Jordan Koschei jordan koschei

Tech + Culture

I want to be bored more.

I want to be the person on the train who notices things and remembers faces and wasn’t glued to his phone the whole time.

I want to be present, even in the liminal moments throughout the day. Waiting in line, waiting for my coffee, waiting for the page to load.

I want to feel embodied as I walk my dog. I want to hear birds and feel sunshine and feel like part of the environment, rather than being stuck in my headphones.

I don’t want my day to be subdivided into podcast episodes.

I don’t want to find myself thinking in tweets.

I don’t want the most memorable parts of my day to be something I saw on a screen.

I can’t remember most of this stuff afterwards anyway.

There used to be so much more space to be bored, to be alone with my thoughts. The internet was someplace you went deliberately, not an ambient part of the environment. My hand didn’t twitch towards my phone if I forgot the name of an actor or something. I didn’t feel the need to check my email while pooping. My hand didn’t compulsively reach for my phone, because I wasn’t afraid of being alone with my thoughts for more than 30 seconds.

The web is built around hyperlinks, and yet I was so much better at making connections between disparate ideas before I carried the whole internet around in my pocket. Maybe having those connections constantly, instantly available has made my brain offload that function, just as it’s made me offload my memory. I’m 29, but I can’t remember things like I used to.

I’m scared of being remade in the image of the devices I carry.

Time feels disjointed to me now, smeared across the devices and websites and the services in which I’ve fragmented my identity.

The valuable things in life come with lots of friction. They take work and the capacity for deep, deliberate, concentrated focus. If we lose the ability for that, how can we muse? Savor? Pray? How can we Be, rather than Do?

Meditating using a smartphone app is like hosting an AA meeting at a bar.

Constant stimulation is a drug. The more content we consume, the more content we need to consume to feel satiated. Eventually we find ourselves on a treadmill and the only way our brains feel stimulated is by constantly consuming more and more. We have to check our phones while watching Netflix. We have to flit back and forth between Facebook and Twitter and Instagram while watching Netflix. Even that starts to feel boring. Eventually we’re bored all the time, because the world doesn’t hold enough interest for our gluttinous, addicted brains. The more stimulation we feed ourselves, the more boring everything becomes. Eventually we can’t even be in the world without listening to a podcast or checking the latest on our phones because all of Creation isn’t enough for us.

Sunshine and birdsong may reflect the glory of God, but have you seen this article on Buzzfeed?

I didn’t know what to write after that last sentence, and suddenly I realized I’d opened up Chrome and hit CMD-T and T and return and suddenly I was on Twitter. It was a reflex. I didn’t even know I was doing it.

Slow is good. Boring is good. The more we allow ourselves to be bored — the more we allow ourselves to be alone with our thoughts — the less boring that boredom will seem. The world has infinite stimuli and infinite depth, but we can’t appreciate depth if we’re constantly training ourselves to prefer breadth. We’re skimming when we could be luxuriating. All because our monkey brains crave stimulation and the internet is the world’s greatest Skinner Box.

I want my brain back.

I want to be bored more.

Attention is the Resource We Treat Most Casually

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Blaise Pascal, likely before compulsively checking Twitter

For knowledge workers — designers, programmers, writers, analysts, and desk jockeys of all kinds — our minds are our greatest asset. We get paid for our ability to turn our brains towards a problem, ruminate on an answer, and produce a solution. It’s how we create value.

Our attention is our most valuable resource, yet it’s the one we treat most casually.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but tell me if this sounds familiar:

I think long and hard before spending money. I hate to waste food or drink. I cringe at the thought of leaving a light on unused. And yet I’ll sink an hour into browsing TechCrunch or Hacker News and barely realize it.

Media Diets & Mental Junk Food

When it comes to our bodies, we understand intuitively that diet is important. “You are what you eat,” after all. Fruits and veggies in, your body gets stronger. Twizzlers and Twinkies, not so much.

We’re less attuned to the way our media diet affects our minds. We may know on some level that an hour of browsing Reddit isn’t the same as an hour spent reading a good book, but that doesn’t stop us from making the easier choice. The short bursts of Twitter are more enticing than the slow burn of literature; the driving beat and nursery-rhyme melodies of Katy Perry are more fun than the impenetrable riches of anything classical. Pull-to-refresh provides a stronger dopamine hit than ponder-and-fathom.

