Adolfo Ramírez Corona

Jan 8, 2022

Tools for thought: faster thinking or for better thinking?

Thinking on time and space

Thinking is an activity that depends on time.

We give that for true not just because we think about time as a real object or a resource, but because we think about thinking as a sequential, time-dependent thing.

So if thinking lives on time, we think about its optimization: thinking more in less time.

Thinking is an activity that depends on space.

We make space between the elements of a problem, the terms of a formula, expressions in an equation, genre and species in a definition.

Look at the baby playing: she learns to think by timing and spacing. "This, then that". "This, then apart".

Faster or better?

You may say, better thinking instead of more. But we have to be careful with the term 'better'. Better can mean processing more ideas. Better can be taken as a quantitative property, not a qualitative one.

Better thinking, in a quality sense, would imply that no matter how much time or tasks you spend thinking, the outcome is going to produce sound ideas and thoughts.

More thinking would imply an increment in the quantity or ideas. It can be a way to increase quality by probability, of course, unless it meant more in less time.

We have a problem with time in app design in general. Apps and digital tools are designed under a time optimization or time-saving principle. Apps tend to try to save time for the user.

Select a tedious task—or a series of them—and design an app or service to do it by just pressing a button. That's the startup ideal's pitch.

Tools for thought on time and space

Is the same happening with PKMs and tools for thought?

I don't want a tool for thought to think faster. I want a PKM app to think better, no matter if I have to spend more time in the app.

One analogy: I want a calculator that makes me do better calculations not faster calculations.

Or let's use the Excel example again. In the beginning, you arrive at Excel because is going to save you time, maybe. But more than that, you approach Excel because you know you can do things with it that are not easy to do without it.

In the end, I spend more time in Excel doing calculations, no less, because I discovered I can do more in it.

Take your time thinking

I want that with a tool for thought. Not an app that makes thinking faster but better. I like the idea of creating easy workspaces where I can do research, note-take, or write, for example.

And I don't want a frictionless experience but a usable and enjoyable one. If learning or thinking requires friction, that's fine. Like physical exercise.


Tempus rerum imperator (time, commander of all things), is wrong.

Temporare quaeque suo qui facit (to do whatever in its time) is right.

Time depends on the task or activity, and not otherwise. Eigenzeit or 'proper time' or 'own time' in German.

These thoughts come while reading Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. Oliver Burkeman is leaving me with some reflections about our time-centered culture and how we can shift to a more reasonable approach to work and life.

Adolfo Ramírez Corona

Antifragilista writer—Human behavior, UX, media & audiences—Courses & coaching:—Articles: