Dan Newcome on technology

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The last few years I have been going out to a festival in the Nevada desert. You can probably guess which one but it’s not really important for this discussion. One of the core tenets or “principles” of that gathering is embracing immediacy. In the context of the festival that generally manifests itself in a kind of a fractally recursive series of pleasant distractions. One of our rules is if someone asks “what is that?” we have to go find out.

Naturally in the real world this lack of prioritization can lead to trouble. However, I have begun to explore the idea of optimizing for immediate action. There is rarely a better time to do a thing than the current moment. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of potentially missing high priority tasks that just don’t happen to be immediately in front of us.

There are several “triage”/inbox zero type of strategies that rely on one pass over potential tasks to see what can be knocked out in 5 minutes or less. My approach here is to try to optimize for speed so some things can be approached in smaller chunks of time.

Digressing a bit here – a useful thing done in a small amount of time is also dependent on there being a nice stopping point for the task. So really there are 2 things to optimize for. Quick to start and quick to stop. Stopping is important because the gains can be lost if the exploration is forgotten (if it is an info-task) or the intermediate result is misplaced only to be done again next time it’s immediately before us.

Before I do any more explaining I will give an example. Say I am looking at a broken power jack on a circuit board I’m holding. I think, ok just need to unsolder this thing. I have more barrel plugs in a little drawer in my organizer. The soldering stuff is in a plastic bin in a stack of bins. What do I have to do to accomplish this task? There are move moving parts than one would think. I have to put the board down somewhere. That might be a challenge if my bench isn’t clear. I need to pull the soldering bin out from under some other stacked bins potentially and figure out where to put it while I pull out the desoldering iron. I have to find a place to plug it in.

Immediacy can come into play in many places here. One is realizing that a good place for a power outlet is right in front of the bench, maybe mounted to the leg of the bench. Having a ready supply of double sided tape would be something that could enable this. The ability to slap a power strip right there and use it right away for this task is what I’m talking about. It should take less than 5 minutes to evaluate whether it’s a good idea, and if it works out it’s much easier to remember and maybe I’ll use screws or something more permanant. Kind of like paving the worn paths across the grass.

Other potential things in this example are, “where do I put the hot iron?” I have a little soldering iron holder on a clip now. The things that led to this was my cat knocking something heavy onto my soldering iron holder, breaking it off of the base. I delayed throwing it out since I didn’t have anything else and figured I would fix it eventually. However it was broken on the metal and I was thinking I could weld it so fast but I had to remember to take it to my shop, which never happened. I had some steel wire and started looking for somewhere to lash it, and I had a binder clip lying around and the idea worked and stuck. Pretty contrived, but how to enable more immediate actions like this?

One touch systems. I did the clip-on soldering iron holder while the iron was hot in my hand. This is what I would call “one touch”. I was already holding the problem. Another example of this would be washing a pan before letting it go after serving out the food it contained. It’s probably not going to get any easier to clean after it’s cool.

Written by newcome

December 5, 2021 at 2:09 pm

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