The pitfalls of being a slightly privacy-minded poweruser and nerd

I’ve been into tech for quite a while now, probably since about 1997 when I got my first web-enabled machine. I still say the Compaq Presario changed the world :rofl:

After years of using various OS’s and apps, listening to tech podcasts, and following people on sites like this, I’ve become fairly picky about what I install on my devices and what apps and systems I use. Last week I was hanging out with some friends and they were sharing funny posts from Reddit. In the next breath they were all in Instagram, then over in Facebook. Not a single one of them had any inclination of the personal data they were giving up, not to mention the fact how much time they were wasting on such nonsense. They make fun of me because I “spent $50 on a calendar app” – hey, I love Fantastical.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not perfect and I indulge in these things too from time to time. That’s where my inner conflict comes in. I’ll tell myself browsing Reddit on Apollo is better because it’s not tracking me to the extent the main Reddit app does. I don’t have a personal Instagram account anymore as I deleted it, but I do maintain a community account that has a small following. I’ll sometimes log in, catch myself spending too much time scrolling, and log out.

Same for Twitter. Was using Tweetbot to cut the noise and the ads, then deleted it when future-boy took over and started driving it into the ground.

Then I sit here with Note taking apps like Evernote and Obsidian, task managers, subscriptions to calendar and password apps…

I guess my point is, I know enough about tech to know how it can improve our lives, and also enough to know it can be a detriment at a certain point. Finding that line in the sand between the “right” number of apps, where I’m comfortable with privacy – sometimes I wish I was one of those people that never considered any of this and asked the question “why would I pay $80 a year for a Notes app?” with such blind confidence.

I’m trying to pull back on a lot of this stuff and arrive at my own conclusions about what’s important vs what I’m thinking I should do because it’s a fad or what a lot of you/podcasters/bloggers/pundits are doing. Finding our own lane and keeping privacy in mind, at least a little bit, can be daunting.

I guess I aspire to be a “mindful tech enthusiast”. It’s tough.


I am right there with you. Over the past few years I’ve been on a kick to simplify my tech as much as possible. Then I hit some roadblock or annoyance that I know how to fix with such and such app, and soon enough my life is overcomplicated again. I’m tempted to go back to pen and paper for everything.


Do you ever wonder how’d we get along with just a Covey Planner or something similar? We used to. I sometimes do.

I’m “almost” tempted to try it for a month to see if I drop any balls. Just think, few updates, no privacy issues (unless you lose it), no syncing issues, no notifications, no ransomware, no switching apps (maybe planners :slightly_smiling_face:) …

Hmm, sounds almost like heaven! :rofl:


Very tempting. I read Getting Things Done in 2006, and managed my work with a notebook, pen, and an A-Z filing cabinet. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could do it again.

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The one thing digital REALLY helps me with - I’m sometimes rather careless. My notebook would get lost a lot, and I’d have no notes. I’m working from home now but still - I don’t trust myself enough. Gotta store it “out there in the cloud”.

That’s actually what knocked me out of my everything notebook habit. I left it on the roof of my car in 2008 and it was swept away and destroyed in a crazy thunderstorm. Incredibly demoralizing. :frowning: Google Calendar was becoming pretty good about then so I started the move to digital.

I still use Covey’s roles/big blocks system. Very helpful, as a father.

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I completed a degree in 2010 and then pivoted to a completely new discipline in 2015 and did another. As I recall I pretty much just used Evernote, Pages, gmail/gcal and brought in omnifocus and omnioutliner.

Since then I’ve used or tried things, noteplan, gsuite, simplenote, devonthink, text expander, together, voodoopad, obsidian, onenote, apple notes, gone ipad only for a while etc etc more than I care to count or remember.

The apps might be more polished now and my Mac may be measurably faster, but I FEEL less productive than I was in 2010. I honestly don’t think any piece of software or workflow has actually improved my output, it’s just changed how I go about things, improving some aspects and worsening others. I don’t feel bad necessarily but it’s definitely a realisation.

For work I now use a Filofax clipbook paper based planner and I love it. I’d love to try using paper for my personal life but there’s so much pull from having years and years of notes and scanned documents.