It’s irrational, isn’t it? If our livelihood is based on our ability to focus our attention, then we should flee from anything that weakens our attention span and flock towards anything that strengthens it. As the “knowledge economy” grows, we should see a whole army of voracious readers and dedicated meditators. Instead, we have a world of quick cuts and hot takes. It takes an addiction to make us act so irrationally against our own self-interest.

Junk food short-circuits our genetic predisposition towards sugar and fat to make us crave it more than any fruits or vegetables. Similarly, the mental foods that are bad for us short-circuit our cravings for information. We may know that John McPhee is better for us than The Bachelor, but that doesn’t mean we won’t pick The Bachelor every time.

(Maybe it isn’t The Bachelor for you; maybe it’s something else. Or maybe you have better self-control than I do and this isn’t a problem for you at all. Anyway, isn’t Demi the worst this season?)

Saving Our Attention

The mind is a clearinghouse for information. Information goes in, is processed by a set of particular filters and biases and mental models, and comes out as knowledge.

That’s what we should be preserving at all costs — our minds’ ability to focus well.

It seems like everyone in tech circles is talking about this. Daily meditation, tech sabbaths, internet detox retreats, focus-boosting apps… they’re everywhere. They feel a little like putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. But, in the absence of a better solution (or the willpower to ditch Twitter and Reddit), they’ll have to do.

I’m admittedly terrible at following my own advice, but here are some resources I’ve found that have helped boost my attention, or at least mitigate my distractedness:

  • 📙 Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day. A book by the guys who wrote Sprint about techniques they’ve found to focus better and remember more of their days.
  • 📘 The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. It’s a few years old, but this book by Nicholas Carr explores how our brains rewire around the media we spend time with. The more time we spend with quick, shallow information (like Twitter and Reddit), the less capable we are of consuming deep information (like books). Scary.
  • 📙 Amusing Ourselves to Death. This classic by Neil Postman was written before the era of the internet, but its discussion of the effects of television on our brains feels as timely as ever.
  • Focus. A macOS app that disables distracting websites and apps for as long as you specify, with no take-backs.
  • 🔗 Liberate for iOS. Same idea as Focus, but for iOS. It blocks websites only (no apps), and unfortunately can be disabled, but still helpful.

Postscript

I like the idea of meditation, in the sense of sitting quietly and thinking deeply for a stretch of time. If we hold that deliberate practice is the single most effective way to get great at anything, than it makes sense that the best way to increase your focus and attention is to practice being focused and attentive.

I don’t like the pseudo-spirituality of apps like Headspace and Calm (yes, even the apps that claim not to have a spiritual bent seem to have a spiritual bent, whether they themselves realize it or not). I like the idea of having a meditation timer with soothing sounds and a bell to tell me when my time is up, but I’d rather have an app dedicated to that purpose than use a timer buried in a more fully-featured meditation app.

Since I haven’t been able to find anything like that yet, I’m building my own. It’s called Interlude, it’s an unguided meditation timer, and it’s my first solo iOS app. I’ve had a chance to do some work in Swift while working on Dwell, and this seems like a good way to flex my engineering muscles and create something of my own.

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The Generosity of Making

For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?

Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

This quote is about making food, but I think it goes for making anything: artwork, music, or even an app.

It’s easy to get caught up in the abstract side of what we do, but it’s so important to remember that behind every email answered, line of code committed, and pixel pushed are the people we’re doing it for.

Radical Technologies

I’ve been reading the book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life by Adam Greenfield, and I thought this quote insightful, on how smartphones shape our lives:

It’s easy, too easy, to depict the networked subject as being isolated, in contact with others only at the membrane that divides them. But if anything, the overriding quality of our era is porosity. Far from affording any kind of psychic sanctuary, the walls we mortar around ourselves turn out to be as penetrable a barrier as any other. Work invades our personal time, private leaks into public, the intimate is trivially shared, and the concerns of the wider world seep into what ought to be a space for recuperation and recovery. Above all, horror finds us wherever we are.

I started reading the book a while back, but life got in the way and I’m finally picking it up again. It’s a breakdown of how nine different technologies are reshaping the world in invisible ways, from how the Internet of Things promotes a worldview of “unreconstructed logical positivism” (the belief that everything can be perfectly measured, and thus perfectly controlled, and human bias can be eliminated) to how smartphones make us nodes in a network, rather than discrete individuals.

