Minimum Effective Convenience

This is an issue of my newsletter focusing on the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, particularly remote work, online economy, and cognitive load.
Sign up below to join the club

My love languages are Convenience and Adventure. The biggest struggle in my life is trying to manage this stressful union.

Productivity gurus like to talk about daily routines, but in reality, convenience is based on a predictable schedule, mostly weekly:

  • Our baby daughter goes to her preschool every workday around 9 am.
  • Our cleaning lady comes in on Mondays.
  • My favorite cardio class (Les Mills Bodycombat) is on Thursdays
  • We are seeking a weekly appointment with a behavioral trainer for our dog (she’s a rescue and still has some issues despite our efforts)
  • My wife’s favorite yoga class is on Saturdays

The weekly schedule is a very predictable, convenient, and efficient arrangement. It’s only seven days to think about, and once you nail it – you can live your life on autopilot.

That is exactly what is so dull about it.

It takes me just about five weeks of an established weekly routine to start wanting to die. Whenever we return to Warsaw, the weekly routine is very appealing – everything has its place and time, and there is no uncertainty or confusion. Just follow your calendar. And then one day, inevitably, I ask myself:

If every day and every week is a copy of the previous one, what is the point?

As I start planning the next trip.

Marrying Convenience and Adventure

Adventure, by definition, is taking you out of your comfort zone. Subjecting you to the unknown, testing you in new environments, and is a little bit inconvenient on purpose. Are they opposites?

Dynamic equilibrium

A common mistake in the work-life Balance discourse, morning routines stories, and other rigid solutions is seeking a static balance. Most things in life are a dynamic equilibrium – you do one thing, get bored, and do another thing:

  • Vacations are a brief but good example – you take some time to disconnect and refreshed, return to your work
  • Instead of working till retirement, you can take sabbaticals as recommended by Paul Millerd, or mini-retirements as popularized by Tim Ferriss

The point is that you can set a time for convenience and then a time for adventure. Each makes the start of the other more enjoyable, so try to shake things up more often.

Minimum Effective Convenience

There is no time I desire adventures while dealing with bureaucracy, shopping, or waiting in a grocery store queue. There are areas of life where I seek total convenience, which lets me be more adventurous in others.

  • I am happily exhausted during my adventures, but I find no joy in being lost without a map.
  • I can be hungry, but I hate putting on wet clothes.
  • My wife would rather eat something now than wait 1 hour to get to a better restaurant.
  • I will rather buy ten more iPhone cables than save $50.
  • I want to put Airtag onto everything because I keep losing my keys.

Convenience no-brainers are probably different for you. The exact mix of our family needs led us to a specific version of RVing. Given sufficient funds, we would rather get a “luxury” motorhome than an off-road adventure machine. My friends joke about us becoming middle-class retirees way too early.

You can only find your minimum effective convenience once you are honest about your needs and stop trying to impress others.

Taking things too far

The term “Minimum Effective Convenience” is inspired by “Minimum Effective Dose” – an amount of medicine that is enough to facilitate a change, but not more. As medicine becomes poison when overused, so is Convenience and Adventure. As people get older, the following scenario sometimes plays out:

  1. Oh, I have a job/a wife/kid now. Time to change things!
  1. I will get a sweet apartment/car/house/life
  2. And all these convenient things
  3. Oh no, I am become trapped. Halp!

People live in all sorts of different ways, but you want to set up mini-experiments for yourself to determine if you are indeed this sort of a person. Your dream life can become a trap once you actually start living it.

The additional reason for not “going all in” at once is that all good things are better when you ramp them up slowly. As I wrote in The concavity of fun, awesomeness is concave, but annoyance is convex:

  • The first 3 bites of dessert are the best
  • The first five weeks of super-convenience are the coziest
  • Improving your house over time will give you a stream of satisfying quality-of-life improvements for a fraction of the cost of a full-scale remodel.

Finding others is harder

Convenience is easier to mass-produce than adventure. The weekly schedule is the default path, but convenience is also all about following the default path. If you want adventure in your life, it will take more exploration, more trial and error, and more agency. That is why it’s an adventure.

Our Baby daughter is very fond of her playmates at her preschool. When we are traveling, she misses them. That is why we are excited about traveling with other like-minded families, and we are looking into Worldschooling organized by Nikolaj. I will let you know how it plays out.

What are the ways you are trying to marry convenience and adventure?

A thing I’ve read

Tiny Parks

In London, unused ticket offices in many Tube stations have been turned into “Tiny Parks,” bringing terrariums full of plants and life to the Underground. (View Tweet)

Four great decisions per year

Nat Eliason shares that you only need to make four great decisions per year.

You might be better off asking yourself a question like “what would make my kids proud?” in the morning and then try to be extremely bored for the rest of the day

This pairs nicely with my philosophy that when you tackle hard things, you can be pretty lazy.

I also like his suggestion at the end:

And maybe you don’t need to do anything at all right now

I’m glad that we are moving away from the grind mindset.

Obvious Advice

We sometimes try to be too clever for our own good – we tend to skip obvious advice as too basic for our appetites, but obvious advice still works. I especially like the following:

Before carrying out any plan, actually do the obvious things

When you’re about to make a big decision, pause, and ask yourself what obvious things a reasonable person would do before making this sort of decision

Here is my take on the basic advice.

Sign up to get Deliberate Internet straight to your inbox

Leave a Reply