Instead of worrying about privacy make a list of the things you would like to keep private. Then spend a little time online researching data leaks and data sources. When your done just make sure to protect the two or three things that are left on your list :grinning:

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FWIW I Did try it for about a month after my first major DEVONThink issue with lost data while I regrouped. Back in the day I used to have a 3 inch thick binder with custom calendar pages and lots of tabs for sections. Obviously I couldn’t replicate that in just one month but even with my minimal set-up and having some of my tech still available for reference and task management I STILL lost the threads of some projects and got about 3 weeks behind on them. You’d have a hard time convincing me that any paper implementation is right for me. Not that it won’t work for others but I know I can’t deal with it unless I have a bearer to carry the notebooks behind me all the time and somoene who is constantly handin g me the right one when I need data from it.


From this thread and others that are popping up on the forum, it seems like a lot of people are saturated / over it / / reevaluating / regrouping.


And many, including me, are happy with the new apps they have found and adopted into their workflow. :slightly_smiling_face:

I sure am. Part of this is because I’m transitioning to new work (with a team) and partly the new year invites such things. I think I want to try for an analog year and see how it goes (I’ll obviously be doing lots of digital things since I’m working remotely but for task/planning/journaling/etc.).


Yes, it’s interesting to observe. It’s not uncommon for hobby/topic forums to split over some sort of holy war; whether Tana is toxic or Evernote is useful are as good of issues as any. :slight_smile: I hope everyone will still stick around and share what they end up doing, of course. The forum could use a dedicated analog/paper section, too.


I find it mildly amusing that during the time I was on Facebook I could not convince anyone else it had any value. “Why would you want to do that?”. I quit for the last time 10 years ago next month (wow!) and now, though I tread softly on the topic, almost everyone I know (in real life) is on there and I cannot convince them why it’s a bad idea. Or they agree with my assessment but “can’t do without” the connections. And yes, most of them were alive when the telephone (with a cord) and letters were the means of staying in touch over distance. :man_shrugging:


Good to see. I haven’t changed workflows/apps from a lot of the hype (although I have independently settled on a few of the hyped tools, namely Obsidian and Raycast). I think after a while the constant rush of tech becomes quite tiring. I left the forum for 10 months before, and I may do something similar again as I settle into new workflows and write new software to better fit my needs.

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I put it down to age. The older I get, the less I want to hack and tinker and poke and prod at things. My web sites have gone from hand crafted HTML/CSS through all manner of incredibly clever technologies and are now slowly dumbing down to “what’s easy”. If SquareSpace allowed multiple domains on a single sub, everything would be there now.

I still create scripts to do some tasks “just right” but only when I cannot find off-the-shelf software to make it easy.


Not to worry, I’m going to paper—I went 100% paperless more than 10 years ago. I’m not going back. My comments were mostly tongue-in-cheek. :blush:

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I honestly miss the days of my Day Timer and my annual shopping tradition of to get the next year’s refills. That tool had such a profound impact on my life. I used to be proud as a peacock carrying it around. (My college girlfriend got so angry with me because I put her name in the contacts section, last name first. It was a good lesson for me.)

Reverie was burst after I was reminded of the hell that was trying to forward tasks over to the next day and remembered again how nice our digital tools are when used well.

Great post, @AppleGuy!


I was a heavy OmniFocus user for years. Over time it started to feel like a job to me, so one day I just quit. Still think it was a great decision because managing a list, reviews, etc. was just too much.

I’m finding myself doing more with text and the terminal. I’m always trying to find ways to remove software from my systems and workflows if possible, but I must say it isn’t always easy. Good to know I’m not alone in my thinking…


This resonates with me. I’ve wasted a lot of time on productivity (ironically), although it was mostly fun so I count is as, at least in part, a hobby. A few tools, like Zotero, were genuinely transformative in my ability to process information and create output.

A digital calendar is a must for me - I’m not the only one who accesses it and I need it everywhere. For tasks/interstitial/bullet journaling I’m back to paper. It’s friction free, I have great oversight of my tasks and I can scan in anything that I really don’t want to lose or need to share. And it means I can get away from the screen for a while. I could do with better handwriting, but…

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