Push away the ‘all-in-one’ promise, because it’ll only cause you to be more distracted when you’re looking for focus.
I’ve had this methodology for a while, this post’s purpose is a simple (and growing) list of tech-enabled and non-tech items that are single-purpose.
What's the impetus?
I just finished reading 4,000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman on a reference from my good friend Jarie Bolander. Coming off of reading Marcus Aurelius Meditations and Italian Physicist Rovelli Carlo’s The Order of Time — I feel like I’ve experienced another overview effect.
Burkeman says: choose devices with only one purpose.
It’s been happening a lot lately.
When asked, what is the meaning of life — Naval responds:
There is no meaning to life. There is no purpose to life. Osho said, “It’s like writing on water or building houses of sand.” The reality is you’ve been dead for the history of the Universe, 10 billion years or more. You will be dead for the next 70 billion years or so, until the heat death of the Universe.
Anything you do will fade. It will disappear, just like the human race will disappear and the planet will disappear. Even the group who colonizes Mars will disappear. No one is going to remember you past a certain number of generations, whether you’re an artist, a poet, a conqueror, a pauper, or anyone else. There’s no meaning.
You have to create your own meaning, which is what it boils down to.
All to say, Naval and Oliver both pull from elements of Stoicism — if you’re constantly clicking on notifications and being stimulated from 20 different directions — you’ll only be flustered.
This is what brings me to single-purpose devices.
- You don’t need a real book (I thought I needed one, but you don’t)
- Get an Amazon Kindle
This has really got to be one of the best tips that I’ve been following, I actually wrote a post on it early last year titled How I switched to reading on a Kindle from physical books.
It’s pretty simple — you can cram tons of books on your Amazon Kindle, but for me, I needed to figure out a *time* that I could read. So, removing the phone from the bedroom, and focusing on utilizing reading as ‘wind down time’ really set the cadence for me.
- Carry a Field Book for fleeting thoughts (when you’re out and about)
- DON’T use an iPad for notes
- Get a ReMarkable 2 Tablet
How do you capture information around you? When you’re at work, on the bus, or just sitting in a coffee shop?
I wrote this post on how I read 20 articles a day, back in the heat of the pandemic, and I was using Roam Research for my note-taking. But there’s a tactical ‘hand-feel’ I was missing out on.
A Field Note Book and a pen with me at all times
When I’m out and about, in my pocket — I’ll always have a Field Book and a pen. I’ll use this to draw, capture interesting thoughts, or just write down quotes.
ReMarkable 2 E-Ink Tablet
This product has truly been a lifesaver. I will say their customer service is HORRIBLE and is a great example for any company on how not to work with their customers.
This is a substitute for a notebook. I like to doodle during meetings and take copious notes. Instead of having my iPad or tablet sending me notifications during meetings, this truly is a non-intrusive way to take notes.
I tried a tablet before the ReMarkable was launched, and I just don’t have the self-control to turn off notifications. I wish I could, but I’ll notably load it up with every productivity app, e-mail, and Slack.
- Get an Oura Ring
- DON’T get an iWatch, FitBit, or Samsung Smart Watch
Heart rate, sleep data, pulse, and activity are all great things to track when you’re working a computer job.
I used to have an iWatch and again, I loaded it up with all the apps. Because that’s the promise, right? Have everything on your wrist, right at your fingertips. So you can see your text messages when your phone is in your pocket.
I love the biometrics that the iWatch has around sleep, heart rate, and pulse — but I want it without the distractions.
The Oura Ring is really great for the ‘single-purpose-product’ here. It’s unobtrusive, doesn’t have any vibration features, and doesn’t really bother you.
Products I haven’t used but look interesting
The following products I’ve seen around, but haven’t got to use them.
The Light Phone.
I’ve been dabbling with the idea of a phone that is ‘not distracting’, the same way that people are dumbing down their phones. I do really appreciate the functionality on my phone, and end up doing a lot of work on it — but maybe the Light Phone seems to be onto something.
The Free Write
The Free Write, Traveler is an e-ink portable only writing tablet. Sometimes when I want to get my thoughts down and I’m sitting on Medium writer (I really should use Hemingway, sorry Jarie) — I notably get distracted.
If you have any products you use, just drop them in the comments — I’ll keep adding to this list.
Music I was listening to while I wrote this
This is day 28 of my #90DayOfProse challenge.