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June 05, 2006

Let the Machine Remember For You

If there are routine things you have to do that you keep forgetting, it may be time to think about how you can avoid having to remember them in the first place.

Oh, yes, there are calendars and alarms and all that, but maybe the best solution is to not have to think about it in the first place. Electronic bill paying is an obvious example of this: you can monitor it, but you don't need to worry about whether you've paid the gas bill on time.

Then there's thermostat timers that turn the heat up or down depending on the time of day -- I'm so dependent on mine I can't imagine living without it. No more forgetting to turn down the heat before bed, or coming home to a cold house, or spending too much time thinking about whether it is time to fiddle with the heating controls. That brain space can be used for something else.

How about some other daily running worries that you can eliminate with automation? An appliance timer can turn on the coffee machine for you in the morning (or they make machines with timers built in) and turn it off for you, too. You can buy a kit to put little drip emitters in your potted plants, and hook that up to a timer, too. Imagine never killing a plant by forgetting to water it again. We have a timer on our shower ventilation fan, so it runs for thirty minutes after you turn it on to suck the humid air out of the room, then shuts off automatically. Bliss.

You can use automation (and appliance timers) to help make lifestyle changes. Want to cut down on your TV viewing? Put the TV on an appliance timer and it will be turned off for you when the limit is up. It's obviously trivial to override the system, but it requires real thinking about whether you want to watch TV now or not.

The real beauty of the automated system is that you can turn off that background process that is always nagging you to remember things. The machines, which are really good at remembering things, will do that for you. You can do the stuff that your brain is really good at.

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