Fading into the background

Have you ever got a new gadget or gizmo and used it heaps at first but then slowly lost interest?  Thought it’s features were great at first but later on wondered why you got so excited?  Chances are you fell into a common trap in that you were focused on the features and not how it would fit into your overall workflow.

Largely,  this is a problem of ego.  We as a society place a high value on status and power and many people spend their lives in pursuit of both.  Much to the delight of marketers in many a company.  More features on a product create the illusion that it can do more,  that it is more powerful,  that it is thus more expensive and if you own it you must be a person of wealth.  Such a device looks impressive and people will be impressed by it,  and some of that impression will be bestowed upon you by association.  It’s not about how you will use the product,  it’s about showing off how many features it has,  and making it clear that it has many.  So we buy products that are laden with buttons everywhere,  and flashing lights,  and big screens to let us know everything that it is currently doing.

We get home and install said device and friends come over and they are impressed,  and we are happy that they are impressed.  That stage is short lived however and long term we actually have to use the product,  this is the part a lot of people don’t fully consider.  We need to learn from our mistakes.

I believe the better a product suits you and your workflow,  the less it should be visible.  In essence it should fade into the background,  as it aides in helping you do whatever it is that you’re doing,  while grabbing as little attention as possible.  To this extent,  no device or tool is an entity in it’s own right.  They are all components in the support system that you set up around you.  I have a limited amount of energy and focus and I want it all to be directed on what it is I’m achieving rather than how it is that I’m achieving it.  We surround ourselves with many tiny distractions and don’t realise that they all add up to be a real toll on what we can achieve.  Successful people have a talent for crafting workflows to eliminate as much of this as possible.  You can even start now by tailoring you desktop.

The world of computers brings in many exciting opportunities for creating such an environment.  Software can be created to process information in virtually any way desired.  The interactions between this software are almost limitless.  In computers we have an amazing ability to create systems that propel us in what we are doing in ways that would require teams of support staff for previous generations.

As a simple example,  let’s look at your desktop.  Now whether you use Linux,  Windows or OSX there are many ways you can change the default layout to make accessing your documents and programs more suited to you specifically.  For starters you probably have links to items that you don’t use,  or use very infrequently.  Why not shoo them all off to a Misc area and get them out of the way.  How do you organise your programs?  By developer (the common Windows way),  all in a heap at the bottom of your screen ( the common OSX way) or by category (common linux way)?  Would it make more sense to organise them by task?  If you use files regularly would it make sense to include links to them in this structure as well?  Where do you place items on your desktop?  I find that my mouse is predominantly in the top half of the screen so I’ve moved my taskbar to the top of the screen.  These may be little things to consider but they all add up to making you more productive  and they all work towards moving the computer out of your way.

Technology can be dominant in your life,  or it can be submissive.  The choice is yours and it can have an effect on your productivity and happiness.


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