Lane Sawyer🌹

@lanesawyer

Humanist, vegan, minimalist, programmer, collector of labels.

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I'd Rather be Blind Than Deaf

Last week at work we landed on the random topic of “would you rather be blind or deaf” and out of everyone in the group, I was the only one to choose blindness.

After glancing about on the Internet, my highly scientific perusal of the front page of Google lead me to believe that most people would choose deafness over blindness.

It makes sense. So much of our world is focused on being able to see. In fact, we rely on our sight so much that we probably miss out on developing our other senses simply because they aren’t needed as much in today’s world.

But the main reason I would choose blindness over deafness is summed up nicely by Helen Keller, and who would know better than her?

Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.

My life is full of both people and things, but if I had to choose one to discard, it would be the things.

In fact, over the last few years I’ve been doing just that: discarding things. I’m a minimalist (I’ve been meaning to write about minimalism, but until then you can read more over at The Minimalists) and as such, I don’t own all that much stuff. I focus on having experiences and interacting with people, so if I were to lose things like video games and YouTube, I’d survive.

That’s not to say my life would not change dramatically if I lost my sight, because it would. But none of the challenges I would face would be insurmountable. I just spent ten minutes typing up ways in which life would be worse, but I managed to find a workaround for every single problem. Apparently there are blind people that write computer programs, rock climb, and play video games!

I’m not saying that it’s much harder to be deaf. Both disabilities come with their unique challenges. But the things I value most in life would all still be fully accessible when blind.

I love to read, so Audible would pump books into my ears and Braille would cover the rest.

I love to talk, so I could still hold entire conversations with almost anybody I met on the street. And while I love being able to look at my wife, I’d much rather be able to talk to her about all the random crazy things we both come up with on a daily basis.

I love music, and would probably develop an even deeper appreciation for it and start playing an instrument again.

I love rock climbing, cycling, and being generally active, all of which could still be done with some minor changes.

But the biggest reason I wouldn’t want to be deaf is because of my favorite thing in the whole entire world: podcasts. I love podcasts. How could I live while being cut off from some of the best one-sided relationships I’ve ever developed?

While both disabilities would suck, being deaf, at least for me, would be a much larger burden that I would rather not deal with.

I didn’t dive too much into the deafness side of things, but if you think I’m completely crazy, leave a comment telling me why!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

Tips to Reduce the Environmental Impact of your Job

Work makes the world go round. Humans putting in time and effort to create amazing things is one of the reasons we have so much abundance in this world.

But the same work we do to create all the cool things many of us on this planet enjoy also contributes to our rapidly decaying environment.

In order to save our planet, we need both systemic and individual change.

This list is compiled from my personal journey to reduce my individual impact, but it can also be used to create corporate policies that encourage a lower environmental impact.

It is still very much a work in progress, as I would like to back up each tip with a source in order to have a better argument as to why we should all be striving for these changes, but, for now, it's a place where I'm developing my thoughts on what I can do personally.

I'm an IT consultant on a travel project, so I'm sure some of the tips make no sense in your job, and I'm likely probably missing a lot of great ideas that don't explicitly apply to my own job. If that's the case, shoot me an email and let me know!

Now, on to the list:

Commuting/Travel

  • Live close enough to walk to work to avoid using motorized transport
  • Live somewhere that allows you to take the bus and light rail to avoid using single occupancy vehicles
  • Drive an electric car (or high MPG car) to reduce gas usage and carbon output
  • Carpool when traveling with other employees to reduce the number of vehicles needed to travel to and from airports
  • Avoid flying as much as possible to reduce carbon emissions

Food

  • Eliminate or reduce your meat consumption to decrease land use and carbon emissions
  • Prefer restaurants who source their food locally to reduce food transportation impact
  • Go to restaurants and eat on their silverware instead of ordering take-out to reduce container waste
  • If you have to order out, choose places with compostable or recyclable containers to reduce contributing to the landfill
  • Bring your own utensils to reduce using single-use utensils
  • Apply condiments at the restaurant or at home to reduce the usage of single-use condiments
  • Carry a water bottle with you to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • Use a coffee mug to reduce the number of disposable cups
  • If you don't have your water bottle or cup, choose compostable or recyclable cups
  • Eat fewer processed foods to reduce the energy put into making food
  • Eat fewer packaged foods to reduce contributing to landfill and recycling

Technology

  • Write efficient code to reduce energy and physical material usage
  • Shut down testing environments outside of business hours to save energy
  • Take good care of your devices so they last longer to reduce the number of devices manufactured
  • Use Linux or other streamlined operating systems when your laptops start getting slow and it will feel like new machine to get more life out of it

Hotels

  • Opt-in to green initiatives at the hotel. Some hotel chains (like Marriott) will even give you bonus points!
  • Hang up towels for use the next day to reduce water and energy usage
  • If there is not green initiative, put up the Do Not Disturb sign when you leave so your room doesn't get cleaned daily
  • Look out for greener hotels who don't use single-use plastics for toiletry supplies
  • Choose hotels close to your destination so you can walk

Code Reviews: What they are, why you need them, and how to get started

Have you ever come across a line of code that made you pause and think WTF is going on here? You get in a huff because some careless programmer did something completely wrong and wrote poorly formatted, incomprehensible code.

Then you do a git-blame and discover that you wrote the line yourself.

Whether it’s poor logic, the use of tabs over spaces, or even a brilliantly crafted solution that is difficult to comprehend, reading code can feel like translating a cryptic language. When nobody on your team shares what they’ve coded with each other, the codebase — no matter how well architected — will quickly fall into disarray. The solution?

Code reviews!

