For those of us constantly thinking about lifestyle design, optimization is a familiar concept that we are always applying to new areas of our lives. However, these trends can intersect, leading two optimized solutions to be one unoptimized problem.
For example, I recently installed a magnetic key rack with a picture of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, but when I went to hang my keys on it, they immediately fell to the floor. At first I thought it was because the magnets were too weak, but then I noticed my roommate's keys were sticking to it. So well in fact, that they were bordering on being difficult to take off the rack.
Upon closer inspection I realized that the key ring I use, a FreeKey Slim, was not sticking as well due to its unconventional design. I removed a spare key that I didn't need, which was enough to get my keyring to hang properly, but it nonetheless was an interesting dilemma. Although removing keys from a standard key ring is a small annoyance, I would highly recommend the FreeKey. There are often times when I might be hesitant to go through the small hassle of taking a key off, and thus be less likely to share keys as needed were it not for the hassle free removal made possible by the unique engineering. To some that might sound ridiculous, but small annoyances such as these can add up, and there is no reason to not increase your own utility for the few dollars it costs to switch to such a system.
The same principle applies for the magnetic key rack. The South African bowl I had been using worked well, but the keys covered up the image inside, and there was no place right by the door to leave it. Replacing it with a magnetic hanger freed up the image as well as giving a place to store keys closer to the door, so you can grab or leave them without tracking snow through the house. But the solution to conflicting optimizations is not always as simple as removing a single key. Oftentimes these problems come up with more abstract issues, such as a morning routine that gets too long, or a productive habit that becomes a burden while on vacation.
When this happens, a shifted mindset towards an imperfect solution is often best. Rather than trying to optimize each individual aspect, think about it as a whole. That way, you can decide which elements of each part you want to incorporate, and which you are willing to let go. Although you usually can‘t have the best of both worlds, you can often find something good from both sides.
This balance of optimizing the micro-elements of existence with life as a whole is certainly not always easy. But by accepting imperfection on a micro-scale, a more optimized macro-environment comes within reach.
Photo is of Josef Albers Strukturale Komposition (Structural Composition) which was on display at the Smart Museum of Art on campus last spring.