The Power of Building Our Tools
In order to achieve low friction working , one must first identify the roadblocks (both mental and practical), and then propose solutions. These solutions can be of various natures. The Luhmann method , for example, uses notes in order to build a mental scaffolding system . We can implement the method ourselves and polish out all the details that don't fit into our workflow.
Although the digital medium offers plenty of possibilities that are not possible to achieve on paper (see: leveraging the digital medium for better note taking ), there is an inherent complexity that must be overcome in order to use the medium as one desires. For example, taking notes on paper is straightforward. If we would like to use different colors, change the numbering system, or even the paper size, we can do so without any form of technical friction. If we move to the digital medium, we will become locked by the decisions of the creator of the program we pick.
If we want to lower the friction while working, we must fully own the tools we use, and we must be able to modify them. For digital tools, it means that we must be able to modify them in whatever form we see fit. Although open source software allows us to change whatever we want, the reality is that the task is never as trivial as buying a pen of a different color. This higher activation barrier makes me wonder whether digital tools are a proper substitution for their traditional, analog, counterparts.
Moreover, building our own tools (see: how i built this website ) requires a degree of knowledge that not everyone possesses. We can all cut an A4 paper into two A5 sheets that feet into our box of notes, but very few can build a tool for proper note-taking using a computer. Moreover, technical inequality will only make the differences between people of various backgrounds more pronounced.
Therefore, when we are designing our workflow in a mindful way, we must decant ourselves not only for the shiniest and newest of the tools. We can opt for Choosing technology based on their incentives or, more importantly, we can choose technology based on our own incentives. Deciding for an analog approach must not be considered as a secondary choice. The value of a tool that we fully own and that we can customize in the long run, is much higher than that of a tool that automates part of our workflow.
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