Code reviews are a fantastic way of transferring knowledge between teammates and ensuring that quality code is being committed. Regular code reviews are one of the many processes that effective development teams need, and they play a key role in ensuring the long-term maintainability of a project.

This article will cover what code reviews are, why your team needs to be doing them, and how to get the practice started if it’s not currently part of your team’s routine.

What is a code review?

A code review is the analysis of another developer’s source code. These reviews help find mistakes and improve overall code quality. Code reviewers are responsible for making sure that only clean, well-structured code is allowed into the codebase. Reviewers look for the proper use of design patterns and coding styles, offering suggestions and giving constructive feedback when they encounter code that does not meet the expected quality level.

By both reviewing other people’s code and having your own code reviewed, you’ll get exposure to a variety of perspectives and learn a lot about what constitutes good code. As you grow in your career, you’ll figure out what type of code reviews work best for you and your team. But if you want some inspiration, check out the list below!

Things to Look for When Reviewing Code:

  • Anything not meeting the Definition of Done
  • Commented out code that could be removed
  • Descriptive variable names
  • Straightforward logic
  • Proper use of design patterns
  • The addition of unit tests covering the new feature or bug fix
  • That existing coding styles have been followed (things like spacing, indentation, putting code in the right file, etc.)
  • Descriptive comments are used where needed
  • That the code actually addresses the problem that needs to be solved
  • Front-end code is accessible and matches UI/UX designs

To put it simply, your goal as a reviewer is to enforce good coding standards so that your entire team can continue to quickly read, understand, and extend your code.

When you find some code during a review that needs to be changed, you let the person submitting the code review know about it. The original programmer then applies the fix and BOOM! Your code quality levels up!

Now before you get drunk with power, not every piece of feedback given during a code review has to be addressed. Sometimes team members have different opinions on what constitutes “good code”. While the majority of disagreements can be solved by referencing your team’s standards, it’s impossible to cover every scenario with documentation. As you participate in more code reviews, you’ll gain a better understanding of your teammate’s coding styles. As that understanding grows, negotiating code changes will become easier.

Once changes are agreed upon, the code reviewee will implement the changes and submit them again for review. This cycle continues until everyone agrees that the code is good enough to pull into the codebase. After the code is merged, the code review is complete and the developers can move on to their next task.

So now we know what a code review is, where does this review actually take place?

Code reviews can be conducted in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter if your teammate rolls over to your desk for an informal walk-through, or if everyone submits formal pull requests using tools like GitHub or Bitbucket. Hell, you could even use a message in a bottle or share the code on Snapchat.

It doesn’t matter how you conduct the code review. What matters is that you do the code review.

While I prefer a mix of in-person and online code reviews, your team will have its own unique needs. Some of you may be completely remote, making in-person reviews infeasible. Others might prefer talking over the code as an entire team. Ultimately it is up to your team to decided what works best.

To help you make that decision, here are a few ways in which the different styles can shine, along with some limitations:

Real-time reviews give the reviewer a chance to deliver feedback in-person and give the reviewee a chance to practice their presentation skills as they walk another developer through their code. Feedback can seem less harsh because you get to hear and see the other person. The cold, starkly typed words of a comment on a pull request can sound completely different when said in person. However, pushing back on a code reviewer’s request that you believe to be unreasonable or incorrect can be difficult for some people to do in the moment.

Online reviews are useful because they can be completed asynchronously. This is great for distributed teams or for teams with busy schedules. The reviewer can look at the pull request whenever they have time. By leaving comments on specific lines of code, it’s easy for the reviewee to track what needs to be changed. These types of reviews also allow multiple people to more easily participate, since anyone can make comments at any time. Reviewees can react to comments in real time and ask for clarification or defend their coding decisions.

Now that you’ve learned what code reviews are, maybe you’re wondering why I consider them to be such a vital part of effective teams. That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this next section.

Why do I need someone else to look at my code?

Code reviews are a must. Even if you’re the only developer on your project, you should be finding someone else to look through your code. Unless you’re writing code for a side project or Proof of Concept exercise, collaboration is vital to a healthy codebase.

Remember, nobody knows everything about software development. No matter how good you are, you will never know it all. There is always something new to learn, which is exactly why you want to look through lots of people’s code and share your own. Interacting with other’s code will expand your knowledge and help you grow as a developer. We all have our own strengths, and code reviews are a way to share those strengths with others.

Even the most experienced developers have a small breadth of skills compared to what type of work is out there. It’s literally impossible to be good at everything, and anybody who thinks they don’t need to keep learning will soon find themselves out of a job.

Code reviews give both the reviewer and reviewee a chance to teach each other. Veteran developers can always find something new to learn from their junior teammates, and vice versa. Because software development is an ever-changing field, you will have a unique perspective on how to build great software only a few years into your career. Reviews are an opportunity to share and evolve that perspective.

Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced you of the usefulness of code reviews. They truly are critical to the success of a project.

But what should you do if you’re on a team that doesn’t have a regular code review habit? This next section will give you a few ways to help convince them.

How do I get my team to start doing code reviews?

Teams who don’t have code reviews will release awful products. That alone should be reason enough to get started. If your team is not currently doing code reviews, you have a phenomenal opportunity to provide a ridiculous amount of value to your team.

Code reviews result in a better product and ultimately save hours of work by insuring new additions to the system are beneficial. You can’t afford to not do code reviews. Without regular reviews, your product will become increasingly complex, unmaintainable, and inflexible. Scaling it for a larger user base will be difficult and expensive. Developers will become unhappy and their productivity will drop.

You don’t want that, do you? Then start doing code reviews.

The easiest way to get your team to do code reviews is to leverage technology. Using tools like the pull request feature on Bitbucket or GitHub allows you to easily set system-controlled rules that force explicit approval for any new code changes. This means you will not be able to merge your code unless another developer looks at the code and puts their stamp of approval on it. Your team can always get around this by clicking the “Approve” button without really reviewing it, but if that’s happening you should be looking for a new job.

However, change is difficult. You can’t just go update the settings in GitHub and expect your team to start doing code reviews. That’s an easy way to frustrate everybody.

First, help your team understand the value of code reviews so they understand why they should begin reviewing each other’s work. Show them this article or the countless others on the Internet arguing my same point. Focus on how your everyday life as a developer will get better with code reviews being part of your team’s regular routine.

Once everyone is on board, turn on the tools and let the system do its thing.

There will be rough patches. Occasionally you’ll long for the days you could quickly commit that missing semi-colon right to master, but try to resist the urge. People will complain. They may even turn off the pull request approval feature. Keep reminding yourselves why you’re doing this and don’t fight the process.

Eventually the habit will stick, and your team’s skills will improve. The code base will become more stable and deployments will get easier. Point out how much better things are getting and celebrate as you watch yourselves ship great code more quickly.


And that’s it! We’ve covered the what, why, and how of code reviews, so you’re now ready to go out into the world, confidently reviewing all code that cross your path. Even if your team already does code reviews, see if you can find an area of the process that could be improved and give it a test run on your team.

Remember, code reviews are vitally important. As you and your team read each other’s code, you’ll all increase your knowledge and skills. By regularly reviewing your code, the quality of your codebase will improve. You’ll be able to add new features more easily and even reduce the number of bugs in your system!

There’s really no excuse to skipping this vital process. All things being equal, a team that does code reviews will be much happier in the long run than one that doesn’t.

If you have any great tips on code reviews that weren’t included in this article, send me a message!

This is the third of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team should use. Stay tuned for more!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

Creating a Definition of Done

During my first year as a developer I screwed up a lot.

Unintended changes made their way into my files seemingly at random. My commits broke existing unit tests. Sometimes I missed entire requirements because I didn’t read the story thoroughly.

In short, I wasn’t deliberate with my work because I did not have a definable, repeatable process. My lack of process cost my team time and money when they helped me fix things that I should have done correctly in the first place.

What my well-intentioned but directionless self needed was a consistent template to follow. One that clearly laid out everything I needed to successfully finish a story. On my next project, I discovered what my first team had been missing: a “Definition of Done”.

The Definition of Done is a concept created for the Scrum methodology, but it is useful to all development teams regardless of your project management framework. It provides a written set of events that must occur before a unit of work can be finished. Adopting a Definition of Done standardizes your team’s approach to completing work and ensures that all stories go through the same process, regardless of the people involved.

This standardization reduces mistakes and leads to a better product. Common issues like not having code reviews or unit tests go away because your work by definition cannot be completed without them.

However, enforcing the Definition of Done does need buy-in from everyone on the team. Just like team working agreements, you must create yours as a team and agree to follow it for every story. Without enforcement, a Definition of Done is as useful as not having one.

A note for developers: while the Definition of Done is often focused on development, it includes processes for everyone on your team. This is more than just a developer checklist. It’s an agreement among your team to create a process that delivers high quality solutions for whatever problem you’re tackling.

What goes in a Definition of Done?

Every team’s Definition of Done will be different, but most will include many of the following items:

  • All styling is implemented in the proper location
  • Views are clean and concise, with no complex logic
  • Code styling conventions are followed
  • Static code analysis produces no errors
  • Proper patterns are followed in the implementation (MVC, MVVM, MVP, VIPER, etc.)
  • Code is delivered to source control with the appropriate comments and tags
  • Development is complete, meaning all tasks are developed and tested
  • Browser and form factor testing have been completed
  • Unit tests are written and passing
  • Localization has been implemented
  • Code is commented appropriately
  • Logging is in place
  • Any required documentation has been recorded
  • Code has been reviewed by another developer
  • All QA test scenarios pass
  • Any bugs found that will be fixed later have been documented
  • Automated testing has been created and passes
  • Feature has been demoed to and accepted by the Product Owner

This list is not exhaustive, but the concepts have served me well across many different teams and technology stacks.

If your team doesn’t have a Definition of Done, make one! The standardization it provides will help you deliver high quality work while saving time and money. Use my list to get started and tweak it with your team to fit your style of work. Your future self will thank you.

This is the second of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team needs. Stay tuned for more!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

Team Working Agreements: The Why, What, and How

Every team needs a written working agreement. Without one, there’s bound be chaos, bloodshed, and death.

Or at least it might feel that way.

Team working agreements are the first step to good team building. Without a concrete list of rules for team interactions, invisible habits will start to creep into the team’s workflow. Habits that aren’t always good.

If you’re part of a team that doesn’t have a working agreement, read on. You’ll learn why it’s important, what it involves, and how to create one.

Why is it important?

Team working agreements minimize friction between teammates. The agreement gives all members of the team a template for what is expected during their day-to-day work. A good working agreement can help even the most contentious of teams come together to produce great results. They can also be used to introduce new team members to the group culture more quickly, since he or she will have a list to reference.

The key benefit of working agreements is their enforceability. Since everyone has agreed to follow the rules, enforcing those rules becomes less awkward when infractions occur.

For example, my team has a rule that everyone should be attentive during meetings and stay off their phone. Because of our working agreement, it is much easier to ask a teammate to put their phone away. Everybody knows that phones are a no-go, so when one does appear in a meeting nobody feels shy to point it out. The person on the phone will then realize that they are breaking their agreement and change their behavior accordingly.

