Harbor thinking: From automating tasks to a way of life

This is an article with an abstract topic and scattered topics, discussing a relatively metaphysical issue. It not only involves some information automation skills, but also thinks about the philosophy of life, the method of the method. If you have spare time, please read on.

There are a lot of complicated and trivial things in daily life and work, and these things are not regular in logic or time.

A typical situation is: you are researching a certain problem on the computer, a lot of pages are opened, related and irrelevant ones are piled up together, and several PDFs are downloaded. At this time, a colleague sent you a document and discussed with you about the content of the document. After the discussion, you have to give him some opinions, and you took several pictures to illustrate. It’s almost time to get off work when you’re done, you close your computer, get up and go home. The data generated by the few things just now are left on the computer, waiting for you to clean them up one day in the future.


Most people I know belong to the casual school and just let it go, resulting in a computer desktop full of files. When that “someday in the future” really comes, I don’t remember what these materials are, whether they are useful, or whether they can be cleaned up. If you don’t clean it up, you’re looking for a needle in a haystack every day; if you clean it up, you have to recall the origins of these materials one by one, delete the useless ones, and save the useful ones, which is quite time-consuming.


There is also another type of orderist, that is, the kind of people who keep their mailboxes empty all the time. They believe that today’s work is done today, and they are extremely efficient. No matter how trivial things are, they will be remembered in some way, such as to-do lists or post-it notes, and they will be dealt with as soon as they have time. Spend time in the present to save more time in the future. They feel genuine joy when they clear the day’s tasks.

I might be a bit of an orderist, but not to that extent. I have tried to use the latter method to manage the trivial matters of life. Things are in order, but it will make people very tired. Being in a state of mild anxiety until everything is done seems to be bad for mental health.

Compared with the ultimate orderly, I think a relaxed and happy mood is a more worthwhile goal. On this premise, try to establish order as much as possible. Until one day, during self-reflection, I realized that I had unknowingly established another set of operating mechanisms to manage all aspects of life with an idea similar to that of a shipping port, and this is what I want to share in this article.

Principles of port thinking


Here are a few shipping terms explained first:

  • Container-free period and storage-free period : In the shipping industry, shipping companies and port companies are independent of each other. When your goods are delivered to a certain port across the ocean, the shipping company will usually allow you to continue to occupy the container for free for a few days, which is the container-free period. And your goods are stacked somewhere in the port, and the port company will allow you to stack them for free for a few days, so that you have time to find a car to pull the goods away. This is the free stacking period.
  • Demurrage and Demurrage : Relative to the first two nouns. When your goods occupy the container for too long, the shipping company will charge you a demurrage fee. When your goods have been stacked at the port for too long, the port company will also charge you a demurrage fee. Such a constraint mechanism can prevent you from using precious transportation resources as warehouses and occupying them indefinitely.

There are two core principles of port thinking:

  1. Everything in the world is dynamic . Everything goes through an intermediate state from beginning to end. Conceptually, accept the existence of this intermediate state. In terms of action, take the initiative to create buffer zones for loading and unloading in all aspects of life, and temporarily store electronic files, network content, physical objects, and even knowledge concepts to accommodate this intermediate state. Instead of mentally denying or ignoring the existence of the intermediate state, so that there is a lack of management of the intermediate state, when things come, if you don’t deal with them immediately and get the results, you will forget them in a flash or pile up like a mountain.
  2. Not everything has to have a beginning and an end . Important things should be dealt with on the spot at the port, and they should be transferred after processing, so that they can go where they should go. An unimportant thing, a short stay in port will reveal its insignificance, and let it be destroyed on the spot. Time does magic, and the port is the place where magic is cast. Give it a little time, and it will return you to peace.

After all, things go smoothly.

Use port thinking to manage things to facilitate scheduling and avoid omissions. What’s more important is the psychological significance of this move, because you know that these miscellaneous things have a formal temporary storage place, and you can accept them for a while without worrying about what you haven’t done (if you Is Order), so there is no anxiety in my heart.


But for casuals, even if buffers are established, buffers are used as garbage dumps.

This is not to belittle a certain type of people. The two types of people are not fixed and must be specific to specific things. Everyone values ​​things differently. You may be casual in one thing, but orderly in another. Most people’s computers are a mess because they don’t think the digital world is so important, and their order is built elsewhere, such as social circles. Likewise, what I don’t value, I use as a dump.

Back to the topic, how to avoid the dump problem? Just like a port, it is very important to establish a constraint mechanism to avoid uncontrolled expansion of the buffer zone.

