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Reading Doesn’t Have to Be Productive

Western life wants us to optimise everything for productivity and to feel bad if we don’t. This productivity ethic even extends to something that is supposed to feel pleasurable, like reading. We continue to be enticed to read more books after seeing someone online say they read 100 books a year. We read about the number of non-fiction books that someone reads and takes notes and and then look at how much “frivolous” fiction we read and feel lesser than this other reader. We see someones excellent note system, and feel bad that our system isn’t as organised.

But outside of school, or some work circumstances, reading is a leisure activity. We should be doing it because it’s fun. We should be reading books that are interesting to us, and only taking notes if that also enhances our reading experience.

A great limiting factor is how hard something feels. If you sit down to read and the work to take notes feels overwhelming, something is wrong with what you’re trying to do. Either the book isn’t interesting, or you’ve built up a system that is too hard to use. No matter the reason, the friction is telling you something.

STOP what you’re doing and make it easier. Take the pressure off. Stop comparing yourself to anyone else and do what you enjoy.

The Obsession with RSS as Toxic Productivity

While Keenen doesn’t want to yuck anyone’s yum on RSS readers, but he did get me thinking about RSS and “read-it-later” apps as a sign of toxic productivity. Does that backlog of articles to read from sites that were interesting give you guilt? What about all those articles you were certainly going to read at some point, but now site in your queue laughing at the thought that you’d have more time later.

One great piece of productivity advice about my calendar I adopted years ago was that if I wouldn’t say yes to an event today because I was too busy, I’d likely be too busy in 3-months as well and should say no to that same event no matter how interesting it sounded. I think the same idea can be applied to our RSS and read-later feeds.

At the end of the week, if you don’t have time to read the articles then your first instinct should be to mark it all as read and not worry about it. If there are truly some things in there that you want to read which may pertain to an idea you’ve been thinking about, take the links and move them to your note on the idea and then come back to them when you’re working on the idea.

For me that would mean taking the 35 links I have on NixOS and moving them to a single note on NixOS. Then when I’m getting around to installing it on my laptop I use these notes to research/inform me before I do the install. Until that point the content is merely clutter.

Like I said above, take the pressure off and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

What Does Return to Office Mean?

Overall, the analysis, released as a pre-print, found that RTO mandates did not improve a firm’s financial metrics, but they did decrease employee satisfaction. – RTO doesn’t improve company value, but does make employees miserable

A bunch of good quotes in this piece about RTO policies. Like companies with weaker performance will blame employees as a scapegoat so the CEO doesn’t have to take the blame for the poor performance.

It’s always easier to abdicate responsibility rather than take it on and take a hard look at your own failings.

The biggest reason I haven’t worked in an office for almost 15 years is the theft of my time during commutes. When I lived outside Vancouver BC I was headhunted more than once by a web firm in Vancouver. This would have required a 90 – 120 minute commute each way daily, a commute I wouldn’t be paid for and none of the companies were offering my vastly more money than I was currently making running my own business.

I’d consider a job for a company in Prince George, but any commute in Prince George would be less than 20 minutes, most likely less than 10 minutes by bike for much of the year. Even then, to loose the freedom I have to come/go as I please. To take breaks to throw the ball for my dog or talk to my wife, or pick a kid up from school, is something of high value to me.

It would take a very good offer to go back to office politics, which I’ve never had time for.

Getting Started with Zettelkasten

If you’ve been wondering about what Zettelkasten is and how to start organizing your notes with this excellent system then this course is for you. I’ll cover the basics of choosing which tool to use, how to take notes, how to deal with linking your notes, and much more. You can also become a member to get all my courses.

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2 responses to “Let’s be Anti-Productivity – 3 Threads 004”

  1. Dan Binns Avatar

    Chucking all the links/text into a single note is a *great* tip. Just tag/backlink and leave it for now.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      It is certainly an easy/fast thing. Far too often we go for complexity instead of the simplest thing that works.