5 Ideas to Keep your Workspace organized and decluttered

I have been using a really simple digital filing system lately. Now, by adding an external backup disk to my physical workspace, I can keep my digital life free from physical clutter (burned CDs and DVDs for backup).

So, in this article I will show you som ideas to organize your workspace optimally, basing on my direct personal experience.

 Use a single computer

By doing so we save money, time and energy. That is why I decided to make a netbook my primary computer. Just click here if you are curious to know my computer setup and the workspace environment I have been working on during these last months.

 Use an external hard disk as a boot partition

For your linux system. This is a quite tricky but rewarding and cool experience. I have found that this helps a lot, especially for safety and privacy reasons, you can keep your hard disk always with you. By using an external drive as your machine’s boot partition, you are able to bring the hard disk with you while you’re not at home or just keeping it safe when you’re on holiday. Whenever you shut your machine down, your computer will remain without hard disks, so none will be able to use it or boot it unless they have another boot disk. For technical reasons the boot process could be slow, but the main pro is that you keep your disk at hand wherever you go. Having an external hard disk will make your computer a bit more silent, you will have the possibility to keep the drive cooler (creating your own handmade ventilated/cooled hard disk stand or box). Plus, If you love minimalist designs, you will be amazed by how an external hard disk can become a wonderful object to keep on your desk.

 Optimal Cable Management

For your hardware (modem, monitor, printer, everything else) will be helpful to keep your space well decluttered from cables (especially is you have kids at home). Your hardware will benefit from the optimal cable management because your devices will stay cooler.

 Matching devices’ colours

It will be helpful to create a modern looking environment; plus, this simple “trick” will boost your productivity because you won’t be distracted by colorful stuff while you execute your work.

 A beautiful view

For your office workspace can be beneficial to manage your levels of stress. I love to use my computer in nice and natural environments just like parks, gardens. When I use my computer at home, I’m usually seated near a window to enjoy the view of the surrounding nature.

On simplifying our communication

Single Point of Truth principle: Don’t Repeat Yourself

Programmers, know that

Every piece of knowledge must have a single,  unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.

By applying this principle to your life, you end up living better.

Why? Because, by

  • Avoiding the duplication of pieces of knowledge 

  • Disambituating terms, concepts 

  • Using simpler structures of thought 

we avoid information overload and a straight-to-the point communication.

 Did you know that speaking is not communicating?

In writing difficult-to-read material, many writers indirectly communicate they have no intention to enrich their readers’ life. Paradoxically, there is no point in expressing difficult concepts by using difficult language.

 Don’t Repeat Yourself (DIE, Duplication is Evil).

Don’t Repeat Yourself means simplifying ideas and mental schemes.

That’s a purification of language.

 Avoid redundance and verbosity: you better your existence.

Less words means less mental / visual clutter.

 Straight to the point language means we communicate quickly and efficiently.

Become Conscious About the Role Computer Has In Your Life

Our productivity depends on ourselves.

Sometimes our computers can easily become a source of distraction. Truth is that computers are not essential to our life, as they are “tools” just like every other tool out there. The way this tool will be helpful to your productivity is only based on the way you use it, and how you can make it work for your existence. I’m just talking from an objective viewpoint, considering the existence of computers and their function. I’m not a programmer, I’m not a geeky user. I’m just being (objectively) real.

When we become conscious about the role that computers have in our life, we can start experimenting and establishing a contact with them, a bond that will be beneficial to our digital productivity.

Our digital productivity is a result of

  • Time management skills 

  • Decisions making skills 

  • focusing skills. 

Now, how can we become conscious of the role computers have in our life?

Tracking the time you spend on the net

Mind the time is an amazing plugin you can use in your web browser to track your net usage

Analysing the way you use your PC

What kind of user are you? These are just examples, of course.

  • a musician?  

  • a writer?  

  • a gamer?  

  • you only surf the web to check for new mail? 

  • you always chat with your friends? 

Identifying yourself in a “category” of users, you will be able to identify areas of your PC in which you can free up precious space, by deleting files and programs you don’t need.

Becoming aware of how you use space and filing system

How do you manage your files? If you want to create a custom-filing-system here is a step by step guide. Consider deleting duplicates or unneeded files from your PC, by using Ccleaner (Microsoft Windows) or fdupes (Ubuntu Linux)

Is your computer important in your life?

  • What role does your computer have in your life?  

