Setup your digital workspace the Permaculture way
In the permaculture world, I’ve come across many people who are not only “not tech-savvy,” but have a legitimate resistance to the technological world beyond meeting their most basic needs for communication and entertainment. I get it. The more time we spend in the tech world, the less time we tend to spend in the “real world.”
Abstaining is an option. But it has its consequences.
Among many grassroots movements, when it comes to operating a business, there seems to be a more-common-than-usual sense of taboo, resistance, and even “againstness” of technology, blocking many excellently conceived projects from their much-needed success.
By their very nature of embracing and identifying with a “grassroots” movement, people often tend to favor the archetypes of coming up from the ground & other organic sensibilities.
As understandable and desirable as this may be, these qualities, feeding the fire of “why” we’re doing what we’re doing, sometimes carry with them an unnecessary amount of “why not” to be, do, or even associate with what they see as contrary to that grassroots archetype.
This contrary nature to structured, defined, traditional, business-like, or profit-motivated organizational methods often comes from a spirit of distrust. Understandably so. We have a painfully long list of degenerative businesses, products, services, and practices being marketed in less than integral ways.
Yet, in a world filled with this norm, we need MORE warriors of light using these tools and methods to share information and motivate people toward more regenerative business and lifestyle practices.
Accepting the technological tools available to us with a more open mind and a willingness to engage in certain learning curves allows us to use them with a permaculture mindset.
People learn many things in the permaculture-for-land-management world, even though they don’t learn it for the pleasure of doing it. There are certain parts of setting up some permaculture applications that could be more fun. Like digging a quality trench to line up a bunch of trash-stuffed bottle bricks and covering them with fabric, dipped in cement to make a raised garden bed. The reasons “why” to accomplish the desired outcome turn the chore into an enthusiastically accepted task toward resilience and functional art.
While some people quite like recycling trash and making art out of it. Some people don’t want to do that. To them, it’s weird and funky. They don’t want to touch the cement. They don’t want to use trash in their structures… but it’s such a clever and practical idea! When done well, it’s beautiful and stacks many functions. So, to achieve that outcome, we learn to enjoy it and to get into the art of it.
I invite you to bring that spirit into your digital workspace, so we can learn to set it up the permaculture way. Below, I’ve illustrated my digital ecosystem using the Zone methodology common to permaculture.
For you to reference, here are the tools that I most commonly use:
* Most of these tools are free. For some, I’ve acquired an affiliate link. If you subscribe to any of these tools after clicking my link and later decide to buy an upgraded version, I’ll receive a small commission to support my efforts.
Zone 0 – Hardware
Keep your devices clean.
Remove dust and insect debris yourself with a can of contact cleaner spray, or take your PC to a technician once a year for the same. It’s a minor inconvenience that’ll save you heartache later.
Costa Rica is humid, which can cause early corrosion on our devices. Consider creating a dry box to keep your devices stored in, when not in use. If you have a UPC battery/surge protector, you’ll find that it gives off a significant amount of heat. Create a box around it with ventilation holes, and store your gear there at night.
Considering how often we’re recommended to back-up our files, it’s shocking how many people don’t. It’s wise to have a second back-up for your most important files, just in case, whether that’s a second external HD, or cloud storage. I back up my files about once a month.
UPC battery/surge protectors
If you don’t have one, get some. I have two – one for my router and another for my laptop & other charging devices. The electric current from most power companies is relatively unstable. Peaks and drops are frequent in Costa Rica, shortening device life. Putting one in front of your wifi router will minimize drops caused by the router trying to reset itself after a surge or drop. It’s worth the investment.
Broaden your perspective
Increasing the size of your workstation allows you to save a lot of time. If you have a smaller-sized laptop, consider getting a computer monitor. The larger-sized screen gives you more workspace to open two or more windows side-by-side. You can even have a third window on your laptop screen. Switching tabs or windows takes extra time, but, worse still, it can break our focus. When working on complex projects, seeing more than one piece at a time enhances focus and big-picture thinking.
Zone 1 – Desktop
Your home screen
Keep it clean. There are better ways to organize your files than dumping them on your desktop. I prefer having nothing but the trash can and occasional temporary items on my desktop home screen.
Having a clean home screen to look at when I need to clear my thoughts and put all the windows down is refreshing. The ritual of closing or minimizing all of my windows and leaving only a picture of my son and me at the river, as the last thing I see before I close my laptop helps me celebrate feeling complete with my online time.
