If there’s a common thread through tech workers, it’s having a drawer full of stickers, accumulated indiscriminately at conferences and meetups, but which one can never quite bring themselves to attach to anything.

There are very understandable human reasons for this. Once that sticker is stuck, you’ve committed. Your enjoyment of that sticker is now bound inextricably to the lifetime of whatever you’ve stick it on. Getting rid of that thing means getting rid of that sticker and the memories that come with it. That sticker isn’t just a picture of a dog, it represents the memories of that time you went to Crufts or whatever. You might have stuck it on a laptop, which means you’ll probably only have that sticker for somewhere between four and eight more years. What a waste. Or you might have stuck it on one of your beautiful notebooks, which in practice means you’ll have it forever, as notebooks are another thing that most of us like to accumulate but balk at the idea of actually using.

So, like many of you, I kept my stickers in a little drawer to occasionally rifle through, smiling at the memories attached. Only, mathematically, I was wasting them.

Let’s say each sticker has a value `l`

representing how much you like it. For convenience, we’ll give all stickers a fixed value of `l=1`

.

Your enjoyment, `e`

, of a sticker is then `l * s`

where `s`

is the total number of seconds for which you were looking at it. The success of your sticker strategy is measured by the sum of all `e`

values.

Time for a worked example. Let’s say you have five stickers in your drawer and you look through the drawer once a month. You look at each sticker for a good 30 seconds before replacing it and moving on to the next one. You maintain this ritual for an admirable 60 years.

12 inspections for 60 years is 720 inspections. With a fixed `l=1`

, each inspection gives you `30 * 5 * 1`

, for a total of `e=150`

. Your lifetime `e`

using the drawer strategy a hefty 108,000.

Now imagine you take those five stickers and put them on the back of your desk, where all five remain in your line of sight while you work. Keeping our convenient `l=1`

for each sticker, you’re racking up a whopping `5e`

per second. At this rate, you’ll catch up with your drawer using counterpart in 21,600 seconds, or 360 minutes, or six hours.

In other words, in a little less than a work day minus lunch, I’ve enjoyed my stickers as much as I would have done over 60 years if I’d kept them safe in a drawer and just looked at them once per month.

Don’t be a drawer. Be a sticker.