23 Ways to Use Technology instead of Technology Using You

By Duff McDuffee on April 10th, 2015 1

This is a follow-up to my previous post on how to stop being overwhelmed by notifications. One person gave me the feedback that they wanted an “executive summary” and more how-to. Two people said it was too long. Here’s my attempt at short.

Technology was created by humans as a tool, but too often we become the slave to technology. Rather than using it to reach important personal aims, we get caught up in the unimportant or even harmful distractions that technology offers.

Here are three important principles for the effective use of technologies:

  • Use technology instead of technology using you.
  • Eliminate the needless to focus on the important.
  • Oscillate: focus, break, focus, break. We are rhythmic beings.

The important thing is to fulfill these principles. How we do so is secondary, and likely to change.

But here are 23 specific tactics that I use:

Use Technology

  1. Clear email inbox to 0 daily (“Inbox Zero”)
  2. Work from an actions list, not from your inbox
  3. Plan out most important projects and tasks for the week (Quadrant 2)
  4. Single task (can use Pomodoro technique for this)
  5. Set up email filters to move non-urgent emails into subfolders
  6. Put devices into “do not disturb” mode at night
  7. File digital things away intelligently (not on desktop or downloads folder)

Eliminate the Needless

  1. Unsubscribe from email newsletters you don’t read
  2. Turn off needless notifications on all devices
  3. Set email to check less often (or only manually, 1-2x/day)
  4. Check your email less often (e.g. twice a day at designated times only)
  5. Avoid or strictly moderate super-normal stimuli such as social media, video games, porn, texting, gambling, TV, and movies
  6. Turn off chat in Gmail
  7. Remove the news feed from Facebook using a plugin
  8. Remove social media apps from your devices
  9. Remove games from your devices
  10. Put chat on “do not disturb” or close out of it while working
  11. Close out of programs when not using them


  1. Take movement breaks every 30-60 minutes for one to five minutes each
  2. Take longer breaks away from screens on weekends to rejuvenate
  3. Wind down before bed – no highly stimulating stuff
  4. Do the most important and/or cognitively demanding things first thing in the morning
  5. Save less important or demanding things for later in the day

I guarantee that if you do all 23 of these things, you will have a very different experience of technology than the average person.


How’d I do? Is that short and useful enough for you? Add your feedback in the comments.

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