In terms of digital data, there are many automated means to clean up files and data that have stayed for too long, which will be discussed later. In terms of physical items, you can force yourself to tidy up in time by limiting the capacity of the buffer space. In terms of knowledge concepts, it is time that plays the most important filtering role.


Incidentally, the difference between to-do lists and harbor thinking:

  • Different in nature:
    • A to-do list is just a tool. It is a specific software, you need to install this tool and master its usage.
    • Port thinking is a conceptual attitude. Any place where information and data are entered can be considered a port. If you think your computer’s desktop is a port, then it is. Nothing has changed, except that you have a new understanding of the desktop as a collection and distribution center for files. That’s what many people do, they just don’t realize it.
  • Stored differently:
    • The to-do list stores only concepts. It abstracts everything in the digital world and the real world into a single line, and lists them together for centralized management. But the specific information related to the matter is still in place, and the to-do list is not very good at managing documents.
    • Ports store specific information. It is some real location, a folder on the computer, or a small paper bag at the door of the house, and the corresponding things can be processed directly at the port. Therefore, there is more than one port, but with some automation means, there will not be too many, and there will be no problem of being scattered everywhere.
  • The workload varies:
    • Using a to-do list adds to the workload. The matter is still there, still waiting for you to deal with it. Your task is only postponed, not relieved at all. It’s even aggravated, because you have to make an extra note in the software, and you have to tick it when you’re done. For the thing itself, this logging behavior is extra, redundant.
    • The purpose of harbor thinking is to reduce the workload. It’s an upcycling of a place you’re already familiar with. Here, you will deal with the important things in time without reminding; for the unimportant things, or those that have already been dealt with, let them disappear by themselves.

Port of the digital world

In terms of digital data, the essence of the port lies in the restraint mechanism, which uses a series of automated means to clear out data that has stayed for too long. The demurrage fee and demurrage fee are much more expensive than the real port. Instead of fines, the overtime cargo is directly destroyed.

This seemingly dangerous destruction mechanism can first urge you to deal with it in time. It can also be used in reverse more often, just let it go, let it clean up the data for you, and truly liberate you.

The specific implementation of automation means is up to the point, and these can be learned through public information. Tools will change over time, and concepts can stand the test of time. This article mainly shows what these means can do and how to form a constraint mechanism.

Mobile File Port


There is a special folder on my mobile phone, which is the collection and distribution center of mobile phone files. I named it File Port. Things downloaded by different apps on the mobile phone will be stored in different places, most apps will be saved in the “Downloads” folder, WeChat will be saved in its unique location, Baidu Cloud has another place, and there are many content production software are also output to their respective folders.


I use an automated application called Tasker to centralize them, and when new files appear in these locations, they are all moved to the file port.


Tasker can also implement automatic cleaning. I made some rules, every night, Tasker will delete files that have been in the file port for more than 7 days. My file port can always be kept relatively clean, easy to find files, and save mobile phone storage space.


In this way, I need to finish processing the things in the document port within 7 days. But this is more than enough for me. I usually deal with it in a day or two, and then I don’t have to deal with the aftermath myself. Useful ones are removed, and useless ones wait for automatic deletion.

Mine is an Android phone, and this capability may only be available on an Android phone. Apple is not sure. I don’t know if the openness of the system has improved over the years, and it probably hasn’t.

call recording port


This is also a capability that only Android phones have. I will record all calls and save them in the folder designated by the system for emergencies. But most of them are advertising calls that hang up within 5 seconds. There is no need to keep these. There are too many recording files and it is not convenient to find them in the future.


Tasker can clean up by file size. I made some rules, every night, Tasker will delete the files smaller than 100kB in the call recording port, which filters out the really useful recordings.

Coupled with some sync disks, these recordings can be synchronized to the computer or network disk, and then stored for a long time.


I used a third-party client of Dropbox, Dropsync, to realize the synchronization of mobile phone folders and network disks, which even the official client cannot do.

The restriction mechanism of this port is relatively hidden. There are not many useful phone books. Even if you keep calling all the time, there is a 24-hour ceiling, and there will be no endless expansion. Time itself is a constraint mechanism. So you can rest assured to let it accumulate like this, as a backup.

computer file port

This is similar to the mobile phone file port. But the computer has an advantage. Almost all software downloads will be placed in the system’s download folder. I use the download folder as a port, and handle things directly here, eliminating the centralized process. And my desktop never puts any files.


Then there are some ways to achieve the effect similar to the mobile phone file port. Windows can use File Juggler, I will let it clean up files older than 18 hours. Mac can use the Automator+ calendar that comes with the system, and I let it clear the download folder at 9:30 am every day. In short, the purpose is to clear the sun.