Equally, having the picture of us being outside together as the first thing I see whenever I open my laptop, is a nourishing way to start my session.
Having a bunch of clutter be the first and last thing I see, triggering any number of stray thoughts, is not my favorite way to fill these frequent and influential transition times.
Downloading files to your desktop may seem like a convenient drop box, but when your machine starts up, it has to load and keep active all of those thumbnails. It uses RAM, which can slow down other functions. If you prefer to have select folders on your home screen for quick access, ensure they’re shortcuts rather than the files or folders themselves.
Pin quick access links to a taskbar. The taskbar has a default setting that leaves it visible on the bottom or side of the screen. You can set it, however, to keep them hidden until you need them, by moving your mouse to a part of the screen to unhide them.
Take the time to consider the most common apps you open. Pin those, and unpin the ones that you don’t use. Some people allow apps they don’t use to remain in their visual field. It’s your personal computer. Claim it and eliminate all unnecessary distractions, including default icons for services you never use. It’s all customizable.
Take time to explore your operating system’s settings. These machines have far more features than anyone could reasonably use, but it doesn’t hurt to take an hour or two and go through all the settings. You may be surprised by features you have available to you that could enhance your environment. Again, it’s your personal computer -claim it.
The digital world is becoming a more and more vulnerable place to be. Protecting yourself and your assets from malicious attempts to access your personal information is becoming increasingly important.
Free Anti-virus services exist, but many of them are hardly worth using. Paying for good cybersecurity software, like Bitdefender, may not seem like the best use of money in the best of times, but it’s the best insurance you can buy to keep your precious information from falling into the worse of times.
It’s not just for downloading torrent files. For instance, I use a VPN whenever I’m using a public wifi signal. You can also use it to bypass regional geoblocks when using movie streaming services, banking, or managing your crypto wallets.
I use Bitdefender for my VPN needs as well. There are better ones out there, but I find it sufficient for my needs, and the price bundle with the cybersecurity package makes it a very reasonable choice.
If you use PayPal, NEVER login in with your VPN turned on.
I’ve heard stories of people getting locked out of their PayPal accounts simply for using a VPN. The only way to work around PayPal’s full-blown security is to use the PayPal mobile app (but again, without the VPN turned on). That said, using a VPN is very important for everything else…
Another thing to note…
Many anti-virus and VPN accounts allow you up to 10 devices, so if you’re like me and don’t have that many gadgets, you can help a loved one experience more secure browsing by adding their device to your account.
Zone 2 – Your Browser
Most browsers for most operating systems have the same or comparable features. The design may vary for different browsers, but most work relatively the same, just with other names. I’ll describe things below using a Chrome browser on Windows.
Use your Bookmarks! But keep them organized!!!
When you’re on a web page that you want quick access to, you can click the star in your search bar window. It will allow you to save it on the Bookmark Bar or select another folder. This is where you’ll keep links to the most visited sites you use.
When saving a new bookmark, I choose to delete the website’s name, so just the icon shows, giving me more space to put more shortcuts. To reorder the icons into groups, just drag and drop them into place.
(If you don’t see the icons in the bookmark bar, below your search bar, or if it ever disappears on you, right-click on the top part of your browser to check the “Bookmarks Bar” selection to make it appear.)
My list of quick-access bookmarks:
- Online courses that I’m taking or want to re-visit
- Private membership groups that I’m a part of
- Social media accounts
- WordPress login-in/dashboard page
- Siteground – my website host
- Siteground Webmail for my branded emails (these are all forwarded and replied to through my main Gmail account. I rarely need to access it, but it’s good to have on hand.)
- Siteground CPanel – for backend admin control
- Active Campaign– email and client management
- Upwork – finding and managing freelancers
- Libsyn – Podcast host
- Google Photos, Calendar, Translate, Drive, and Gmail
- Deepl – Even though I still use Google Translate sometimes to compare, I usually find Deepl to give me better results. By the way, even though I’m fluently bilingual, I run almost any communication I send in Spanish through a translator, even for texts. It now only makes my communications come across as more professional, but I use it as a study guide. I read what’s translated to see if I want to modify it, and in doing so, I’m reading Spanish – improving my skills.
- Folders with collections of other websites (This is usually for when I’m researching and open a bunch of tabs I want to store for quick review and comparison again later.)