Most books in this genre are either too optimistic or too pessimistic for my taste, but this one is neither technophilic or technophobic. Also unlike most books in the genre, it doesn’t read like a BuzzFeed article (“You won’t believe how these 9 technologies will make your life awesome!!!”)… it feels more like something Marshall McLuhan would write.

All-in-all, it’s been a lot to chew on, and I’m left with the feeling that it’s an important read. It’s certainly changing my understanding of the technologies that are coming down the pike. I’m a particular fan of the chapter titles, which sum up the thesis of each chapter and contain gems like:

  1. The internet of things: A planetary mesh of perception and response
  2. Digital fabrication: Towards a political economy of matter
  3. Automation: The annihilation of work

With a last name like Greenfield, it’s no wonder the author writes about high technology.

Leaving Twitter

I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago. Before leaving, I removed Tweetbot and Instagram from my phone — anything with a feed, really, including Slack and email etc.

As expected, my mind felt clearer almost immediately. Without Twitter close at hand, I lost the constant urge to see what’s going on elsewhere. Without Instagram ready to go, I stopped unconsciously evaluating every moment for how well it would look on my Story.

Coming back, I’ve decided to end my relationship with Twitter for good. It’s been almost ten years — I started in college, quit after a little while, and then rejoined again. (All part of my usual love/hate relationship with all things social.)

Things were good back then. I followed lots of web people, and learned about things like web standards. There was less vitriol and more collegiality, less corporatism and more direct access to real, interesting people.

In many ways, Twitter kicked off my career. It’s how I discovered the people and publications that taught me my craft. It’s where I first connected with The Industry, which would be my first real contribution to the design community. It’s how I’ve found and referred work, and met people who’ve been influential in my professional life.

Part of the joy of Twitter was its openness towards third-party clients. Don’t like twitter.com? Use a different app.

I’ve been a loyal Tweetbot user for a long time. Even as Twitter switched to an algorithmic feed, and added Moments, and added advertising, Tweetbot felt like the old Twitter.

It was well-designed, chronological, and sane. Even before Twitter had built-in muting, I had robust filters on Tweetbot that would filter out almost anything political, histrionic, or otherwise obnoxious. It made Twitter feel more like the early days.

Of course, this story ends predictably — Twitter changed its policy towards API access, severely crippling Tweetbot and its ilk. No more automatic timeline updates, no more activity tab. They clearly want everyone to come back to their subpar first-party apps.

So with that, I’m done with Twitter. If it’s a choice between using Twitter in its current form — poorly-run, blood-pressure-raising, user-hostile — or not using it at all… well, I choose not using it at all.

There are other reasons. I don’t like what Twitter does to my brain. During periods when I’ve been using it heavily, I can feel a shift towards thinking in Tweetable phrases.

I want to think in paragraphs, not sentences. I want my brain to pursue complex trains of thought, not quips designed to maximize engagement.

For the foreseeable future, I’m turning Twitter on autopilot. It’ll publish links to my blog via a Zapier integration, but I won’t be posting or checking otherwise. I’ve pinned a link to my email newsletter, which I’m resurrecting for anyone who wants to still get updates from me.

Yes, this will shrink my reach a little (not that it was exactly huge to begin with). But better to have a handful of followers who truly care than a multitude who won’t notice if I’m no longer in their feeds.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d rather have my thoughts archived on a corner of the web that I own, rather than homesteading on some company’s land.

My priorities will never line up with Twitter’s. If I have something to say, then, I’d rather say it here.

Increasing Optionality

One heuristic I find useful for making decisions is: will this increase or decrease my optionality?

In other words, will a given decision open up the range of future options available to me?

I have a friend who lived, for several years, off of 50% of his salary. This gave him several options that most of us don’t have:

  1. Each year he worked gave him enough money in the bank to spend a year not working, while maintaining the same quality of life. (Or, in his case, working entirely on personal projects without drawing a salary).
  2. He could take a much lower-paying job without having to adjust his lifestyle. If he found a job he was passionate about that paid only half his current salary, he could take it without downsizing his life.

Conversely, if someone is living off 100% of their salary, their options for other jobs are constrained — they either need to find work with equal or higher salary, or they need to downsize.

Debt is the prime example of a constraint on financial choices. If I take out a loan, it may increase my short-term optionality (I have more immediate funds to work with), but decrease my long-term optionality (a larger chunk of my income is now devoted to repaying debt)

Money is an easy example, but there are plenty of others:

  • If I have a pet, will it constrain my ability to travel?
  • If I take on volunteer commitments, will it constrain my ability to spend time working on a side project?
  • If I take a trip and plan out what I’m doing every hour, will it hamper my ability to make choices in-the-moment and do what seems interesting?

