by Lisa Norman
The one constant with technology these days is that it’ll change much sooner than we want it to. The speed of change is only going to increase over the next year. Adaptability is now a basic life skill.
We need to remember that not all change is bad. While it can be painful to adapt, if we focus on improving our procedures as we work through the changes, we may find that change can bring unexpected benefits.
The last couple of weeks, I’ve been going through a huge tech change in my own work, and decided to share the process that I used to survive.
The first challenge is knowing when adaptation is required. The constant bombardment of news about changes in social media platforms, companies being bought out, and potential doomsday scenarios for different companies is overwhelming. Knowing what to listen to and what to ignore is a critical part of surviving in this modern world. How can we tell what is important and what is just noise?
I knew that one of my favorite programs (Evernote) had a new owner, and I was watching the changes, but they hadn’t affected me. The new owners changed the heart of the company’s philosophy. I don’t have a problem with a company trying to make more money — and I understand the need! — but to me, how they changed was problematic.
One of the core principles of the original program was that our notes were safe with them. The creators intended Evernote to be a second brain, a place where you could safely store stuff so that you could get to it quickly but didn’t need it to take up space between your ears. I used Evernote every day. And yes, I was a paying member.
Free users could get value from the program. Over time, even free users built up a lot of information there, and Evernote kept it safe.
The new owners have new priorities: finances. All free accounts — and many of my students are on free accounts — found themselves suddenly limited. They couldn’t create new notes, and even viewing their existing notes quickly became problematic. A second brain isn’t useful when locked behind a paywall.
When I recommend a program, my reputation is on the line.
I could no longer recommend Evernote because people’s notes were becoming inaccessible. Evernote doesn’t care. Pay us money to get your brain back. That’s harsh. That’s not something I can support or recommend. I understand they bought this company to be a cash cow and they intend to milk it. And that’s their right. But I can’t send new users to experiment with a program that is going to treat them that badly.
And if I can no longer recommend the program, then why would I stay with them?
I had thousands of notes in the program. Again, this was my most-used software program, always open on both my computer and my phone.
The first step is becoming aware of the need to change.
I launched into an in-depth exploration of the situation and the alternatives. There was a reason I’d been recommending Evernote.
In the discovery phase, you’re experimenting and exploring, looking through the available choices. You’re also determining when the time would be right to make the change.
Here we are at the turning of the calendar. Changing programs that are this major made sense to do in December so I could start January fresh.
Everyone knows I love World Anvil. I’d already moved my writing from Evernote to the anvil. But using World Anvil as my main note program felt like bending the anvil too far from its original purpose. I’m already using it to run a school. I think I’ve pushed the edges far enough, although any time I spend in World Anvil is the best time!
I tested many alternatives and spent some time lurking in the Evernote forums, learning from other people’s experiences. There wasn’t a clear winner, a replacement I felt comfortable recommending to everyone, but I found a few that would work and that I felt safe recommending.
Once you’ve decided to adapt, there’s an acceptance step. You download the new software. You study it and learn. Don’t forget this step for any new software or technology. Take a moment. Accept it into your life. Explore how it works. Run some tests.
Accept that the process of adaptation is probably going to be uncomfortable.
I use an unconventional keyboard layout. (Colemak instead of QWERTY.) A friend suggested I try it when my joints started aching. It has been a tremendous boon to my life as I no longer have constant joint pain in my fingers. But during that transition? That was agony. My brain was constantly struggling. Something as fundamental as typing became foreign.
In this adaptation, I downloaded several options on my phone and my computer and tried importing my existing notes. Eventually, I settled on OneNote because it works well with the structure of the notes I have and because it makes use of a subscription I’m already paying for.
Adaptation doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve moved all my notes into the OneNote program. Then, I closed Evernote.
Currently, I’m not opening my old Evernote unless I’m stuck in OneNote. So far, I’ve only needed it once.
There was a moment when I needed to start a note quickly while talking on Zoom. Under pressure. Being watched. And then I realized there wasn’t a button to create a note the way I wanted to because OneNote forces me to create notes in a more organized fashion than I have in the past.
After I took a breath, I learned how to do something new on OneNote and decided the transition may not be the end of my creative life. (For the way I want to use OneNote, I want to keep it more organized than my old Evernote account was. I needed to find the right notebook and then add a page to it. Took me a bit, but I found it!)
As you go through the process of adaptation, celebrate the wins. Celebrate the times of success. Remember that there will be terrible moments, but there will also be new discoveries.
As the progress continues, you’ll start getting the benefits that you were looking for in the earlier stages. Remember: you made the choice to adapt for a reason. There is a benefit. For me, it’ll be in reduced cost and not supporting a company that I no longer believe in.
What's the outcome of my adaptation? I’m becoming even more organized, and I’ve found a lot of information that I’d lost in Evernote, things I didn’t even realize I’d lost. Sweeping out my second brain and re-organizing it has been a tremendous gift. I'm spending less money, and creating new processes that are helping in every area of my work. Since OneNote is more closely integrated with other tools I use, some bumps that I'd learned to ignore are now smoothing out. It isn't easy yet, but I can see how this change will help future me.
What are some examples of adaptations you’ve needed to make in your writing life?
* * * * * *
Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.
Copyright © 2024 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved