--| the difference small habits make |----- the most important things to design well are the items you have to use everyday. its like optimizing code -- if you want your code to run more efficiently, you look for what you can take out of the loops, and precompute before going into the loops, makes the loop run faster -- at a higher frequency, and thus efficiency. if you want to optimize people's living, then you have to consider the experience the user goes through in operating everyday things, because the everyday things are the things that accumulate most in frequency. a small thing which is a regular habit can make a tremendous difference. i had a friend (actually, i've seen it time and time again), and their telephone cord was always curled up in knots. they just accepted it, because "that's just what it always did". they did not understand that they never have to have a curled-up telephone cord in their life if they observe only one thing about what they do continuously, and unconsciously: every time they pick up the phone, in the motion of picking it up and bringing it to their face, they give the cord a half-twist in one direction -- which direction doesn't matter -- they are unaware of it, they just do it out of habit. then, when they go to place the phone down, in the motion from their head to the resting place of the phone, they give it another half-twist in a direction -- again, completely and naturally without thought of which direction they give that half twist. it could be one way or the other, they still are giving it a twist everytime they put it down, so the work is done, the twist already occurs, they do as much work if they twist it one way or the other. but observe! what happens here!? everytime they pick it up and put it down, they pick it up and put it down with two clockwise or two counter-clockwise motions. you repeat this for as many times as they pick up the phone during the day, and you inevitably have a completely knoted and tangled cord! well, "you know, i just unplug it once a week, and untangle it, and then plug it back in, and she's fine again for a while" -- this person has just created unecessary work for themselves. their weekly "unknoting ritual" is completely unecessary if they make one simple adjustment to their habits: whenever they pick up or put down the phone, observe the direction in which the cord is twisting; in your action of putting down the phone, give it a half-twist counter to the way it is curling. your cord will untangle itself continuously if you become aware to observe this one usually unconscious gesture. since they are already doing this motion, and there is no more or less work if they make that motion twisting one way or another, we can see that for no more effort, they have saved wrecking the cord, and always have things neat without ever having to actually clean up. that is what i call, "for every usage a maintainence". in everything you do from the micro to the macro scale, leave it as you found it +1. --


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this page last updated: february 18, 2000