Friday, November 18, 2011

The Comfort Principle

Here's a neat way to think about things: spend your resources where you spend your time. He calls it "the comfort principle".

So, if you — like me — spend much of your day in front of your computer, then don't be afraid so spend money to get a really good one that will give you a minimal amount of problems and frustrations. I rarely listen to music on the other hand, so it would make little sense for me to get an expensive pair of speakers. And it'd make no sense at all for me to get a worse computer in order to get better speakers. Somebody who always listens to music and uses a computer only occasionally may take the opposite choice.

Of course, you have to look at the larger picture and be sure you're not optimizing the wrong thing. The author takes an office chair as an example: better to get a good, comfortable chair than a cheap one if you're going to sit all day. But what if you chose not to sit all day long instead? A cheap chair and a desk that lets you stand may be better still. And instead of a really good laptop, what I need is perhaps a job that doesn't put me in front of a computer every waking moment?

Kansai Airport
Kansai airport departure lounge. Airports and airplanes are exciting and memorable, but that's not where you spend most of your time during a trip.

This thinking doesn't just apply to buying stuff. I have a belt. It's a very nice, brown leather belt with a plain metal buckle that I got for my birthday from Ritsuko some years ago. It's sturdy and simple, and it looks good with any clothes I have. I like it very much.

However, the buckle always, inevitably sets off the airport scanner alarms. Whenever I fly I have to remove the belt and put it on the conveyor belt. And as I've been losing weight I really need a belt to hold my pants up. I stand there in front of the X-ray scanner, juggling belt, computer, phone, change, keys and carry-on bag with one hand while clutching at my jeans with the other. I'd drop something on the floor and scramble to pick it up while the people in line behind me start becoming restless. It's just a matter of time before I screw up and literally drop my pants in public.

So why do I use that belt on travel then? It's the comfort principle. I spend a total of, oh, five minutes or so per round trip valiantly trying to avoid a wardrobe malfunction in security. I spend around 3000 minutes of a three-day trip with my belt securely holding my clothes in place, and looking damn good doing so. I'd much rather optimize my wardrobe for the 3000 minutes of my trip than for the five minutes I spend in security.

If you see somebody obviously ill-dressed or badly packed for the security control, remember that they're probably not stupid. They may just know how to prioritize right.

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