Smartphone addiction: My iPhone is awesome. My iPhone is evil.
I’m surely not the only person to swing from one extreme to the other on a weekly (hourly?) basis.
The transformative power of having the world-in-my-pocket is undeniable. I run my business from my laptop and phone.
My business has an employee count of just me, but I alone can do all that needs to be done.
I can make it work and (just about) not go insane because of all the cool apps and services available in our connected, cloud-powered world.
But there are also problems with my online-only business model:
All this has left me confused: Is the internet the best thing ever or the biggest health and productivity sinkhole ever?
Clearly, there’s a balance but I too often give my tech a free ride.
Ubiquitous information, everywhere access, and limitless functionality aren’t cost-free.
Where are the adverts advocating a more thoughtful approach to technology use rather than telling me to download another new ‘productivity’ app? Oh wait, there’s no profit in that.
Given that I need tech tools to run my business but, on the other hand, I don’t want to lose myself to the hive-mind, I’m attempting – with plenty of hiccups and hypocrisy along the way – to be much more deliberate about how I use my technology.
Here’s what I’m trying:
I’ve Crippled my iPhone
What!?!?! I’ve deliberately downgraded my expensive iDevice!?!?
The useful business functionality is still there, just without the too-tempting distractions.
The Internet (Safari). Disabled.
Anything with a stream (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Apple News, Feedly). Deleted.
I’ve kept my banking app, calendar app, to-do app, and other practical, genuinely useful applications that help my business function.
My infinity device is no longer.
I’ve thought about what I NEED my phone to do and restricted its features to do just those things and no more. (Obviously, I can re-enable these features when needed i.e. on a trip).
You see, I’m weak.
I’ll scroll through Twitter … just … because. Then … wait …. news is productive, right?
What’s Trump up to now?
But that’s not a good enough reason to be staring at a screen.
It’s the ‘infinity apps’, the ones that steal time from you, encouraging you to skim over unlimited content (and ads), that I’m trying to live without.
All these bottomless pits of media can be viewed on my computer or iPad when it’s time to goof off. I’ve just banned myself from messing around on my phone. There are better things to be doing.
No more mindless media consumption on my phone. Audiobooks, Podcasts, and real books are where it’s at 😎
Favouring Paper Reading
I used to consciously make an effort to go paperless. No longer.
As a rule of thumb, I’ll pick something with an ISBN number over blog reading. I’ve ‘gamified’ this with a Goodreads reading challenge.
Gotta keep reading … gotta move the bar forward.
Slow reading on paper, without distractions, is better for all kinds of reasons.
Yes, a blog post is more timely, but I think the costs often outweigh the benefits. I still believe in the editorial process (just look at all the typos on this blog! Tsk!).
I haven’t stopped reading blogs, I just don’t convince myself that they ‘count’ as reading anymore. They’re content snacking: better than Facebook, not as good as books.
Snacking is fine in moderation, but not for when I truly want to grasp a topic. Plus I’m a historian and have learned to
endure like overly long and in-depth books.
Learning to Love Handwriting
Pens. Pencils. Notebooks. Post-Its. It’s all office porn.
But so what.
I’ll indulge in a lifestyle fantasy that has positive side effects.
It’s about slowing down. Read slower. Think slower. Write slower.
There are times to be slow. Like when you need to get stuff done. And for long periods of time every day rather than during a digital detox weekend once every 6 months.
If spending a little too much on hard-backed notebooks means I’m slightly more inclined to write by hand, then all the better.
Handwriting takes away any prompting by software to structure my thoughts in its own way rather than in mine. I believe that work on paper prevents my ideas having any form imposed on them before they’re ready. Most of them aren’t worthy of structure anyway, it’s only when a few are mashed together that something actually happens.
I think these mash-ups are less likely to happen when the ideas are stored in two separate .doc files or Evernote notes than when written on two pages in the same paper notebook or on Post-Its.
Refuse to Choose: It’s possible to have the best of both
Cave dwelling Luddite vs. consumerist Apple junkie isn’t the choice.
I’m desperately trying to be deliberate with my technology. I don’t want to chase the shiny object; the new device, the new app, the new blog. That’s surprisingly hard these days and it doesn’t seem like it should be.
The point of this approach is to consider how I work and use technology to enhance that workflow. This doesn’t mean having 56 productivity apps to help me out. Otherwise, I’d end up spending hours tweaking settings, updating software, and the other ‘busy work’ that feels so productive until I actually think about (or track) how I spend my time.
Switching costs are real: I’m trying to practice extreme focus on the things that move me and my business forward.
Given that my workflow has shifted around a lot in the four years that I’ve been writing this blog, I don’t expect my habits and tools to stay the same for long. But I do hope any further changes are made once I’ve carefully chosen them rather than rushed into downloading a new app on the basis of a sponsored Facebook post.