Less Technology More Productivity
Tech Versus Tech
Maybe the Hemingwrite isn’t for everyone. However, it is an example of a new breed of products designed to help us regain control over digital distractions.
To some, the idea of using a dumbed-down distraction free word processor is silly. Why buy an expensive box that does less than a PC?
The answer for many bleary-eyed workers is: because I need to get stuff done.
Jonathan Franzen, the man Time Magazine calls the “Great American Novelist,” uses a distraction free tool to write his masterful works — though his is homemade.
According to a 2010 cover story, “He uses a heavy, obsolete Dell laptop from which he has scoured any trace of hearts and solitaire, down to the level of the operating system. Because Franzen believes you can’t write serious fiction on a computer that’s connected to the Internet, he not only removed the Dell’s wireless card but also permanently blocked its Ethernet port. ‘What you have to do,’ he explains, ‘is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue and then you saw off the little head of it.’”
Technology should serve us – we should not serve it. Let’s keep our tech in check by learning how to stop checking our phone at the wrong time:
You’re Stuck in an Unhealthy Rut
In a University College London study, participants were asked to sit at a computer and direct a cloud of dots.1 They were instructed to move a lever to the right if a dot cloud was moving right and to the left if a dot cloud was moving left. Participants did this with accuracy. That is, until researchers added a weight to one side of the lever making it harder to move one way. The result? Participants began moving the lever in the wrong, yet easier, direction.
As the task became more difficult, participants subconsciously changed how they played the game. This study supports research from evolutionary biologists who argue humans have evolved to avoid energy consuming tasks by taking the path of least resistance.2
Doing what we know we should do is often hard. If we fall into a routine of avoiding discomfort by taking too many breaks, we learn it’s easier to break our focus than do what we know we should. As the dot study shows, we quickly learn how to avoid discomfort by changing the game.
Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” If checking email for a quick minute takes the pressure off having to think through a big assignment at work, you’ll keep clicking away if you don’t have the tools to realize and deal with the difficulty. If you don’t change your ways, you’ll soon carve a mental rut that teaches your brain to automatically escape hard work instead of working through it.
Tech Versus Tech
You Don’t Know How to Focus on Things You Dislike
If you like doing something, you are more likely to do it. If you enjoy shopping for instance, you’ll seek out opportunities for “retail therapy.” However, if you find shopping to be a burden, you will avoid it unless absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, many things you need to do in life aren’t particularly enjoyable. Few people enjoy doing their taxes, but they need to get it done nonetheless. When you don’t enjoy a task, you’re more likely to seek an escape and lose focus. How then, do you stay focused doing something you dislike?
Ian Bogost, a professor at Georgia Tech and a professional video game designer, argues that we have the power to reimagine tasks to make them more enjoyable.3 In his book, Play Anything, Bogost challenges readers to tackle everyday tasks with the same discipline and focus used to play a game. Bogost states that we should focus more intensely on the task at hand rather than concentrating on the end result or reward.
Bogost highlights this theory using his attempt to make lawn mowing more enjoyable. To learn to enjoy the job of cutting his grass, Bogost focused more intensely on it. He learned everything he could about the practice and challenge himself to find the variability in the activity. For instance, he sought to find the optimal path for cutting the grass or beating his previous time. By reimagining a task, you can make anything more enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding.
Latest Tech Trends Designed To End Distractions
What Do We Call It?
- What tools or products do you use to stay focused? Let’s start a list of the best tools and techniques in the comments section below.
- There still isn’t a name for this industry – yet! Here are some of my ideas: concentration technology, attention tools, anti-distraction devices, focus tech. I’m sure you can do better. What do you think we should call it?
Top Focus Articles
- [Focus Guide] How To Make The Most Out Of Your Time And Your Life
- How to Be Indistractable: Video by Nir Eyal
- Technology Is Not Hijacking Your Brain (video)
- Technology is Distracting and Addictive. Here’s How to Fix It. (Video)
- Your Ability to Focus Has Probably Peaked: Here’s How to Stay Sharp
- How to Stay Informed Without Losing Your Mind
- Conquer Distractions With This Simple Chart
- How to Clear Your Computer of Focus-Draining Distraction
- Un-Hooked: Increasing Focus in the Age of Distraction
- Latest Tech Trends: Products to Eliminate Distractions and Increase Willpower
- Email Habits: How to Use Psychology to Regain Control