12 Essential Things that Enhanced My Life

Some of the wealthiest people are the most depressed and saddest in the world. Having too much stuff can be distracting and overwhelming. Less stuff brings more clarity, more space, and more freedom. Still, there's nothing wrong with having shiny, new things. You don’t want to depend on things to make you happy or to define you. But you also don’t want to feel guilty when you buy something you really want or will enrich your life somehow.

Can money buy you happiness?
Are experiences always better than things?
Does minimalism make you miserable?

This is episode 40: 12 Essential Things That Enhanced My Life

Hello and welcome to the Incrementalist, a productivity podcast on making big changes in small steps. My name is Dyan Williams and I’m your productivity coach and host for this show.

Some of the wealthiest people are the most depressed and saddest in the world. You can still be unhappy even if you have loads of money and all the shiny, new things that money can buy.

Having too much stuff can be distracting and overwhelming. That’s why you need to be intentional about what you bring into your home and office. And declutter and get rid of stuff you don’t use: Sell, donate, repurpose, recycle and trash.

Less stuff brings more clarity, more space, and more freedom. Some things are just not worth the money. Sometimes you just need to appreciate what you already have.

I like the simple and minimal. I like to be tidy and organized. The more stuff you have, the messier life gets. I’m very mindful about what I buy. I tend to use things for years until they really need to be replaced. I’ve kept the same car since 2004, the same Kindle since 2013, and the same Iphone since 2016.

Just because you can afford the newest version doesn’t mean you have to spend the money. You can instead save your money, invest it, or give it to a worthy cause.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with having shiny, new things. Material rewards can even get you to do tasks and projects that are difficult or boring. It’s better to have internal motivation and know the why behind a goal.

But sometimes you need a little boost from an external incentive. It’s also a way to practice patience. You replace impulse buying with delayed gratification. You will get the thing you really want only after you’ve met a certain milestone or taken a certain action step.

Here are 12 essential things that improved my productivity and enhanced my life. I use them almost if not every day when I’m at home or working in my home office. Some are under $100 and some are over $200.

First up is a microphone with high audio quality. I did not upgrade my microphone until I got to my 40th episode of The Incrementalist. I started with the Blue Snowball ICE, which cost around $40. I used it to record 39 episodes. During a recent trip overseas, I used it once for a conference call and then it broke. The USB connection came loose and I couldn’t connect it to my computer anymore.

After I came back from my trip, I decided to upgrade to a new microphone, the Shure MV7. It has both a USB and XLR connection, has better audio quality that requires less processing, and has a headphone jack so you can hear yourself while you record. It’s about 5 times the price of the Snowball. But it saves me a lot of time and is just more fun to use in podcast recording.

Second is an Analog Alarm Clock. I got the Orcbeg, circular vintage, lightwoodgrain no ticking clock for better sleep. When I used the alarm on my iphone, I would habitually scroll through enewsletters and YouTube videos first thing. Once I switched to the analog clock, I didn’t have the digital distractions. I get out of bed and start my morning routine. I’ll do at least one important task before I do my scrolling. The current price tag for the clock is $11.95.

Third is a sleep mask for bedtime or short naps. A sleep mask triggers your parasympathetic response and promotes deeper sleep. I have the MZOO Sleep Eye Mask with 3D Contoured, Memory Foam Cups, which stay gently on your eyes. It blocks out light, is soft and comfortable, and has an adjustable strap to fit your head size. The current price tag is $18.99.

Number 4 is a really good writing pen. I use the Uni-Ball Signo 307 - Fine Retractable Gel Pen, which is a slight upgrade from the Signo 207. The lines are bolder and denser. This can be a minus for certain types of paper. The textured grip allows smooth, faster and more comfortable writing. The current price tag for a 14 pack is $19 to $25.

Number 5 is a Paper Planner. When it comes to planning my day or week, I prefer analog over digital. A hybrid system of pairing both analog and digital works best for most people. I’ve tried digital tools like Trello and Notion, but I gravitate back to a plain notebook. This year, I used the Moleskin 12 Month Daily Planner, Large (5 x 8.25”), in black color. It’s for listing key tasks, time blocking and tracking progress. The current price tag is $25. I’ll continue to use the Moleskin next year.

Number 6 is an electric Milk Frother and Steamer. If you like frothy milk or foam with your coffee, latte or chai, this a nice product to have. It’s saved me from trips to Caribou Coffee or the local cafe. I bought the Miroco brand for $43 on Amazon a couple years ago. It’s now at WalMart for $34.99.

