Decrease Your Tech to Increase Your Brain

When I’m practicing and preaching the principles of Less Doing, I place great emphasis on the use of new and emerging technologies. …Maybe too much.

Technology is great and the rewards of human innovation are too many to name here, but, many of us – myself included – can be guilty of spending too much time with the tech that has so dramatically improved our lives.

Do we really need to take our laptops everywhere?

Does in-flight WiFi actually matter on a trip from New York to LA? Will our productivity truly tank if we unplug for the five or six hours we’re in the air?

The answer to both questions – of course – is NO.

In keeping with the theme of travel, I never take my laptop on the road. I know that sounds like a dangerous proposition, but it’s a hard and fast rule that has greatly benefitted my life.

The tech tools I travel with?—an iPhone (which is switched off while I fly), Legal Pad, and ballpoint pen.

Seriously—that’ it!

Not only does this make packing a far less cumbersome experience, but confining myself to pen and paper for hours on end allows my brain to work in an entirely different way.

Writing, as opposed to typing, opens otherwise ignored neural pathways that don’t get nearly enough exercise in our increasingly digital age.

No, I’m not making this up—there’s real science to back it up.

Reports in a variety of publications – including The Guardian, Medical Daily, and Psychological Science – clearly demonstrate how writing improves memory, boosts learning, mitigates distraction, and generally maximizes cognitive function.

Even though I eventually digitize whatever I handwrite into Evernote via Fancy Hands or some other outsourcing service, the original thought-development is done by hand.

But that’s just one example. How about another more practical day-to-day illustration?—washing dishes by hand.

At the Meisel house, we got rid of our dishwasher years ago and haven’t looked back.

Aside from the potential health perks, I find handwashing to be highly meditative. It’s a great way to engage in distraction-free thought, the personal benefits of which greatly outweigh the potential time saved by using a dishwasher.

Do we miss the convenience of a dishwasher when we have friends and family over for Thanksgiving dinner?—absolutely. But holidays aside, our daunting dish loads are few and far between. The 10 to 15 minutes it takes to cleanup following our typical meal is a perfect time for contemplative reflection.

If dishes and writing aren’t your thing, know that the low-tech alternatives are limitless.

Walk to the store rather than drive.

Pick up a paperback and put down the Kindle when you’re at home.

Make a phone call to a friend instead of sending a voiceless text.

We may have the tech, but we don’t have to use it. Analyze your life and make a conscious choice about when and where to use technology.

Your brain will thank you, I guarantee it.