Falling in Love with your Productivity Tech with Brittany Smith

Brittany Smith is an ADHD, Productivity, and Technology coach in Portland, Oregon. She has her MS in Cognitive Neuroscience and uses the latest tools and her love of technology to help her clients get more done, with less stress.

This week, Brittany joins us to talk about technology and how it fuels productivity. We talk about battling the fear that comes from new tech tools, the overwhelm from that feeling of too much technology, and how you can actually find the spark of motivation hiding in an examination of the things that de-motivate you about your tools the most!

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

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Pete Wright:
Hello everybody, and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on True Story FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer. Hello, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello.

Pete Wright:
Oh, Nikki. I don’t want to say anything about our guests just yet. We have some pro forma stuff to get through, but I want to tell you this right upfront. I’m an only child, but if I were to ever have a sister in this world, it would be our guests today. It feels such a kinship to this individual. I cannot wait for this show. I want to pre apologize to our listeners. I don’t know what’s going to come of it. I have bullets, but the pre-show has been about 30 minutes of just kind of stream of consciousness, technology talk.

Nikki Kinzer:
I have no idea what you are talking about.

Pete Wright:
Smile and nod, smile and nod. It’s going to be great and there is risk. There’d be monsters here. Anyway, before we dig in, I want you to head over to takeontroladhd. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list, and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released, connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at takecontroladhd. And if this show has ever touched you, please, we invite you to support us over at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. Patreon gives us listeners supported podcasting. A few bucks a month from you goes to us, and it helps us invest more time and attention in the show, in resources for the show, in the time that it takes to bring on great guests and continue to invest in our resources.
We have a new resource that should be launching this very week. It is a new, I think the ADHD podcast resource library, we’ve cooked it up in Coda and you can go get it and you can search there ever anything that you’ve heard us talk about on this show and said, Hey, I need to know more about that piece of software or that podcast or that journal article. You can search for it right in the resource library and we’re keeping it updated, and that is all thanks to Patreon who are supporting this show. So thank you very, very much for your support. Welcome to all of our wonderful new members.
Here we go. Brittany Smith is an ADHD productivity and technology coach here in lovely Oregon. She has a master’s of science degree in cognitive neuroscience and uses latest tools to help her clients get more done with less stress. Oh, Brittany Smith. Welcome to The ADHD podcast.

Brittany Smith:
Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited.

Nikki Kinzer:
Welcome. Welcome.

Pete Wright:
I need to open with apologies and a great shame. You wrote me when we did the ADHD summit. We did this presentation, Nikki and I, and you wrote me that day.

Nikki Kinzer:
We did.

Pete Wright:
And I immediately wrote Nikki and I said, Brittany Smith, have we talked about Brittany Smith? And Nikki said, yeah, she’s awesome. She’s fantastic. And she’s going to be, we’re going to try and have her on the show. And I thought in my head, amazing, Brittany will be on the show and then I should just let her know. And in my head, I totally let Brittany know. And I said, you’re great. Thank you so much. And then my head stopped all activity and didn’t actually write you back. So I have this email that’s sitting here that I found today, and it is a non-response to Brittany Smith. That is my great shame because you deserved a response. So there it is publicly-

Brittany Smith:
[crosstalk 00:03:42] No shame. It was a busy, busy time.

Pete Wright:
It was a busy time, it sure was. It was a very busy time.

Brittany Smith:
I just figured I’d throw it out there, say hi and whatever.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Well.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, I got to say, when I first met Brittany, she saved me, and you may not know this or not, but you did. So I’m going to be real transparent here. So it was what to, it was before pre-COVID. So it would have been 2019 at the Chat Conference. So I had gone out to dinner with some fellow coaches and some, well, I knew one of them. And I didn’t know the rest on the table. And let’s just say I had more than one glass of wine, because that just happens sometimes when you’re at these conferences. And we’re walking back and the girl that I knew said, Oh, well, we’re going to go up to this, it was like a retirement party thing, up at this person’s room. Well, the girl that I knew left, so I’m going up the elevator with people I don’t know, going into this room that I have no idea who’s retiring, although I did figure it out when I went in. And and I don’t know anybody. I’m just standing here and I’m thinking, Oh my God, how do I exit out so that nobody sees me and know that I had come in and left.
And thank God, Brittany recognized me and she came right up with her nice bubbly smile and said, “I know who you are.” And we had met and talked a lot that evening. And oh, I do. I am so thankful for that because seriously, it would have been probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life because I was just like, Oh, what did I do?

Brittany Smith:
Nobody would have noticed. I was there. Nobody [inaudible 00:05:32] would have noticed. They were all doing their own thing. No, we had a great talk.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, we did.

Brittany Smith:
We talked lot of programs. We talked about cool-

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:05:46] And that’s when we talked about you and you getting on this show. It’s only taken two years to do that, three years. So I apologize for that. I have some shame there too.

Brittany Smith:
A year and a half.

Nikki Kinzer:
A year and a half, that’s two. COVID.

