Book review: Keeping It Straight

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to read Keeping It Straight — You, Me, and Everything Else by Patrick Rhone. It’s a digital book that is part memoir, part simple living and productivity guide, which through a collection of short essays addresses clearing clutter from your life to greater experience happiness. If you are a Mac user, you may be familiar with Patrick’s website

It is a quick read, but an intimate look at how and why someone has embraced simple living practices. I certainly gained some wonderful insights from the text, and wanted to share a handful of excerpts with you.

I really liked his approach to smart consumerism:

… anywhere I can make a buying choice that I, with proper care and maintenance, will never have to make again for the rest of my life, I do. In those cases, I’m willing to pay far more for an item if I know it will last a lifetime and, even more importantly to me, if I will never have to spend the mental energy making a choice again. Especially because making final choices often requires far more time and research then making regular ones. In fact, I would argue that the more final the choice, the longer it should take to make it. Also, what you spend on the front end usually repays exponentially, and in many different ways, on the back end.

His thoughts on saving time by learning a piece of software and its associated short-cut keys:

if you use an application more than once a day you can save so much time and effort by learning the keyboard shortcuts for the features you use. Do you know how to reload a page in your browser without touching the mouse? How about opening a new window in the Finder? While those may seem like no-brainers to some, I can tell you from personal experience that it still takes me conscious effort to use my keyboard to jump into the Google search field in Safari because the muscle memory of clicking it is so strong. Bottom line, if you find yourself performing regular actions, see if there is a way to automate those.

A non-traditional perspective on creating to-do lists (especially in contrast to the Getting Things Done maybe/someday list):

Your to-do list should be a sacred place. It should be filled only with the things you really plan on doing, things you are constantly evaluating, and things you are taking active steps to move forward and to get them done.

And his humorous, yet poignant view of productivity tools:

The Three Most Important Productivity Tools — The trash can, the delete key, and the word “no.”

If you enjoy a memoir with helpful simple living and productivity advice, Patrick’s book of essays is available for sale at and It is also available for download from Amazon for the Kindle.

4 Comments for “Book review: Keeping It Straight”

  1. posted by Ashley S.C. Walls on

    Good picks to share. I will be adding this book to my “To Read List”.

  2. posted by Mletta on


    I’ve always felt that way about purchasing items, apparel, electronics or otherwise. However, it doesn’t work that way anymore because things are made so poorly and are not designed to last.

    Item: We purchased a refrigerator in 1990. It lasted till 2005. At the time, we spent more to purchase a highly energy efficient model (the savings in monthly electric were immediate AND dramatic). Interestingly, the old refrigerator had a 15-year warranty. The new one, only five years (now the standard for most appliances). Imagine our surprise when in year six the refrigerator was DOA (getting it fixed was half as much as a new unit would cost.)

    We were fully expecting 15 years, at a minimum, from the 2005 unit. Barely six? Unreal.

    This has happened time and again with all sorts of things. It’s expensive and annoying and why many people, even those who have the money, don’t care about quality and won’t pay for it because, hey, even “quality” items don’t last! (The fridge was a top-rated brand and model! We spent HUGE amounts of time researching as we do this for all purchases, and not just for monetary reasons.)

    As we get older and we look ahead at our income when we retire, we realize we may, literally, not be able to afford replacements of big-ticket items th if things keep dying at 5 years, or, in some cases, less.

    So it’s a great goal, but stuff is NOT designed to last. Which is odd when you consider the whole emphasis on “green.” (People talk more green, than actually living it because it’s too expensive for many people.)

    FYI: Our friends generally laugh at us when we get upset when something dies within a few years of purchase. They remind us that they are now designed NOT to last or to be repaired at a reasonable fee (you can’t even FIND people to repair most things, let alone be cost-efficient).

    If we had all the money in the world to replace stuff, we’d still hate having to replace so many things that don’t last. (No one believe we still use a 30+ year old cuisinart! Especially folks who have had to buy several food processors, some every year or two! No matter what they buy.)

  3. posted by katrina on

    Yay! Someone in IT-land who’s not a ‘get things done’ convert. Good to see.

    I like his comments although I agree with Mletta about modern goods. In part, that’s why I prefer ‘old, ugly and sturdy’ over ‘modern, stylish and won’t last 40 years’. A few years ago I was given a food processor that lasted less than 2 years – now I’ve gone back to using a knife, wooden spoon and a 1950’s grater and I much prefer it.

  4. posted by jennifer on

    I think you are missing the point of the gtd “someday maybe” list. It’s not a “to-do” list, and the idea of it is precisely to help keep the to-do lists (“projects” and “next actions”) the sacred places Rhone describes by giving other stuff a path out of your head.

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