How Technology Can Tank Your Success in Class: Part 2

The tech you think is making you more productive is actually holding you back—even more reasons to unplug.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #433

We saw in the first part of this episode that technology can tank your success in class. So it’s a good idea to train yourself not to use it when it’s potentially going to turn your brain into a pile of mush and short-circuit the important relationships you need to jumpstart your career.

Let’s explore a bit more about the non-technological solutions, and when they might actually be better than using your tech.

When Intern MG is being his over-the-top, uber-productive, over-achieving self, he can often be seen scurrying around the castle (did I mention he’s living in a castle this semester? Yes, a castle. With turrets. I’m not jealous at all.) carrying his notebook. Not his notebook computer; an actual paper notebook. From Moleskine, of course. But why paper?

Buy physical notebooks for classes

He uses the paper for his class notes and to-do lists. For starters, paper has no distractions. He can take notes without being reminded that his shmoopie Sam just bought a new outfit. Even though he’s hopelessly devoted to his relationship, study time shouldn’t be interrupted by feeling like he has to compliment a new dress. Paper notebooks have no interruptions.

Physical notebooks win in reliability! When using them, you can’t swipe by accident and wipe out important information. Plus the battery never runs out of power, and lack of internet connection won’t leave you stranded. When the zombie apocalypse comes and takes the power grid with it, your to-do list will still work, while all those other people’s to-do lists won’t.

As we’ve explored before in this podcast, research shows hand-written note-taking is simply more effective, even if you don’t capture as much of the information, instead of on a computer. You’ll remember more, which was the main reason you were taking notes in the first place. It’s also a distraction-free zone. There are no squiggly red lines or formatting settings to “augment your workflow.” Writing shouldn’t be mixed with editing or spell-checking. You want the purity of you, your class, and your thoughts.

Sit in the front of the classroom

In business school, I got up super-early the first day of class to sit at the very back of the room. It was called the “Skydeck” and was where all the cool kids hang out. And at long last, I got to hang out there too!

Apparently, the cool kids all had 20/15 vision and super-hearing powers. A couple of months into class, I voluntarily moved to the “Wormdeck,” as the front row was called.

I could hear the professor. I could read the chalkboard. And I was focused on the learning, rather than passing around notes and “top–10 lists,” which was the main Skydeck activity.

Sitting in front forces to focus on the learning. Constant eye contact with your teacher promotes healthy feelings of guilt if you spend time on your computer not listening to what they’re saying. The guilt will make you smart. And if guilt isn’t enough, they’ll be able to see you using your computer, which will add shame and public embarrassment to the mix. That’s a potent mixture that will not only get you learning, but also support the economy, as you’ll have to deal with the lingering after-effects of all that negativity by employing a small army of therapists once you’ve graduated.

And just in case you’re thinking that you can sneak a peek at someone else’s computer … you can’t! You’re in the front row and no one else’s computer is in your sight line. Like it or not, your technology detox is under way.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.