Input, Process, Output

Whatever our professions and however our lives are structured, our days are filled with inputs.

These inputs are sensory by definition—sights, sounds, tactile sensations, tastes, smells—but they contain a boggling assortment of information, ranging from the aesthetic to survival-related data, from the interpersonal to knowledge of meta-national importance.

We also generally engage in some kind of production on a daily basis; our generative acts culminating in different types of output.

We speak and generate sound that contains encrypted information about our emotional state, the state of the world, or the state of the meal we’re preparing.

We make visual art and music, we generate sensations and situations in which we and other people participate, and we produce both work- and play-related artifacts, sometimes passively and sometimes quite intentionally.

In between the input and output stages, we’re engaged in a ceaseless circuit of input-crunching and output-consideration.

We’re both consciously and unconsciously scrutinizing the book we just read, the conversation we just had, and the walk we took to the grocery store (and all the things we experienced along the way).

The processing of these inputs informs—immediately or eventually—our outputs in various ways. But it’s not uncommon to nudge this step aside in our desire to make more chronological room for consumption and production.

It makes sense that we might want to do this: there’s a lot to soak up from the world around us, and making things can be immensely satisfying. There’s also something biologically satiating about both absorbing and radiating information, and as such we tend to gravitate toward activities that prioritize both ends of the experiential spectrum.

That in-between space, though, is vital to our understanding and contextualizing that which we experience.

It’s also what informs our conversations, production of physical and digital artifacts, and our behaviors: our outputs, whatever their shape, are honed by our mulling over, sitting with, and eventual analysis of our previous inputs.

In an input-output prioritizing age, carving out time for just sitting with ourselves, with what’s happened, with things we’ve done and seen and heard and smelled and tasted and felt, and our myriad predictions about what might happen next, can seem cumbersome if not entirely unmanageable.

But taking that time—whether it’s actualized as some kind of meditation, a meandering walk, or a period of quiet contemplation between other, more “productive” activities—can increase the quality, value, and enjoyment derived from our many inputs and outputs.

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