The scope of cleanup is different from that of the mobile phone file port, but the restriction mechanism is the same. The daily processing of files on the computer is much more than that on the mobile phone, so Nissin can maintain the port in a state of higher order.

I’m used to working with ad hoc stuff in the download folder. After processing on the same day, save the useful results and intermediate products, and let the useless ones go. As for the things that can’t be dealt with in a day, the importance is not too low. I will transfer to the official folder to deal with, which is a bit like a project.

screenshot port


Maybe most people use chat software to take screenshots on the computer, without installing additional tools, but there is a disadvantage that there is no record of historical screenshots. Sometimes, if you want to reuse the screenshots taken a few days ago, you have to search in the chat history, or find a way to reproduce the scene of the screenshots at that time.


I prefer to use a screenshot tool like Snipaste instead of relying on chat software. In addition to the rich picture annotation function, the more important thing is that each screenshot can be saved to the folder I specify and can be reused.


Personal computers, work computers, and mobile phones have their own folders for storing screenshots. Since the screenshots sometimes involve sensitive information, I didn’t want to use a network disk to synchronize them, so I used Resilio, which has no cloud, to associate them. The screenshots of the three devices were gathered together, and each device had a copy, which was kept in sync peer-to-peer.


Screenshots, especially screen recordings, still take up a lot of space, and old screenshots have no value. I made some rules, every night, Tasker will delete the screenshots that have been in the screenshot port for more than 7 days. Because it can be synchronized, the other devices are also deleted together.

This port not only has a constraint mechanism, but also does not require maintenance. I take the screenshots as usual, not only can I retrieve recent screenshots, but also limit the number of pictures to a controllable range, so that I won’t find a needle in a haystack.

browser tab port

Observing other people’s use of browsers, I found that most people belong to the “only open but not closed” type. They often use the browser tab bar like this, and then close them all the next day, starting from scratch:


I didn’t have this problem at first, I closed the tabs very frequently, and consciously closed the used tabs in time. But this also has disadvantages, it will take up my time and interrupt my tasks. A common situation is that I click on a webpage and open a new tab, and the original webpage is useless. If you are a tab clean freak like me, you have to immediately fork out the original one, even if you use the shortcut keys Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Tab and then Ctrl/Cmd+W, which is a little faster than the mouse, but it is also quite laborious.

How about trying to treat the browser as a port? Tab pages are also digital data, which can also be managed with port thinking. This try is really delicious, I can also just turn it on and not turn it off, and don’t do those things that wipe my ass.

This requires a browser plug-in called Tab Wrangler, which can be installed on any browser that supports the Chrome App Store. I have made some rules, the plug-in will automatically close the tab page that has not been touched for more than 12 hours. When I woke up the next day, the browser was clean by itself. As for the tabs that I want to save for the next day, I only need to use the pinning function of the browser, and the pinned tabs will not be cleaned up by the plug-in.


The restriction mechanism of the browser tab port is very similar to that of the computer file port, Nissin. Useful tabs, take the initiative to save them; most of them are useless and do not require any additional processing.

There may seem to be many ports in my digital world, but they are basically upgrades and transformations of existing locations, without changing the original usage habits, so there is nothing to remember. The call recording port and the screen capture port don’t even need to spend energy to manage, all run silently.

Ports of the physical world

Can port thinking be extended beyond the digital world to reduce the burden of life?

completely fine. This comes naturally to many people, creating a dedicated space for storing items to be processed or sorted, and regularly cleaning to prevent excessive accumulation. People are already doing this, they just don’t theorize it.

For example, during Double Eleven, when the packages at home are too full to be unpacked, shouldn’t they be piled up at the door first? At this time, the small space next to the shoe cabinet becomes a port, and I come to dismantle some every day when I have time.

Another example is the company’s financial desk, where there are neat stacks of A4 papers on the desktop. This pile is checked and filed, and that pile is the reimbursement form submitted by everyone. This is also a port, a collection and distribution center for documents.

Therefore, there is actually nothing to talk about establishing a port in the physical world. Everyone has already mastered this ability.


My house still has a special little port that I can show off though. I found a paper bag of a suitable size, pasted the words “Inbox” and hung it at the door to store time-sensitive paper documents.

What is “time-sensitive paper documents”? For example, a one-year auto insurance contract, medical records required to apply for special additional tax deductions, or paper catering invoices collected for friends. These are documents that are useful for a certain period of time and become waste paper after that, and do not need to be kept for a long time.