By defining and agreeing on the expected behaviors for all team members, we are able to reduce behavioral problems. Good practices encouraged by the agreement ultimately turn into habits that propel the team forward, while the bad habits are weeded out.

What does the working agreement cover?

People are unique, so every team will likely come up with a different working agreement. While what works for one team certainly won’t work for every team, many agreements will contain rules similar to the following:

  • Core working hours when members are expected to be online or in the office
  • How to communicate vacation or sick days
  • When and where regular team meetings take place
  • Who should attend which meetings
  • Expected behavior during those meetings
  • Expected behavior during the rest of the day
  • Which software products are used to track work and to communicate
  • How and when to use those software products
  • Who plays which role on the team
  • What days the team eats lunch together
  • Etc…

The team working agreement is a contract between all members. It should be relevant to everyone and to the work that you’re performing. Treat it as a living document by revisiting it periodically and making updates as needed. Feel free to experiment! If one particular addition doesn’t work out, you can always go back.

How do I make one?

The most important part of creating a working agreement is that it must be done by the entire team. If you’re a decision maker or influencer on your team, this is easy to do. Otherwise, you’ll need to convince your teammates of the benefits to making one.

Make sure that the rules in the working agreement aren’t dictated by upper management — only your team truly knows what it needs, so outside influence should be kept away.

A working agreement can be created in a single meeting, even as short as 30 minutes. Ask the team to come ready with ideas, and then discuss each idea and whether it should be added to the agreement. By the end, you’ll be ready to go!

Any future updates need to be agreed on by the whole team as well. Depending on the extent of the changes, you can have another meeting or simply get consensus over email or chat.


Remember, your team working agreement is just the first of many processes that development teams need to implement to be effective. It defines the rules of the game and creates a common behavioral language. Finding common ground creates the bedrock on which future processes can be built.

Now take your newfound knowledge about team working agreements back to your team and start changing the way you work!

This is the first of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team needs. Stay tuned for more!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

9 Processes Every Effective Development Team Should Use

To be effective, development teams should—at a minimum—have the following processes in place:

  1. Team Ground Rules or Working Agreement
  2. Definition of Done
  3. Code Reviews
  4. One on Ones
  5. Static Code Analysis
  6. Style Guide
  7. Unit Tests
  8. Branching Strategy
  9. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment

What's your team missing?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be fleshing out the why and how for each item in the list, so check back for updates!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Walk to Work

At the end of last year I changed projects at work, which allowed me to start commuting to my company’s downtown office instead of a client site. Since I live about a mile away from the office I started walking to work each morning.

At first it was a little tough. The distance itself is doable. But the 25 minute walk isn’t any shorter than my previous commute, so during those early days I longed to hop in my car, crank up the A/C or heater, and be there in 10 minutes.

The walk itself is generally nice. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous in the summer (unless some crazy forest fire is causing some of the worst air quality in Seattle’s history) and the mild winters means a 30 minute walk isn’t too difficult to navigate.

Untuck my shirt in the summer, throw on a rain jacket in the winter, put on a mask during the forest fires. It’s easy. I don’t ever have to deal with inches of snow or 100 degree heat.

The hardest part is the rain. I’ve had days where my shoes will be completely soaked either to an errant puddle or lack of planning.

But after almost a year of walking to work, I never want it any other way!

Walking to work is something that everybody should get to experience at least once in your life. When you walk, you are reliant on nothing but your body to get you from place to place. You move relatively slowly, taking in your environment as you stroll by. Unique social interactions take place as people navigate busy sidewalks and intersections.

Negotiating crossroads with strangers in cars is a particularly unique experience. When you live in the city, most cars understand that pedestrians have soft, killable bodies and that walkers should be given deference. Wielding that power by making four tons of steel come to a stop with nothing but a glance is addicting.

There is an inner peace that comes through the methodical steps of one’s stride.

Sometimes your steps sync to the music. You power home, the beat carrying you like the wind.

Other times, you forget you’re even moving your legs! They just keep going and your mind is free to wander while your feet take you home.

When you stop to pay attention, the regular thrum of your footstep on the concrete is a constant companion. You feel connected to the city, one of its many inhabitants moving from one place to another. You are one small piece of an autonomous organism that keeps the city’s heart alive.

Most of us don’t listen to that beat, but it’s always there. My favorite walks are the ones where I tune in and feel the city moving beneath me.

As great as that all is, there’s one benefit that rises above all the rest:

Regular exercise does wonders for your health.

And yes, long walks are exercise. Not the most intense of exercise, but it’s far better than sitting behind a desk or in a car all day.

Since I started walking to work, I have lost 25 pounds! Simply walking three miles a day gave me moderate amounts of exercise, without me doing anything other than commute! When you walk to work, you traveling the way humans have since our ancestors figured out how to stand on two legs.

That’s why walks are enjoyable and good for our health. We are biologically hardwired to do it! Our ancestors often hunted by walking after prey until it literally collapsed of exhaustion, unable to run away any longer.

I know that not everybody is in a position to walk to work. But if you have the opportunity, you should take advantage of it. I’m not sure I can ever commute any other way again (although I bet I’d love cycling to work).

If you’re looking for a way to connect with your city or surroundings or want to live a healthier lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with a walking commute.

The One Thing: Walk to work


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Delete 5 Todos

You read the title. Now pull out your to-do list and delete five things from it.

It doesn’t matter what they are. It doesn’t matter how many are “overdue”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even have an actual to-do list.

All that matters is that you relieve yourself of the need to do five things.

Did you actually go delete five tasks? No?

I can wait.

Done?

Good.

