Sleep better with two simple shortcuts.

TL;DR:

Control + ⌘ + Shift + G, and
Home button triple-click.

Why?

Exposing ourselves to bright screens at night while checking our Facebook feed or reddit posts might not be as harmless as it seems. Tons of research, like this and this suggest that viewing things on bright screens right before bed makes our brains think that we’re in daylight longer than we actually are and, consequently, prevent us from falling asleep sooner than we should be. This combined with our early-start culture has been shown to lead to fatigue, decreased concentration and, in some folks, depression.

Additionally, other research has shown that prolonged exposure to artificial light (like those in most offices or our phones) can, over time, damage our eyes’ ability to adjust to incoming light and weaken their sensitivity to it.

I didn’t notice any of this until a Slashdot post introduced me to Flux several years ago. Before using this application, I was usually tired and sore (I rode my bike much more often back then) most of the time, but didn’t think much of it. I went out often back then, and most of the people I came across were just as or more tired than I was, so I thought I was fine.

I would have never thought that simply cutting blue light at night would have improved my sleeping patterns as much as they did. I was honestly surprised and, since then, intrigued about doing everything I could to improve my sleeping habits.

A few months after (happily) using Flux, I saw a developer on our floor who had the oddest setup I’ve seen up until then: a small, vertically-oriented monitor with a completely dark desktop with huge icons and a huge terminal font size. I didn’t ask him much about it, but given how exceptional he was at what he did, I naturally thought: I need to try this.

I wasn’t ready for what happened next. I had absolutely no idea that copying some developer’s setup would completely transform the way that I worked going forward.

Working on dark desktops like the one above (my current working setup) has helped me:

  • Focus better (white text on a dark background is much more readable),
  • Work longer without cutting into my sleep,
  • Utilize smaller real estate much more efficiently (my ideal monitor is a 19″ widescreen), and
  • Realize just how few companies actually support this (Material Design, I’m looking at you!)

Be jealous of my sweet eye-saving setup.

If you’re interested in giving this a try, here are two shortcuts you can set up easily on your Mac and iPhone that’ll make it super easy to toggle between the two:

For Your Mac

  1. Hit the ⌘ and Space key together to open Spotlight, then type in “Keyboard Shortcuts” and press Enter

  2. On the left hand side, click on “Accessibility” to bring up the Accessibility shortcuts on the right side. Find the “Invert Colors” shortcut on the right side, then click on the checkbox to enable it . Afterwards, click twice on the greyed-out key sequence then hit the Control, Shift, ⌘ and G keys together to activate it.

After enabling it, you can easily switch between light and dark mode by hitting:

Control + Shift + ⌘ + G

Note that this will also invert photos and images. If that creeps you out, hit that key sequence again to go back to normal!

For Your iPhone or iPad

You can also enable dark mode on your iPhone! To do so:

  1. Unlock your iPhone, then tap on Settings to open your iPhone’s settings.

  2. Tap on “General,” then on “Accessibility”.

  3. Find the “Invert Colors” option, then tap on the toggle switch to enable it. Afterwards, scroll all the way down to “Accessibility Shortcut,” then tap on it and then on “Invert Colors” to enable the shortcut.

After doing this, you’ll be able to turn on dark mode by triple-clicking your home button!

I hope this helps you as much as it’s helped me!

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You’re a better engineer than you think.

I was quite surprised to discover that thousands of people were members of the “Imposter Syndrome” Google+ group within my first month at Google.

I always thought that getting into Google was probably the best social proof of “making it” that an engineer could receive. The interview process is hard, gruelingly technical, relatively unforgiving and riddled with rollercoasters; many incredibly talented Googlers had to go through the process two or more times before getting in for good. (I went through it twice…sort of.) The engineering talent at Google is nearly limitless; many of the world’s most formidable and accomplished computer scientists, sysadmins and software engineers work or worked at Google doing all sorts of things.

So imagine my surprise when literally tons of engineers join a group expressing how they feel as if they aren’t good enough to be at Google or working alongside people with Wikipedia articles written after them. Perhaps it was a big joke that completely went with my head, but given the many, many internal jokes made about not being good enough to be a Googler that I came across (mostly thanks to Memegen), I had my doubts.

I hate checklists.

I can’t help but feel that every other day, I come across a blog post from a programmer or engineer that I’ve never heard of telling me 15 nicely-edited reasons why I’m not worthy of my job. I’ve never used Haskell. I don’t know what git stack does or how to untangle complicated head conflicts from rogue git commit -forces. My .vimrc is really, really plain, and I still don’t know how to write an emacs plugin despite having used it intermittently for the last three years.

Hell, I think if I tell anyone at any conference that I don’t watch Star Trek, don’t play video games and actually love being a Windows engineer (or simply show them my relatively barren Github profile), I’ll be blacklisted by every professional computing community out there.

I can already feel the angry emails coming.

I really hate checklists telling me how to be a “good” engineer. What does “good” mean anyway? Who sets the benchmark? Aside from my manager and peers (who seem to like me, I think?), who’s judging my “goodness?” My gut feeling is that most engineers are much better than they think, and these are my three guiding principles as to why:

Are you learning?

Technology is all about learning new things. If I had to take a guess, I would be scared if anything less than 15 JavaScript frameworks got released last night. What’s last year’s computing messiah usually becomes passé this year (see: virtual machines vs. containers); the state of configuration management is a quintessential example of this.

Are you learning new things? Are you trying new things? If so, then awesome!

Are you challenging yourself?

Finding a groove and sticking with it is a comfortable place to be. However, I believe that sticking with a groove for too long is an easy way to miss things, or, worse, an easy way to think that you don’t need to learn anything new.

In the beginning of my career five years ago, I was really, really good at VBscript. I knew enough to write and maintain behemoth-sized code and where its (many) oddities were. I got so good at it, I thought that learning PowerShell (then Monad) was more of a pain than a benefit. Setting registry keys was (back then) so much more difficult with the StdRegProv provider than with using the Shell object and calling reg.exe.

Had I invested the time in learning Powershell early, I would have probably invested much more time helping build the language or at least collecting cred on Stack Overflow.

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.

Are you keeping yourself challenged? Are you working around people who challenge you? Are you taking on increasingly more challenging work? If so, then you’re awesome!

Giving a ****.

Do you care about the quality of your work? Do you document what you’re doing to teach others? If so, then you’re awesome!

Ditch the checklists.

Merriam-Webster defines passion as a a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and it shows through your work, in my book, even if it pales in comparison to what it should ideally look like, you’re a good engineer in my eyes. So much easier than checklists in my experience.

About Me

Carlos Nunez is a site reliability engineer for Namely, a human capital management and payroll solution made for humans. He loves bikes, brews and all things Windows DevOps and occasionally helps companies plan and execute their technology strategies.