Pete Wright:
We like to take our time, take our time around here, The old ADHD podcast. So I’ve been listening to your stuff all morning. I just finished your episode that you did with David Sparks and Mike over the Focused show, which is great show. So it’s just got me thinking about all kinds of things. And the first thing I want to talk about, what we hear a lot is when people struggle with their technology, they struggle in many ways because I think they are afraid of it, that they haven’t gotten to the point where they have an affinity with it beyond fear and uncertainty and doubt, the alarms are going to fail, the technology can’t be trusted, something gives me reason to fear it. And I would love to get your thoughts a little bit on how to cross that chasm from fear to love. How do you fall in love with the tools that are here, ostensibly, to support you?

Brittany Smith:
I don’t know that everyone will fall in love. Now, I do see two things. I also see the, and I have ADHD and I tried all the tech at the same time, which is also problem.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I don’t know anything about that.

Brittany Smith:
But yeah, it really is. You always start with, what do you want out of it? What do you want out of this device? Why did you buy it? What is it supposed to do? And you probably spent a not insignificant amount of money on whatever device you’re talking about, why? What’s it there for? You start from there and then figure out, is it doing that, or is it just becoming a time stock for example, or is it becoming a source of stress that you don’t want to look at?

Pete Wright:
Well, and I think so much of it is it comes back to the curse of choice. There are so many options to do the same thing that figuring out, and I think this is the ADHD challenge, is that these are just dopamine distribution devices. At some point you’re going to be happy with something, but then you won’t be happy and you’ll need to find happy again. And so you just keep finding these sources and eventually as they fail you, it can be like this progressive list, like cascading failure sensation that there is no hope. Like if it didn’t work that way, as it worked in the commercial, then clearly there’s something wrong with me or it, whatever the case, I have been failed by it, or I have failed it. And that leads to that sensation of just loss and shame and hopelessness.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. I’ve got an app full of things I feel bad I haven’t opened, or streams of apps that I feel bad I haven’t opened. And not just saying, you know what, maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s the app. Or, and in terms of certain things, it really depend on which scenario, but if somebody is not sure where to start, I always suggest the simplest thing you can get away with. And for some people, I’ve had somebody hire me for this elaborate task management system, and like a good coach, the first thing I said is what’s worked for you before. And it was a notebook. And after a little bit, he was so happy with his notebook.

Pete Wright:
Doesn’t take long.

Brittany Smith:
And he never needed to move past that. Some people do and it just really depends a lot on what you actually need and what works for your style.

Pete Wright:
So I want to hear your style though. What is it for you when you download something new? How do you break a new technology into your life?

Brittany Smith:
It’s hard to hit that barrier these days, because I’ve tried a lot of things and found some things that work. I don’t give it very long at all. But I’ve been around the bend a few times. And I’ve learned exactly what I like and what I don’t like. If it’s somebody else, they’re saying like, I don’t know what to use for blank. And I’m going to say, what’s the simplest thing? I really need a task list and I need it to alert. Okay. Can you use the Google Tasks? Can you use Apple Reminders? Because if you can start there, just start there because you don’t know what complexity you need until you’ve been using it, until you have a habit around it.
You really can’t know if it’s really struggling to build the habit, then we figure out why. If you notice you don’t want to open it because you don’t like the look of it, don’t use that app. If you hate how it looks, why are you going to stick to it? You’re probably not going to.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. I’m a super tactile experience based user. I develop an emotional relationship with beauty in the apps that I use. And it’s why I struggled for so long with To Do List, because it’s not a beautiful thing. It’s not an artifact. And it’s why I wish that the apps things did everything that I needed them to do because it doesn’t. And I been around long enough to know that I need more than it offers. And I just wish it solved those because it’s beautiful. I love touching it. I love like with my eyeballs, I love touching things with my eyeballs. There’s got to be a word for that. Oh, well, that’ll be for future Pete.
I love like the feel of certain gears. Why I’m an apple guy? Because I love the way brushed aluminum feels to my fingertips. I love the edges. I love that experience in my head. It feels like it makes me faster. I know that it’s placebo, but I’m fine with that. It’s okay. So usually the more beautiful an app is, the harder it is for me to get to that point and say, okay, you’re not really helping me anymore. I’m just spinning my wheels. I’m fighting you because you’re gorgeous. You’re just, you app are super cool.

Brittany Smith:
You can be beautiful and not [inaudible 00:11:53].

Pete Wright:
That’s right.

Brittany Smith:
If we’re going to talk a little bit about task management, just gloss over it, you said the word artifact?

Pete Wright:
Oh, yeah.

Brittany Smith:
I thought that was a beautiful word. I feel like there’s a tendency as people with ADHD to create this beautiful, perfect mausoleum of our task management that will just sit there in perpetuity and be exactly what we need and be perfect and beautiful. And that is not what task management is. It’s messy and it changes rapidly. And the metaphor that I found myself, reminding myself of when I want to create a mausoleum again, is that, or an artifact, I like that, is it’s more like taking care of a pet. You have to feed them, water them every day, turns out you. You have to pet them and let them know that they’re a good dog.
And you guys talked about that recently in an episode on, I don’t remember the phrasing, was something about planning your week.

