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10 Ways to Live Better, Dieter Rams-Style, aka: My Role Model is a Calculator

Dieter Rams is one of the most influential designers of the past century. Chances are you’ve used a product Rams designed. Maybe an electric shaver, a calculator, or a record player. If not, you can thank him indirectly. Apple’s longtime head of design, Jony Ive, cites him as a seminal influence.

Rams was Braun’s chief of design from 1961-1997, and his maxim was “Weniger, aber besser” (“Less, but Better”).

Here are his 10 principles for good design:

Good design:

is innovative.
makes a product useful.
is aesthetic.
makes a product understandable.
is unobtrusive.
is honest.
is long-lasting.
is thorough down to the last detail.
is environmentally friendly.
is as little design as possible.

Here is how those principles play out in practice:

But if you think about it very long, the principles are really principles for living well. With just slight modifications, they read ...

The good life is:

thorough down to the last detail.
environmentally friendly.

It makes sense when you start to look around. There’s a movement underway. People are living more fully more simply.

Weniger is indeed besser.

The One-Minute Habit: Change Your Life 60 Seconds at a Time

The way to get something done is not to.

At least, not the way you’re thinking about doing it, like it’s some massive work project or self-improvement project you have to take on and you’re not sure where to start and what if you make a mistake and you won’t be very good at it anyway and look at all those emails you need to answer.

Instead, take a small step, a step that’s one-minute long.

How Not to Meditate

Consider a habit you’d like to adopt. Meditation.

You should meditate, seriously you should. It’ll make you more relaxed, you’ll be healthier, you’ll calm down. People will marvel at your equanimity. You’ll lose weight. You’ll be a wise adjudicator in business strategy meetings, the arguments of your children, and the relationship dramas of your colleagues. You will succeed with serenity and the city will build a statue in your honor when you die.

To meditate properly, though, you’re probably thinking, I need to read up on it. Maybe some books by Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, Shunryu Suzuki, or Jon Kabat-Zinn. You’ll need incense. A mat. A quiet place. Maybe even a meditation room in your house. You need to renovate. It’ll cost a fortune. You’ll get to it someday. What’s on TV?

Try This Instead

When you get up tomorrow morning, take a minute to sit down and meditate. Set your timer for a minute. That’s it.

You are going to be a lousy meditator. You’re going to think about all the crap you have to do, how tired you are, how your boyfriend was insensitive and maybe he doesn’t love you and … Brrrng!

The timer will go off and you can resume your regularly scheduled frenzy.

Just be sure to do it again tomorrow morning. You’ll still be lousy. Do it anyway. And do it the next morning and the next and the next. Just sit your hot mess down, because pretty soon, you’re not going to suck. You’ll be a bit calmer. Thoughts that depress you or scare you will still come in, but you’ll be better able let them go. A bit.

Maybe one day you’ll meditate for a minute and a half. Great. It doesn’t matter, though. The thing is to just keep going. By the time they do put up that statue, you’ll be so self-actualized you won’t even care.

That’s a one-minute habit.

How do You Use a One-Minute Habit?

Here are three great ways to apply the one-minute habit:

start something: sort the laundry, write in a journal;
do less: shower for nine minutes instead of your usual 10,
do more: add a minute to your stairclimber workout; read to your daughter for 11 minutes.

One minute a day and you can do anything. Now get to it. This minute.

A Tool to Get You Unstuck

Starting from Stuck

If your days unspool like mine — or, the way they used to — you wake and the “shoulds” rush in:

I should get up now. I should get that project done. I should meditate. I should answer those emails. I should make time for my husband/my wife/my children/my self. I should exercise. I should be happier. I should be and do more, more, more!
And if I do have time — if, miracle of miracles, I’ve gotten everything done and I have a little free time and I don’t need to take a nap — maybe I want to try something new, like writing or painting or meditating. Of course, it’s always right about then that I start to think:

I don’t know how to get started.

I’ll be lousy at it.

I wonder what’s on TV. Oh, the remote’s right here. Click.

Everyone is Overwhelmed. Everyone is Afraid

The more I talk to people, the more I’ve realized how much we’re all overwhelmed — with stuff to do and things to learn and techniques to self-improve. We’re also afraid to try new things because we don’t know where to start.

But There’s a Different Way to Think About It

What started to change things for me was simply wondering where the time really went. Looking back over a day or a week, I felt like I’d been too busy to really get anything done. Yet I couldn’t say exactly what I had gotten done. With work or family or anything else.

So I decided to keep track of my time.

Cages and Cabins

For the things that overwhelmed me, I began to use a timer to create boundaries around how much time I would give to email or texts or phone calls. I began to put these daily tasks in cages. For other activities, I built cabins — at least my idealized version cabin, a low-tech retreat where you focus on a single pursuit. In my daily schedule, these were dedicated blocks of time to focus on a project. I didn’t answer the phone and I didn’t check email.

Why I Built a Timer

That was all well and good, but the more I incorporated timers into my everyday life, the more dissatisfied I became. Most timer apps I found were too busy, too complex, and too ugly. In trying to introduce a grace and simplicity into my own life, I found I wanted a tool that was graceful and simple.

Since I couldn’t find one, I built one.

Hello, Clear Timer

Clear Timer is a simple timer app that helps you be more productive, track reminders, and measure tasks. Its intuitive timer wheel allows you to easily set the time down to the second, run multiple custom timers simultaneously, and time anything up to 60 hours.

Clear Timer features an elegant design and offers a variety of skins and sounds, plus an infinite number of timers you can start, pause, and reset individually.

Tick Tick Tick

Life goes by so fast. I’m only just beginning to rethink my use of time. But I’m learning that a tool as simple as a timer has gotten me thinking about how I use my time, what matters, and what I can let go of.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Maybe you can build your own time cages and focus cabins for yourself too.

Hello, Busy Person. This is Clear Timer.

Got a Minute?

You’ve a lot to do so we’ll only be a minute. Actually, 1 minute and 15 seconds. (We timed it.)

Sorry to interrupt, but we thought it was important to tell you:

why you’re going crazy
there’s a way out
you’re not alone

Why You’re Going Crazy

There’s a meeting starting in five. There’s a pile this high of unread emails in your inbox. There’s a parking meter that’s going to expire any second. When (if) you get all that taken care of, there’s more to do.

Always. More. To. Do.

More to manage, more to read, more to watch, more to learn, more to create, more to more … you get the picture. And if — big “if” — you get everything done. If you collapse on the sofa at the end of one very long, very productive day, there’s probably a voice in the back of your head saying, “There’s got to be more to life than just productivity.”

There’s a Way Out

Take a minute to breathe.

Now consider Clear Timer. It’s an iPhone timer app whose intuitive design makes it easy to use, which helps make sure you get more done, organize your reminders, measure your tasks … and keep your sanity.

Clear Timer features an elegant design and offers a variety of themes and sounds, plus an infinite number of timers you can start, pause, and reset individually.

When you start to keep track of time, you start to become accountable to it. You start to ask questions like, “How can I think more intelligently about what I’m doing?” “Is this the best way to spend my time?” “How can I simplify?” and “Where do I start?”

You’re Not Alone

It’s not just you. There are a lot of people out there who want to make better use of time, who are curious, smart, passionate, and … overwhelmed.

People are looking for ways to live life productively, but also with purpose and passion. That’s where you’ll find Clear Timer. Clear Timer is a simple tool, but it’s powerful. Maybe because it shows — in a visceral way — that time, all time, is fleeting.

Tick tick tick.

It’s time for you to get going.