Now that you’ve deleted five items from your to-do list, listen to your body. How does it feel knowing those things are gone? Maybe some relief, with a dash of anxiety? Annoyance at this random guy who is telling you do to something? Stress from seeing the thirty other things on your list that you had forgotten about?

Having deleted five things in the process writing this article, I felt a mix of anxiety and relief. It always feels good to get rid of tasks, but I’m anxious that I deleted something important. While I purposefully chose things that I knew would never get finished, I still felt a twinge of anxiety when deleting them.

Luckily I know I’m safe.

If the task I deleted was important, it will come back to me. I’ll remember it later or add it to my to-do list without ever realizing it used to be there.

Important things in life have a way of popping back up.

So don’t let that scare you when pruning your to-do list.

If you didn’t delete the tasks at the beginning of this article, go give it a try. I promise you won’t regret it!

The One Thing: Delete 5 todos


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Stop Using the Snooze Button

It happens every morning. You have the best intentions of waking up with your alarm, but forty minutes later you’re still slipping in and out of consciousness.

The snooze button is mankind’s worst invention.

But there is a simple way to always wake up when you planned: Get out of bed!

You can’t fall asleep if you’re on your feet. So instead of reaching for your phone or for a book each morning, roll out of bed and shamble out of your bedroom. Do anything but stay in bed. Make breakfast, brew coffee, do pushups, sit down at your desk and write, or even just stand there!

The easiest way to make sure you get up every morning is to put all your alarms in another room. Make them loud, constant, and annoying. The only way to shut them off is to get out of bed, and once you’re up it’s much easier to stay up.

Waking up on your terms each morning is empowering. You prove that you are more powerful than your snooze button and each of your days starts out with a victory.

So next time you’re tempted by that snooze button, remember what we say to the god of snoozing:

“Not today!”

The One Thing: Stop using the snooze button


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Back Into Your Parking Space

Parking lots are surprisingly dangerous. One in five accidents happen there, mostly due to people relaxing their attention due to the low speeds. Blind corners and cars backing out just add to the chaos.

The easiest way to stay safe (outside of simply paying closer attention and staying off your phone) is to back into your parking spot!

I know, I know. You’re always running late and don’t have time, plus you’re absolutely awful at lining it up right and don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of all those strangers.

But those are just excuses.

Backing in doesn’t take much more time, and I promise that after a week or two of doing it you’ll be much more comfortable driving in reverse.

Try it once. Then watch what happens when you go to leave your space. All of a sudden, you can see everything! You no longer have to look over your shoulder, hoping that nobody speeds around the corner while you’re backing out.

You simply look both ways and drive away.

I’ve been doing it for a few years now and I’m never going back. It really makes that much of a difference!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Take the Stairs

Finding time to exercise can be tough. Every day seems to fill itself with work, work, and more work. By the time you get home, the comfort of the couch is overbearing and your best-laid plans to exercise vanish.

But even on crazy days like that, you can find easy ways to get your heart pumping.

One of my favorites ways to sneak exercise into my daily routine is to follow one simple rule:

Always take the stairs.

If you follow that rule, you’re bound to get some exercise at some point during your day.

Is your office on the second floor? Take the stairs.

Is your apartment on the fifth floor? Take the stairs.

Did you just park underground? Take the stairs.

Yes, there are some limitations to this. I don’t imagine anyone working on floor 79 of a high rise downtown wants to spend 30 minutes each morning climbing up to the office. That’s too much to ask. But maybe get off the elevator a few floors early, or take the stairs down at the end of the day just to get moving. There are definitely ways to work it in even when faced with insurmountable climbs.

While taking the stairs isn’t going to turn you into an Olympic athlete, it does ensure that you don’t live a completely sedentary lifestyle. Eventually taking the stairs will become second nature and you won’t even think twice. Every day the climb will become easier until one day you’ll find yourself skipping up two steps at a time!

So the next time you see some stairs, take them. The elevator won’t miss you.

The One Thing: Take the stairs


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Get a Bidet (The Sorry State of America's Toilets)

This post was originally published on May 14th, 2017 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

Can you believe it’s been almost a year since I last talked about poop?

Last June, I encouraged everyone to poop better by using an improved squatting posture, and I had always meant to follow it up with another article to make your time in the restroom even more satisfactory.

That’s right: it’s time to talk bidets.

The first time I saw a bidet I was terrified. I was a young Mormon missionary living in Ecuador, and the thought of shooting cold water anywhere near my butt was far too homoerotic to even consider.

Boy, was I naive.

Turns out, the bidet is easily the single greatest piece of equipment I’ve ever introduced into my home.

Why You Should Clean Your Butt

It’s weird that I have to explain the merits of cleaning one’s butt, but here we are.

The need for bidets is clear. Who of us, after accidentally getting poop on their hands, would wipe it off with nothing more than a paper towel?

So why do we do the same to our butts?

Sure, we don’t shake butts when greeting one another (although now that I think about it, maybe twerking is just a new way of saying “hello”), but it’s still gross to think that millions of people are walking around every day with their anus unwashed.

The bidet solves this problem in a clean, environmentally friendly way. Bidets reduce the usage of toilet paper because you use clean water to get rid of all the nasties, then use a little bit of toilet paper to dry yourself.

It’s a win-win situation!

I Want to Clean My Butt — What Next?

Unfortunately for all of us, bidets never took off in the US. It was probably due to some combination of our puritanical culture and hatred of all things French.

But you can change that, at least in your own home!

The traditional bidet is separate from a toilet, and I’m betting most of us don’t have the money or the room to completely revamp our bathrooms. Thankfully, some ingenious people created bidets that can be attached to your existing toilet. Some even use warm water!

