Change for the Sake of Change

When talented athletes aren’t living up to expectations or previous accomplishments, many will suggest a change of scenery is needed. Sometimes the cure is simply removing the comfort zone. This is hardly limited to sports. Change is beneficial to anyone stuck in the same old routine for too long.

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Human beings are creatures of habit. We develop routines to help us be more productive, but our routines can keep us locked into a singular way of seeing and thinking. Creativity and growth prefer something other than the same old.

This is a topic I come back to often and I was reminded of it again when I switched to a new feedreader. It seems like a rather small and insignificant change, but it has me thinking of larger changes it potentially leads to and how they might impact my work.

A Change in Input

The demise of Google Reader created new opportunities for rss apps and services. Not being a Google Reader user myself, the change didn’t alter my reading habits, however it’s been hard not to notice some new apps.

My reader of choice for the last few years has been NetNewsWire. I recently switched to one of the newer apps, ReadKit. The quick version for why I made this switch is as follows.

  • NetNewsWire hasn’t been updated in a while and the version I use was feeling old and would occasionally do weird things.
  • A new version of NetNewsWire is in beta, but a quick trial of the beta led me to think it’s not yet ready for full time use.
  • ReadKit is the only OSX app with any real syncing options. I don’t currently use a syncing services, but I plan to at some point.
  • ReadKit has a much nicer interface.
  • ReadKit is different and the change will force me to do things differently.

Since I’m not yet using a syncing service, the simplest way to bring my feeds over to ReadKit would have been to export an OPML file from NetNewsWire and import it. That was my plan, but I decided to explore the new interface first and add a few feeds manually and try to organize them.

That’s when I realized the opportunity in front of me. Instead of importing over all my feeds and the organization I’d set up for them, I thought why not go through them all manually, decide what I really want to keep, and reorganize them a bit.

What might have taken a minute or two, turned into about four or five hours of work over the course of two nights, but it was worth it. It provided an opportunity to observe my previous routine for gathering information and let me make a few informed decisions for directing a new routine.

Changes in Transition

By choosing to take the slower path to transition between apps, a number of things happened.

  • I discovered blogs I was subscribed to that had simply stopped publishing
  • I discovered broken feeds for blogs that I enjoyed and needed to resubscribe
  • I re-evaluated many of the feeds I’d subscribed to over the years helping me get rid of the noise
  • I was able to see problems in the way I had organized my feeds and so created a new structure to house them

The net result is I removed much of the noise that was obscuring the signal, improved my ability to find the signal, and rediscovered some lost signal. The overall quality of what information I take in should increase.

Changes in Interface

The change in interface is forcing more changes on my reading. My process for reading feeds has always been to scan everything, clear out what I don’t want to read, skim some articles, and then go back to what I want to read in full later.

  • Scan/Skim — NetNewsWire made this easy because it presented a list of titles only that I could quickly mark read. In ReadKit more of the article itself comes into view. This slows down my scanning a bit, but also helps me skim articles. Since I eliminated most of the noise that I would immediately remove, I now move quicker into the skimming part of the process.

  • Save — In NetNewsWire I’d leave articles marked unread and star those I wanted to save for later. Some I’d open in a tab in the in-app browser. It was a battle sometimes. Unread articles would get marked read and disappear. Tabs were out of site and out of mind. ReadKit allows me to keep both read and unread articles around longer. It has no tabbed browsing, but does have more visible connections to read later services.

  • Read — This is basically the same, but the ReadKIt interface is much nicer looking than my version of NetNewsWire and I find myself enjoying the reading experience more. Better search and smart folders will make it easier to find articles when researching a topic.

These changes might not seem to be much, but they’ve forced a new process on me and I’m sure once I add a syncing service to the mix, the process will change yet again and provide even more opportunities to refine my process. In just a few days I can already sense a difference in the information I’m taking in.

Note None of the above should be taken as a negative review of NetNewsWire. I’ve enjoyed the program for years and the coming version looks like it’s going to be very good. It just isn’t ready for me to use full time right now.

The Importance of Change

I’m not sharing everything above because I think you need to change the way you take in information or because I think you necessarily care how I do. I’m sharing because I want you to understand the significance of making even a few small changes in some part of your routine can bring.

As I mentioned at the top we all fall into routines and habits. They help us be more productive and more comfortable. It’s a bit less scary facing the day when you know it’s going to be similar to yesterday.

I think no matter how much we might uproot our lives, we all inevitably fall back into routines for good reasons. Many of us only change our routines when forced to by external forces. The reason I’m sharing what might seem like a small and insignificant change in feedreaders is because I don’t think we should always wait for external forces to bring change. We should actively make changes ourselves.

Growth requires change. Creativity thrives on it. Both do better with new inputs and greater experimentation. Change forces you to see things differently. It offers a new perspective, allows for new influences, and leads to new ways of thinking.

It’s good to shake up your routine once in awhile and break free of your comfort zone just for the sake of doing both.

As small a change as a new app might be, it offered an opportunity for growth and a spark to creativity. It’s not really one small change I’m making, but many small changes and together they add up to something larger and more meaningful. The net result is a change in what I take in and hopefully an increase in the quality. That should lead to a change in output, hopefully for the better.

When was the last time you had an opportunity to make a seemingly insignificant change? Did you take it? Did you consider how you might incorporate additional changes to make the overall change more significant? If you passed on the opportunity and remained in your comfort zone, do you know why?

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