Nikki Kinzer:
Planning. Yeah. Weekly planning.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. It needs that interaction on a regular basis and it can’t just be this, like, I’m going to hang you on my wall you beautiful piece of task management art.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and I have a question Brittany, about that with building habits, because that is so hard, because I will help a client with that task manager system. And it’s so hard sometimes to get into that habit of checking it every day and petting it and feeding it and watering it. And I love that. I’m probably going to start using that nim. Anybody listening to the Brittany show, you need to know that this is what I’m referring to. But I love that because it’s so true. So what are some ways that you do, or what do you do to help clients get into that habit?

Brittany Smith:
Well, one, if I’m noticing I’m jumping from which app I’m using every week and never getting any stability, I’ll just say, I don’t care when you pick, but I’m going to ask you how it’s going for the next three, four weeks. Let’s just pick one right now. And I like to make them pick it because decision fatigue is the worst for us. Like, no, no, no, you don’t have to make those decision on your own, let’s do it together. And then I’m going ask you how it’s going. Okay. So when are you going to look at the task management? When are you going to look at your list? And really try to help them paint the verbal picture as much as possible so that it actually has at least a chance of happening. Like, okay, I’ve [inaudible 00:14:31] through this when might it happen. All those normal things of what can get in the way, that kind of stuff.
And really make sure that I can see the picture they’re painting. And if I get, my ambiguity census tingling, then that’s when I’ll ask a real specific question about it.

Nikki Kinzer:
The tries and I hope and I’m going to try.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah, [inaudible 00:14:56] in the voice. Sometimes I’ll say, are you going to do it? Or sometimes I’ll say like, it doesn’t sound like you’re that sure. But sometimes just committing, that’s the one I’m using.

Pete Wright:
It goes the other way too, is like saying, oh no, I’m definitely going to do that one thing. But I know when I use that tone in my own inner head voice, I’m definitely not going to do that one thing. I have said it. I’ve said it out loud just to get everybody off my back. No, I’m going to do that one thing. I’m not going to do that one thing. I might as well be saying, shaking my head. No. Yeah. I’m totally going to do that one thing while shaking my head down, that…

Nikki Kinzer:
But it’s so interesting because it wraps back to what Brittany said at the very beginning, what is the purpose of it then? What is the purpose of you using this tool and reminding yourself of why it’s important in the first time place and what makes it matters.

Pete Wright:
That reminder, that inner reminder. And that should be that trigger event that says, you know what, you need to review, or I need to review what’s on my list right now, because I’m not committing to the purpose, the promised purpose of this tool. It’s not working for me. If I’m able to make those like shaking my head, no commitments to myself. Right. It’s done. I’m not, it’s okay, but it’s time for a dump. It’s time for a big core dump review.

Brittany Smith:
If you hear yourself using the should word.

Pete Wright:
I use it all the time.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and I’m not even thinking task management systems, I’m thinking about anything, any app that you’ve downloaded about routines or chores or weight loss, all of these things. I have probably every single health tracking app that you can think of. But it’s. Yeah. Oh boy. Now I’m a hot mess.

Brittany Smith:
Oh. I was just giggling because I had a whole thing on my conference talk.

Nikki Kinzer:
Did you? Well, we need to know more about that.

Brittany Smith:
Take what’s your health goal and delete the rest.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, exactly.

Pete Wright:
I just went through that process because I had downloaded a whole bunch of apps and I’d gone into the seven day trial of a whole bunch of apps and was about to pay for them and realize that, you know what, the stuff I really need is actually built in to the system. I don’t need any of these apps. And just that awakening of, Oh, how do I, because this is something I definitely want to talk about, which is the idea of the perils of friction, because when there are too many apps, that increases friction in my ability to actually get to the stuff that I really need and really want and can really help me keep moving forward. And so I want to reduce that friction that allows the technology to be more seamless and may invisible.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. Friction is a huge thing that I talk about with technology. And you’re right. Having too many apps, like I can’t find what I’m looking for, can be a huge problem. I don’t know the right notifications because I have notifications on for everything is another huge problem. And then when it just comes to picking the right app for you, it’s okay, it’s okay to admit it, we should be able to do something. Real people are suffering, I should be able to give three extra taps in this app so that you don’t have to. And if you’re noticing like, I hate that extra tap that I have to do, listen, listening to it, because that’s real feedback on that real thing you’re trying to do.

Pete Wright:
How do you handle it? Because so much of this ties into motivation. That’s the next piece. How do you find the motivation, that spark of energy to keep you moving forward? And is there a technological solution to that when you’re feeling you just don’t have it?

Brittany Smith:
There’s not a technological solution that will magically give you motivation. But yeah-

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:19:08] I was really hoping you would say yes.

