Input mode and Output mode
Today I wanted to share a concept I got from an acquaintance (shout outs to R.), that he calls Input mode and output mode.
In short, he identified two ways to operate, or two moods within his usual routine.
Input mode is all about discovering stuff, increasing knowledge, absorbing information and finding novel, interesting stuff and ideas. Output mode is the creative force of making new things. Getting to work and creating something where nothing was before.
For my acquaintance, these two modes apparently come around in predictable cycles of a few months each. In my case, for what it's worth, they don't.
Specifically, my adventurousness makes me prone to staying for long periods in input mode. Learning new tools, discovering new software, falling into rabbit holes (typically Wikipedia or, less often these days, TVTropes) and worst of all, YouTube.
YouTube has been a horrible drain of time and attention. Their recent changes to their algorithm and presentation positioned them to hoard the attention economy tightly. I don't like it. Television used to be called "the silly box" (la caja tonta in Spanish) because of the increasing amount of empty time-wasting it provided in our lives. And this was in the time when there were only 3 channels! It's much worse in a platform that targets you specifically, has thousands of independent creators pumping out hours of video every day, and is designed to be as addictive as possible.
Sometimes, I find myself putting on videos just to "watch something". They're not even from my subscriptions anymore, just random-esque selections from the main page. It's awful. That's often the trap of input mode, combined with the social media platforms in the attention economy.
I'm trying to find ways to shift myself into a more productive output mode more often. A whole section of my yearly resolutions is dedicated to advancing in some of my projects. I chose to limit myself to only a handful of larger projects, so I didn't spread myself too thin and never finish anything. It's going... alright. Not as good as it could have, but having that goal in the back of my mind at least helps keep it present.
I still occasionally fall prey to smaller feedback loops. Smaller creations or projects that I can get going more quickly. I wouldn't call them a waste of time, since I ensure everything has a purpose, but they still take time away from the central focus.
One of the biggest hurdles I found for getting into that Output mode groove is that, for larger projects, it's harder to pass that tipping point where you get enough progress, and it comes effortlessly enough that it snowballs into even more progress and therefore more motivation to complete it. That's the nature of complex projects, I guess, but it's still frustrating.
So, here is to trying to save time on noise and bad input, and to shifting more towards productive output, so that we can complete our more ambitious goals.