The Analog Conversion

January 1, 2011

I’ve been reflecting on 2010 and short of actually coming up with resolutions I’ve found a way to improve in 2011. I think the biggest change I’d like to make isto change my focus.

I thought that multi-tasking was a skill that improves the amount of work we can accomplish, but especially in 2010, I’ve found it do a bit more harm than good. In manual or task oriented projects, multi-tasking has been great. It allows me to bounce between a few different pieces of the project, do some work, and then move on. But when it comes to creative thinking or problem solving, mult-tasking seems to have become a bit more of a curse than a blessing.

For Christmas, my wife got me “Soul Pancake”, the book by Rainn Wilson and his team. It has helped me understand a bit of what I’ve lost. In the new year, I want to spend more allotted time simply being creative: treating it like a skillset instead of a tool you call upon. I’m calling this “The Analog Conversion”. Instead of being stuck in our digital ways of checking 7 websites, chatting with friends, getting SMSs, I want to be able to truly think through a problem, idea, or thought without either being distracted or letting my mind wander to distract itself.

I think I’ll be able to perform best in this conversion with some sort of framework. I intend to keep updating this as I go through the process, but I’m going to start with bullet points, I guess.

  • Spend a pointed effort to mono-task whenever possible. If you’re playing a video game, shut your laptop. If you’re watching TV, just watch TV. Stop having two active activities going on simultaneously. My hope is this will provide me with more “usable” time without guilt of wasting time away.
  • Engage in more creative production. For me, I think this will mean one purposefully creative block of thinking during the day. Writing, coding, sketching, white boarding. Doing something that is producing.
  • Engage in more creative consumption. I think its important to break the two apart as consuming someone else’s creativity, while important, is only one side of the coin. Reading a fiction book, an editorial, looking at some art/sketches. Its important here, especially for me, to be sure that you entirely engage with what you’re trying to consume.

I figure these three bullet points are a good start for the manifesto. I don’t intend to shut out the digital world because, to be honest, that would never really work. But I intend to change how I use it.

I know some of the (few) followers of this blog might be annoyed of the non-technical slant, but I think even for developers coding is a means of creative expression. Its one tool we have to create something. For me, I’ve found, coding provides me an outlet for this expression but I can more about the expression than the tool. But having a bunch of tools definitely helps.