Brittany Smith:
… we can [inaudible 00:19:11] if you want, but those centers of the brain are actually too low for them to reach well. Anyway, but what we can do is get rid of some of those other things that drain your motivation and drain your willpower, those getting excess alarms, that’s going to drain it. Having to look through too many screens of apps to find the right one, that’s going to drain it too. When you look at your phone and you see all the badges and all of these shoulds come to mind, you’re too tired to even do the thing that you were about to start doing because you had to look at all the things and say no to all the things before you get to the real thing.

Pete Wright:
Oh, that’s such a great thing. Like looking at the inverse. There’s nothing that’s going to give you magical motivation, the magical motivation tour, but by God, you can look at the other side of it and figure out what’s draining you every time you pick up a device. Oh, I love that.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, that’s really good.

Brittany Smith:
I have used technology to help me build better habits. Again, giant nerd, but I use Shortcuts for my morning routine. And that means those podcasts that I should be listening to, but aren’t as fun as listening to the latest tech news. I have those automatically play. I have a meditation app, a particular YouTube video pop up on my phone and it’s just there. And I didn’t have to go, I should meditate. Okay. Now go find thing, make decision, what meditation do I use, do do do do, Oh, it’s 4:00 or maybe 5:00 if I’m sleeping. It’s sometime early in the morning, I just start Shortcut and Shortcut tells me the next thing to do. Okay. You’re done with meditation, now it’s time for pushups. It can’t make me do the pushups, but it does at least get the meditation things started, which meant I did it instead of not doing it.

Pete Wright:
It sets the environment for you.

Nikki Kinzer:
I have a question, when you’re saying shortcut, what does that mean? I don’t understand.

Brittany Smith:
It’s an app on an iPhone that integrates with the system and automates things. And in this case it’s automating Brittany.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow. Okay. That’s cool.

Pete Wright:
Just an example, Nikki. I have a Shortcut that sets my podcast environment. And so when I hit a certain button, it sets all my lights to the right set of lights and turns on the red light that’s outside my office door so that everybody in the house knows I’m in podcast mode and please shut up. And sometimes it works. I’m clearly not the boss of them, but anyway, that’s a very simple example. And it also sets my environment for the right apps that get launched and all those kinds of things. That’s a-

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:21:58] So it’s an actual short, like it’s called Shortcuts?

Pete Wright:
It’s called Shortcut. Yeah.

Brittany Smith:
And most people do things like, text my spouse, I’m on my way home when you’re leaving the office. But-

Pete Wright:
[crosstalk 00:22:12] I have one where I actually have using assistive touch. If I double tap the back of my phone, it will automatically send the last picture that I took in my camera roll to my wife without, so if I take a picture of the dog doing something stupid, two taps on the back of my phone and really just…

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow, I never knew this existed.

Brittany Smith:
I wanted to use that so much and I can not stop fidgeting with my phone and it’s always [inaudible 00:22:38].

Pete Wright:
It’s so good though. Well, it does do. Sometimes when I put the phone down and I hit corner to corner, it reacts as a double tap and it will automatically send the last picture to her. And usually it’s a Pokemon buddy picture.

Brittany Smith:
You know I made a video about that.

Pete Wright:
I do. And I saw your Shortcut and it’s dupe.

Brittany Smith:
[inaudible 00:22:58] in the conference videos, it’s my most watched video.

Pete Wright:
I don’t doubt it. I do not doubt it. So anyway, this is fodder for a workshop. We should do a workshop on using Shortcuts. It is Apple centric. This app is an Apple app. It’s built into the phone. And so it’s for-

Brittany Smith:
And you need to understand there’s a thing on Samsung that the big speed knock off. I don’t know how good it is. I don’t know anybody who’s used it.

Pete Wright:
Me either. Never heard it or seen it in action.

Brittany Smith:
It exist or existed. One of the two.

Pete Wright:
Okay. So the motivation trick, I love that. Think about it inverse. That’s amazing. Can you walk us through your planning process? We just got off this big, what to avoid when planning your week, planning your day, we’re doing a little series on it. I would love to hear how you plan briefly using your technology.

Brittany Smith:
I listen to my brain, and if I’m in a planning mode and it really wants to write, then I’m going to have my iPad with a notebook open and I’m going to scribble that way because papers are dangerous. And so I’m going to use my iPad or maybe a whiteboard. I have a favorite mind map software. So sometimes that’s the place that it needs to go. So I’ll put it there. I try not to put things first in my task management system, because I’m in idea mode and idea Brittany thinks a lot of things can happen that realistic Brittany does not think can happen, or it’s like, Oh, what’s the action for that? What does it look like? I don’t have that brain on when I’m having the ideas.
So as painfully inefficient, as it feels, I never put stuff directly into OmniFocus. That’s not a thing that I do directly because that’s a really good way to have a very bloated OmniFocus. And that’s hard enough as it is to keep things under control with ADHD because we’re so expansive.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s great. I love that you’re listening to your brain, especially depending on probably what it is you’re working on too. Right. That’s going to spur if you want to do a mind map or not. You guys really are kindred spirits. Just want to say. We’re just talking about the iPad and the way that she’s writing that, oh, that’s Pete, my brain, mind mapping out. Yeah, that’s it. I learned about my mapping from Pete.