  • can you resist checking your email for some hour or day?  

these questions would seem tricky, but they’re crucial to show you the real “connection” you have with your digital stuff.

Your aim should be to simplify every single portion of your digital and real life, so to conquer freedom through the carefree attitude that is the result of a decluttered and simple life. Again, less is more.

Leo Babauta’s Interview @ Ubuntulook : a simple and minimalist approach to computing

This is a wonderful week for Ubuntulook (and for me!), which is hosting an exclusive interview with the famous writer and blogger Leo Babauta.

For those who don’t know him, Leo writes the top-100 blog Zen Habits and has another smaller blog called Mnmlist. He’s the author of a slew of books on living a simple minimalist existence, including his ebook “A Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life”, and his famous “The Power of Less”.  You can also download for free “Focus”, his new ebook, by visiting this page or by clicking HERE

Here at Ubuntulook, I am pleased to announce such a good news, since Leo will tell us about his own point of view about simplicity related to personal excellence and computing, exclusively for Ubuntulook.blogspot.com!

David: Leo, when you heard for the first time in your life the word “minimalism” what has been your thought about that?
Leo: I’ve always hear the term “minimalism” as it applies to art and architecture, and it’s always appealed to me. But the term “minimal” has always appealed to me as I’ve read about and tried to apply the principles of simplicity to my life, as it implies you have nothing but the essentials. I might have seen “minimalism” applied in this way somewhere else, but I can’t remember it.

David: The vast majority of users looks at “minimalism” as a look-related topic. What’s the meaning of “minimalism in computing” for you? Does it have a functional value for you?Leo: Minimalism in my mind means paring things down to the essentials. So in computing, that means not having a lot of bloated programs, and utilities you never use, and menu bar items that clutter things up. But it also means minimalist programs that don’t go for looks, but just get the job done with a minimum of fuss and without unnecessary complexity. I also prefer text to word processors, tiny programs to bloat, and single-function programs to apps that try to do everything.

David: What is the role of computers in your life? Could you imagine a life with no digital devices at all?
Leo: Computers enable me to spread my work to a large audience, so I use them every day for writing and reaching my readers. It also allows me to communicate with readers, with people I collaborate with, and with friends and family. I could imagine no mobile devices, and working without devices … except when it comes to communicating. While writers have been spreading their ideas via paper for years, by opening up the lines of communication through the Internet, I’ve been able to spread my ideas without a publisher.

David: This is the first time Italian readers are enjoying your thoughts and experiences.
I would tell that minimalism and simplicity lead to a life that is even more intense, more pleasurable and more rich that the materialism-based one. You really develop a virtuous cycle in your life, and you start committing yourself to your real priorities. You start to see positive feedback that encourages you to continue doing things that you love.  Your body starts to look better, your mind starts to feel better, you begin to carry yourself with more confidence, and you become happier.  And because you are achieving these things on your own, and defining your own reality, you begin to feel less of a pull from the things around you.  Your center of gravity grows relative to your world. Have you found any unexpected benefits in maintaining a healthy and simple lifestyle during these years?
Leo: The benefits of a minimalist, healthy lifestyle are too many to name — it touches everything you do, every part of your life. You have more energy when you’re ready to do things, you rest better when you’re ready to sleep. You feel good all the time, get sick less often, enjoy life more. It’s been amazing.

David: Sometimes we are too worried about future and past, that we completely forget living our present. If we think about the importance of the mental aspect of minimalist lifestyle for a moment, was the minimal computing environment helpful to get your work done?
Leo: Minimalist computing is using simple tools, and letting the tools and the operating system get out of the way so you can actually do your work. People tend to fiddle with their programs and operating system too much — when you get all that out of the way, you don’t fiddle with it. You just get on with it.

David: Simplyfing processes in our life, as well as in computing, is part of the minimalist lifestyle. Leo, I know that you have been simplifying your morning routines and many other things in your life deliberately during these years of minimalist living. But, have you ever had the idea, at a certain point, that you couldn’t simplify anymore?
Leo: I think as we reach a new level of understanding about anything, including simplifying, we see further down the road. We can simplify more. That’s been my experience so far, and I’m guessing that as I simplify things, I’ll find other ways to simplify after that. But maybe not: maybe one day I’ll just sit down and say, “I’m done!” Until then, I’m enjoying the journey.

23 ways to improve your life

During last week I’ve been asked an interesting question by some of my colleagues: “David, how could I start improving my life? What would you suggest me?”

