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Apps are overrated. Here’s when you should use an analog tool

Sometimes tech is not the answer.

Apps are overrated. Here’s when you should use an analog tool
[Source images: milindri/iStock; lucato/iStock; Nastco/iStock]

Being distracted by your phone

Tech solution: You can put your phone on airplane mode, but that’s easily reversed, and it doesn’t stop you from picking it up to play Solitaire mindlessly.

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Analog solution: Power cord. Treat your mobile phone like a landline and keep it plugged in—across the room. If you want to use it, you’ll have to get up from your desk and walk over to it, making the quick Twitter check less appealing.

Completing large long-term goals

Tech solution: Goal-setting apps such as Strides can help you organize and track your progress, but they can also be ignored—and they don’t do anything to strengthen your willpower.

Analog solution: $100 bill. “Make a pact with yourself and use a pre-commitment device,” where the consequence of doing the task is immediately rewarding, suggests Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable. For example, if you finish a report this week, you can use the $100 on a new bag. If not, it goes toward savings.

Controlling time spent on email

Tech solution: Apps like Batched- Inbox will hide and deliver your email at pre-designated times, but they don’t reduce the volume. You’ll just have to deal with it later.

Analog solution: Email-free Fridays. If you’re a manager, consider banning email at your company one day a week to give everyone a chance to focus on work instead of their inbox. Call or text people if you need to, or better yet, just walk over to their desks.

Powering through the afternoon slump

Tech solution: Web-blocking apps such as Freedom remove the temptation to web-surf, but they don’t actually help you focus and do the thing you need to complete.

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Analog solution: A coffee break, or even envisioning one. Research published in Consciousness and Cognition found that imagining the scent and taste of coffee enhances mental concentration. Sorry, Earl Grey fans, a virtual tea break didn’t get similar results.

A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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