Pete Wright:
Totally. And how valuable is it to be in, and this is one of the things I like so much about doing all this work on the iPad is that I can be in notability and I can be drawing or writing or doing whatever I need to do. And something out of that becomes actionable and I just screenshot it and crop it and send it to To Do List. So it’s there as an attachment. And I always have that reference to, what was I thinking when I said that thing, when it’s time to actually turn it into action mode.

Brittany Smith:
I like that.

Pete Wright:
it’s pretty handy. Right?

Brittany Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Interesting.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Screenshotting and circling and narrowing and then sending to my To Do app, it’s one of my faves.

Brittany Smith:
I like that. I may steal it.

Pete Wright:
That’s a big thing that I, it’s a big thing for me and I hope you have some thoughts on it because this moves us into information management. And this is plagues a lot of us, I know, which is this idea of, and you as, let’s say a cognitive neuroscientist, somebody who has gone through the rigors of academe, you have to have some systems built around information acquisition, information retrieval, avoiding information rot, walk us through your system. What do you do?

Brittany Smith:
Oh, you’re going to be so disappointed. So all of the software I used in grad school has been discontinued for that.

Pete Wright:
Of course, it has.

Brittany Smith:
And occasionally I’ll have a thing where I will have particular citations for it. But in general, what I try to do is give my curiosity permission to read the science without the responsibility of capturing it.

Pete Wright:
Oh, look at you.

Brittany Smith:
And that for me reduces the cognitive load in starting and the data management. If I had someone who’s going to manage all these things I read for me, that would be glorious. And as it stands, it just seems like I’m not in academia anymore. My paycheck does not come if I write papers with great citations.

Pete Wright:
Well, but what about just day-to-day information management? Right. There was this time when it was just like, we need information like junk lockers, and we just have to put it all in Evernote. And that has evolved. There are a lot of tools now that do the same thing things.

Brittany Smith:
There so many new things I’ve never opened. And I hear people talking about them, the Obsidian and the like, and I know I’m going to have to, and I haven’t done it yet. For things I’m working on with other people, it’s going to sound super basic, but we use Apple Notes because I hate typing in Google Docs. So I use Apple Notes. It does the thing where it capitalizes in the middle of your sentence when I want to stream.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, terrible. Can’t onset that.

Brittany Smith:
No, I have looked everywhere and I’m always doing that. I have ADHD, I finished a sentence, I read another one. I want to adjust it, this is normal typing in my world.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. No, [inaudible 00:28:39]. I think that is a great example though, of using the simplest tool to do the job that you need it to do. And in most cases, I think especially ADHD brain, we have a tendency to overlook the simplest solution and often to our peril, eventually I’ll come back around to the simplest solution and it’ll be grand, like a brave new world has opened up I’ll because I wasted six months looking at all these other things. But the simplest thing actually was already right in front of my face. Right now I’m in a relationship with, I should say, hashtag it’s complicated, with DevonThink, because I have a large library of PDFs and DevonThink is exceptional at managing large libraries of PDFs.
And when I need to go find something in a screenplay, for example, I can find it so fast, faster than any other tool that I have used because it’s designed for that research load. And when I’ve got 3000 screenplays in this massive archive, I really love it. It also does this thing where it has indexed folders. So for my daily notes, I might be working in iA Write in a Dropbox folder. I might be writing an Obsidian in an indexed folder to that same Dropbox folder, or I might be writing in DevonThink to an indexed folder. So when I make a change to a note in a plain old text editor, that shows up in all these apps that I happen to be using. And so that has, I think we’re in sort of the healthy on days of flexibility.

Brittany Smith:
So we’ve flirted, DevonThink and I have flirted. I have a license. It is on this computer and what this says, it never made it to the one that is brand new that just died on me a few minutes before we started.

Pete Wright:
That’s telling.

Brittany Smith:
Partly because that’s not what I’m doing right now. I’m not actively in archival mode. And as much as it might be tempting for me to do something like that, I remind myself that is not what your job is right now.

Pete Wright:
Right. And that gets back to this main thing, part of my job is being able to, weird as it sounds, find things in screenplays very, very fast. That’s part of it. And I needed a tool to answer that question. That it answers other questions for me is pretty powerful too, but to our point about using the tool, what is the point purpose of using the tool? The add on benefit or the knock on benefits of DevonThink for me, and DEVONagent in particular for doing deep research on the web is, it’s really powerful after I’ve already verified that it does the one thing I needed it to do best, and everything else is a gift.

Brittany Smith:
And to come back to that exact same point, if I ask myself, what is your job, Brittany? What are the things that you are doing? What are your projects? None of them is information management. Google is doing that for me. If I need to find that article, I bet I can.

