cables.

If you’re meeting a friend for lunch who makes less than half your income, you should pick a place in your price range and pay for both of you. And if a friend who makes double offers to do the same, accept it graciously.

Try a much harder mattress. Try a much softer mattress. They all have 100-day free trials now, there’s no excuse for spending thousands of hours on a less-than-perfect mattress.

Travel with a hiking backpack, not wheeled luggage. You want to be moving freely, not to be tied down to a heavy box dragging behind you.

Every “spiritual” thing is worth trying at least once: Sunday mass, holotropic breathwork, any sort of ritual. They have purposes and benefits that can’t be explained ahead of time to a skeptic, and that can be enjoyed even if you don’t buy in to any of the underlying ideology.

Interview people you know, even if they’re not famous or experts in any particular thing. Just write down 10 questions and hit record. You’ll learn a lot and deepen the relationship.

Write things online, even if you’re not qualified to write them, even if you think that no one will care. I started this thread on a lark, but ended up making friends, practicing creative brainstorming, gaining followers, and coming up with ways to improve my own life.

You've found yourself on the site of Travis Ennis, a software engineer who lives in Indiana. If you'd like, you can contact me.