One Single Principle To Consider Before Buying A Gadget

I’ve been on a bit of a productivity kick recently. So far, that’s meant identifying the huge time-sucks in my life. A good place to start is by looking at your gear. I’ve spent a lot of my life checking notifications, reacting to buzzes or alarms, and generally having my thoughts interrupted by really unimportant information.

Then there’s the separate problem of the phenomenology of your device: what is the experience of using your phone like? Does it make you feel more strapped for time and focus, or does it make your life better? In Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers makes the point thusly:

With every new device, there are three categories of issues. First, the purely functional: What can this device do for us? What are its best uses? Second, the behavioral: Are there old behaviors I need to change or new ones I need to acquire in response to this? These are all exterior questions, but beneath the surface there’s a third category that’s often ignored, especially early on: the inner human dimension of technology: How is this device affecting me and my experience? Is it altering how I think and feel? Is it changing the rhythms of my day? Does life seem to be moving more quickly (or slowly) as a result of this gadget? Is it affecting my work? My home life? If so, are the effects good or bad?

Most importantly for me, I wonder about the slow/quick factor. It seems that the more functionality a device has, the more potential it has to speed everything up into one big blog of information. The only devices that slow down my day now are my Kindle and my old hard-drive iPod. Both are almost archaically focused devices, and that’s what makes life better: closer, more intense focus. So next time you wonder about upgrading or buying a new tablet, phone, laptop or OS, wonder whether it will slow everything down, or speed everything up.

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