Pete Wright:
Right. You could find it again really fast. I think that is a, isn’t that an interesting change in our lives where we just don’t have to maintain a search archive of things that we’ve looked for anymore. We just don’t have to do it by and large. We can free ourselves from that experience.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
You sent us three things that you wanted to talk about, and I think we’ve already covered them before I get to my last most important questions. You have productivity tips. Number one was less is more, where do you go with less is more? Is that if we nailed it?

Brittany Smith:
In terms of technology, we definitely talked about it. Like watch what your notifications are. Oh my gosh. Most of them can be delivered quietly on Apple, but what that really means is go into the notification center and nowhere else. But if you have too many in the notification center, you won’t look at them anyway. So don’t worry about it. Really figuring out, what actually needs to help me create this habit or help me do the important work that I need to do, and what’s getting in the way there and just turn them off because you can do it right from notification center. Not having a whole screen of badges because there’s a lot of cognitive science around the color red, and it says urgent emergency and you just shut down when you look at that all the time, but it still contributes a little bit to the underlying anxiety even if it doesn’t really register consciously anymore.

Pete Wright:
You just said something really-

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:33:13] Interesting point.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. It’s really interesting. Then the video switches back to me and I’m like wearing this red orange shirt and I’m feeling stupidly aggressive.

Brittany Smith:
It’s not, your sweatshirt [inaudible 00:33:28] tell me I need to do something.

Pete Wright:
Thank God.

Brittany Smith:
My only focus is badge does.

Pete Wright:
Right. The next is automation. Now you’ve already mentioned Shortcuts and you are automating Brittany. I would love to hear a little bit more about the things that you automate in your life.

Brittany Smith:
So there’s all of my routines. They’re all in Shortcuts, going to bed, getting up in the morning. In fact, I have a secondary device that does not have text messaging on it. It does not have my email accounts on it.

Pete Wright:
It just has about Shortcuts launches, right?

Brittany Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). But I can launch Shortcuts except it’s throwing a fit right now and needs to have a battery replaced, but I have a next time device. That means I can run those shortcuts and not have my distracting device in the bedroom.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow. That’s really smart.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. If we have all devices lying around, they can be put to new use for being…

Nikki Kinzer:
That is so smart, because I have a couple of clients right now who are struggling with the phone at night and having that be a major distraction. So that could be a possible solution, is taking an old device and having the shortcuts on that. Right? Is that what you’re doing?

Brittany Smith:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
And then taking the other phone out.

Brittany Smith:
It also has audio books on it. So if I want to fall asleep to audio books, I don’t need my real phone.

Pete Wright:
That’s right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow. That’s great.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
What else?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, what else?

Brittany Smith:
So everything around my client meetings, I hate admin stuff more than your average [inaudible 00:34:54]. I extra extra hate it. But I still need these cues in my life. And so I have a shortcut when somebody schedules a new appointment with me and it’s going to create a little, here’s the place for cognitive sciences. My main calendar is red, that’s for appointments, appointments are red. They’re going to catch my attention the most because that’s how our brains work assuming you’re not colorblind. So that’s how that works. So if it’s not red, little calendar create 50 minutes before, prepare for client meeting, rep from client meeting for a little window below that.
And in the height of pandemic, in seeing this, when I could not tell you what my appointments were the next day. And if I looked it up, five minutes later, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, but I trusted my system. I trusted it, that it was going to tell me when it was time to go get ready for that next meeting. And it was going to tell me, okay, now you’re going to log it. And because I’m an extra nerd, inside these little appointments, there’s another shortcut link that will run the shortcut to prepare for the client meeting and do things like turn my phones and do not disturb and turn the right toggle timer on. At the end of the meeting, it would help me do the things to log my hours for the extra certification if I feel like doing that someday. And so that’s all automated.

Pete Wright:
That is the thing I think that gives people who know that automation exists and haven’t really used it much another degree of that fear, like how do you let yourself go to trust, not just one thing on your phone that’s at work or in the cloud that’s at work, but a whole series of steps that is at work. And I think getting over-

Brittany Smith:
[crosstalk 00:36:44] Which is why I never say be like me. What I say is, let’s find what works for you. And then if I feel it might be helpful or somebody directly asks, [inaudible 00:36:52].

Pete Wright:
Well, that is totally the point I was getting at. It goes back to the simplest thing. What is the one thing that you need to accomplish right now, and is there an automation to do it? If it’s just set your lights to a certain thing and you happen to have few lights, maybe it’s a one-step shortcut. Maybe it doesn’t need to have a thousand steps to be a value.

Brittany Smith:
That is where that motivation aid can come in. A really good example I’ve used with a lot of people who were tech savvy enough to be comfortable with the idea, we hate asking for help. I know everybody hates asking for help. We hated Extra. And so I’ve had clients who had people they could delegate to and they just weren’t. And so we would write a shortcut together that was, it would like, let’s make a calendar group out of the people and it would pop up with the people and it would already have the email I’d like you to help me with, and then you just fill it in, because each word, if we pay attention to it, each word I have to write in that email asking someone for help is painful. And if I can produce those words and put it in the form of a prompt instead, that hurts less, that physical pain you get for those tasks you really don’t, it hurts less.
And so now all I have to do is launch the Shortcut. It’s not always easy to launch this Shortcut either, but it’s just one step. I don’t have to use more willpower for each word of that email I need to send.