I don’t know if we’ll ever see bidets as a regular feature in the majority of restrooms in America (just like we’re still stuck with insanely tall toilets that totally screw up our bowels), but unless more of us make the switch and discover the amazingness that is the humble bidet, progress will never happen!

Social change starts in your own bathroom, so it’s up to all of us to join together and clean our butts!

Don’t be an asshole; go get yourself a bidet, today!


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Use an Uplifting Password

This post was originally published on May 21st, 2017 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

During 2016, in an effort to help boost my confidence and self-image, I changed one of the few passwords I actually know (use a password manager, people!) into an uplifting phrase:

You@re@mazing! — or rather, something completely different but with the same general sentiment.

Every day I had to type “you are amazing” over and over again. It made me happy each time, and it reminded me that I am worth something.

I’ve kept this up, even as I’ve changed passwords regularly. Each time I type them, I remind myself that life is pretty awesome, and that I’m lucky to be where I am.

So if you want an easy way to boost your self esteem, change your password today!

The One Thing: Use an uplifting password


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Schedule Weekly One-on-Ones at Work

This post was originally published on November 25th, 2016 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

One of the most important (and simple) actions you can take to advance your career is scheduling weekly 30 minute meetings with your manager.

I’ve been having one-on-ones with my managers over the last two years and it’s made a remarkable difference in my ability to grow and take on new responsibilities at work. I’ve learned more about managing my career during these short meetings than from all the books and podcasts I’ve listened to on the subject. And when busy projects cause one-on-ones to get skipped, things at work start to feel different, as that crucial chain of communication has been broken.

One-on-ones are essentially a miniature form of mentorship with the people you work with on a daily basis. It’s a chance for mentors who have “been there and done that” to share what they’ve learned on their career journey, and to provide helpful feedback and support to their mentee.

In this article, you’ll see why you need one-on-ones and how to conduct them.

Why One-on-Ones?

Scheduling regular one-on-ones with your manager shows that you have initiative and want to improve and grow your career. It indicates that you care about what you do. These meetings give you a scheduled time to talk about how things are going at work and where you ultimately want your career to take you. It’s a time to talk about areas in which you could improve and to celebrate the excellent work you’ve been doing.

Also, regularly interacting with your boss will give you a leg up when it comes time for promotions or assignments to interesting projects, because they’ll already know what you’re interested in and can do what it takes to get you the interesting work you want.

And if you need even more reasons, check out this excellent article on the subject by HBR.

How To Run a One-on-One

One-on-ones can take any form you and your manager choose, but I’ve found 30 minute meetings, broken into three 10 minute chunks delivers immense value in exchange for very little time.

Present — First 10 Minutes

Spend the first block of time talking about the last week of work. Share what has gone well, what has been frustrating, and what you’ve learned from any mistakes you had made. Praise your teammates when they do great things, or tell your manager how grateful you are for their help.

Talk about whatever is making your day to day work enjoyable and let your manager know when things aren’t so great (bonus points if you offer a suggestion on how to fix the problem).

Future — Next 10 Minutes

Next, move on to the future. Talk about your career goals. Ensure your manager knows where you see yourself in 1, 3, and 5 years. Make short, medium, and long term goals to get you to where you want to be. Regularly review those goals and talk about the progress you’re making.

This is a chance for you to really shape your career, especially if your peers aren’t having one-on-ones with their managers. The regular feedback from your boss will let you grow in ways you couldn’t have done otherwise. And when it comes time for a promotion, you’ll be the first on the list because your boss will know exactly what you want out of your career.

Personal — Last 10 Minutes

Spend the last few minutes talking about whatever you and your manager want. Bring up that trip to Spain you’re going on next month. Talk about the Great Turkey Fiasco of 2016 that you managed to survive. Share pictures of kids and pets with one another. This is the perfect time to get to know your manager better and to make connections you might have missed otherwise. I’ve had one-on-ones lead to excellent four wheeling trips, board game nights, and a pile of wonderful book recommendations.


There’s really no reason not to have regularly scheduled one-on-ones. It only takes 30 minutes a week and provides benefits that will help you through your entire career. The regular communication provides a fantastic forum for you to improve your day-to-day work, set goals that will shape your career, and develop better relationships with those you work with on a daily basis.

If you’re looking to make your work life drastically better, give one-on-ones a shot. I promise you won’t regret it.

The One Thing: Schedule weekly one-on-ones


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Poop Better

This post was originally published on June 5th, 2016 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

It’s time to talk about poop. We’ve been held hostage by Big Toilet for far too long, and now is the time to rise up, put the seat down, and expel the oppressors from our homes!

Our toilets are not designed for pooping. Rather, they’re terrible porcelain thrones that keep us stuck there for a lifetime playing games on our phone.

But there’s a better way:

Nature’s way.

Don’t believe me? Check out this cute video featuring the Squatty Potty.

You don’t have to go out and buy a Squatty Potty (although I highly recommend it). You can make do with a box, small step ladder, or any other item that’s half a foot tall or more. What matters is that you overcome the absolutely horrific design of the modern toilet by any means necessary.

By pooping in a natural position, you’ll save time, energy, and money by getting in and out of the bathroom quicker than ever with less grunting and pushing, and leaving less of a mess to wipe up when you’re finished.

You’ve literally been throwing your life and money down the drain. So stop it. And poop the way you’ve always been meant to!

The One Thing: Get a Squatty Potty or some other equivalent so you can poop the way you were meant to.


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Use a Password Manager

This post was originally published on July 21st, 2016 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

We live in a world of a million passwords. There’s no getting around it if you have any sort of online presence. And yet, many do nothing to keep track of all those passwords floating around in their brain (or on sticky notes next to their monitor). Even worse, some people use the exact same password for everything.

That’s a scary situation. If your Facebook password is the same as your email password and the same as your bank password, a breach in any one of those services opens you up to untold havoc on your life.

And if you use Facebook to log into all the other sites you use, all someone needs is your Facebook password.


That’s where password managers come into play. A password manager is a handy application that keeps track of all of your passwords. It will even generate extremely secure passwords for you, all at the click of a button.

I personally use Bitwarden, an open source password manager. I recently switched to it from LastPass in my ongoing effort to use more Open Source Software (OSS). Bitwarden is a great password manager, and currently holds over 400 unique credentials for all the various accounts I’ve collected over the years.

Bitwarden makes logging into sites dead easy. You can set it up to automatically fill in your username and password, or even log in completely upon landing on any website’s authentication page. It works on every single device I own. While it’s not completely flawless in detecting the login fields on every single site, it generally does a damn fine job.

With Bitwarden (and other password managers) all your passwords are protected by a single master password. That master password is the last one you’ll ever need to remember. I personally use a forty character passphrase for mine, since passphrases help create passwords that are easy to remember and are extremely secure.

Here’s a quick xkcd explaining why passphrases are awesome:
XKCD correct horse battery staple comic

Just don’t use “correcthorsebatterystaple” as your password. Due to the comic, that passphrase is now included in any hacker's arsenal now.


So if you don’t have a password manager, go get one! I highly recommend Bitwarden, but any of the major names that come up on a quick search should do the trick.

While it can be somewhat of a hassle to set up a password manager, it’s absolutely worth the effort. Your data will be much safer, and you can sleep easy at night knowing a breach in any single website you use will always be contained to only that site.

The One Thing: Use a password manager


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Do Something Radical

This post was originally published on January 23rd, 2018 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

Have you ever done something radical?

And no, I don’t mean hanging ten with Michelangelo, stuffing pizza in your face while you fight off Shredder’s minions (although that would be a wonderfully radical experience).

I mean something out of the ordinary.

Something unique.

I’m not saying you need to go discover a new brand new human experience, like seeing a color no other person has ever seen. It only has to be something unique to you. Your uncommon, radical act could be as simple as eating oatmeal for breakfast when you’ve had nothing but cold cereal for the last decade.

We’re all products of our environment. Everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the sports we enjoy is influenced by the people around us. Culture permeates our lives, and few of us stop to think anything of it.

Those of us who do push back against cultural norms often find great joy in doing so. I know I have. Since 2014, I’ve challenged many aspects of how I was raised, with radical shifts in my religious, political, and dietary beliefs being the most prominent.

I’m not here to say that my new beliefs and actions are superior to the old ones, nor am I asking everyone that reads this article to join me by abandoning their religion, voting for Bernie Sanders, and becoming vegan.

The path that has brought me the most happiness in my life surely won’t work for everyone.

But I’ve also experimented with other things, like regular meditation, reading new genres of books, diving into new specialties at work, and making a conscious effort to prefer walking over driving.

Radical acts are radical because they’re life changing, not because they’re huge changes.

Really all I’m asking is:

Do you ever do something new just for the hell of it?

If you don’t regularly step out of your comfort zone, you may be missing out on some of life’s most impactful experiences.

Not every change will become part of your life. You may find out that you really hate biking to work, or that dubstep literally grinds your eardrums into dust. There are many things I’ve tried that never stick around for long (like becoming a morning person — I wrote this particular article at 12:30 AM).

But after every new experience I always come away from it appreciating the knowledge I gained about myself and the world.

The mere act of opening yourself up to radical experiences will enable you to find new joys in life that would otherwise stay hidden away in the fog of inexperience.


I never imagined my life would turn out the way it has, but I love pretty much everything about it. Each day I find myself awestruck at the world around me and wonder how I managed to build such a great life. I’m convinced that had I not begun experimenting with radical changes, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.

To this day, I continue to experiment with radical changes. During one six year period in 2018, I tried the following:

  • Learned more about user-centered design in order to reinvent myself at work
  • Discovered new tastes in music by getting a Spotify subscription and exploring their vast collection of songs
  • Gained a new appreciation for cauliflower
  • Reduced my stress levels by abstaining from the daily news cycle
  • Picked up a guitar for the first time in years
  • Finally started reading biographies

Every one of those changes started as something radically new to my life.

And yes, learning how to make food using cauliflower isn’t all that intense. But small changes are still radical in a world where routines largely stay the same.

If you’ve never done something radical (or if you have but it’s been a few years) think of something you’ve always wanted to do. Make plans right now to do it. Sign up for that Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Attend your local town hall meetings. Become intimately familiar with the best arguments of a political issue that you disagree with. Book that trip you’ve always been wanting to take.

It’s okay if you start small. I did. I know how scary it can be to try new things.

But if you don’t take that chance and if you never do something radical, you may be missing out on some of the greatest moments of your life.


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Get Rid of Your TV

This post was originally published on September 10th, 2017 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

At some point in the last fifty years the great American pastime pivoted from baseball to television. Ever since Philo Farnsworth invented the television (and gave my home state of Idaho at least one claim to fame outside of potatoes), the TV industry has exploded. Up to 97 percent of U.S. households have a television, and they are all put to use! On average, U.S. adults watch 5 hours of TV every day. That’s 35 hours a week! 🤯

Think of what we could be doing with that time. Developing a hobby, starting a side business, spending time with our families and friends; the possibilities are endless.

Instead, we choose to sit in front of a glowing box, binging on Netflix, sports, and pop culture.