I suppose this is all related to opportunity cost — time and resources are finite, so we can’t do one thing without reducing our bandwidth to do other things. Optionality is about understanding your priorities.

It strikes me that life is largely built around choosing where we’re comfortable reducing our available options, in order to open up more options.

I choose to work a full-time job because, even though it reduces my available time by 40 hours a week, it increases my available resources to spend on the other 128 hours.

I choose to work on my side projects because I value them more than I value whatever diversions I could spend that time doing.

At any branch in the path, though, I still find it useful to ask myself: will this increase or decrease my range of available options?

Do One Thing

Most of us live in a constant state of Continuous Partial Attention. Rather than focusing on one thing at a time, our attention is constantly scattered among a variety of sources, each of which only has part of our focus.

We’re at work, but we’re also keeping tabs on a text chain.

We’re reading a book, but we’re also checking Twitter or Instagram every two paragraphs.

We’re in a conversation, but our eyes keep flicking up to the TV on in the background.

Maintaining a state of Continuous Partial Attention is rarely a choice, but our current media environment seems specially designed to keep us in that state. We keep our phones in our pockets like a totem, our hands and minds constantly reaching for them as soon as we feel the mildest itch of boredom.

We can no longer bear to be doing nothing. We can’t just stand in line, waiting, without checking some other source of information. We’ve sacrificed solitude — not even true solitude, but just being alone with our thoughts — at the altar of being Always On.

Checking our feeds makes us feel like we’re in control. Really, they’re just making us scattered and docile.

We need boredom. We need to give our minds the chance to do one thing at a time. Boredom is a prerequisite for creativity. Multitasking is a myth.

Ironically, it’s this same media environment that’s connected to the massive upswing in jobs that are considered “knowledge work.” And knowledge work requires more dedicated attention than other jobs. It’s hard to write, or code, or design without reaching a state of flow. And yet the things we’re writing, coding, or designing seem best suited to preventing others from reaching the same.

A professor of mine used to say:

You can’t use a hammer without getting a callous.

What’s the callous our current tools are giving us?

###All this is to say:###

I’m tired of never being fully present. This week, I’m issuing myself a challenge: only do one thing at a time.

If I’m eating, I want to be eating — not reading or watching Parks and Rec or doing something else at the same time.

If I’m working, I don’t want Twitter on in the background. Or Slack. Or email.

If I’m watching TV, I don’t want to be on my phone as well.

That’s my plan. Feel free to join me.

Small Sabbaths

The idea of Sabbath — a time set apart for rest and (in the observant believer’s case) worship — is essential to the Christian faith. And it’s not just Christians who believe in the value of restorative, rejuvenative rest — Sabbath is found everywhere, both in other religions and in the secular world (weekends, anybody?).

We humans are wired to need a day off. No matter how much our culture promotes go-go-go, we need some time set aside for rest and contemplation. It’s not just okay to preserve a day for yourself, without thinking of your day job/freelance work/side hustle – it’s necessary.

But I think we need more than just the one “official” Sabbath day per week. Each day needs its own smaller Sabbath — some time to ground ourselves, get lost in our own heads, and clear the board for whatever comes next.

I’ve been trying to be more disciplined about taking time to myself at the beginning of each day. I need true rest, away from high-attention outside inputs — no TV, no podcasts, no smartphone. Just time to be alone, contemplating. Giving my mind space to wander, to mull over old ideas and come up with new ones. To make connections I wouldn’t have made under the dull throbbing influence of the many activity feeds.

I always aim to work from a posture of rest — that is, not rushing and scrambling and feeling on the back-foot, but working diligently with the understanding that my work is not what defines me. But the only way I can hope to do that is by allowing myself time in the presence of things that are energizing, not enervating.

For me, that means some time each morning with no news media (enervating, and depressing). No podcasts (enervating, and a good way to avoid doing your own thinking). No Netflix (if you feel more tired after an hour of watching it, that counts as enervating). Yes to reading, and thinking, and praying. Yes to listening to music. Yes to making something for its own sake, rather than because it’ll get plaudits or likes or shares.

