A tech guy adopts e-ink thinking and decimates his home electronics … here’s what manifested.

I’ll preface this post by stating my day job is working in technology in cultural sites and has been for 20 years. I started Voices of the Past in 2008 as a manifestation of my personal mission to equip folks with digital tool and practices that help them build their legacies–both personal and community. I do love to see those connections made. But balance is key, and I’ve been the proverbial boiled frog these last several years with technology encroaching on every facet of my existence.

That realization came a several months ago when I read Greg McKeown’s advice about making “one decision that makes 1,000” and decided to apply that to every facet of my life. One of those decisions I labeled “e-ink thinking.” To me, this means identifying what is the bare minimum tech you need to enhance your life, ridding yourself of as many things possible that would be considered distraction. A black-and-white kind of existence as opposed to the constant swirl of color and noise from our streaming video world.

From childhood, even in the 1970s, too much TV, bright lights, large crowds, loud noise, etc. would unnerve me. I talk about this a bit in another post “You don’t have to be a king to find your voice.” I needed to find a way to mitigate that and take back control of my brainspace.

Before: Tech Overrun

For those of you who use apps to turn on your lights, I was already a Luddite, and God bless if it truly enhances your life. For me, every device (defined as being powered by electricity or battery) generated another layer of distraction and brain fog. Here’s what I started out with at home:

  • 55″ Roku TV
  • iPad Air
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 6s and iPhone 5 (used mainly as digital photo albums)
  • Amazon Echo
  • Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
  • Apple AirPods (and various other Bluetooth earbuds)
  • Brother Electric Typewriter
  • MacBook Air with ALL the bluetooth peripherals
  • Mac Mini G3 (for all my OS9 games!)
  • Desktop PC
  • A combo record/CD/radio player.
  • DVD player
  • Freewrite Traveler Word Processor

After: The Read/Write Life

What’s left are devices that are generally either E-Ink or audio-based. Here are the last pieces of tech still inhabiting my residence:

  • First generation Amazon Echo
  • Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
  • Brother Electric Typewriter
  • Light Phone II
  • Freewrite Traveler Word Processor
  • A combo record/CD/DVD/radio player.
  • and I’m counting my “gaming” device: Dataman, the handheld I had when I was about 8 years old.

I’ve been working with this setup about four months. It was maddening those first two weeks. But, slowly I realized the dream: No passwords to constantly have to remember or two-factor authentication hassles. No updates or freezes. No constant notifications.

Among my goals related to this decision was “To be at home in my own mind.” A critical component of that was to get rid of the constant external noise in my ears. This meant being more intentional about podcast and music listening. While my Light Phone does do podcasts and mp3s, you sync them manually through a desktop computer. When I made this decision, it was with the knowledge that I’d be spending a lot of time in waiting rooms and commutes without these crutches to entertain me. It meant making peace with what’s in my head, which often felt so raw and just not a place I wanted to be. But getting past that withdrawal stage, I find that has changed. I enjoy opportunities to think and contemplate and generally be grateful that at least in my personal life, all is quiet.

Concessions and Adaptations

Making this decision hasn’t changed the fact that there are some things I still have to get done requiring tech and media, but there are things you can do in those cases that are intentional and not simply distractions. And there are very satisfying ways to spend discretionary hours that have nothing to do with a phone or computer.

  • I have an old iPhone 6 in my truck glove compartment in case I REALLY need a device for a special app-only use–primarily travel related.
  • I went to cash-only spending for discretionary items so no payment apps or credit card necessary. I’m much, much more mindful of money now.
  • I can use library computers.
  • I am consuming the surviving library of 40 or so favorite CDs and as many DVDs that I was never able to let go of.
  • In addition to that, I read physical, paper-bound books everyday. I hadn’t finished a book in years prior to this. In the last month, I finished three.
  • My echo will play my Amazon Music items, including podcasts and Kindle books if I just have to have that fix.
  • I go to the gym six days a week, and never miss.

Manifestations

My life has changed in the last few months, and that’s no exaggeration. Here are some of the ways:

  • I’ve lost 25 pounds and counting, packed on a lot of muscle and ran my first 5k down in Key West in January.
  • I naturally developed systems for planning and evaluation rather than trusting a device to tell me when to do things. My brain alone always know where I’m supposed to be over the course of a week, and when. And I pretty much always know what time it is instinctually.
  • My productivity has soared measurably.
  • I’m more mindful, optimistic and contented.
  • A full night’s satisfying rest, every night.
  • Rather that identifying as a writer and never doing it, now it’s part of my daily morning routine. Also, I treat myself to a “free day” meal at Panera once a week where I spend about four hours straight writing creatively on my Freewrite.
  • After 10 years of battling. Resistance in updating this blog, I’m now posting to it on a weekly basis and for the first time have an editorial calendar with about 40 ideas in queue.

I know there is much more to come. Dreams that I thought would never come true because of unmindful living now seem very tangible. It will take a while to build momentum, but you know what?

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