Life is meant to be enjoyed, to be lived.

Human life is meant to be dynamic, active, intellectually and phisically stimulating.

Eckart Tolle would suggest you “be present”

Leo Babauta could tell you “slow down”

Many ways can lead to the same result

  • Shift your beliefs and the way you see the reality that surrounds you.  

  • Understand the value of Time 

  • New experiences can help us analysing our existence from different viewpoints  

  • Inspire yourself 

  • find an in-depth meaning for the life you’re living now 

  • take time to enjoy the present you’re living  

  • dream big: let the world around you being your best ally  

  • Try doing new things 

  • make new friends  

  • listen to different music 

  • read more books 

  • Watch new movies 

  • Experiment something new every single day.  

  • Find something valuable on the net 

  • learn a new language,  

  • do something different with your partner 

  • Let others inspire you  

  • change the way you see yourself  

  • Let your heart speak in your decisions  

  • let your inner self merge   

Improving your existence means getting some support and help by who is already doing this! So, don’t be shy! If you need some support contact me by using the comments or the contact page!
Finally, say “yes!” to life, like Jim Carrey: there is much to live in 24 hours a day!

Take what is useful and discard the rest
Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do

A Step Towards Computing Freedom

I’ve been getting used to working with my netbook and my new minimalist workspace.

I think I’ve found a nice way to stay productive without multitasking.

Avoid multitasking

If you don’t trust me, you can always find the reasons in this interesting post written by Leo Babauta on his zenhabits.net

What I did

I disinstalled those programs that are not useful to me.

In disinstalling applications, make sure you take one step at a time so to evaluate if you can disinstall some more. Changing needs all of your effort, you must devote all of your energies to make the change you want to see in your life and in your digital life as well. You must be conscious that it WILL take some time to adapt optimally to a new habit. The best thing you can do is this: enjoy every little step you take during the process. As in deleting useless digital junk, enjoy disinstalling your applications, so to have more free time to devote to what you really want to do in life.

On starting the decluttering process

The main question you could ask yourself is always the same:

“According to my needs, do I really need this [application, file, whatever…]?”

If you read my two-parts article Guide To Declutter Every Byte of your Digital Life you may be aware of this life decluttering-process and its steps.

 Basically, take a small step every single day in order to purge all of those files or applications you don’t really need. Take your time to evaluate your real needs, and if you have to stop during the process, it’s completely ok. The result of this process will change your life so, if you feel like reflecting on it, it’s OK!.

My favorite applications in Ubuntu Linux

  • MEDIA PLAYER – VLC I stick with it to play media files.  

  • TEXT EDITING – Gedit – Abiword – PyRoom – JDarkRoom I love writing new material in plain text files (TXT).  

  • FILE TRACKER/Locator – Kupfer I launch it by shortcut and I open and run documents, programs or type web addresses in it. It’s perfect! 

The result? I’m free from the worry of using applications.

I have relatively simple needs, so I just want my computer to do its duty.

The simpler, the better

On Downsizing your needs

Once you reach your goal, the natural tendency is to always want more. That is why, reducing my tech needs to just a netbook wasn’t enough.

 I wanted to cope with all the (digital and physical) clutter that had been growing during many years of computing. Having a small sized workspace allows you to work anywhere, anytime. Sure, creating material can be nice if you are sitting at your office, I guess. But it can also become a pleasure if you can do that while sipping a nice coffee, sitting at your favourite lounge bar with some nice music playing, don’t you think?

 By downsizing my digital needs, amazing things began to happen. I have analysed my core values and needs. I have become more centered on my day-to-day decisions. The habit to pause, to step back and enjoy the present makes you aware of the importance of Time. Time, if we are able to enjoy and manage it, is an incredible source of good emotions. In a minimalist approach to modern living, society encourages us to invest our time and money in things that are fast. Fast food, fast training and workouts, fast cars, fast trains.  Fast results to see your abs. This is a fast and furious life. Instead, we should be aware that human life is naturally slow. Nature is slow. It takes time for things to happen, to make your vegetables grow; to make your body adapt; it takes time to comprehend a concept; It takes time to get things done; It takes time to create valuable material.

 Naturally I’m not telling you to get rid of all the interesting things in your life or to change the way you live your life. Everyone has his own idea of life, his own viewpoint about life. The idea is to just look for the way our life works best for everyone of us, and then stick with it. This means that if you love your life, then there is nothing you should change about it.

