Philippe Khin
You need to set your Pain Tolerence Level really low
20 May 2020
Optimize your daily tools by identifying and trying to fix your tiny but recurrent pain points

What do I mean by pain tolerance? And by the way, this has nothing to do with health.

You know when you work on your daily job, where you have to use your tools to produce and perform your daily tasks. Those tools range from your hardware (like your mouse, keyboard, computer monitors etc) to the software (Email client, PowerPoint, code editor, Design tool...) that you use.

While using those tools, you surely come across some bugs, or a keyboard shortcut that doesn't work properly, or simply doesn't exist. The most basic of all are your keyboard and trackpad/mouse.

Your computer is the first thing that you have to optimize

Personally I'm using a MacBook Pro plugged to two external monitors, without any additional keyboard and mouse. I'm just a heavy user and big fan of the MacBook Pro trackpad.

The first thing that really slows me down when performing my job, is that the process of putting ideas into words (writing an email, drafting a document etc) was too slow. Why? Simply because I couldn't write fast enough and spend my time correcting typos mistakes that I made while typing.

Writing on a keyboard is something that you do daily, and not being able to improve your typing speed will just compound over time, and you will lose so much time because you are too slow. Not only you'll lose some precious time, but your ideas might just get lost on the fly while slowly typing and trying to correct mistyping mistakes, because you get to focus so much on those rather than trying to flow out your ideas and put them on paper.

For programmers like me, it's even worse because not I only I have to type a lot of special characters, but I also we have to manipulate lines of code using a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. Of course, using shortcuts is not unique to programmers, but we use them a lot.

One thing that really bothers me, is the usage of the arrow keys on a keyboard. I just found those really far from my fingers and I tend to look to them when I used them. So instead, I install a software on Mac called Karabiner-Elements (free) to customize a little bit my keyboard. Because I use the Touch Typing method to type on my keyboard (everyone should do that by the way), it's just way faster for me to just use Ctrl + I,J,K,L for up/left/down/right arrow keys. Both my index fingers don't have to go far away from the two home keys which are F and J.

Here is the point: because using the arrow keys just pissed me off so much, I came up with the idea to fix that, which leads me to find a software capable of customizing the keys on my keyboard, and that lead to a better experience and I just improve drastically my typing speed. This is good because looking for and bringing a solution to a small but repeatitive problem will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Another thing is the trackpad. I only use the trackpad instead of a mouse. Why? Because while typing, if I want to move the cursor to click on something, my hand doesn't have to be far from the keyboard. It's just much more faster to do so.

Moreover, because I knew that I could customize my keyboard, so why not the trackpad? There must be out there someone who also wanted to do so and has already created a software to achieve that.

So for Mac users, there is this tool called BetterTouchTool, which is just the best tool on Mac that I came across. It enables you to customize your trackpad the way you want it (and your mouse too apparently). 3-fingers clicked swipe down and then boom, your application window is moved between monitor and get maximized, 4-fingers click and you can quit entirely an application, 5 fingers click and you open Finder, 3-fingers clicked swipe to the right and you put the application window to 2/3 of its size to the right part of the screen etc.... All of these are completely up to you to customize, so it just give you a muuuuch better experience using your computer.

Also, since I'm using my MacBook Pro for everything (except gaming, I don't play games on my MacBook 😬), ranging from doing basic web browsing stuff, to office stuff and heavily coding sessions. The heaviest workload is on the coding part because when I code my application SewaYou which is a React Native app (basically a single code base for both iOS and Android platform), I have to open a bunch of stuff including:

  • the code editor (VS Code)
  • sometime but often XCode, 2 iPhone simulators (iPhone 8, and iPhone X+)
  • Android Studio (can be closed afterward) with an Android device emulator
  • the React Native debugger which consumes a bunch of resources
  • the terminal (Iterm)
  • Figma, for design reference
  • Firefox, for documentation

All of the above are all the applications that I have to open when diving myself into a coding session to implement a new feature or fixing a bug. However, those applications are kind of resources demanding, and keeping them opened when I don't code (just browsing the web or watching Netflix) just slows down my computer a lot. To avoid that, I have to close and reopen them each and every single time that I want to code.

It's just too much of a pain and that just discourages me from coding. So I simply decided to upgrade my MacBook Pro even though I just got it for one year and a half.

The non upgraded model is the 13 inch base model, with 8GB of RAM, i5 dual-core processors and 126 GB of SSD storage. Because buying a computer is not something that you do everyday, I just decided to opt for an almost maxed out MacBook Pro 16 inch with i9 8-cores processors, 64 GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage... it's a really powerful machine worth 3700 dollars... Will receive it in a few days, so maybe I'll do some review on that from a programmer point of view.

My goal is just to keep every applications that I use constantly, H24 opened, so I that I don't waste time opening/closing them over and over again.

If you don't feel any pain, you won't try to find any solution

Face it, tools are not perfect and they have their own limitation based on your usage. But trying to make even a little bit your experience better using those tools will improve drastically your productivity but also your level of stress. A lot of people just decide or deliberately ignore those tiny pain points that slow them down, but not too much that they would bother trying to fix them or make them more tolerable.

If your pain tolerance level is low, you'll try to find any solution to overcome them and that just leads you to find the actual solutions that either already exist or your have to be creative and come up with your own solutions.

I'm sure you know people that manipulate some Excel data sheet where they have to copy something from a different application window (like a browser) and paste it to the sheet. The problem is that if they have 10 words to copy paste, then they'd just copy the word, switch to the sheet window, paste, and switch back to the browser and repeat that operations over and over again. Don't you feel that this is a huge waste of time? I personally do! But for most people, it's a small itch that they don't bother scratching. Worse, most people don't even question themselves whether those tedious and repetitive tasks can be done faster or in a better way. But accumulated over time, it's just a lot of time wasted. Just use a damn Clipboard Manager! 😱

However, not everyone knows the existence of something called a clipboard manager which allows them to keep a history of what they copied. Don't get me wrong, me neither at the beginning! But because my pain tolerance was low, and it just pissed me off so much to repeat those operations again and again that I decided to Google for a solution for it, and came across that solution.

This also applies for anything in your workflow, just find the thing that you can automate, or at least try to learn how to use it faster.

I still see people using their mouse/trackpad to select a word by highlighting the first letter and drag it to the last one... just double click on that word and it will select it entirely, or deleting a word by pressing as many times as the word contains letters. Just Cmd/Ctrl + Backspace..!

Master your tools, fix or find a solution for a tiny pain point that you repeatedly encounter over time

I'm not kidding when I talk about this subject in a serious tone. There are startups/businesses that are worth millions because they try to fix a simple but recurrent tiny problem that we all are encountering on a daily basis.

Who knows, you might have a really niche problem , something that you think you are the only one who has it and it doesn't have to be related to work, maybe a paint point that you encounter when learning a new language, or in your hobbies activities.

Google for a solution, if you don't find one, try to build it, or if there are already existing solutions, evaluate them and see if it can really fix your specific pain point. If it doesn't, try to make those solutions better.

As for me, for example in my language learning journey, I didn't find any websites/apps that are focusing on discovering advanced slang expressions/words, hard to find in textbooks, with their translation equivalents in different languages. So I just decided to built one by myself, and that's how was born.

To conclude, these are kind of the process followed by some successful products that are over there on the market. You don't have to build those solutions, but at least, identify your tiny, recurrent pain points and fix them with an existing solution. Be opened, be curious, try to be in the shoes of an application developer trying to debug their apps to provide the best experience as possible.

© 2020, Philippe Khin