Pete Wright:
That’s huge. It’s so funny. I have exactly the same thing. I’ve never even thought what-

Brittany Smith:
[crosstalk 00:38:26]That’s because you are my brother.

Pete Wright:
Exactly. It’s that cognitive load that comes from the fear of actually having to just write a stupid, uncomfortable thing. Even just triggering a shortcut to spawn an email with text pre-written that I just have to replace to be all caps stuff, as long as I can do it, it’s like my eyes, it’s like all the words that I hate get kind of blurry this way. And I don’t have to feel the stress of writing it like I do every other time. Right. It’s all blurry and I feel like what was her name in clue, there are plans coming out of my face and, that’s the feeling that I get.
And so having a script that takes that cognitive load of not only a, it’s faster, it just keeps me at peace.

Brittany Smith:
And there’s that really old XKCD comic about the time you spend automating stuff and I’m like, no, no, no, but what you need that other element to this graph, it shows how long did I procrastinate doing that thing? Because that needs to be part of that time calculus.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Here’s the thing, I need to know were, the world is continuing to change around us. We’ve had a long year behind us.

Brittany Smith:
A few of them in the last year.

Pete Wright:
That is absolutely right. What have you, it’s a two-part question, what have you given up in your tech stack that has surprised you the most, and what is the newest thing you are most excited about working into your productivity tech stack? Begin.

Brittany Smith:
That’s so unfair.

Pete Wright:
No, [inaudible 00:40:05].

Brittany Smith:
Can I cheat and look at my phone?

Pete Wright:
Of course.

Brittany Smith:
My newest thing I’m trying to work in is Trello, because I run a group with a colleague and we need to share tasks. And so we’re testing out Trello. And so I’m working on automating that and I’m frustrated with its current shortcuts availability. So my next thing is to dive in and dig into that automation more. And what have I given up? Probably a lot, because I made a choice when I had to wipe my phone to not re-install all the things [inaudible 00:40:41] anymore. I feel like what I’ve given up in the last year really has more to do with acceptance, giving up shoulds that I had, or just giving up control of some things. I have been living in calendar hard, just going with it. I have an automatic booking system and I do the stuff when I follow the automations. And on a good day, just giving up the control of like, I understand what the future means because we just didn’t. And learning to roll with those punches has been a big deal and it’s like, it’s okay. It’s okay that I don’t know what’s happening in the future. This is my job today. Okay. What is it calendar? Oh, you just alerted it’s time to go get ready for this appointment. Awesome. I can go do that thing.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. There’s been, I think that’s a big adjustment. There has been a lot of, I think, letting go of the fear of what comes next month, because we hardly know what’s going to come next week. I just don’t have time to feel existential stress about next quarter when I’m just need to find peace with tomorrow. And that’s been a big change.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. I think I let go, and fires actually were a big part of it too. So we’d already been through the ringer. And then in the Pacific Northwest, we had all the fires. And there were things I’d done that just in hindsight were stupid things to do. I don’t know. I take these extra pictures and Pokemon just because I like looking at my stats and stuff because I also played Pokemon Go. And one day I was just like, why am I even doing this? Why have I been doing it? And I’ve written shortcuts to manage these stupid photos. And it just something about emergency states. If we let it, let us focus on what really matters and just ditch the other stuff.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s interesting you say that because there is a game that I was playing. And at first, it had that bright shininess to it and it seemed like it was really, oh, this is okay, it brings me joy. And then it was all of a sudden I realized how much time I was spending on this stupid game, how I was absolutely really not getting joy out of it. It almost felt like I had to go do it to stay up to date or whatever. And as soon as I stopped going to the game, it really did actually relieve a lot of pressure, which I didn’t even know was there. And it freed up a bunch of time. And there is games I play, but…

Brittany Smith:
I had a game I removed from my device and it was taking way too many cognitive cycles. I need to be a one game person. And it was after it was after a developer conference and somebody did a chart on how your device manages memory and it had to do with like how long things were on a screen. It would take up more compute cycles. And I realized this game that I extensively didn’t care at all about had, or how often you reopen it too. And I was like, oh, this is my computing device. You won’t allow to tell my OmniFocus to shut.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Brittany Smith:
Or draft to shut because I spent a lot of time in drafts too.

Pete Wright:
I don’t think we can fairly have this conversation talking about games without talking about social media. And the apps that drive so much behavior. Has your behavior around social media change over the last year? I think from reading and listening to your stuff, I know you have a perspective.

Brittany Smith:
I’ve always stacked at social media, but I gave up Facebook back in grad school when I, because that was another thing where we felt very emergency mode and it made things feel a lot more black and white. And I put everything in the world into two categories. Things that get my work done, as in my thesis done, and things that brought me joy. And I realized Facebook didn’t fit into either of those.

