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The Things That Let Me Actually Work
This week has been really focused on my deficiencies, because apparently I love nothing more than writing about how bad I am at stuff, but also because sometimes it’s good to write out the things that you just deal with but don’t structurally discuss.
A few hours after I wrote about my dyspraxia a friend texted me and effectively said that he always wondered how someone without my resources actually deals with the problems of a learning disability - that I can afford to get a second charger specifically for right next to my desk, or have a Peloton so I can work out, or afford a place where I can actually have a separate office (because if I had to work in the house with everyone else things would be significantly more difficult), and so on and so forth.
The answer is, in short, that it would be easier to start now being who I am - a disorganized, attention deficient strugglebus of a person - because of the organizational layer that the cloud creates for you, and how easy it is to restart a task that you may have lost your place on.
The Problems and Their Solutions
I will add that the reason I’m writing this out, other than this being a newsletter by me about me talking about me, is that I have received enough of a response that suggests I am a conflux of different problems that people have and that my way of dealing with it is helpful to read.
For the most part, my problem isn’t staying on a task but remembering to do it. If I know when I have to do something and how it needs to be done, I will most likely do it, I just need to know it’s there and know that I cannot put it off.
I’ve taught myself to almost use my anxiety as a metric for task priority - if I know something has to be done, I’ll do it based off of the actual deadline, how important that deadline is (IE: can this deadline slip without anyone being upset as long as there’s fair notice?), and whether doing this one thing will stop me doing another thing.
This oftentimes doesn’t actually involve me having a dedicated task management app - mostly because I have a Chief of Staff who I’ll tell stuff I know I’ll forget, and insist on bugging me constantly until it’s done. And when I know I’ll let something slip, I will quite honestly put a big text document with big fonts that says exactly what I have to do that day, and I’ll do it, because I have faith in myself that I know what’s important and not important.
I also lose things that are physical objects constantly, so I have to structure everything so that finding them is easy. Basically every document I have is named specifically so that spotlight on my Mac easily finds it. I text myself things I’ll need - documents, my driver’s license photo, and so on - with specific phrases that make them pop up immediately. I obviously have layers of multi-factor authentication for anything truly important, and a whole thing around passwords I don’t need to go into detail around, but the thing I mostly rely on is the constant state of availability of things I’m working on.
For example, if I’m working on a document and get distracted, have to eat, or just forget what I’m doing, I don’t need to find the file on my desktop because it’s in Google Docs. If I’m texting my wife on my phone and need to get her something, I know thanks to iMessage I can send her a screenshot of it from my computer. If I was born a few decades earlier, I’d be toast - there’s just no way I’d be able to take stock and keep track of a bunch of physical paper documents.
Basically, it’s all around keeping things in a consistent state - I try and digitize everything so that if I need it, I can have the computer find it for me. If I get up and have to go somewhere, I know roughly the same state of operations is available on my phone, or my Macbook. I know that if my computer gets eaten by a cave troll, I have everything backed up on Backblaze without having to think about it, and that whatever I’m working on will be the same way I worked on it if I switch computers, or go away and come back. I basically run on a multitude of clouds that back up everything to each other, so that I don’t run the risk of losing my place or, frankly, losing the flow of the work I was working on.
A good way to look at it is that I am basically delegating organization to the machines and the cloud. I have entire reams of random things that look like the writings of a serial killer in my notes that exist entirely as mnemonics for conversations I’ve had with clients. My memory does not operate like normal peoples’, meaning that I will sometimes remember stuff in alarming detail and sometimes almost totally forget it, meaning that I need to keep these prompts as they happen in a place that I know will be on my phone and my computer, so that I don’t let someone down or, indeed, forget a great idea I had.
That’s why iCloud notes have become such a big thing to me - I can leave myself consistent prompts and notes that I might forget, little things (client is going on vacation X days) or very specific notes for myself, like in my recipes where I’ve written that at a particular time I know I’m going to be anxious that a thing won’t happen right, and that it will, and not to worry about it (EG: here is exactly where the thermometer goes in the turkey with 8 different pictures, take off at this temp, yes, I know you think that sounds low, but it’s fine).
I also make sure that just about anything that I need to start is easy to start - that the piano thing I have will have a dedicated cable and area where it goes so that I don’t have to fumble with cables every time, because otherwise I’ll feel like it’s too much work (this sounds lazy, it’s just how I am with things that I know aren’t essential). Everything I can, I find a way to operate from one place (usually my phone), not just because I don’t like going places and doing stuff, but because my entire issue is around starting tasks. When I start, I’m great. I can get a lot done in an alarming amount of time, and if I get interrupted and the state is saved, I can pick it up almost instantly.
In fact, I had to take a call as I was writing that paragraph, and because it’s all saved and even if I lose the window I can just load another one, I didn’t have trouble continuing.
I also have really weird things I do that seem really stupid, like setting exact calendar appointments for when I need to write this newsletter, or when I need to get on the bike, or when I need to lift, on top of my calls, because I need to remove the excuse of “there’s not enough time.” There’s time, I just need to grab said time and put it aside, otherwise I’m boned. It just won’t happen. I also use a Dakboard on a dedicated monitor I have in portrait mode that’s connected to my calendar and my wife’s, so that there are no surprises. Surprises make me sad.
To summarize, my entire operation is built to counterbalance my disability and inabilities, a substrate to make sure that my greased-up brain can actually go down the right flume and not slide off the side and into oblivion. As I write out a lot of this stuff, I realize a lot of it is very obvious, and maybe that’s only because it’s obvious to me. If it’s obvious to you, sorry. My bad.