Quick Thoughts on ‘Computing Environments’ & Fiddling

LifeHacker posted last evening about creating a writing system that works, and Adam Pash in that post said this:

Distraction-free writing environments are all the rage, but here’s the thing: You can set up a writing environment so free from distractions it’s the writing equivalent of a sensory deprivation tank, but if all that fiddling places any barrier between you and your goal—to actually write—it’s not worth it.

I couldn’t agree more with what Pash is saying here, but it applies to more than just ‘writing environments’, I think you can apply that same theory to computing devices in general. There are so many apps out there that allow you to tweak the colors and fonts to your hearts desire, but in the end they are worthless unless you actually start using the app for something productive.

One such app is OmniFocus, I have said this many times, you can waste hours fiddling with the looks of the app, and not actually performing any of the actions that OmniFocus is storing for you. Ditto with Mac OS, how much time have you wasted adjusting the size of the dock, your icons, or more likely the background image that you are using? Ditto iOS – how much time has been wasted perfectly arranging icons on the pages, or selecting the best background image? How much time have you wasted arrange and routing cords leading to and from your computer? How many distraction free apps have you tried this week?

That answer to all of the above questions for most people (myself included) is: too much, too much time.

We all do it, because maybe just maybe if we get that font size and just the right font it will make everything better and the better things are the more you get done. Except that it is all a waste of time, the best use of anyones time is doing what they need to do, then doing what they want to do.

I wasted 30 minutes last night making a new theme for OmniFocus, but really that time wasn’t wasted because I had nothing else pressing that needed to be done. I did it because I wanted to and had the time to do it.

I am not saying that fiddling with settings is a huge waste of time, nor am I saying that we should never fiddle with settings or make apps that have settings. All I am saying is that perhaps we should pay a little more attention to doing and a little less attention to settings.

Originally posted for members on: November 9, 2010
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