Question the defaults

If something is a default, question why that is. Many people find defaults to be the safe choice. “Everyone is doing it, so I probably should to.”

Ever since I was young I’ve questioned defaults and common practices. The big ones being religion and spending money. These are two things I still question today. But I’ve always had that habit of going against what everyone else did, because I wanted to be different.

But, there are still many things which I didn’t question and probably should have: Going to college right after high school, needing to get straight As in middle school through college, having a prestigious job.

It’s interesting to look back on life and see all the missteps I took and how much my thinking has changed. Even just a few years ago I had a different mindset than I do now.

Stopping to question defaults is a good way to think for yourself rather than how society wants you to think.

One example for me is spending money on a big house. Most people get to a certain age and figure they’re around that time to settle down, but who says so? Then they figure the next move is to get a house. But why do they need one? They also want to get a decent-sized house and were told they could afford a $300,000 mortgage. But do they really want to be paying off that mortgage for the next 30 years?

For a lot of things, I opt out of the defaults because I’m already a bit weird. I don’t like to buy things, I am extremely frugal, I’m content having a 500 square foot house. So for me, buying a typical home with a mortgage is something I just don’t plan to do.

There are so many other defaults that should be questioned:

  • Marriage
  • Needing a car
  • Watching TV
  • Social media
  • Buying certain clothes

Something I try to think about is: Am I doing this for others or for myself? This is especially true when it comes to clothing. I rarely buy clothes unless I really need to. Many times I find myself looking at shoes or clothes in the store and thinking “Do I really need this?” and 99% of the time the answer is no. We like clothes because they make us feel good and they are a signal to others. And that’s typically why many of us want to buy new outfits. The most recent thing I bought was a pair of sneakers for a month-long trip. Did I by them to show off to others? No, I bought them to have comfortable shoes for walking around.

I find that many defaults revolve around big sums of money:

  • Going to college
  • Going to grad school or getting an MBA
  • Buying a nice car
  • Having a big wedding

These are many of the ways that people can go into debt. College is still a default for many high school students, as it was for me 8 years ago. But if you ask many of the students paying down big loans if they ever questioned going to college, the answer is probably no.

Tldr; If something seems like a default, take some time to question why that is and develop your own opinion on it. 


Energy & Schedules

I optimize the times I do things during the day based on my energy levels. It’s taken a while to figure out but I’ve finally got the hang of it.

This is my prime time. It is silent, nobody else is awake. I get up at 5:30 after sleeping about 7-7.5 hours. I feel awake and refreshed. The first thing I do is take the dog outside so that is taken care of before I start working, otherwise I don’t like interrupting my workflow.

I work from 6am to 12pm every weekday. This is the time I’ve found where I’m most refreshed and alert. Any more time than this and I start to get distracted and lose focus.

I exercise somewhere between 10-11am each day. I’ve found that if I go around this time I have more energy. If I go later in the day at, say, 1 or 3 pm I feel more sluggish and that I’m not pushing as hard as usual. Going late at night is a no-go because I start getting tired and want to wind down around 5pm.

I have coffee twice per day. Once when I wake up and another around 2-3 pm.

Afternoons are when I start relaxing. I have already gotten my work done and gone to the gym. If I need to run errands I try to do them as early as possible. Around 5pm I start wanting to really relax by watching TV, sitting outside, reading.

When the weather is nice I try to work outside. I find that this makes me feel like I have more energy. Being indoors makes me feel sluggish and stale. When I’m outside I’m in a different environment and my mind opens up.

DoorDash Review

I don’t see DoorDash lasting for a long time, my prediction is that the company fails within the next 2 years. We’ve used the service a few times. The first time we had a coupon for free delivery so we figured why not try it out. The food was correct and the driver came on time. The next time, my girlfriend used it while I was away. The driver took two hours, even though the restaurant is less than 10 minutes from our place, and the food was cold. The driver also couldn’t follow the instructions to find our apartment and blamed that (although the other driver found us just fine) and she didn’t follow the instruction to not ring the doorbell (we have a loud dog and wrote for the driver to knock and not use the doorbell). The doorbell issue was made worse because the driver made a comment that sounded like she did read the instructions.

My girlfriend wrote to the company to ask for a refund. They gave her the refund as well as DoorDash credit. So yesterday we decide to use up the credit since it was enough to pay for two meals. If we didn’t have this credit, I would not have placed an order because the site was so buggy. The site was so bad, we couldn’t order on desktop at all.

Here are a few screenshots of what happened.

The checkout on desktop would not let us delete items in the cart or show the correct items. This is showing that 4 items is costing over $13. 

In this first screenshot, this is the desktop checkout menu on the right hand side. We couldn’t see what we put in the cart, and it kept showing the wrong items. We’d click remove and the items would go away and come back. Sometimes the cart showed 4 items, sometimes 0, and sometimes it showed an order price that didn’t match those items. We tried a Windows computer, a Mac, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and incognito modes. I deleted my cookies as well. Nothing worked!

