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How to use technology to increase your productivity

How to use technology to increase your productivity

A new wave of tech devices is helping to restore our focus and productivity, after years of seeing our attention spans shrink

For decades, our world of ever-evolving technology grew to offer us never-ending connectivity. From high-speed internet and wifi to emails and texts, we are rarely out of touch with the world around us.

The realm of unintended consequences stepped in and imposed a cost on that unrelenting communication. Medical studies indicate our brains are rewiring to expect constant communication, and attention spans grow shorter.

"Our brains are rewiring to expect constant communication, and attention spans grow shorter"

Whether working or relaxing, many people are losing the ability to quiet down and concentrate.

In an ironic twist of technology turning back upon itself to undo its own effects, a new category of deliberately limited devices disconnect us from the communication stream—blocking out the world so we remain productive.

reMarkable 2

The folks at reMarkable jumped in to design a tablet that resembles a traditional legal pad more than any iPad. Now in its second edition, the reMarkable 2 relies on a partnered stylus allowing the owner to write notes by hand onto a screen slightly textured to feel like paper.

Whether the document is text-based, a drawing, a diagram, etc, proper handwriting can be transformed into typed text, and the notes are saved into a cloud service.

Still, what’s more interesting is what the reMarkable 2 cannot do. While it can email notes out into the world, it cannot receive them, surf the web, check social media or take on texts.

If the user steps away from the cellphone and computer, he or she is left alone to produce.

Removing the distractions

Tablet tech device and paper notepadCourtesy of reMarkable. The reMarkable combines the distraction-free experience of paper notes with a tablet device

Henrik Faller, reMarkable’s vice president of communications, explains reMarkable founder Magnus Wanberg struggled to focus when working on his laptop while studying in college because it was too easy to go online or read emails.

"Wanberg had the idea for technology that merged paper with the digital world"

“He decided to leave his computer and phone at home, and work exclusively on paper instead. Faller says. “Wanberg found he could think better on paper, and he had the idea for technology that merged paper with the digital world.”

Wanberg and the ReMarkable team see people trying to figure out ways to focus and create output, instead of just getting input from technology.

Digital paper

“To achieve productivity, we remove the distractions,” Wanberg says. “We designed the operating system and the user interface to not disrupt your train of thought. You open up a clean sheet of digital ‘paper,’ and you can focus and get your thoughts down on that.”

Using a reMarkable 2 involves little more than unpacking the tablet and stylus. Writing or drawing is immediate, and it takes only a few minutes to decode the file organisation and cloud saving service.

Freewrite

Traveler Freewrite tech device for writing without distractionCourtesy of Colin Butts (Astrohaus). The Freewrite allows writers to pen drafts without being distracted by apps or the urge to edit

While the reMarkable 2 revives the peace and purpose of working with a paper and pencil, the new Freewrite from Astrohaus moves writing forward by turning the clock back to the days of word processors.

Whether in the compact Traveler edition or the more desktop-centric Smart Typewriter form, the Freewrite encourages an ideal flow state for writing by creating word processing documents that are saved in the cloud on popular services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote.

The writer looks at a familiar keyboard and a small screen only large enough to see the sentence under construction and a few of its predecessors. There’s no mouse and no trackpad, and the only online capability is cloud saving.

"The Freewrite was designed to separate the drafting process from the editing process"

Emails, social media, texts, chat and video conferencing live on other devices, far away from the writer at work.

According to Adam Leeb, CEO and co-founder of Astrohaus, the Freewrite was designed as part of a writing philosophy to separate the drafting process from the editing process.

“We have our whole lives on our laptops and tablets,” Leeb says. “The temptation and distraction present on those devices is real and very much limits the ability of anyone who writes to focus on their work.”

Leeb insists the Freewrite team sees people becoming more disenchanted with the nag of constant consumption.

Keeping the writing experience pure

“We now have to fight for our own attention from the outside world,” he says. “Instead of allowing Freewrite to be a general-purpose computer, we focused on one purpose—making the best user experience. We pushed as much configuration off the device to keep the writing experience as pure as possible.”

The steps toward adopting a Freewrite are as simple as opening the box and turning on the machine. After a brief orientation on keyboard navigation commands and cloud setup, it’s time to write.

“When it comes time to sync with the cloud, the user simply connects to wifi and inputs their email address,” Leeb adds. “All their writing uploads to the cloud and will sync from that point forward, until they disconnect.”

Designed for writing flow

Finally, the design of the Freewrite encourages writing flow by deliberately making editing difficult.

Unlike so many other modern devices that pull attention away from the task at hand, the Freewrite harkens back to the era of typewriters in which the writer got it all down on paper and worried about revising later.

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