I’m not saying we should ditch television completely. Watching your favorite show is a great way to relax. Giving your brain an occasional break vegging out in front of the TV can be awesome (it's one of my favorite forms of recovery when I've had a particularly bad day), but surely five hours a day is too much.

But the fact that it’s almost socially unfathomable to not own a television should tell you something about how addicted we are to our screens.

Every year, TVs get thinner and sleeker, tantalizing us with extras like 3D, Netflix, and even Facebook. Televisions have become the focal point of our homes. We literally build entire rooms for the express purpose of watching TV.


I ditched my TV back in 2017, and I've never looked back. I still watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix and movies (especially when I'm depressed), but it's all done from my computer screen. That experience isn't ideal, so I watch a lot less Netflix than if I had my 55 inch TV again.

But I'm not going to lie. It was difficult to get rid of the TV.

The first major purchase my (now ex-) wife and I made after graduating from college in 2014 was that 55 inch "flat" screen I mentioned earlier (oh god it was so fat compared to what we now can manufacture in 2019).

I clearly remember the day it arrived. I set up the entertainment center perfectly, with no cords showing. Then we sat down and watched Doctor Who.

I even have the photo to prove it! (Please forgive the potato quality. I hadn't learned how to take good photos yet. It's not even centered! How does that happen!? Plus the focus is all wrong. Ah, the foibles of youth...)

Entertainment center with a TV showing Doctor Who

It was fantastic.

But we had unwittingly invited a time-sucking demon into our home. It took us four years to realize it, but eventually we did.

Once we realized how much our TV controlled our lives, we gave it to my brother and his wife.

Like The Ring, we got someone else to watch the TV so it wouldn’t be our problem anymore. (Sorry, bro! You really should get rid of that thing! 😅)

On top of all the time I've gotten back with less TV viewing, the aesthetic gains are fantastic.

Living in a 500 square foot apartment really limits what I bring into my home and how it can be arraigned. Now that I no longer have a podium built for the express purpose of worshiping a TV, my home actually reflects my values and hobbies.

I'd show a picture, but it's a mess right now!

Again, I'm not saying watching TV is an awful hobby. Just that we do a whole lot of it, to the point where a good chunk of our lives are spent staring at a screen, especially when you throw phones and computers into the mix.


So, are you ready to radically change your life?

Then try ditching your TV.

You don’t have to remove it from your home immediately.

Throw a sheet over it and pretend it’s not there. See how it feels. Pick up a new hobby, like writing about how amazing it is to not have a TV anymore. Grab a drink with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Find an online course to enhance your skills. There are so many things out there you could spend your precious time on this Earth doing that will bring longer lasting joy than a TV show.

I know it’s hard.

I know it’s weird.

Before I got rid of mine, I thought people who didn’t have a television were crazy hippies who didn’t have a life (oh shit am I a crazy hippie now?).

But I was wrong. Getting rid of your TV is the a simple way to start living a new life.

The One Thing: Get rid of Your TV


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Delete Games From Your Phone

This post was originally published on May 25th, 2016 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

Go and delete all the games from your phone.

Now, before you close your browser and whip out Candy Crush to spite me, please hear me out.

I used to find myself constantly reaching for my phone to play games when I was standing in line, waiting for the microwave to beep, or any other myriad of situations that left me with a few free moments.

But diving into the digital world meant I was completely engrossed in my phone instead of experiencing my surroundings and being present with friends and family.

Once I realized how much time was slipping away to these pointless games, I deleted them all.

It was tough.

The itch to play didn’t go away for a few weeks, but it did eventually subside. Those games were sucking away my life and providing little value in return.

I’m not saying that all video games are a waste of time (I still play my fair share), but in my experience, the mobile games are not worth your time or attention.

Having games on your phones turns the device into a pacifier, one meant to distract you. Many apps are purposefully designed to keep you in their digital world for as long as possible.

Personally, I prefer to use my phone as a tool to improve my life.

So, once the games are gone, what should you do now?

Look around. Enjoy the present moment.

The One Thing: Delete all the games from your phone.


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Put Productive Apps On Your Home Screen

This post was originally published on May 1st, 2016 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.

The average person checks their phone 46 times a day, or about every 30 minutes.

Often these checks are habitual responses to notifications, pulling up pointless games to pass the time, or (at least for me) looking up random pieces of trivia to satisfy an intellectual itch.

Forty six glances results in a lot of time spent staring at your phone each day.

Imagine if what you saw each of those times encouraged you to be a better person?

Here's my current homescreen:

My Current Homescreen

All of these apps are ones that I use on a regular basis, and most are ones that enhance my life.

While I don't love having Outlook or Slack on my homescreen, they are work-critical so it's nice to have within reach.

The rest of the apps let me stay organized, learn something new every day, or keep me in touch with friends and family.

The one glaring exception is Twitter. While I'm trying to kick my social media habit by keeping all of those time-sucking apps off of my homescreen and my entire phone if I can manage it (Twitter is just a website shortcut), Twitter earned its place because the impeachment hearings have been so damn interesting lately!


Is this setup perfect? No, absolutely not. But it's what fits my life at the moment.

In comparison, I published a very simlar article to this one back in 2016, and this is what my screen looked like then:

My Homescreen in 2016

There are some major differences, the most obvious being that I've de-Googled my life substantially over the last 3 years.

Only three apps are even still there:

  1. Todoist
  2. Slack
  3. Phone

I imagine in another three years my homescreen will once again change dramatically!

So, during your 34th glance at your homescreen today, take stock in what's there. Do those applications enhance your life? Or do they suck away the precious little time you have on this wonderful blue dot we call Earth?

The One Thing: Reorganize your home screen, filling it with apps that add value to your life.


Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.