 What if you don’t like the way your life is?

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” So, make that change happen, by being the change, downsizing our needs.

  • You have more time to do what you truly love 

  • You realize that you can design your own life. 

  • You become aware of things you hadn’t noticed before. 

  • You appreciate your life, and enrich it with passions. 

  • You accomplish the goals you set for yourself 

Enjoy the process, the presentmoment of your life. We live a neverending continuum of presence. We are presence because we live only in this intersection between future and past.

Because needs will not enrich your life; only unforgettable moments will.

 This, my friend, is the answer.

Is technology simplifying your life?

In virtual reality there are no time or space;

Everything the digital world has to offer is presented trough the single layer of the screen, that makes no distinction to what is real and what is not. I was reading a little pamphlet by Derrick de Kerckhove last week, “Interfaccia del Linguaggio, dei Media, della Mente” was its title. you can read it by clicking here.

 It made me reflect on how we are constantly moving towards a single-layered reality in our lives. That is to say, we are shaping our reality from multi dimensional (emotions, spirit, physic, mental) to single-layered (interactive and 3D: visual and experiential).

The point is, it is really important to create a consciousness about our day-to-day use of technology, and I’m suggesting you to do this, by first understanding the way you perceive technology in your life. Let’s take PCs for example: they are everywhere these days, right?. Just like, Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, netbooks, or any other digital device.

Have you ever thought about the way you perceive their existence? Would it be different if you wouldn’t possess a certain item? Think about it for a moment. You are probably going to answer something like “I could never imagine a life without computers anymore!”or maybe “it would make no difference” or maybe “well, they can be useful sometimes”, etc

 Well, to a certain extent, technology is just simplifying your life. The same goes for using a cell phone to send a message to someone, update your status and news on your twitter or facebook account. This is all good. Really good.

 Let me ask you another question though.

“Is the technology making your life easier, or is it just making it more cluttered and hard to manage?” The downsides of technology are: accounts, passwords to remember, backups needed, storing, keeping files organised, upgrading your hardware and software..

This is the real clutter that computers create in our lives. And most of it, is just a mental clutter. We finally end up trying to organize abstract things: songs, digital files… this stuff is not material at all, an yet is creating more clutter than the real item itself. Isn’t that amazing?

 Digital reality is mental reality: they work on the same dimension of our being humans. If digital reality creates some clutter, we automatically find ourselves stuck in… mental clutter. That is why control and balance are required to preserve our vital order and productivity. Finding an equilibrium is important to preserve our human nature. That’s why downshifting every now and then or living a minimalist lifestyle can work wonders for ourselves and who we’re meant to be on this planet.

Creating a New Digital Filing System

As you probably know, I’ve been using the simple 4-folders filing system during this summer. With time, I have tweaked the whole system to improve its efficiency, and simplifying the GUI.


Some time ago I showed you a Digital filing system based on 4 main folders: inbox, read, work, archive.


The new variant of the system only uses 3 directories: inbox, work, archive.
The read folder was unnecessary. The whole system is much more flexible now.


  • INBOX here you store files for a determined amount of time. empty daily 

  • WORK information and creations of work, hobbies, jobs, school, etc.  

  • ARCHIVE contains files I want to keep stored on my Hard Disk.  

Possible subdirectories for Archive can be:

   AUDIO for your music

   DOCS for your documents

   PICS for your pictures

   MOVIES for your favorite movies


1) Delete everything that is unnecessary from your hard disk first

2) Move your files into the 3 main folders

3) Sort your files in the subfolders (only if you created them)

The organization of sub-folders is based on YOUR personal needs.

in any case, remember that the simpler the filing system is, the easier it is to find the files

The Workspace for The Best Productivity

These are my goals for this month:
  • I will be less connected to the internet.  

  • I will meditate every single day (or  

  • I will otherwise read interesting/inspiring stuff when I don’t feel like meditating 

  • I will find some time to study every single day 

  • I will keep my email inbox clear 

  • I will check for new messages and email twice a day 

  • I will keep my digital life decluttered and organised by selecting wisely the files I keep on my hard drive. 

To accomplish these goals I will also need a proper workspace to study and write/work on: A plain surface with no gadgets is the best thing I can ever have.  Moreover, what is the essential stuff I need to study, write, read and do what I want to do?

  • My netbook, to surf the web and write the stuff for the blog 

  • If I must write, I will prefer having a TXT or HTML file to write on. 

