Digital anatomy of the Alpha Efficient

Are you “digitise-ing” your life? Is technology the backbone of your productivity system? It has become such an integral part of my workflows that I’ve started to think about technology apps less as my “Digital Brain” and more as a “Digital Me”.

Beyond the “Digital Brain”

Bojan explored the notion of Evernote as your digital brain recently. It’s a good analogy, but I started to think about what Evernote does and doesn’t do and quickly decided that I think of it more like my memory than my brain.

But the idea of an app being important enough to replace or extend part of your physical being got me thinking…what other apps are so fundamental to my daily life that they could be compared to essential parts of my body? And if they truly are an extension of my physical persona, don’t they in turn somehow affect my personality, online or otherwise?

It’s a mostly frivolous exercise, but it does lead to a few thoughtful conclusions so I hope you’ll bear with me. As I go through, I’m going to list the apps that I use to perform these functions and also Bojan’s for a comparison.

The brain

Evernote is often referred to as a “second brain” or “digital brain” but when I think about the true role of the brain – the Central Processing Unit, responsible for collating and coordinating all your other functions, for prioritising resource and energy distribution – it seems more obvious to me that this function is fulfilled by your primary computing device.

Without your digital brain, the rest of your digital persona would cease to function entirely.

In years gone by this might have been a PC for most; now it could equally be a laptop, tablet or Mac. For many it will be a mobile device. For me, it’s my iPhone (with my Macbook a close second).

Darren’s brain: iPhone 5 Bojan’s brain: iPhone 5

The memory

There are loads of great quotes about memory but there’s a common thread that much of what defines who you are is determined by the things you have experienced, and therefore must in turn be shaped by the memories you retain.

So I suggest the same is true of your digital persona – it is determined by the things you choose to retain and the manner in which you recall them. This is important because there are numerous different ways in which people choose to organise their Evernote systems, and plenty of people who use alternate systems (or no system at all). No choice is right or wrong, but it will have an influence on the nature of your digital personality.

Darren’s memory (long-term/short-term): Evernote/Pocket Bojan’s memory: Evernote/Pocket

The eyes

The eyes are (for the majority of us lucky enough to have the gift of sight) our principal source of input. We receive bucketloads of data every second through our eyes, yet somehow our brain processes it, filters it and renders it meaningful to us.

My proposal is that for the majority of technophiles their principal input is email. I know there will be exceptions to this (and feel free to call yours out in the comments) but I think for the most part this holds true.

Email, much like seeing the world around you, can be a feast of information. Some of it is beautiful, rich and life-enhancing. At other times you’ll be exposed to things you’d rather not have seen at all.

The way in which we receive email – and the clients we choose to organise it – greatly influences the way we perceive our digital world (and our disposition towards it). So just as our vision (and interpretation of it) shapes our physical persona, so our email processing shapes our digital one.

Darren’s eyes: Gmail (Gmail App) Bojan’s eyes: iCloud (Mail.app) – Safari

The ears

After sight, our ears collect a lot of input every second of every day. How often have you strained to catch the faint vestiges of an insightful comment, poignant aria or whispered instruction? And how often have you wished you could tune out the booming cannon of a boisterous Tube passenger or a popcorn-cruncher at the cinema?

There are a few options to choose from for the Digital equivalent, but I think that RSS clients and Podcast apps are a good candidate. (You may think this should be social media, but I’ve decided to allocate it to the next anatomical part).

It’s true that RSS feeds and Podcasts are selective to a degree, in that you have to subscribe to a particular feed, but they’re not particularly easy to filter and consequently you are likely to find that you’re receiving insight and noise in equal parts through both media.

Your choice of podcasting and RSS client will determine significantly how particular information reaches you; the tidbits that you’ll miss and the items you’ll hone in on. For many it has been a particuarly tumultuous time, finding alternatives to Google Reader being akin to seeking a new set of hearing aids and trying to adjust to a new kind of electronic hiss.

Darren’s ears: Podcasts.app, Fever Bojan’s ears: Pocketcasts

The mouth

Ahh, the mouth. My favourite part (for clean reasons, minds out of the gutter please). For so many of us the sound of our own voices is a truly wonderful thing that we choose to bestow on as many people as possible, as often as possible.

Because this is the principal mechanism for output, my proposal is that the digital equivalent is social media. That’s right: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ADN, the whole shooting match.

The challenges for our digital mouths are pretty much the same for our physical ones: know when to speak up, try not to sound stupid, try not to annoy too many people (unless you’re a professional troll). In terms of our persona, what we say significantly influences how we are perceived by others, which if you’re a believer in the Johari Window model, in turn has a significant influence on how you perceive yourself.

Darren’s mouth: Tweetbot / Riposte / Byword Bojan’s mouth: Tweetbot / Netbot / Poster

The arms/legs

The tools we’ve considered so far are quite cerebral; they support our ability to receive information, to process it, to consider it. But what do we use to act on it?

For me, the digital “muscle” – the thing that I rely on most heavily to translate thought into action – is my Task Manager.

In my system, not a lot gets done without first going into my task manager – certainly nothing worth noting. By the time something reaches it, I have committed to acting on it (although not necessarily immediately) and have a pretty good idea what I need to do. The task manager helps me to queue up those ‘instructions’ from my digital brain and translate them into action.

You could argue that there’s quite a lot of brain work also going on in a sophisticated task manager – retention of tasks for later action, structuring of work into projects, prioritisations etc – but I still think its primary purpose is to transform something in your Brain (a thought) into something tangible (an action).

Darren’s arms/legs: Nozbe Bojan’s arms/legs: Omnifocus

Conclusion

So what’s the point of this?

In this age of technology your digital persona can be as relevant to who you are as your physical one; it can shape who you feel you are and the way that others see you. When you put all your technology choices together it not only determines your workflow, but also develops a personality that is unique to you.

There are numerous choices out there for each of these key functions. You can choose the popular (thereby improving your ability to relate to and interact with others) or you can choose the specialist (giving you greater efficacy in your chosen niche). You can flip and change regularly or stick with the same ones (much as you might with your appearance).

So when you make your next app selection, why not stop and think about how it’s going to affect the Digital You?

What most influences your digital persona? Which app(s) define you? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments

  1. says

    Guess those apps define me …

    Brain: ipod touch
    Memory: Evernote / Instapaper
    Eyes: various mail accounts / Safari / Kindle
    Ears: itunes, Fever
    Mouth: Felix, Flickr, Byword, Facebook, Lift
    Arms / Legs: Nozbe