Random Notes

The public notebook of some guy named Scott Nesbitt

That's the headline of an article I read many a year ago. A headline which illustrates some of the absurd lengths more than a few people go to when hacking their systems for productivity. While the article first saw the light of day in 2007, its thrust is as true now as it was all that time ago.

This paragraph from that article sums it all up for me:

[A]s the productivity-obsessed swap tips online and around the office about filing systems, checklists and time management, advice often moves from the practical to the arcane. And the glut of suggestions and systems can actually cause people to become less productive while trying to master a constant barrage of new methods.

Some of that might be a simple case of procrastination — it's more fun to investigate tools and techniques than to do actual work. But if your goal is to be more productive, you need to stop twiddling and twerning and actually start doing the work.

Unless you do the work, all the productivity systems and all the apps and all the trappings won't help you. They become a crutch instead of a tool to help you do what you need to to and to achieve your goals.

That's the hardest thing anyone can do.

For many, it's easier to put on a mask and pretend to be like everyone else. But doing that diminishes you in so many ways.

A good chunk of my life has been a rebellion against what I should do, what I'm expected to do, and what others think I should do. That stance has hurt my career and a few relationships, but I have few regrets.

What I do regret, though, are the times in which did put on that mask of conformity, of sameness. When I did that, I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I never knew if the me in the mask was a role I was playing or if it was the real me.

I just realized it's been almost 10 years since I became a stranger in a strange land. Well, I'm not that much of a stranger anymore, and the land isn't (and wasn't) all that strange anyway. But those 10 years have passed quickly. Much has happened, and much more will.

This might be hard to believe: I have no yearning to return to Canada to live out the rest of my days. I do miss some people. I do miss some things. But I haven't felt homesick for the old country. I haven't planned, even as an exercise, a trip back there.

I call Canada the old country and not home like some people in my position are wont to. Why? Because New Zealand is home. I think it was the moment I stepped off the plane at Auckland airport back in 2012. And I wouldn't change that.

That's how I do my best thinking. In fact, most of my thinking and most of the planning that I do mentally is in the form of bullet points. At least, that's how I conceptualize my thinking and planning.

Everything gets broken down into individual thoughts. Concise little packages that come in a recognizable sequence. All of that takes a very rough shape of a list in my mind's eye, and I'm able to mentally shuffle those points around as they coalesce and as my brain finds links between them.

When I'm ready to really work on those ideas, to mold them into a whole, I transfer the bullet points in my head into an outliner. That sounds kind of strange, going from bullet points to bullet points. Instead, why not write everything out, even in a very rough or a draft form?

This process doesn't work like that with me. I need to see the list of thoughts in front of me. They need to be in a form in which I can manipulate, edit, connect, and bolster all those points ever further.

Once that's done, I can decide what to do next, what I need to do next. From there, I can (I hope) create something that resembles a cohesive whole. Something, maybe, that's worth reading or pondering in more detail.

I did. This morning. And only noticed it now.

The lesson? When you have multiple blogs on Write.as and plan on publishing something early in the morning, make sure you're posting to the right blog before you click Publish.

(And that post you might have read, it's moved here.)

(This is an excerpt from an edition of my weekly letter, which appears here via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.)

Email, to put it bluntly, is my social media.

It's how I keep in touch with people. I send them a message, not a DM or a post on whatever social media wall they maintain.

Email is how, at least in part, I share ideas with a wider audience. That audience is a small group of people, many of whom I don't know and who don't know me.

I get more out of email than I did when I was actively posting on Twitter and Mastodon.

The people with whom correspond don't bog my email down with the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives — that artisan soda or beer they just drank, photos of a dessert that they're about to tuck into, what they're watching at this very moment on their streaming service of choice, cute photos of their pets. Alla that kind of stuff. (OK, I do like the pet photos, but don't tell them!)

Best of all, my inbox isn't clogged with misinformation or disinformation. My correspondents only share links to items that they know might pique my interest. Or, sometimes, things which might raise my ire or my gorge — bless 'em! They share important news about themselves or about mutual friends. Our digital correspondence can be light and breezy, but also can be serious and have some depth. We can delve into discussion, debate, and sometimes argument.

When I tell certain people that email is my social media, they're surprised. Some are even shocked. A few mock me for giving up the potential for the reach and influence that social media can provide. As if I've ever been interested in any of that ...

Looking isn't seeing.

Hearing isn't listening.

A knee-jerk reaction isn't thinking.

Unless you pay attention, you're missing things. Important things. Subtle things. Little nuances. Gateways that lead to ideas.

By paying attention, you understand more. You learn more. You feel more.

We all have at least one. And we can never really escape them.

Our chains aren't necessarily physical. They might be emotional. More often than not, they're psychological. The chains that keep us bound to habits and ways of thinking that hold us back.

Those chains, in whatever form they take, will always be with us. We can continue to be constricted by them. We can try to break them. Or, we can try to loosen them so we're a bit more comfortable, a bit less restrained.

Sometimes, the third option is all we can hope to do.

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