Thanks to the internet and the wild things our mobile devices can now do, we can connect with people anywhere, heck, even on the toilet, what used to be a sanctuary of quiet contemplation.

We love the distractions and the small kicks we're getting when something new happens, when someone likes our photo, when someone favorites a tweet or mentions us on Twitter.

We're prone to these distractions, to being busy, to just waiting for another email to come in. I am myself. It's been incredibly hard getting out of the habit of having my life evolve around the computer all day long. In particular, because our entire business is not only running thanks to and on the internet, it's also because we're a distributed team.

Because we're split out across time zones, you'll find someone in our chat room most of the time. If it's not one from our team, there's probably a customer I can help.

It's tempting to leave the chat open while you're busy with other things. It's tempting to take a peek regularly to make sure you're not missing out on anything. It's tempting to take the laptop with you to the playground to check your email and do some work while your kid is playing (yes, I've done that too).

But what does it give you really beyond the simple satisfaction of yet another distraction?

You can't put an instant price, value or reward on just watching your child play. It doesn't reward us in the same way as someone liking our post on Facebook.

Yet it's all we strive for, the distractions, getting more work done, staying up late to fix just one more bug.

Is that what we want to look back at when as we're getting older? Are we going to measure us based on the number of retweets we've received in our lifetime?

Or is there something more to life that we've somehow forgotten, something that's as simple as stepping away from your computer and devices and just enjoying life?

Tags: life

Our household recently picked up an interesting habit, one where people tell me they couldn't do it, or they just don't work that way.

Every weekend, we sit down and plan our dinner meals for the entire week.

That's it, that's the whole habit. Seems straight-forward, doesn't it? It's so incredibly dull, even very German.

Five weekdays, two weekend days. Sit down, thumb through cookbooks, find some recipes to cook, make a shopping list, and off you go.

As a family, we mostly cook meals for dinner rather than for lunch, and I found that one of us usually goes shop for groceries every day, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, spending some extra money for things we probably don't need along the way.

It feels a bit chaotic, but more than that, it causes stress and tends to make us spend more money every day when we go shopping. Little snack, little drink there, it adds up.

So we commit to the week upfront. It takes a bit of work to sit down and find nice recipes to cook, but that time is paid off by only having to go shopping once a week, twice if we do weekends and weekdays separately.

It's an amazing little habit change, and it does require a commitment to what you've planned to cook, but it reduces the stress levels throughout the entire following week.

Yet it seems so hard to commit to something like this, why is that?

Maybe we feel uncomfortable planning that far ahead, maybe the effort of even finding something to cook is throwing us off?

If you have a family and kids to feed, I'd suggest you try this out. Not just shopping for food once a week, but planning dinner meals for every single day in advance.

It gives an amazing peace of mind in return for a little focused time investment.

Beyond daily routines, even having specific routines can be very beneficial for your overall productivity. You could start by trying to plan your dinner meals for the entire week.

Tags: habits

Over the past couple of years, there's been a curious trend in the world of coffee. While espresso is still a thing of expensive machinery to get the most out of the bean, filter coffee has taken an interesting turn towards simplicity.

...in coffee

Clover, Clover, Clover

When I started getting into coffee, I witnessed the most remarkable thing, the Clover coffee maker. An extremely well designed machine, costing about $11.000. It's a thing of beauty and it makes a pretty incredible cup of coffee.

But then Starbucks bought it, ceasing sales to anyone but themselves. Since then, we saw an interesting change. Rather than rely on expensive tools, filter coffee is now made with the simplest ones. Take the AeroPress, a piece of well-designed plastic, which makes for an incredible cup and is extremely versatile.

Now the AeroPress is everywhere, heck, there's an AeroPress world championship.

Or the Hario V60, a simple cone-shaped filter, also producing a great cup, though it requires more care than the AeroPress to get the best out of it.

All you really need to get a great cup is a grinder, an AeroPress and a scale. Only the simplest tools get you a great cup anywhere you go, lest of course, you buy Starbucks beans.

...in the kitchen

Since converting back from a vegetarian to an omnivore last year, I've grown very fond of a good steak. What really amazed me about making steak is the simplicity of it.

I bought a De Buyer iron pan in France a few years back. That's all you really need to make a great steak, a simple pan, a pan that rusts if you don't dry it after washing. A pan that develops an unpleasant looking patina over time that turns it into a non-stick pan.

All you need in addition to this simple pan is lots of heat, olive oil and a piece of really good meat.

...in photography

One Step Beyond

In the early eighties, a guy in Hong Kong set out to build a really cheap camera for the Chinese market. 35mm film wasn't yet widely adopted, so he built one that uses roll film, medium format or 120 film, they're all the same thing.

The camera had a plastic body, a plastic lens, one (unpredictable) shutter speed setting and two apertures (one of them not working by default). He called it Holga. It flopped due to the rise of compact 35mm cameras.

It's an incredibly crappy piece of photographic equipment, but due to its simplicity and constraints, I've grown really fond of it. In the right circumstances, it can take incredible photos.

It's amazing what you can achieve with simple tools and by learning to use them really really well.