My only goal for 2021: Digital Intentionality

My only goal for 2021: Digital Intentionality

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During the holidays, I was contemplating on what skills should I invest time on for 2021. As someone who is working in the technology field, there are a lot of exciting things to double-down on: from Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, and a plethora of technology trends. As I reflected on how my 2020 went in terms of career and lifestyle, I noticed that there is an area I really need to work on - my digital life.

I noticed that there are a lot of times I am in an “auto-pilot” mode from scrolling social media feeds, watching endless YouTube videos, and binging mediocre movies, and TV series. However, this concept falls not only within the “distractions” realm, but it also applies to the so-called “productive” realm. When working, I sometimes spend a lot of “midnight oils” just so I can finish things from the imaginary deadlines that I’ve set. A lot of times, when I thought I’m trying to solve a problem, I end up with a rabbit hole of other topics and discussions - I get sidetracked without me knowing it. This also applies to technical topics.

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It’s silly and funny if you think about it if represented in a not-so-digital way. Imagine going in the car, you start the engine, but we set no destination; you’ll just drive across the block and see if something fun amuses you. However, as part of strolling along the streets, you also witness some not so good things or probably a lot of boring things - may be a ratio of 1:100; for every good thing you see around, it comes with 100 unpleasant sights.

So I’ve read a lot of self-help books around this topic, in particular a lot focuses on “Digital Minimalism” wherein they ask you to uninstall apps, unsubscribe to things, etc. In my opinion, it doesn’t work for everyone, at least it doesn’t work for me. These digital technologies, platforms, and applications are part of my career and my lifestyle. One way or the other, I need App X and App Y. However, I don’t need them ALL the time.

What I need is a “trick” so I have the right intention when I’m about to use a device or application. I need to develop a mental model, framework, methodology so that even if I have over 10 devices, I can safeguard myself from the rabbit hole and infinity pool of contents. I think the right term for this is Digital Intentionality.

What I want to accomplish by the end of the year are:

  • I will use my phone as a “reaction-based” device. Someone called me, let me call that person back. I need to show my ID, let me pull that app. I need to take a picture of that thing, pull it out. The need must come first, before I use it.

  • When I open a laptop, I know what I need to do. I need to use the keyboard to write on something. Book a hotel. Read a book while taking notes. Learn new skills or technologies. Do whatever tasks I’ve decided, then when I’m done, close the laptop.

  • When I need to work on a more compute-intensive tasks, I use my desktop or remote server. After the task, shut it down.

  • If I want to play some games, either use my Xbox or my desktop. I won’t be surfing the internet or fiddling with my phone while doing so. I’ll be focusing on the game.

  • When there is a good movie or TV Series to watch on, I’ll be watching it with full intention. If it sucks after the 10% mark, abandon it. Same applies with books and audiobooks.

  • In situations where I need to wait while being outside, I pull out my Kindle or a physical book that I have and do some light reading.

  • And a lot more that will help me let the devices serve me, not the other way around.

The modern struggle: Lone individuals summoning inhuman willpower, fasting, meditating, and exercising… Up against armies of scientists and statisticians weaponizing abundant food, screens, and medicine into junk food, clickbait news, infinite porn, endless games, and addictive drugs. -Naval Ravikant

These technologies are here to stay, you can’t just go rogue and live on the mountains. This is part of who we are now as a society, whether or not you like it. It’s time that we make sure we are still in control of our lives, not some machine learning algorithms.


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Michael John Peña avatar

Michael is an experienced technologist based in Sydney, Australia, a Microsoft MVP since 2015 with over 12 years of working experience ranging from Mobile, Cloud, Web and DevOps. He currently owns Datachain Consulting, a company that focuses on democratizing AI and Blockchain technologies. He is also a technical advisor to some technology startups. His roles allow him to explore the cutting edge technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, IoT, Edge Computing, and the Cloud.