In the last issue
I talked about custom-designing our own minds. A new category of software is gaining traction that now lets us custom develop digital environments around how we each individually want to work, and how we each uniquely think.
I’m referring to emerging platforms such as Notion
, and others. While they differ in focus and emphasis, they all essentially let you develop custom functionality to the point of creating your own app, not just formatting an existing software tool’s interface.
These platforms are modular and endlessly customizable without the user writing a single line of code (it’s a subset of the “No-Code Software” Movement). This is sculpting clay — or better yet, Lego building blocks — for everyday users (some logical design-thinking required). They enable one to function and think with enhanced clarity, organization, and focus while keeping massive databases of your notes, research, plans, and team communication accessible through diverse customizable touch points. They can serve as a backbone for a small business, family functions, creative pursuits, and side-hustles. And they can be an integrated single-source hub for all of those parts of your life together, with all of that information’s inherent overlap and cross-referencing shared data (tasks, calendar events, information resources, team-notes, and any other digital asset).
Until you start using such a system, it’s hard to comprehend how powerful it is to have the organizing and focusing tools for all these parts of your life inter-connected. And the overlapping connectivity greatly reduces redundant efforts to maintain a network of different software systems (if your life is systematized at all).
It’s one thing to have a “to-do list” task app (e.g., Todoist, TickTick, Things) and a project management platform (Asana, Trello, Basecamp), and a note-taking databases (e.g., Evernote, OneNote), and collaboration docs (e.g., Google Docs, Microsoft 360), and a calendar app. It’s another thing to have all of those functions in one platform, interacting and communicating with each other, linking and cross-referencing notes and tasks and any other activity or data-point in your life — all with team-shareable access.
But the marketing and discussion around these tools obscures what they are and what they’re capable of doing. The creators are afraid of confusing and scaring potential users by highlighting their vast range of applications. I want to give you an early look at the future of personal software platforms, and what you can already do with them (even though they’re not yet fully developed).
I’ve been building out my world in Notion, the most versatile of the group and the one with the most user momentum (Airtable is also growing in the business community, with a stronger database focus). For the first time my annual goals are directly connected with my quarterly objectives and my daily tasks — with visual references and links rolling-up each level, so I see both the forest and the trees together. My daily action items are connected with all the research materials and personal notes I’ve assembled for each project, in a deep yet cleanly formatted and easily-skimmable project hub (with a table of contents automatically generated at the top of the research pages, linkable to any sub-section). My content creation platform for video, podcast, and writing is under construction. And the most sophisticated of all will be my client portal with an internal development area for each project and a client-accessible work-space cleanly aggregating all of their progress, collaborative work, completed deliverables, communication history, and admin neatly organized and updated real-time. This will reduce reliance on my team for admin or info/follow-up requests.
In summary, these tools can change the way software and information support human activity. The inevitable next step is to build out automation in the system, supported by machine learning — so it not only organizes and focuses your life, but actually facilitates your progress toward your goals. That’s what I think is so profound here.
This movement is not yet obvious, so I wanted to put it on your radar. While it has a long way to go, it’s already capable of enhancing the way you work and organize your digital life by functioning as a digital brain extension.
I’ll explore Design Thinking which relates closely to personal life design.