  • a light to study, read or work at night 

This was my case, but you can have other needs, so make sure you are aware of your priorities. If you’re a student, you could also consider

  • buying a filing cabinet to store all of your class notes 

  • using a scanner to digitalize your handwritten notes so that you can re-use (maybe) your paper or just trash it if it is creating clutter 

Again, choose wisely what you put on your workspace. So that you leave clutter away from your mind and you can find peace and relax while also enjoying what you are doing. Naturally I have pens, pencils and every other specific tool I need to do the work but actually I keep everything in a separate place, out of sight, so to avoid every possible distraction.

9 Good Reasons: Why should You Use Plain Text Files?

this page contains the article you’re going to read. It is not my original content; After a last post about simplifying digital life with a netbook, this week we’re going to discover plain text computing.

#beginning of the original article

Why geeks prefer plain text
According to the Life Hacks research done by Danny O’Brien, alpha geeks prefer using plain text files to track their to-do lists. In a computing era when beautiful GUI applications will perform innumerable activities to keep track of you and your data, why would anybody still poke at plain text files, especially on the utilitarian command line of all things?

Geeks don’t want feature-bloated programs performing innumerable activities to their data. They want to pick and choose what they write down – or rather, type in – how they manipulate it, what has access to it, and when something gets changed. They also want to be able to see the trees for the forest, so to speak, without the GUI getting in the way of their work.

Why use a plain text file when there are dozens, if not hundreds, of “Todo list” programs available for nearly every computing platform imaginable? Why not take advantage of applications that keep track of task completion dates and task priority? Well, there are some good reasons to forgo the more advanced applications in favor of simple text files.

It’s easy to try to do too much sometimes. Most “todo” programs are too complicated for the simple task that they serve. It’s mindlessly simple to click on a check box to mark a task as complete, but viewing all of your pending tasks at once regardless of category or priority can sometimes require significant hoop-jumping. A simple text file or a series of text files representing categories is neither more complicated nor less complicated than the average todo application.

Text files work on all computers in pretty much all text editors and word processors. If something ever goes wrong with your computer, you can just take those same text files to any other computer you can get your hands on and still use them (just make sure you have a backup copy to use).

Getting Things Done
The GTD concept of action lists rejects the idea of having dated or prioritized todos. Pending actions are organized by context more than anything else. To quote GTD, “I know this is heresy to traditional time-management training, which has almost universally taught that the ‘daily to-do list’ is key. But such lists don’t work…”

Your text files are structured however you like them to be — more to the point, they’re structured however you need them to be. You don’t have to adapt the way you think about your life in order to fit into someone else’s concept of how it should be organized.

This is a concept that many people have a hard time understanding at first, but the simpler your data storage system is, the more powerful it can be. Text editors come in all shapes and sizes and flavors. Some are pretty simple like Windows NotePad or OS X’s TextEdit. Others are full-fledged computing platforms in and of themselves like vi or Emacs. Those familiar with these advanced editors or with programming and scripting languages, can manipulate their text files to be anything they want. You want those text files to sync up with your Palm? No problem. Want your action lists uploaded regularly to a personal website and translated into easily readable webpages in the process? Easy. Want to print them out in a booklet format that you can fold up and carry in your pocket? That’s what Wikipedia:PostScript is for.

Plain old text is nearly universal in the computing world (language barriers notwithstanding — there is a plain text equivalent for every language). Whatever you want to do with your next action lists, you can do it if they’re stored as text.

If you’re using a UNIX-like operating system—such as OS X—you have at your disposal hundreds of individual and powerful tools designed to do sundry things to plain text files. Using command line pipes, you can instantly create your own complex programs created from these small utilities. GUI tools such as QuickSilver and GeekTool transform playing with plain text into an even more powerful activity.
#If you are on Linux, you have greater choice. From the VI editor, to VIM, to GEDIT, to Abiword, to geany.

The many distractions of modern desktop computing begin to fade into the background, allowing what really matters to come into clear focus — Getting Things Done, to coin a phrase. 😉

#end of the original article

Sure, going plain-text can have a great impact on your concentration and hard disk space. It would also be difficult to implement because now we feel much closer to the information itself. Text is maybe not appealing nowadays, but this doesn’t mean it can’t transfer information anymore. Using plain text is a choice you can make. Also remember you can write plain-text with basically every computer machine and operative system you choose (be it Mac, Windows, Linux).