Fundamentals of Less Doing: Customization

By September 12, 2010 Fundamentals No Comments

Fundamentals of Less Doing is a series of articles detailing how we think about productivity from a conceptual level. If you are new to Less Doing, the Fundamentals series is a great place to start.


We live in a society that offers options for customizing just about everything you can imagine. Food, clothes, vehicles, and even a box of LEGOs can be designed and manufactured for no one other than you. This is not a pursuit in narcissism; there is tangible value in getting exactly what you want and leaving out what you don’t. The basic principles behind customization are to save time, save money, and simply provide a better solution. I’d like to give you three examples that I use in my own life that exemplify those three principles very well.

Saving Money

The first example is Vitamins on Demand which offers custom vitamin packs in a weekly little cardboard folder that lets you break off a pack for each day, several days or even the whole week at a time. This makes traveling a breeze or just grabbing your vitamins as you run out the door. Obviously, being health conscious is part of the Less Doing lifestyle. As we eliminate work tasks from our lives we will naturally focus on more important things, one of which will undoubtedly be our physical well being. I take six supplements on a daily basis, namely, Krill Oil, Iron, Vitamin B Complex, Probiotics, Ginger, and Cat’s Claw (an Amazonian plant known for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits). I normally get each of these from different sources, and they all have different doses. That means I run out of them at different times, and usually would forget to order refills in time. With Vitamins On Demand, I sent them an email telling them exactly what I wanted and within a few hours I had a price (about half what I normally pay) and a full nutritional information sheet. You can also set up an auto shipment plan so you literally never have to think about it again. As an added bonus, if you come up with some amazing combo, you can have them custom print labels for you and suddenly you’ve got a new business…many customization sites offer you an immediate platform to sell your creations.

The second great act of customization comes from Indochino, a custom suit company. After walking you through a very thorough ten minute measuring process, complete with video examples, you profile is saved in their system. You are then presented with several dozen suits in different styles from tuxedos to three piece banker styles. The suits start at around $250 which is excellent for a custom suit and if anything if off with the measurements, they will give you a $75 credit to go to a tailor and get it fixed. You can specify pocket styles, lining colors, and even have you name monogrammed on the inside of the jacket. When the seasons change and you decide it’s time for something new, you just pick the style you like, knowing that it will be a perfect fit, every time.

The last site I want to talk about is Ponoko. This is a pretty interesting community of “makers” and on demand 3D printing. Basically if you have a design for a better coffee cup or a really cool desk chair, it can be made at Ponoko. So how does this contribute to Less Doing? Well lets say you have a desk that is really perfect for your big desktop computer and monitor but you want to upgrade to a Mac Mini and mount that huge studio display on the wall. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clutter free desk that has all the pen holders, drink rests, and cable management slots you want. If you have some design skills you can model it yourself, but that would take too much time. Just post your request on Ponoko and someone will bid to design it for you. Then you can have it laser cut or three dimensionally printed in metal, wood, or even glass. They can also include electronic components like accelerometers and GPS. You can also use the site to get completely unique gifts for people, saving you the time and wasted effort of searching for the “perfect gift” that doesn’t exist. Other similar sites include Shapeways (which I used to create a custom wall mount for my Mac Mini) and KraftWurx.

We’re Still Learning

It’s true that occasionally the process of customization can be more trouble than it’s worth but when it comes to the things that we interact with on a constant basis, there is almost always a way to do it more efficiently. One thing that’s important is if you find that you’re first attempt at customization was unsuccessful you shouldn’t be discouraged. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, you simply found a way not to do what you were trying to accomplish, give it another shot.

If You Only Walk Away With One Thing

Remember that if you suddenly find yourself using a product and service and wonder if there is a better way, there might not be, but odds are you can create if with very little effort and you’ll be one step closer to Less Doing.