In the digital age, there are fewer and fewer such files at home, but not completely, and this is where the trouble lies. If you put them together with long-term materials by category, you often forget to clean them up, and they accumulate more and more; if you just store them in a conspicuous place, some materials have a long validity period, and after more than half a year, they become paper pads. up where is it

At this time, it is time to open up a port for them. For ports in the physical world, the constraint mechanism basically depends only on the size of the space. The space opened up should not be too large, otherwise it will become a warehouse; it should not be too small, so it cannot be turned over. It takes a while of trying to find the right size.

In short, open up space for the intermediate state of the physical world and create shelter. It is better to be sparse than to be blocked.

port of the financial world

The financial world deals with money. Of course, no penny is useless and can be destroyed, so the main problem here is the scheduling of funds.

I have many bank cards. I mainly rely on China Merchants Bank for my savings, financial management and daily expenses. I deduct money from China Construction Bank for my mortgage repayment, and I also have salary cards from various companies I have worked for. Funds are scattered everywhere, which is difficult to manage and count. It is also very annoying to enter wages, repay mortgages, and transfer money every month. Is it possible to have a port for funds to centralize dispatch?

Most banks in China have a fund collection function, and it is inter-bank. You can find it by searching in the corresponding bank app. It can link two cards of different banks, and set rules to automatically dispatch the funds in the two cards.


Through fund collection, China Merchants Bank will transfer all the funds in the CITIC Bank salary card every day, leaving only 20 yuan to keep the balance active. At the same time, China Merchants Bank will ensure that there is at least 5,000 balance in the CCB mortgage card to repay the loan every day.

In this way, this China Merchants Bank card has become my financial port. Funds are concentrated here to the maximum extent and then used for financial management. Even if there are other bank cards and other forms of capital transactions in the future, they can be dispatched through this.

port of thought world

Furthermore, is there any place for port thinking in the world of thought?

some. Here, it has no physical form, no folders, no little paper bags, what needs to be done is to change your attitude towards information.

The information is divided into 3 categories:

  1. Event : A thing it happened, you know, it’s an event. Since the long-term impact on the whole society is minimal, it is more of a talking point now and has no value later. For example, the 2018 movie “Dunkirk” won the 90th Academy Awards.
  2. Knowledge : You have learned a principle or historical event, which is knowledge. This principle is very basic, it is not affected by human society, and it will work for a long time. Or this historical event has a great and long-term impact on the whole world, and you have figured out its cause and effect. For example, the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 changed the attitudes and policies of countries around the world towards nuclear power.
  3. Opinion : You have a certain opinion or attitude towards a thing, which is an opinion. Your point of view only exists in your heart, and everyone has their own opinions on this matter. The two groups of people who have the same views as you and those who disagree with you may even quarrel for a long time. For example, you think southern China should also centralize heating in winter like northern China.

Events are objective and short-term; knowledge is objective and long-term; opinions are subjective.

The information you receive from various channels every day is shaping and changing your thought world. A big problem today is that all three types of information are unreliable. Events are often false and rumored; knowledge is often wrong, profit-seeking and misleading; opinions are often extreme and force people to choose camps. Let such information shape, or invade your thought world, and you will be useless.

But receiving information is inevitable and cannot rest on its laurels. Massive amounts of information come rushing in every day, accept it, you may have eaten too much garbage; go to verify, how can you verify so much information.

Therefore, it is of great significance to establish a port for the world of thought. To build this port is to conceptually accept the existence of an intermediate state of information. In layman’s terms, it is to have a state of “well, I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know if it’s true or not, and I haven’t verified it yet”. If you see a piece of news or a piece of popular science, your brain immediately wants to express your opinion, want to scold the person involved in the news, or want to forward this popular science to the family group, which means that the port of thought has not yet been established.

The information received every day should not be directly put into memory as facts, but let it stay in this “I’ve heard of” port for a few days. In the past few days, you will naturally recall things that are important enough and closely related to you, verify them, learn more about them, form your own understanding and attitude, and finally formally incorporate them into your thinking world. Those unimportant things will no longer appear in your mind, and time will help you destroy them. Even if I think about it one day in the future, its status will become: “Well, I’ve heard of it, I don’t know if it’s true or not, it’s not important, I’m too lazy to verify it”.

Remember principle number two of port thinking? Not everything has to have a beginning and an end. Forgetting is the restraint mechanism of the port of thought.


From digital data to the physical world, and then from the physical world to ideas, port thinking allows people to change themselves and actively adapt to this changing and flowing world. Maybe it’s because of being close to the real way things work, people feel more relaxed and natural.

So what role does this abstract “port thinking” play in life? How to imagine these virtual ports?

The picture I have in mind is that the port is a brave pass that fights against chaos and disorder, leaving order to the lands behind that need to be protected. Those lands are your life, your time, your thoughts.

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