Our culture strongly promotes the idea that the newest technology is always the best. That belief is spread by its makers with their own incentives for encouraging us to always buy the latest version of every product. However, sometimes using older technology can be better in terms of reaching our mindfulness goals.
Today’s tip is to not automatically reach for the shiny new toy. Instead, be aware of your options so you can make wise and mindful choices about which technology to use in any particular situation.
I’ve given a few specific examples, but I encourage you to apply the same principle to all aspects of your life. Focus your attention on becoming aware of any opportunities to use older technology or no technology at all when you want to get something done.
Writing the Old-Fashioned Way
Most of us do nearly all of our writing on devices. When was the last time you wrote an actual letter to someone? Using pen and paper is just one of the writing options you should explore:
- I often write first drafts of longer things such as essays or work memos by hand. I find it easier for me to dump out my ideas without distraction or editing that way.
- You may also want to try some of the distraction-free word processors that we’ve mentioned before if you want to stay more focused while writing. They show you little more than a blank screen so that you can stay focused on the words you are writing and not the toolbar, menu, or any other visual elements.
- Some authors have even switched back to using old-fashioned typewriters for their novels and other books — or at least their first drafts.
Try out different options and see what works best for you.
Although I use an app on my phone to keep track of my tasks, sometimes I find it more effective to quickly jot them down on a small piece of paper so that they’re easier and faster for me to find and look at as I move from task to task.
Efficiency and focus are not the only reasons you might want to try using older forms of technology for writing. If you want to convey a personal and heartfelt message to someone (such as a thank-you or condolences for a loss), many people find it more meaningful to receive that kind of message in hand-written form than by email or even a pre-printed card.
You may find that writing out the message longhand helps you focus not only on the content of what you’re writing but the feeling behind it. You might experience that feeling more deeply than you would on a device.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Now I’ll use the flip side of writing: reading. While I do an incredible amount of reading on devices, scientific research confirms that attempting to read anything longer than a paragraph on a modern device’s screen can be extremely frustrating and counterproductive. This is in large part due to the number of distractions that our devices present to us while we are reading.
The good news is that many other options are available to us, and they don’t all involve giving up on technology completely.
For reading books, I have an older black-and-white Kindle that only shows me the text of the book. This is a much more pleasant and calming way to read, and it helps me absorb more of what I’m reading than on a smartphone or computer.
Think about the size of the screen that you use to read different types of messages too. I don’t know anyone who’d want to read a long piece on an Apple Watch. On the other hand, a smartphone can be a great way to read text messages. As a general rule, most people find it easier to read longer works on bigger screens, but try out different options to determine what works best for you.
I don’t want to suggest wasting paper at the expense of the environment, but in some cases, I print out documents to read them on paper — particularly if I need to provide the author with feedback on what has been written because I find it both easier to stay focused on what I’m reading and to jot down notes on paper than on a word processor. Despite all of the advances with screens and document software, I still find it easier to quickly glance back at previous parts of a document on paper than on a screen.
When I’m done, I either scan the document with my hand-written edits or type the edits into the document on a word processor.
Consider Your Options
Writing and reading are just two examples of how many different technological options are available to help you avoid the common trap of automatically turning to the latest technology or whatever technology you happen to be using at the moment.
We all tend to engage in that kind of technological inertia or let it dictate which technologies we use and how we use them. But if we apply some mindfulness to pause, step back, and reflect on what our intention is for the task at hand while considering our options, we can then make a conscious choice based on our intention and understanding of our current situation.
As a result, we will be less likely to rush ahead automatically and more likely to engage in that task in a way that is not only more productive but also more satisfying.