This is page is part of my almanac.
Tips and Tricks
THINGS TO STOP DOING
- Stop Paying for Things You Don’t Need. When buying a subscription on the iPhone App Store, they often default to auto-recurring. This means you can be paying for things forever and never use them. I immediately turn off the recurring subscription. Then, when I need to use the subscribed service again, I renew it.
- Stop Asking People “What Do You Do?” at Cocktail Parties. In New York, everyone likes to ask “What do you do for a living?” as their cocktail party question. I’ve found that “What are you passionate about?” to be a much more fruitful question to ask. In fact, Amazon puts this question on the internal phone directory for everyone to share.
- Stop Using Q-Tips to Clean Your Ears. Did you know that Q-Tips are absolutely not for cleaning your ears? Take a look at the strange history of Q-tips, the most bizarre thing that people buy.
- Stop Tying Your Shoes Wrong. Watch this old three-minute TED Talk shows the right way to tie your shoes. For the courageous, here’s a video of how to tie your shoes super fast or how to properly tie running shoes. If you want to learn more about knots in general, there’s a site for that as well. As another bonus, here are a number of different ways to tie a scarf.
- Stop Refrigerating Your Butter. I always envied how the bagel stores and delis managed to have such soft spreadable butter. I learned that if you leave your butter out on the counter in a butter dish you can do the same thing at home. According to the USDA, butter can stay on the countertop for a few weeks with no problems. We used this butter dish for the last year which worked great and have recently been trying a Butter Bell. The Bell is much cooler and prettier but sometimes the butter falls out when the room is warm.
- Stop Forgetting Items. This is a simple but easy trick. When you need to remember something, put it in your way as a reminder. If you want to remember a bag, put it on the doorknob before you go to sleep. Put documents you need to read tomorrow morning on your chair before you leave. At a hotel put your phone in your bag when it’s charging so you don’t forget the charger.
THINGS TO START DOING
- Get Your Guests to Put Their Phones Down. It’s not fun to have friends and family over with everyone on their phones. Use this charger and phone holder and have people put down and charge their phones in a classy way.
- Play with Your Kids and Not Against Them. When I was a kid, we always played video games like Super Mario Brothers against one another, seeing who could get a higher score. The new Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch has everyone playing together to beat the level—which is lots of fun. If you’re into physical games, Ari’s become a big fan of Pandemic, where everyone works together to save the world. Wil Wheaton and his friends play a demo game that’s fun to watch.
- Choose a Better Book or Movie. This one is a tip from my friend Seth Gilbert. If you’re going to watch a movie “From the People Who Brought You Movie A” you should probably go see Movie A. It’s going to be at least as good as the new movie.
- Get Your Kids to Evenly Share. In my article Game Theory for Parents, I write about how you can have one kid divide a pie and another choose the most preferable piece. Then there’s no arguing about fairness!
- Communicate Better About Your Dishwasher. Let’s get to one of the most important questions in a marriage, “Is the dishwasher clean or dirty?” My friend Quentin introduced me to the Clean|Dirty dishwasher magnet that elegantly solves this problem.
- Use Smaller Plates. It’ll convince your brain that you should eat less and you can always go back for seconds. It works great at buffets and salad bars.
HOW TO DO THINGS
- How to Serve “Fresh Squeezed” Orange Juice from a Carton. I learned that some restaurants make “fresh squeezed” orange juice by pouring Tropicana Pure Premium into cups and letting them sit over ice. Good orange juice isn’t meant to be served super cold. Let it sit out a bit and you’ll think you squeezed it yourself.
- How to Avoid Losing Your Laptop at the Airport. Put your business card and cell phone number on your laptop to avoid losing them at the airport.
- How to Have More Fun on Roller Coasters. I’ve started taking Bonine (generically meclizine) before going on roller coasters. Now I can go on twisting looping roller coasters or spinning rides like Disney’s Mission Space without having a sweaty, nauseous feeling. Bonus tip, it can also work for stomach bugs which cause nausea.
- How to Fall Asleep While Learning Something Fulfilling. Everyone has heard of students being put to sleep with boring books. But before bed is a great time for me to read dense books. I learn something hard and I know when I need to go to sleep when my eyes … get … really … tired. Some great books for this are How to Read a Book, The Edge Question Series, Super Thinking, and On Writing Well.
- How to Order a Chicken McGriddle. I’m a big fan of chicken and waffles so I was excited when McDonald’s started selling a Chicken McGriddle sandwich. They’ve stopped selling the sandwich but you can combine a chicken patty and two McGriddles from the all-day breakfast menu. If they are confused, show this receipt to the cashier and have them type it in.
- How to Cut the Cord with Amazon Fire TV Recast. We stopped our cable about a year ago, saving over $100 a month. The one thing we miss is live, over-the-air events, like the Superbowl. Then we found the Amazon Fire TV Recast. This is a DVR for the over-the-air TV signal that comes into my house. I can watch live TV or record programs and then stream them to Fire TV Sticks connected to the TVs in my house or to my phone.
- How to Remember Things with Your iPhone. On an iPhone, you can have Siri remind you of something at a certain time just by speaking the sentence. For instance, just say “Hey Siri, remind me at 8 AM tomorrow that I need to file my taxes.” The reminder will come up tomorrow and you’ll have it right on your phone.
- How to Avoid Being Stuck Without an Umbrella. This one is from Mark Hurst. Buy two umbrellas, and keep one at home and the other at work or school. (Perhaps store another in the car.) Then grab an umbrella whenever it’s raining—and this is the only hard part—remember to put the umbrella back in its place afterward. I find it best to leave the umbrella with my bag or whatever I’m taking back in the other direction.
- How to Get Something for Nothing. If you’re going to lunch with a friend, instead of splitting the bill, pay for your friend. You get to buy your friend a gift and they get to receive one. The next time, they can buy you lunch. This gives you both a significant amount of pleasure for no cost. (Added 2020)