5 min read

Star Trek + Productivity: A Lesson on Modifying Templates to Work for You

I love Star Trek, in particular Star Trek: The Next Generation. I grew up watching the series, and have revisited it many times thanks to the modern age of streaming. While I love this series as a whole, it's certainly not without its flaws.

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in 1987 as a sequel to the original 1966 Star Trek series. It of course borrowed heavily from its predecessor: a starship called the Enterprise, a diverse cast of characters, an emotionless crew member acting as our outside perspective on the human condition, etc. It was the same formula, or template, as the Original Series. The second episode of the first season, "The Naked Now", was practically an exact copy of the original series episode, "The Naked Time". It's a bit of a struggle to watch the first season as the show hadn't yet found it's own identity.

The second season was a bit of an improvement over the first, containing one of the best episodes in the series, "Measure of a Man" where they discuss the philosophy of what constitutes life and human rights, but they still were trying to adhere to the Original Series formula too much. They replaced the doctor, Beverly Crusher, with Doctor Pulaski, who was much closer in personality to the original series doctor, Leonard McKoy, in order to try to get a McKoy and Spock type of relationship between Pulaski and the android crew member, Data. But Data wasn't the same as Spock in that he didn't ever really retaliate to anything Pulaski said, so it came off as Pulaski being kind of a jerk more than anything else. The show was in the "Valley of Disappointment" as James Clear calls it in his book Atomic Habits. It wasn't until the show hit its third season that it managed to climb out of that valley and really take off.

By the third season, the show had started to come into its own. The characters had become much more established, and they started telling more original stories. The Next Generation is still very much episodic, as the Original Series was, with each episode being a self contained story, but they broke out of this a little bit with the captain, Jean Luc Picard, being assimilated by a cybernetic species known as the Borg. The crew manages to save him, but the psychological effects stick with him throughout the remainder of the series, as well as into the movies and the currently running Star Trek: Picard series. The show found its own identity separate from the Original Series, and become just as beloved, if not more so than the original.

We go through a similar process when building out our productivity systems. It can be beneficial to start with an already established template or framework, but it's not going to work as well for someone else as it did for the person who created it. The creator had to go on the journey and put in the work to find something that worked well for them. In order for your productivity system to work for you, you too must go on the journey and develop it over time with experimentation, trial and error. Using a premade template is a great way to get you started, but you need to modify and tweak it in order to make it work right for you.

When you first start using a template or framework, it is beneficial to use it exactly as prescribed at first while taking notes of what things aren't quite working. Then with a better understanding of the template or framework, you can start working on improving the parts that don't work as well by testing out alternatives. If something you try doesn't work, try something else. Keep doing this until you've got something that's perfect for how you like to work.

I'm personally glad they kept going with what became one of my favorite childhood TV shows, even though the first couple seasons weren't all that great. It's only by pushing through that Valley of Disappointment that we get to the exceptional stuff, whether that be in a television series or in a personal productivity system.

What productivity templates or systems have you tried and modified to work for you? Please share with me by sending an email to brennan@creadevlabs.com, or if you're viewing this on the website please share in the comments section below.


Things I'm working on to improve my productivity and personal knowledge management practices

There are probably many of you out there like me who struggle with wanting to endlessly organize and restructure your note taking system. I'm endlessly creating new folders, moving files around, adding or taking away meta data, updating note titles, etc. All of this reorganizing doesn't help me actually use my notes, so I'm attempting something a bit drastic to get me to stop worrying about structure: I've eliminated folders and turned off the file explorer in Obsidian. I can no longer even seen the file structure of my note taking system. This forces me to be reliant on the Graph view and the backlinks panel to navigate between notes. I've only had it set up like this for a week or so, and I can already see some benefits from it. I've been focusing a lot more on the content of my notes, and have made some cool connections between things that I'll be turning into future newsletters. I'm hoping by doing this that my note taking system will become much more useful to me rather than just a place to waste time.

What I'm Reading / Watching / Listening to:

Resources and ideas from others to explore

Article: 3-2-1: Craving the result versus the process, seeing clearly, and thinking for yourself
James Clear's newsletter is always packed full with insightful wisdom, despite the fact that it's relatively short. This week was filled with motivation to stop endlessly planning and get to work making something. I have several ideas for productivity resources I'd like to create and share, but have been procrastinating working on them because I keep second guessing whether they'd be useful or not. Thanks to James Clear's motivational newsletter, I've finally jumped into creating one of those resources, which I hope you'll be seeing in the near future. It's true you won't ever be successful if you don't even start, so now's the time to get going.

Article: Intentional Habit Tracking
I really liked the visual way this author does their habit tracking. It's unique and fun. I'm toying with the idea of trying something like this next month. The habit tracker I have currently is simple and works well, but making it more fun and visually appealing might add an extra bit of motivation to do my habits each day.

PS: I updated my post on what Sketchnoting tools I use as I recently upgraded my digital Sketchnoting toolset.

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