Deep focus comes more easily for me when developing ideas in a paper notebook, rather than with a computer

This is true even when the WiFi is disabled on the computer! It’s baffling, but the effect is quite pronounced. I think it’s very easy to get off task on the computer, even without the internet: I’ll find myself (unwittingly) cleaning up my downloads folder, or reading a paper I left open, or writing notes about something completely different. The computer feels like a quicksilver realm of unlimited possibility. But my notebook feels like there’s really only one thing I can do.

Maybe some part of this is that interleaving text and drawings—which I tend to do with the notebook—produces a deeper focus. I don’t think that’s it: I feel the effect even when I’m writing mostly text.

Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that writing by hand is much slower by typing, and so it forces me to slow down? To be more comfortable just sitting, without taking any action?

Standing at a whiteboard has yet another different vibe. It also tends to produce a tighter beam of attention, though the limited medium tends to make the thought broader. In my notebook, I’ll sometimes chase the same problem or idea across 20 pages.

Related: My computer feels aversive

Last updated 2023-07-13.