The agony of choice

agony of choice

People crave the ability to do things in order to get unstuck from old forms. However, the pursuit of novelty is no prerequisite for action.

Instead, it’s often the constraints that improve our creativity. Take the computer (or smartphone) for instance — it’s our one tool for listening to music, watching a movie or live sports, networking with people, reading the news, and writing or making beats.

We encounter the verbal and the visual and take the role of producer and consumer by skipping from app to app. The phone converged everything yet prolonged the agony of choice.

Within this instant pot of entertainment and information output comes a fusion of distraction, offering conflicting experiences and places, all of which take us away from our primary object: to do the work.

One may try to medicate their problem away with Ritalin or other substances promoting focus. Yet, it’s the process of intensive iteration of “less is more” that produces flow.

We have to build workstations and practice routines that are conducive to single-tasking. Too loose a barrier — like keeping one’s phone within reach — allows one to easily pass through to the other side, congested.

This post isn’t a recommendation to throw your phone into the ocean and buy a typewriter unmoored from wifi and a wall charger. The linearity of what constitutes a desk died in a format-shifting world. It’s about building better habits that reduce all the noise so the work can get done as efficiently as possible. Remember, artists ship.

Amid boredom and connectivity lies a flexible gate that enforces attention with intention. The internet never stops. The bicycle of the mind is always pedaling. In times of calamity and technological abundance, we recall that knowledge is a process: one that takes sitting down, setting the clock, and using just a few productive things to do our best work.

We are the tools of our tools. And we use only those that pave a road to sanity, allowing deeper thinking and ingenuity.