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

Links Roundup - April 25, 2017

Does Everything You Do Need To Be Practical?

A young girl daydreaming

Let’s go back in time to 1979. I was in the eighth grade and had a growing interest in and love for movies that was fuelled by the TV shows Magic Shadows and Saturday Night At The Movies. Both were hosted by the late Elwy Yost, a man who had a powerful influence on me.

My other fascination was with the special effects in science fiction movies and TV series. Each month, I made a beeline to a local convenience store to pick up the latest issues of Starlog and CineFX magazines to learn more about how the magic of SF movies was made. Part of me yearned to make my own short films, even if I had no clue how to do that.

While rooting around in a closet one day, I discovered a pair of old, dust-covered 8mm film cameras. The kind used by the amateur filmmakers I’d been reading about. That discovery sparked my imagination.

I set one of those cameras up in front of a disused table in my parents’ basement. On top of that table, I cobbled together a crude set and with some small articulated action figures borrowed from a friend, I got to work. For an hour or two each evening, I meticulously (or, as meticulously as I could) moved those action figures a fraction of a millimetre and took a single frame shot of that movement with the camera. I repeated that over and over again until my fingers tired and my brain went numb.

A few months into my crude experiments with stop motion animation, and with a couple of minutes of footage in the camera, my parents called a halt to the proceedings. I was told what I was doing wasn’t practical and that I had to stop.

Since that day, I’ve wondered if everything we do needs to be practical. The conclusion I’ve come to?

It doesn’t.

Just Because I Stop Using a Tool ...

A set of tools

Over the years, I’ve used a number of tools to organize myself and to do more than that. Many of those tools, I’ve either tuck with for years or have gone back to after a voluntary separation.

It never ceases to amaze me, though, when some people react in surprise and shock when I move away from a favourite, oft-used tool. They seem to think that I’ve realized something negative about the tool that they haven’t. A few have accused me of jumping on and off bandwagons or being fickle.

When I stop using a tool, it’s not a case of me being a cheerleader who stops cheerleading. It’s not (always) a case of me running into the supposed limitations of a tool. It’s not a case of me finding new Kool Aid to sip.

What is it, then? It’s me changing. It’s my needs changing. Nothing more.

It took me years of trial and much error to come up with a productivity system (if you want to call it that) that works for me. It’s taken almost as long to find the right kinds of tools that work for me and work within that system.

It’s taken a lot of experimentation to whittle down the tools I use to organize myself. As you might recall from a recent post, I use Todo.txt instead of Remember the Milk, Laverna instead of Simplenote, Nextcloud Calendar instead of Google Calendar, and Emacs with org-mode instead of WorkFlowy. That doesn’t mean I’ve soured on those (and other) tools I’ve used and liked in the past.

Far from it. Those tools just don’t suit my needs any longer. And I still recommend them. Why? Well, I’m definitely not getting paid to do that! Seriously, though, I recommend tools that I no longer use because they’re still good, solid, useful tools.

Remember that my choices and opinions shouldn’t determine your choices and your opinions. I’ve chosen to follow the simple path and to live my life in plain text. That doesn’t mean you need to. And that means whatever I no longer use might be suitable for you, even if it’s not for me any longer. And there’s only one way to find that out.

Links Roundup - April 11, 2017

What I Use to Organize Myself, 2017 Edition

A pen, a calendar, and a todo list

A major theme in my life in 2017 is simplify. That means eliminating as much of the physical and digital cruft from my life as I can. That, in turn, means getting rid of possessions that are taking up space. It also means dropping apps and software and services that I don’t use much or don’t use to their full potential.

It’s been an interesting exercise that I’ve been carrying out bit by bit, as time and energy allow. Luckily, it’s turned out that I’m not attached to much of what I’m dumping. That’s made the process easier than I expected.

The process started in January, 2017. I kicked off the cleanup by changing the tools I use to organize myself. In makeing that change, my goals were to:

  • Switch to simpler, text-based tools
  • Use as much open source software as possible
  • Take my information into my own hands