Responsive web, responsive life

A responsive site design is one that can adapt to different screen sizes and different devices. As you resize the browser window, elements move around or even disappear from the page.

I’ve been thinking about what the code for responsive life would look like. I recently accepted another contract, which means I’m pretty much working at close to capacity. Although I really like the breathing room of having a day or two free each week, it also seemed like a good opportunity to make a difference. With the reduction in my discretionary time, what do I give up, and what do I shift around?

Working a little later during the afternoons means that I can’t come home early to cook something nice for dinner. My husband’s been doing most of the cooking lately, but I don’t want him saddled with all the housework. Besides, I enjoy cooking. I can shift that to more of the weekends. By cooking and baking our meals in advance, we get to enjoy making food, and the weeks are a little bit easier. I thought about trying one of those meal delivery services, or even experimenting with a personal chef. I don’t know. I get a lot of intangible benefits from learning how to cook, especially when my husband and I are cooking together.

Some things I simply need to drop or postpone. For example, studying Latin takes me a lot of time. I struggle with the inflections. I don’t think I’ll be able to focus on it well over the next few weeks, so I’ll take it up again when the crunch time is over. I will probably have to repeat some of things I learned, but I think it will be all right.

Sometimes it’s a matter of investing in more tools and social processes. For example, I’m experimenting with dictation as a way to write while doing other things, or while relaxing my wrists. I’m thinking of restarting my experiments in outsourcing, too. It should be easy to find someone who can handle the data entry from the receipts that I’m scanning, or who can help me cross-reference my passport entry stamps with trips in my record so that when I submit my application for Canadian citizenship, all my paperwork is in order. Little things like that, particularly little things that take a lot of time — those would be great candidates for outsourcing.

There are some hobbies that I still want to hang onto. Writing and gardening are both great ways for me to relax. Drawing lets me take notes from books and presentations. I guess that’s a little like the min-width of a web site design. I don’t want my life get any smaller than that. I don’t want to work so much that I don’t have time to spend with family and friends, or my laptop and a good book. After all, this is my adventure. I can choose what I do.

So far things have been wonderful, so I just want to make sure that I monitor the balance as I try out this new arrangement. That way, I can fix things if anything starts to get out of whack.

What if I stretch life the other way? Both of these contracts will eventually wrap up, and I occasionally think about what I want to do next. I’d like to see what it’s like to spend some focused time on building things: writing a book, working on my own code, playing around with ideas. I guess the web design equivalent of this would be is building a site for people who have those humongous monitors. Just have so much more room to play with – that’s a completely different playing field.

Different kinds of work lend us different metaphors for looking at life. It might be interesting to look at life through the lens of design. How can I improve the user experience? How can I adapt to changing conditions? How can I take advantage of emerging technologies and toolkits?

We’ll see. This is going to be fun.

  • Sven Eriksson

    Hello Sacha,

    Thank you for an interesting blog.

    Food for thought: compared with a 100 years ago, there is now, if I remember correctly, a ~6-7 times higher standard of living (what on average you can by for a days wage) due to ever increasing industry output per capita.

    Even so, it may seem that, for instance, we’re on average not working that much less time or spending that much more time on interesting things compared to a 100 years ago. I think the reason is that we are consuming more of the wealth that we have at our disposal and save less for things like time with family/friends/yourself.

    I am not quite aware of your situation or what is important to you. However, here is what I do (may certainly not fit everyone, of course):
    I have tried very hard to minimise expenditure on all fronts. One really big item is housing; by for instance buying a small plot of land (in an undervalued area) and building a (not too big) pre fabricated house, it could be possible to lower expenditure to way below that of even a quite modest flat, at least here in Sweden where I live.

    There are a lot of opportunities for cost reductions in many other areas too. I have very strict rules for buying new things. As an example, I only buy new clothes when on a rock bottom sale, perhaps just one or two times a year. The trick, I think, is to look for value/utility in any commodity/service and never pay for a brand just for the sake of the brand itself. I have found that even though I don’t buy that much stuff I am not feeling poorer or more unhappy, quite the opposite!

    Another aspect is learning a little bit of investing. I have used some of my proceeds to invest (mostly in common stocks). This really makes a contribution to my income statement. However, I would say caution is warranted since there are a lot of bogus investment philosophies out there. Also, learning about investments takes a lot of time. To me, a very logical investment practice is the one advocated by Warren Buffett and others. Anyway, having a small collection of sound investments can pay off every day for the rest of your life.

    I just wanted to share this because it works so incredibly well for me and I think that we who live in a western society are so extremely lucky to be living in the times we do, since so many incredible resources never seen before in history are now at everyone’s disposal. My approach tries to take even a bit more advantage of this to further improve the equation of the responsive life.

    Best wishes,

    Sven