Number 7 is an LED Desk Lamp with USB Charging Port, Different Color Temperatures or Moods, and Brightness Levels, Auto-Off Timer, and Multiple Angle Adjustments. I’ve had the TaoTronics Desk Lamp model TT-DL16 for a year. It was $81 when I got it on Amazon. This model has been around for at least 5 years and there are now newer models. It’s now priced at $55.99 on the TaoTronics website.

Number 8 is a bluetooth wireless, mechanical keyboard. The typing experience feels better than on a regular, membrane or rubberdome keyboard. The unique, tactile feedback leads to faster and more accurate typing. I went with the Keychron K2 keyboard, which allows a range of Gateron key switches. I have the Red Key Switch, which is supposed to give you a quieter sound level as you’re typing. But to me, it sounds just as clicky clacky as the blue switch.

With a mechanical keyboard, you can get a little annoying if you’re in a shared office space. But it puts me in the zone for writing on my computer. I bought this keyboard in April 2020 on Amazon for $80. The price is now down to $69 on the Keychron website.

The keyboard is a little thick, so for extra comfort you might want to spring for a palm rest. I went with the Keychron wooden palm rest, which is an extra $25.

Number 9 is an ergonomic wireless mouse. My choice is the Logitech MX Master 2S. It has a fast scroll wheel and feels great in the hand. It’s rechargeable, and controls up to 3 computers. I bought this mouse a year ago when it was around $80. The 2S was discontinued by Logitech, but it’s still now available on Amazon for $56.99. You could try the upgrade, the MX Master 3.

Number 10 is advanced noise cancelling earbuds or headphones. I opted for the Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds earlier this year in May. You can toggle between ANC (to cancel noise you don’t want to hear) and HearThrough mode (to let in what you do). I use it for podcasts, music and calls. I often will stick them in my ears for focus work, with maybe brown noise or brainfm playing. The price has gone down from $229 to $149 on Amazon. They’re sturdy as far as I can tell. I had a cheaper Taotronics ANC earbuds, but they crapped out within a month.

Number 11 is a note-taking, paper tablet. I went with the ReMarkable 2. I struggled with whether to buy this because it doesn’t offer as much as an Ipad. But its limitations are also its pluses. It doesn’t have apps, Internet browsers or games. This means fewer distractions from social media, email and notifications.

Its E-Ink Screen is easy on the eyes and gives you a paper-like feeling in reading ebooks, viewing and editing PDF files, and freehand writing, sketching and drawing. It converts clear handwriting and notes into text and integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox. It replaces your paper notepad, not your computer. It’s not for everyone. But it’s great for people like me who think more clearly and generate more ideas when they handwrite, sketch or draw.

The price tag is $399 for the Remarkable 2 etablet, $49 for the special marker or pen, and $69 for the folio case. You used to get a 30-day trial, so you could return it and get a full refund if you didn’t like it. But now there’s a 100-day satisfaction guarantee only if you buy their three-month Connect subscription plan.

Number 12 on my list is an ergonomic office chair. Last year I bought the Steelcase Gesture Chair, Graphite color for $1000 plus. It has adjustable seat depth, fully adjustable arms, seat height adjustment, recline tension adjustment, 4 position recline lock, and wrapped upholstered back and seat. The seat and back can flex when you move around in the chair, which gives long term support. I love this chair for its visual style and ergonomic comfort.

Choosing an office chair comes down to personal preference. You can do a lot of online research and watch many YouTube videos to pick a chair. Sometimes you won’t know for sure until you actually sit in it and use it for a few days or weeks. The Steelcase was a big investment that paid off for me.

So there you have it. These are the 12 essential things I bought in the last year or so that was worth the money. This is not a products review show, although today’s episode might have felt like one. I am not part of the Amazon Associates program and I’m not getting paid to talk about any of these products that have enhanced my life.

You don’t want to depend on things to make you happy or to define you. But you also don’t want to feel guilty when you buy something you really want or will enrich your life somehow.

Some things do make you sleep better, work better and generally feel better. The right tools can reduce friction, make time, and save money in the long run. They can help you build good habits, enjoy life more, savor the moment, and get more focused.

Thank you for tuning in to this episode. If you’ve been following the show, you might have noticed that I was on hiatus for a few weeks. I have a lot of catching up to do on client and creative projects. It might take a while for me to get back to a consistent schedule on The Incrementalist. Stick around though!

For those of you who have bought my book, The Incrementalist, on leanpub.com, thank you so much. It was a labor of love. And it’s encouraging to have others read the book and apply the 5 key principles of incremental productivity. Be sure to subscribe to the show and join me again on the Incrementalist.

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© 2021 Dyan Williams