Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

On the Boring Use of Tools

There are people in the world who push their tools to, and beyond, their limits. Who do things with their tools that those tools were never really meant to do.

Then there are those who think they need to do that with every tool they use. Not just themselves, but you too. And if you don’t, they’ll tell you that the way you’re working is boring.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve run into that attitude on countless occasions. In emails, in online comments, even face-to-face. It used to annoy me. Now, I don’t care if people think the way in which I use a tool is boring. I’m using that tool in the way that works for me. And that’s all that matters.

As you probably know, I keep the use of my tools simple. I stay within boundaries. Why? Not because I’m afraid to hack or don’t have to mental flexibility to do so. I just don’t see the need to.

I choose my tools carefully. I like them to do one or two tasks, and do them well. That allows me to focus. That ensures my overhead is minimal. That ensures I work quickly and efficiently. I don’t push many tools to their limits because I have no need or compelling reason to do so. Sure, I could do that. But to what end?

No matter how much fun it is to hack your tools, now matter how much fun it is to stretch them, doing that can be a waste of time. Chances are you’ll spend more time than you realize either maintaining the systems that you’ve implemented by pushing your tools to their limits, or you’ll spend time trying to figure out the next way to push beyond the limits you’ve found. Doing that defeats that whole purpose of adopting a tool. That purpose? To help you work more efficiently and to save you time.

If that means you’re using a tool in a way that other people deem boring, then so be it. What you do, and the way in which you do it, shouldn’t matter to them. If it does, the problem lies with them and not you.

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