You Should DeOptimize

Over the last year I've had a lot of life change. The biggest one being that I now have a kid. Because of him being born I was off work for about 7 weeks and then was given the opportunity to work from home for a few months while we waited for him to be able to start childcare. The only time in my entire career before this that I had been able to work from home for any extended amount of time was during the lockdown times, and let's be real none of us were really doing anything productive then. I see your Animal Crossing Island over there you aren't fooling me. Anyways, working from home for a few months spun into being mostly remote most of the time because for some reason my productivity actually sky rocketed. Even with a screaming baby in the room who got bored of watching me scrub over the same 5 frames of a commercial over and over. Even with a mediocre laptop being used to remote into my beefier editing rig at the office.

As someone who's very guilty of falling down the productivity guru rabbit hole on Youtube from time to time this all felt counterintuitive to me. I've always been the kind of person who was an Apple product die hard because the ecosystem worked so well. I always had the best cutting edge apps and all my syncing and sharing set up perfectly between devices. The thing is though I think many of us who enjoy tinkering and having "a project" to work on can get so lost in the sauce playing with the tools that we never really actually... use the tools. Instead of tapping those wells of knowledge and finding tools and systems that work for us, the hunt for the next best thing becomes the obsession. There's no greater dopamine hit than wasting half a work day setting up the perfect system in your shiny new notes app (that definitely is going to make me get so much more done c'mon I promise!).

Now I've also been guilty of falling down the opposite hole of the more "luddite" approaches. I don't think anyone can really argue with the fact that there are certain aspects of technology and it's ever growing and evolving nature that are not great for our mushy little human brains. I to read Cal Newport's "Digital Minimalism" and was tempted to throw my iPhone out for a flip phone and go technology dark. And I'm not saying that there aren't some awesome nuggets of usefulness and health in these corners of the productivity and digital/life management sphere. But for a lot of us throwing the baby out with the bath water isn't worth it anymore than wasting time chasing that next app high.

So all that to say what's my approach now? I'm trying mindfully use the tools and information I have available to me. In my case this looks like using multiple platforms that don't necessarily all fit together perfectly enough to make a "how to build the ultimate second brain" video, but they work for me and what I need. For instance right now I'm writing this post in Obsidian. It's the note keeping/taking app I've found that works best for me right now and that I like, but on mobile it's kind of a mediocre experience. But it works great for me where I do the most work which is on my laptop. I've also recently starting playing around with using a Supernote A5X (a purchase caused by me falling down the e-ink tablet Youtube rabbit hole I'm not perfect) to keep most of my day to day handwritten notes and tasks, as well as a way to view scripts and documents for work where I can write directly on them without having to print them out. Because it's e-ink though I still get the benefits of digital backups and handwriting to text. Could you do all that on an iPad and do so much more? Definitely. But I've found that having a more focused less connected tool for that kind of work actually helps me get more done and the act of writing things out by hand helps me process better than throwing a million notes and tasks into *insert whatever the hot current todo app is here*. At the end of the day I think we need to approach technology and productivity with the mindset of "how does this make my life and work better?" and not just chase the next shiny thing for the sake of it. Mindful and focused use will get you a lot father than forcing yourself into a box because Youtube said this new system is going to change your life. Maybe this is a "yeah no shit" statement for a lot of you, but fore me this mindset change has been a huge positive in my work and work/life balance.