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

On Shortcuts

A bunch of confusing detour signs

Shortcuts. Hacks. Little tips and and tricks to make you life easier. Whatever tag you slap on the concept, I have to grudgingly admit those tricks and techniques can be useful.

Shortcuts can help you complete tasks and to learn what you need to learn faster and more efficiently. Shortcuts can help you focus on the meat of those tasks, on the important bits of what you need to learn. They can help you become more productive. Or, at the very least, shortcuts can streamline your productivity.

But shortcuts are frowned upon in some circles. Why? They’re considered cheating or taking the lazy route. Some people say that by taking shortcuts, you’re not getting the depth that those people think you need. Even if you don’t need that depth, ever.

I disagree. That said, you should approach using shortcuts with the awareness and knowledge that they’re:

  • Not always the best way to tackle every task, and
  • Not meant for every situation.

As I wrote a few paragraphs ago, shortcuts are useful. At the same time, they have limitations and they’re limiting. Shortcuts aren’t for everything or everyone.

The danger of always turning to a shortcut is that those shortcuts become an end in themselves, not a means to an end. It seems that for a certain cadres of people, including self-styled productivity hackers, the goal of shortcuts isn’t to work more efficiently. Instead, the goal is to come up with another more clever, complex hack.

The time spent researching or coming up with those shortcuts, with those hacks is better spent doing actual work. Doing the work, and not chasing the white rabbit of the next shortcut, is what working efficiently is all about. That’s what productivity is all about.

Use shortcuts when you need to. Take the longer route at other times. There’s a place for both in your life and work.

Remember that shortcuts are a tool to boost your productivity. Like other tools, you should only use them where and when appropriate.

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