I’m coming to relish these small Sabbaths each day. I’m not yet consistent with them, and sometimes I forget or run out of time. But in a society that’s obsessed with productivity and efficiency and “life hacks” (what an awful phrase), it’s worth taking the time to just be a person.

Do you know what’s gross? There’s probably someone out there who’s going to read this, or a similar article, and think, “Cool! I can use this to be more energized and efficient at work.” But that’s defeating the purpose. Sabbath isn’t designed to be pragmatic. It’s designed to be Sabbath.

Handwriting

As I get older, I’ve come to value handwriting more and more.

When I was a kid, I never understood why we had to handwrite everything in school, often in (gasp) cursive. I preferred the speed and precision of typing, especially as someone who had terrible handwriting. I felt the same way throughout my academic career, especially when it was validated in college by the expectation that everything would be type.

Even in college I noticed that my retention was lower when I typed. I ignored the signs then, because I still preferred typing to hand cramps, but now there’s research backing up the idea that typed notes are less effective than handwritten ones. As the Wall Street Journal asked: Can handwriting make you smarter?

Similarly, my retention is lower when reading a book on a Kindle rather than on paper. Anecdotal, I know, but I suspect the data would bear this out.

[begin unscientific conjecture]

My guess about why paper and handwriting beats screens and typing? The human brain has been tuned over millions of years to register geographic data as important. Where’s the best source of food? Where’s good shelter? Where’s that den of vicious animals to avoid?

Screens don’t have their own geography — no matter what you’re reading on a screen, it’s still the same screen. Your brain has less reason to automatically memorize it. There’s no geographic data like there is with the page. Similarly, handwriting has a spatial component that typing does not — the texture and smell of the page, and the feel of the pen as it glides over the paper, make a difference.

[end of unscientific conjecture]

All this is to say: I want to be someone who writes things out longhand more than I do. I want to carry a commonplace book around with me to record quotes and notes. I want to draft essays on paper and then transfer them into my computer. I want to keep a journal that doesn’t rely on a hard drive. I want the notes I put in the margins of books to be comprehensible by future generations.

What’s stopping me? Mostly my handwriting — it’s atrocious. I often can’t read things I wrote a few hours earlier.

I wish I’d spent more time working on my handwriting in school. It’s possible to practice and change your handwriting, but it’s hard, and you have to work through the decades of muscle memory (and hand cramps).

Also, there’s the downside of having a notebook that looks like it was last used by a serial killer. Row after row of capital A, lowercase A, capital B, lowercase B. I’m just inches away from “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

But it’s worth the effort.

Why I Don't Talk About Politics on Twitter

I rarely talk about politics, philosophy, theology, or anything else that matters on Twitter.

Why? I have several reasons:

  1. I can’t stand it when I follow someone because I’m interested in their thoughts on design and CSS architecture, and am then subjected to their political views. I don’t want to be that person to anyone else.
  2. Nobody’s mind will be changed, so it would have no purpose except to make me feel better.
  3. I’m used to my views being heterodox to both the Left and the Right, so it would more likely be an exercise in self-flagellation.
  4. Twitter leaves no room for nuance, and I can’t think of a single opinion I have that doesn’t require some nuance. I’m not interested in spewing aphorisms. Those aphorisms are part of the reason our political climate is what it is.
  5. Twitter makes any political statement sound arrogant.
  6. Twitter makes any political statement sound like a rant.

Talking about politics on social media almost always leads to someone losing respect for someone else. Respect is the key to healthy discourse, and any medium that doesn’t foster an environment of respect is unsuitable for talking about serious things.

There are many venues which are conducive for discussing serious things, but Twitter isn’t one of them. (Nor is Medium, in my opinion, because of similar echo chamber effects. Has anyone’s mind ever been changed by a Medium post? Has any political Medium post that you disagree with not come across as arrogant?)

New ≠ Better

Here’s a video of a grass mowing competition in which a scythe beats a modern, powered lawnmower:

Our society fetishizes newness. We want new technology, new entertainment, new thinking, new solutions. Sometimes, our desire for newness prevents us from seeing the value in what already exists.

Modern industrial farms have no place for horses, even though horses can handle some types of terrain better than our most advanced industrial farming machinery. There’s land that modern farms let return to wilderness, even though it could be productive and fruitful if we used technology that was commonplace two generations ago.

