Tools for thought 🪴

My recent obsession has been investigating “Tools for Thought”. A comprehensive article is by Maggie Appleton Tools for Thought as Cultural Practices, not Computational Objects. Her thesis is expanding “tools for thought” association beyond computerized digital tools. This is something interesting that has been on my mind.

To be honest, it has stemmed from my obsession with productivity tools (see When tech sucks). I’ve been getting rather frustrated with myself for not optimizing these tools enough. Perhaps also frustrated with the tools themselves… I have this fantasy that with the right tools and practices, I’ll have incredible thoughts and ideas and be able to execute on them. I’m struggling with the grind!

Anyway! With Maggie’s piece, I’m expanding my intrepretation of the phrase “tools for thought”. I’m trying to integrate non digital mechanisms to aid my brain power and help me think of cool ideas :)

Here’s a summary of some of examples Maggie comes up with:

  • Written language
  • Drawing
  • Maps
  • Numbers
  • Poetry
  • Socratic method
  • Questions in general
  • Scientific method

With being a fan of bullet journaling, I have been so fascinated by how so many people turn to it in an age of large language networks and AI and virtual universes.

I think what’s special there is what in some ways the hi fi tech lacks like giving some the opportunity (time and space) to think. Introducing friction has been something that seems really important for conscious thought.

But I’m also think about other practices that don’t normally come up as productivity tools but are definitely helpful practices.

My own list:

  • Exercise
  • Walking outside
  • Yoga
  • Drinking cold water
  • Sleeping
  • Meditating
  • Nutrition
  • Breathing practices
  • Diffuse mode
  • Mindsets
  • Journaling
  • Writing
  • Talking to a friend
  • Sticky notes
  • Putting up a calm ambience
  • Dark mode
  • Candles
  • Cold showers
  • Reading

Imagine if I called my yoga practice as a tool for thought. I normally don’t think about it that way. In fact, I can often be seen skipping my time on my mat in favor of watching yet another YouTube video on how to set up a digital kanban board.

I’m curious to see how I might fare if I was to take these tools/practices more seriously.


“Writing by hand is thinking on paper. Thoughts grow into words, sentences and pictures. Memories become stories. Ideas are transformed into projects. Notes inspire insight. We write and understand, learn, see and think - with the hand. “ - Leuchtturm1917 (Denken mit der Hand)

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