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How to Approach the Tools We Have

Recently when reading the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, He discusses two types of approaches that we may have about technology. The first approach Newport calls the Any-Benefit approach. This approach is feeling “justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything that might possibly miss out on If you don’t use it.” Essentially if an app/website/game has any kind of benefit at all, it is worth using. Newport interviewed a successful farmer and asked him how he selects his farming tools. If you think about it, every tool in IFA could potentially have some benefit to the farm. The farmer was very cautious that each tool had a significant benefit that made him money in the long run. Tools that didn’t do just that, had no business being on the farm.  How he deciphered between tools best explains the Craftsman approach. Newport defines the Craftsman approach as: “Identifying the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if it’s positive impacts on these factors SUBSTANTIALLY outweigh its negative impacts.”

I invite you to be honest with yourself and determine what approach you take with the tools in technology. It can be helpful to pay attention to the feelings you have when you use a specific app or program. When you log in to Facebook, do you immediately feel guilty? Or does that connection have a substantially positive impact on your personal or professional life? Could that service be easily replaced with another app, picnic, scenic drive, exercise or reading a book that could substantially improve your life?

Furthermore, experiment with this, if you feel unsure, completely remove the “tool” and see what happens. This year I joined Treasure Mountain Junior High School when they challenged students to go one week without social media. They had students make a physical commitment, signing a big poster. After one week they followed up with students by checking battery usage on phones to ensure they didn’t cave. After one week you can look back and say, did I miss anything?

As a personal example for me, I drastically slowed down my Snapchat use and began using a journaling app in which I record 1 second a day. It has been so fun to see each day in a glimpse of time. It also invites creativity to capture new scenes. When I watch my experiences over the last year I am inspired to make each day my masterpiece.

I begin every presentation explaining to students that the internet is an amazing tool, a tool that can be so beneficial. We have so many tools to choose from but I hope we can use the tools that drastically improve our lives.

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