5 min read

The battle for our attention: Making the most out of tech

I spent my Saturday afternoon in London sipping on a (most likely overpriced) Shiraz from Waitrose whilst listening to the Steve Jobs biography on Audible and simultaneously reading it on my iPad.

Living in a temporary flat in London. Making the most out of the rare British sunshine.

After a few glasses in and reading about the Apple vs Microsoft rivalry I was suddenly struck with this realisation:

I am listening to the Apple story on an iPhone, reading about it on an iPad, whilst reliving those historical moments through Youtube and getting additional context on pages like Wikipedia.

A photo of young Steve Jobs (left) and Bill Gates (right).

The age of information

This again made me appreciative of the information age we live in. We can practically learn about anything if we have the desire to, and the information age has greatly reduced the barriers to learning and evened out the playing field for anyone wanting to learn about, well, anything.

As Elon Musk puts it, we're in an age where university and college is basically 'for fun and not for learning', because “you can learn anything you want for free”, says Musk. This dichotomy is felt especially strong as a recent graduate. People rely on online information more than their tutors, the efficient internet has rendered many inefficient & orthodox university teaching models redundant.  

The Battlefield

Our attention is the new battlefield. An abundance of information coupled with sophisticated engineers tasked to optimise the sh** out of every button we ever press on social media means our attention are ever more scattered. Every platform is fighting for a piece of this hot real estate.

Johann Hari's new book Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention--And How to Think Deeply Again talks about the issue in depth. Super eager to start the read as it's been recommended to me numerous times!
An interview with Johann Hari by Steven Bartlett

But this probably is old news for anyone who's had an iPhone for more than 30 minutes and been on the internet for more than 1 day.

'Big Tech bad, blah blah blah' okay we get it. So what do we do about it?

Wielding the double-edged sword

I think I have used this analogy before on this blog but allow me to use it once more: Using tech is a bit like wielding a double-edged sword. (Forgive the over-used analogy but I probably have been watching too much House of the Dragon that my head is full of swords, dragons, and well, disgusting incest.)

When yielding a double-edged sword you can solely focus on avoiding hurting yourself. But that will probably greatly decrease the weapon's offensive effectiveness.

You cannot completely rule out the possibility of the sword hurting you, but you can learn to:

1). minimise the chances of hurting yourself, whilst 2). maximise the sword's offensive power.

Both are viable options but today I want to focus on option 2.

Going back to tech, today I want to focus on maximising the upside of tech instead of overly avoiding its downside.

Tips & tricks to make the most out of our tech

So here are a few randomly compiled tips and hacks I have found to be surprisingly helpful when using tech:

Create your personalised system for storing notes & ideas

We spend hours a day consuming information on our phones. It thus makes sense to have a system to store good ideas and knowledge instead of letting them slip through our minds.

A sneak peek into how I organise my readings on Notion.

A personal example relating to reading books. I read & highlight using the Apple iBook app and I take notes on books using the default iPhone Notes app. I record when I started and finished (If I ever do! Tons of books I never finish.) a book and whether they're good on the Notion app.

Curate your consumption diet

As a Gen Z myself it is very obvious how social media has not only the general power to educate and inform, but more importantly, it(especially with platforms like Twitter & Reddit) is often the frontier of innovation & where subculture forms. But to maximise it's effectiveness you must clear out the weeds and put the right information in place.

The steps are simple:

  1. Define clearly why you are on a social media platform (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok...). Is it for its social values? For learning?
  2. Unfollow pages/people that don't serve that purpose. Follow pages that do.
  3. Voila!
  4. ... Or is it?

This strategy would've been fine a few years ago. But it is clear that since TikTok burst onto the scene the social media landscape is slowly going from social/following-focused to a more algorithm-driven recommendation-focused environment. Doesn't matter who you follow, the platform shows you what it thinks you'll like anyway.

But no I do not have a solution for this right now.

The best I can say is to be mindful and click the odd 'I like this content' or 'don't show me these contents anymore' buttons whenever the platform shows you content that aligns/doesn't align with your purpose of being on the platform.

But if done right, a good curation of your information diet can be extremely powerful. You will have the world's most updated, personalised, and high-quality content at your fingertips.

Combining different tech: 1+1 = 3

So this might be an odd one. Or a bit too nerdy for some. But it is basically combining different apps/tech that work surprisingly well together to produce an outcome better than using them separately.

A bit like using Alexa to turn on your LED lights, I suppose?

Going back to Steve Jobs and Apple, this is one of my favourite: Listening to an audiobook while simultaneously reading the book.

We learn and absorb information with sensory inputs. You can listen to a book but also read it, but what if you listen to it whilst you read it?

A few synergies here. 1). You make the experience a lot more immersive and 2). you absorb more of the information. Also since we read a lot faster than we listen, 3).  you can speed up your audiobook to something absurd, say, 2.5x speed and still feel fine.

Definitely try it if you haven't already. True luxury with the tech we have.

So that is what I mean by combining tech to make it 1+1=3. There are definitely more examples that I couldn't think of.


So yes, wield the sword. Like anything practice makes perfect, quantity leads to quality. The same goes with our relationship with technology. The tech is neutral, the algorithm doesn't intentionally show you junk. Learn to live and make the most out of these works of geniuses.

Hope you're having/had a great weekend!


Jason x