It took a good 30 minutes trying to get the site to work and finally I messaged them on Twitter although they didn’t have an answer.


DoorDash checkout. The subtotal is correct but the summary of items is completely wrong

We tried clicking checkout to see what would show up. Of course, the incorrect items in the checkout were the ones we couldn’t delete. But the subtotal was the right amount for the items we actually wanted. We didn’t feel confident placing the order on the desktop.

Now, feeling frustrated by this buggy site, I download the app as a last ditch effort. Luckily the app didn’t port over the desktop cart items. I went through and ordered. One issues was that the service fee on the desktop showed $0.39 and on the app it showed over $1.

Suffice to say, we won’t used DoorDash again. I’d rather go out and get the food than deal with annoyances like this.

I also don’t like that you tip the “Dasher” before they show up. My girlfriend gave her driver a tip through the checkout, and she showed up late and acted upset that she didn’t understand the instructions to find the apartment. The app/desktop should allow you to tip after a driver has arrived. We tipped the driver in cash for yesterday’s order because he followed the instructions and arrived really fast.

I’ve read a ton of reviews where people place orders and it went through, but nobody ever picked up the order and they never received a notification. The whole model relies too heavily on contractors who don’t feel connected to the company. Therefore you end up with some bad apples that ruin the experience for people that order. We’ve already had 2 bad experiences, and that’s enough for us to stop using the app.


Productive vs. Efficient vs. Effective

Since starting my new job, I’m at a great new company doing conversion optimization for eCommerce sites, I’ve been learning a lot about productivity and efficiency. But I’ve also learned about effectiveness. Yes, these are all just different words covering similar topics, but it was important for me to learn about what they mean.

Productive vs. Efficient vs. Effective

Everyone talks about wanting to be productive. They want to get stuff done.

If you’re being efficient, you’re getting stuff done in a limited amount of time with limited resources.

When you’re effective, you’re being efficient in getting the right stuff done.

See the differences? It took me a while.

Efficiency is what we want to be striving for. It’s about getting the right things done in limited amounts of time.

If you’re productive, you could have done a ton of things in one day and felt happy about it. Maybe you mowed the lawn, spent 2 hours learning how to fix the broken window, and spent 2 hours cleaning. But was that stuff really the most important to get done?

Effectiveness is about getting the important things done. Sure, cleaning, mowing the lawn, answering emails are all stuff that needs to get done eventually. But maybe it’s not the most important or worthwhile thing to get done right now.

5 Hour Workdays

At my new job, we have 5 hour workdays with no lunch break. That 5 hours is pure work. When you’re given a limited amount of time to work, you figure out what’s really important and what needs to get done. Rather than check email all day, I check it once in the morning and once before I finish.

It’s nice to have the restraints because then you can really use the 80/20 principle to get the right things done. When I had 8 hours to work, I felt like I had way too much time. Sure, there were some days when 8 hours didn’t feel like enough time. But I’m sure I could have been just as effective at my job if I were provided just 25 hours a week. I wouldn’t have gotten 100% of things done, but I would have gotten the most important things done.

Of course, there are some times where I need to do more work because I just get a lot of tasks all in one week. It’s more about spending the right amount of time to tackle a project or task, rather than trying to fill up a full day just because you can.

Tools & Tips

Tomato Timer
A simple 25 minute timer I use for Pomodoro. I do 10 of these blocks each workday.

Taking Breaks
It’s important to take a break if you’re stuck on something. Getting out of your work environment can help you think of new solutions.

This Chrome extension helps block distracting sites.

No Email
Don’t have email open all the time! Check it at certain times of the day.

This isn’t a tool you can use daily, but it’s something you should do once or twice a year. This is travel where you get out of your comfort zone or go to a new culture. Having these experiences can really help motivate you or change the way you think and view things.

Sleep More
In US culture, it’s cool to not sleep. I don’t understand why, but you always hear people talking about how they only slept 4 hours or something crazy like that. Sure, there are times where you will run on little sleep due to an emergency or something out of your control. But when you can control it, have a set sleep schedule. I always go to bed between 10 and 10:30 PM and wake up around 5:30-6 AM. On weekends I go to bed around 10-11 PM and wake up at 7 or 8 AM. I find that sleeping in too much makes me more tired, but having a set schedule leads to a more optimal day.

Minimalist Chrome Extension

The Leoh New Tab Chrome Extention is awesome! I saw it on Noah Kagan’s site, OKDork, in the resources section.


This Chrome extension makes your new tab minimalist. It just has a nice, beautiful image, the time, weather, and other info if you want to add it (notes, calendar, RSS feed).

I really like being able to open it up and just see a nice image along with what’s on my calendar. Nice little app 🙂