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Tools for thought prevent thinking

For as long as I remember, I have been practicing note-taking. As always, it all started with notebooks, pen and paper. At the time I was just writing down some quotes I have read or heard. Gradually these little bits and pieces have become foundational for ideas, thoughts and little essays. I have been pen-and-paper person much longer than it was not trendy with the wide spread of digital tools. And a little longer — it even has become trendy eventually.

Jokes aside, unconsciously I have been practicing thinking through writing for my whole life. But only when I started exploring the existing tools for thought — such as capturing tools (note-taking apps) and reading companions (Matter, Reader from Readwise), I started noticing two things.

The first is decline in thinking bandwidth capacity. The more I was exploring things that could “extend my mind”, I experienced my mind narrowing. I think this is due to the fact that my mind has become preoccupied with thinking about “how to become more proficient with the tool”, instead of exploring and generating thoughts and ideas.

The second thing is that I actually stopped writing consistently, and I switched to collecting stuff — links, books, articles and such. That is, I have become someone chasing for “more things to process”, “more highlights to add”, — instead of being someone actually processing things. Or, rather — instead of being someone who proactively practices analyzing, distilling, noticing — thinking.

I figured it’s not the way to go. I actually love thinking through writing. And I absolutely didn’t like the feeling that I get. I almost felt maniacal at times. So I decided to try a different thinking stack. My previous “(not)-thinking” environment consisted of: Obsidian, Nota, Readwise, Reader, Matter. Here, Obsidian was the ring to rule them all (most of the time through plugin crutches). My new “(hopefully)-thinking” stack includes Apple Notes, Reader, physical notebook + a pen. No synchronization, no fancy plugins. Only ideas, thoughts, and consistent practice of chiseling things that truly matter. With time, I will share more, but now I feel like deliberately injecting more friction is the way to go.