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MyPersonalProductivity

 

Processes not tools

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Posted by Pixelpunker
Sep 24, 2018 at 09:33 AM

 

I am a long-time lurker in these forums and want to sketch out what a
decade of dabbling with different informational tools has led me to. I
am giving you just the gist here, you miss out on many amusing
anecdotes.

1.  I use mainstream tools now instead of artisanal software by single
  developers on single platforms

  I remember writing my master’s thesis in Mellel with o-so-advanced
  typography. I bought that because of a glowing, very subjective blog
  post that compared writing in Mellel to driving a Ferrari while
  using Word was like using public transportation. At the last minute
  I had to send it someone to proof-read, converted it to Word and
  lost my o-so-special formatting. Years later, I needed to buy an old
  Mac Mini to get access to some old Mellel files I could no longer
  read on my PC. While Mellel switched to some XML format later where
  I could have salvaged at least some text, my files were in an older
  binary format.

  I will not mention how many months I wasted on tools, like Tinderbox
  writing agents, instead of well, doing research on my thesis. That
  being said I still enjoy using iA Writer for writing short texts and
  look forward to the release of Scrivener 3 for Windows. In both
  cases it’s very important to me that they are multi-platform and can
  sync across devices.

2.  I say no to tools

  I try to stick with my mainstream tools, although they may not be
  the ultimate best. Instead I try to learn them more deeply. I bought
  books on Sublime Text, Windows 10 Inside out and iPhone the missing
  Manual and find power user features there you may not stumble upon
  in years of regular use.

  May I add that I enjoy using my Remarkable Paper Tablet, the only
  device I know that nails that paper feel and the ease of use of
  paper as well as my adorable Surface Go that finally delivers the
  Apple Newton’s promise of pen computing.

  I got tired of selling stuff on eBay at a significant loss that I
  bought on a whim like an expensive Topre Keyboard because it would
  make me a better writer.

3.  I say no to the Internet.

  That means no more blogs, forums or podcasts. If I ever want to
  catch up on my book reading as well as cull the stuff I already have
  I need to cut out these time-sinks. Besides, many blog posts are so
  superficial and badly written and subjective to the point of being
  totally arbitrary. A good book can provide the essence of thousands
  of such posts.

4.  I embrace the cloud

  Yes, the cloud means some loss of control over one’s information.
  But the primary risk here is I think hackers companies that data
  mine your information for advertising and profiling purposes. For
  the moment I think I am save because I use true 2-factor
  authentication and a respectable cloud provider. I use a paid-for
  service instead of a “free” service. For a long-term perspective I
  try not to rely on cloud services that may be canceled on a whim. If
  I don’t think this service/company will be around in 10 years I
  don’t use it. What I gain is multi-device sync which I increasingly
  rely on. I no longer want my files locked down to a single device
  and then lost.

5.  I try to learn processes instead, let’s call them informational
  habits

  I read “The Science of Managing our Digital Stuff” by Bergman as
  well as “Keeping Found Things Found” and find so many insights I may
  elaborate on in a future post. For the moment I will list a few.

  Studies show that people have a tendency to over-keep information of
  questionable value. Keeping decisions are often delayed forever.
  This low-quality information makes relevant information hard to
  find.

And to add my personal note here: _none_ of the tools you read about in
this forum will solve this problem of over-keep for you.

  Information has a life-cycle. Being aware of this life-cycle of gather-keep-use-discard helps me get rid of obsolete information:

-  Am I still interested in knowing/doing/having this?
-  Do I know or understand this already?
-  Is a better fresher version of this information likely to come into
  my life soon?
-  If I will use read do this will I do it before it goes out of date?
-  Can I deal with any regret I might have if I throw it away?

To be continued…