Of course there are always tradeoffs. A scythe may be faster than a lawnmower, but it uses more human energy — it’s harder for someone who’s out-of-shape to use it, and it’s harder to use over long distances. If an industrial farm started supplementing their machinery with horses, they’d damage their economies of scale. (There’s a case to be made that a farm that can’t be managed by a team of horses is too large, but I’ll leave that to Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan to argue.)

I’m not a Luddite — I don’t think that new things are necessarily worse than old things. I just don’t think they’re necessarily better.

It’s really hard to break out of the new-is-better pattern of thinking; it’s so pervasive that we’re immersed in it. It’s like asking a fish to describe what it means to be wet.

Tech is for Everyone

Anyone with an internet connection and enough motivation can learn how to design and program the next big thing, no degree required. Tech is no longer just for engineers and programmers. It’s for the retiree looking for a second career, and the 12-year-old who decides she wants to make her own video game. It’s for the college student who wants to boost his resumé, and the immigrant looking to get plugged in to their new community. Tech is for everyone.

This is the first entry in a newspaper column I’ll be curating in conjunction with the Poughkeepsie Journal and the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup. The monthly column will be written by members of the Hudson Valley tech community, and will cover design, technology, and their effects on the local economy and culture.

Stay tuned.

Rebuilding My Brain in 2017

I feel like my brain is getting slower.

Some context: when I was a kid, I used to feel like I was smart. Like, really smart. I taught myself to program, I was addicted to learning, and I read voraciously — up to 100 pages an hour at my peak. When I found an activity that interested me I’d sink into it obsessively.

But lately, I haven’t felt this way. I’ve felt less creative, less imaginative. It feels like my memory isn’t working properly. I don’t have anything close to the attention span that I once had. This isn’t supposed to happen when you’re 27.

I think I can chalk this up to lifestyle issues The brain is a muscle, and like all muscles, it grows or atrophies based on what you do with it. I’ve become convinced that a steady diet of Twitter and Netflix diminishes your ability to think deeply and creatively.

In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr describes this phenomenon as such: Different media encourage different types of thinking. The internet makes the brain into a jet ski – we skim vast swaths of information quickly, but shallowly. Books make the brain into a scuba diver – we cover less information, but do so more deeply.

The brain is optimized for quick, shallow scans of information. It’s how we survived on the savanna millions of years ago, when “living well” meant identifying threats and opportunities as quickly as they emerged. Left to our own devices, we’ll always go back to the quick-and-shallow media – Facebook, Twitter, CNN, Buzzfeed.

But I don’t want to think shallowly. It’s easier, but it also makes me feel out-of-control. An hour watching Netflix leaves me feeling unsatisfied — at the end, all I want to do is watch more Netflix. An hour of reading leaves me feeling the opposite — energized and satiated, ready to take on the world. Shallow media feels like binge eating fast food; deep media feels like savoring a good, slow meal.

All this is prologue. In 2017, I want to reclaim my attention, for three reasons:

  1. I’m going to be married soon, and I believe that part of being the best husband I can be is to be as present as possible.
  2. The world feels a little sideways right now, and I’d rather be walking around awake than in a binge-media stupor. The 140-character news cycle of Twitter is unhealthy; to be truly informed takes a mind accustomed to deeper thinking.
  3. I just feel better when I’m in control of my brain.

Here are some changes I’ve made this year in the pursuit of a deeper, richer thought life. They’ve been working so far, but it’s been 30 days or less, so consider this a continuing experiment:

  • No more Netflix. I canceled my Netflix account. Now, if I want to watch something, I’ve found a few iTunes U courses that interest me. The courses are far more engaging than watching the same old sitcoms on Netflix, and it turns out that there’s less of an urge to binge watch a Yale professor than the escapades of Ted, Marshall, and Barney.
  • Keep my phone plugged in far away from my bed, so I have to get up and walk to reach it. If my phone is reachable from my bed, I will find myself staring into a beam of light before I go to bed every night, which is terrible for your circadian rhythm, and makes for an unrestful night of sleep.
  • Don’t check social media or the news in the morning. How I start the day sets the tone for the next 16 hours. If I start the day with negativity, alarmism, and short bursts of information, that’ll be my mood for the rest of the day.
  • Removed Twitter from my phone. I’ve already gone years without a Facebook account, and this was the logical next step. Twitter is now inaccessible from my phone, tablet, and (thanks to the macOS app Focus) computer from the time I wake up until 5pm.
  • Read a lot. I’m 4 books in for 2017, and my goal is to hit 50.