Pete Wright:
Interesting.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s so interesting. I feel the same way.

Pete Wright:
And my book [inaudible 00:45:08], I was like, I love you guys. I’m not reading it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. I feel the same way about Facebook specifically. And I never got onto Instagram really anyway, so that was never an issue. But I remember when Facebook first came out, I don’t think there was ever, or when I got onto it, there was ever a day where I didn’t see every single thing that was in my thread. I always knew what was going on. And then in the last two years, it’s just gotten further and further and further and further away. And then this is the crazy thing you tech people, so because I may have been looking at some health apps, now, if I ever do go on Facebook, it’s all about these exercise ads and everything, because they’ve targeted me.

Pete Wright:
Today is a big day for you.

Brittany Smith:
We were already disgusting. In iOS 14.5 they’ve introduced app tracking transparency. I don’t know how the [inaudible 00:46:11] actually works, but tracking is a big issue.

Nikki Kinzer:
Now I really don’t want to go because all it’s doing is telling me to exercise and I’m like [inaudible 00:46:19].

Brittany Smith:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Well talk about reducing cognitive load. That for me has been a huge transformation and not really over over the pandemic, but before that. I have dramatically reduced my personal, I eliminated my personal use of Facebook. I have an account and I just don’t use it. And I’m one of those people, and I say this with a little bit of self-loathing, that use it for business, but it doesn’t really demonstrate great attachment for us as podcasts. We don’t get a lot of people who come from Instagram or Facebook because they don’t want you to leave. Instagram and Facebook don’t want you to leave Instagram and Facebook.
So when you post a podcast to go listen to, nobody goes and clicks on that. They all find us from other ways. And so that was really powerful, is recognizing that those services were doing a disservice for me. What I have really fallen in love with over the year is Bespoke Networks. And in my case, it’s really Discord. I love discord because the groups that I’m a part of in Discord, I know exactly what their function is, they’re smaller, they focus on one aspect of my life, and I connect with people who have shared interests with me, and they are beautiful shining roses of people. And I love them. And I also don’t feel that level of just sort of emergency all the time that was going on with Facebook.
And so that’s been, I think the pandemic has made my networks smaller and more powerful too in my life, which has been cool.

Brittany Smith:
And I’m a big believer in Discord too. And when it comes to [inaudible 00:48:10] I have a Twitter. I obviously don’t tweet very much. Like you can see, it’s not very much. Mostly tweet during [inaudible 00:48:16].

Pete Wright:
I tweet during [inaudible 00:48:17].

Brittany Smith:
But what I’ve done is that’s the place when I go there, that’s the place I want to go for nerdy stuff. And so I use-

Pete Wright:
[crosstalk 00:48:26] Talk about Bespoke Networks, like it’s smaller.

Brittany Smith:
I use Twitter ethic and I have a ton of mute and other filters. And I may like somebody a lot. And if they just tweet too much, and it doesn’t matter if I like this stuff they tweet, it’s just too much, I probably going to get a muffle. And it’s just because, I actually can get through my Twitter feed in a day if I want to do. I usually don’t because I ignore it for weeks.

Pete Wright:
But it’s not like first thing in the morning, I need to get through all that stuff.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. And it’s not my place for news. It’s not my place for politics. So I have all political phrases, like just meet it out. And that means equally Republican. It means equally Democratic, and all of the variance on those words. And I’m may miss something useful and I don’t care. It’s fine. I really have created a place that’s more, not that I’m trying to get one perspective, but I’m trying to get those perspectives and what they’re saying about technology specifically.

Pete Wright:
What do you think, Nikki, did you survive this conversation?

Nikki Kinzer:
I did. Actually I followed you guys a lot more than I thought I was going to. So this was great.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, you did great. Brittany, I hope this isn’t the last time we talked to you.

Brittany Smith:
Oh, this is great.

Nikki Kinzer:
No it can’t be.

Pete Wright:
Can we make sure that’s not the last time? We’ve got new projects coming up and I can tell you’re going to be involved. It’s going to be great. This is wonderful. You got to plug a little bit. Where do you want people to go to find more about you? Obviously your Twitter and Facebook pages are going to be really important.

Brittany Smith:
Yeah. It’s not a Facebook page. Or maybe there is and I never took it down because I tried it once. If there is, it’s going to look really abysmal and super embarrassing. I can’t even tell you if I took it down, [inaudible 00:50:16] tell you. My websites conquer.consulting, and I post some of the stuff I do there. My nerdy Twitter is the [addliberate 00:50:27], but my actual new stuff I’m doing in adhdandbusinessesdevise_conquer. Yeah, device_conquer. I can do words today.

Pete Wright:
You’re doing great. Brittany Smith, thank you so much for hanging out with us. It’s been a great conversation. It’s been too long. In coming, we have clearly more to nerd out about. And thank you everybody else for downloading and listening to the show. We appreciate you and your time and your attention. Don’t forget if you have something to contribute to this conversation, we’re heading over to the show talk channel in our very own Discord server, and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Brittany Smith, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.