- Lastpass – Password encryption with secure sharing & unsharing
- Clipboard History Pro – saves hundreds of your most recently copied text items, with the ability to save favorites
- Grammarly – This has become invaluable to my content creation. It’s one of the best spelling and grammar-checking apps out there. In the last year, it’s gotten many times more accurate and nuanced. I pay for the Premium level and highly recommend it, if you’re producing any publicly viewable content.
- Tella – Video screen capture made easy. Quickly taking a video of something you want to describe on your screen and sending it to someone without downloading and uploading the file is priceless. The best part is, with the free version, you can create unlimited videos of up to 5 minutes each.
- Calendly – A handy & user-friendly scheduling app that makes booking calls easier for everyone
- Lightshot – A quick screenshot tool with basic editing features that’s free and always on hand.
- GoFullPage – This is great for taking full-page screenshots. It keeps scrolling and snapping until you have a PDF as long as the webpage.
- Eye Dropper – If you want to know which color is being used in a design, this will tell you with just a few clicks
- WhatFont – The same as above, but with text fonts.
- DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials – It’s a search engine alternative that protects your data as you search and blocks certain ads and cookies, as per your preference. (Sometimes, you have to turn it off for particular pages if they don’t load correctly.)
- Adobe Acrobat PDF Editor – It’s free and allows you to draw, type, and sign PDFs. It works great for taking notes and completing digital workbooks without having to print them.
- Video Speed Controller – Go ahead, label me as impatient, but it can be agonizing to watch a whole masterclass, video course, or any other info-based videos in normal speed. Many video players, like YouTube and Vimeo, have built in speed control, but some videos don’t. This extension works with virtually all videos you can find online and allows you to adjust in increments of 0.1.
Text Expander Tools
How many times do you really want to type your URL? Or the name of your business with the tagline? Or your most common response to a commonly asked question? What do you do when you want to share your social media URL with someone? Do you do some version of opening the page to copy and paste it?
Even if you’re using a comprehensive clipboard tool like Clipboard Pro, this takes much more time than simply typing a few letters. For instance, when I want to type https://regenerationnationcr.com, I simply type the letters “urncr,” and poof, the url appears. I have a canned response that I send to people I don’t know who friend me on FB. The last thing I want to do is think of some unique thing to say to each new friend request, to find out why they’ve chosen to follow me, but I’ve found it to be well-received when I reach out.
First, I open their profile and make sure they aren’t a spammer, by looking for mutual friends and like-minded posts. When I accept their request, I send them a quick DM that maybe 15% of them respond to. I simply type the phrase “hifriend,” and poof! A few paragraphs appear that I simply need to review and change the name it’s addressed to.
Those 8 letters have started meaningful conversations with people I’ve never known, who like what I’m doing, and it takes me almost no time to do it.
This practice increases the chances that your next post will appear in their feed. If they Like it, they’ll see more. You might occasionally see posts from them, as well. If you don’t want to, after you accept their friend request, you can unfollow them right away.
The tool I use is Beeftext. Like most of the best systems in permaculture, it takes a little time and focus to set up, but once you do, you’ll get more out of your system than you put into it, every time you use it.
Think of every URL or phrase you commonly type in a week and program it in. Create a naming system that’ll help you remember (“u”=URL, “fb”=the account, “g”=group, “p”=page). Now all I have to type in is ufb, ufbp, ufbg, uig, uli, ulip, or … You get the picture.
Whether it’s Apple, Drive, Dropbox, or One Drive, chances are you use cloud storage to save and share files. Depending on how organized you are, this can be an indispensable tool or a nightmare. Like with your computer’s file systems, if you aren’t doing so already, do yourself a favor and use folders. Free storage is excellent, and paid storage is sometimes necessary. However, duplicate and unfindable files can do you more harm than good.
If you’re working with a team, this is crucial if you want the information you’re collecting to be worth using.
I hope you’ve found some gems in this list of tools to consider adding to your own digital infrastructure.
In Part 2 of this blog, I continue the process, with
3rd Zone – Your Website
4th Zone – Social Media Platforms
5th Zone – Other People’s Brilliance
This Part 2 blog, along with a growing body of member-only content, is reserved for members of the Land Steward Mastermind. To learn more about this community of communities, permaculture projects, eco-resorts, and other transformational program leaders, visit https://regenerationnationcr.com/mastermind/ and choose the membership level that works best for you!
If you have your own favorite tools that you’d like to share, or any thoughts on how I’ve organized this zone map, please let us know in the comments, below…