Technology has revolutionized the way we live, work and play. It is an area of miraculous and magical developments that still have the power to help us save time, do more, and ultimately become more productive.
Technology is not always productive
You may have had experiences with technology that make you wonder if a new app, gadget, or system is really adding value to your life.
For example, maybe you’ve upgraded to a new project management system that ultimately takes twice as long to use. Or, even more often, you may have found yourself keep scrolling through your Twitter feed in the middle of an important project.
As a pervasive and global trend, technology is definitely making us productive.
We are capable of much more than 10 years ago, and new industries and opportunities emerge from new technologies every year. But technology isn’t always productive – in fact, it can sometimes rob you of productive time.
What steps can you take to ensure that all of your technology choices translate into higher productivity (or at least neutrality)?
Here’s how to use technology appropriately
Describe your goals in advance
Before adopting a new technology, it is important to define all of your goals in advance. What exactly do you hope to achieve?
Many new technologies make vague promises to improve your life, and many consumers end up buying these products because they ambiguously seem “better” than what you have now.
For example, you have the option to upgrade your refrigerator to a smart refrigerator. But what do you really hope to get from this upgrade? Do you want your food to spoil less often? Do you want to better organize your food purchases? An upgrade of the refrigerator may not be necessary to achieve these goals.
What does productivity mean to you?
You will also need to think about what “productive” really means to you. If new technology improved your productivity, what would it look like? Some technologies automate or simplify certain aspects of your work (or your life), only to introduce new problems.
For example, you can develop an algorithm that automatically generates a playlist for you, but it doesn’t always work well, so you have to sort the list manually. You saved an hour on task A, but you’re spending an hour on a new task, task B.
The clearer your goals, the less likely you are to use technology that has a net negative effect.
Rely on objective data
When choosing new technologies and evaluating their ability to improve your productivity, you need to rely on hard, objective data. How, in concrete terms, is it improving and to what extent does it improve it?
This will help you filter out:
- Cognitive biases. Human beings are not very logical creatures. We are afflicted with a variety of cognitive biases that can distort our perception of things.
- Subjective feelings. You might feel like your phone is making you more productive, but data can say something else. This happens frequently with new acquisitions; we often like to justify our investments and pretend that there are benefits when there are not.
- Complaints and anecdotal reports. Tech companies often promote their products citing good reviews and satisfied customers. But anecdotal evidence and personal claims rarely tell the whole story.
Always consider your options in depth
When looking for new technology, you will likely have a lot of options to choose from. There are dozens if not hundreds of competitors in almost every niche imaginable, so it’s important to consider your choices carefully before making a final call.
Consider these choices for your technology:
- Features and Functionality. What does this product have that other competitive products don’t? More importantly, what does it do to increase your productivity?
- Flexibility and scalability. How can this product change, grow and evolve with your business? This is especially important if you plan to grow your business.
- Intuitiveness and learning. How long will it take to learn how to properly use this system? Low intuitiveness can compromise even the best technology investment.
- Ratings and Reviews. When combined with other considerations, ratings and reviews can be helpful in helping you make a decision.
- Objective metrics. Most importantly, you will have to look at the numbers. How many hours can that save you? What new tasks will this require?
- Fresh. There may be a new app or gadget that can increase your productivity by 10%. But if it costs $ 10,000 a year, it might not be worth it. Also consider the costs.
Automate everything you can, but understand the limits
Automation is one of the best ways to save time and increase productivity in a professional environment. As a result, you should strive to automate everything you can.
That said, there are some limits to what you can automate effectively. Automation relies on predictability and consistency; in an environment with unknown variables or areas that require human creativity, automation becomes less practical.
Excessive automation can also compromise aspects of your business; for example, you might be able to automate all of your email marketing and sales campaigns, but that might discourage people from being too repetitive and “cold”.
For the most part, you should strive to limit the number of applications you rely on, both to simplify your infrastructure and to minimize the time spent jumping between systems.
You can do this by consolidating the functionality of multiple apps into one, relying on integrations to send data to and from various apps, and resisting the temptation to buy new apps just because they’re new. and that they look cool.
Set limits and restrictions
Certain apps and devices make it difficult to be productive because they take up too much time or interfere with your life in a crucial way. Accordingly, it is advisable to set yourself limits and restrictions, sometimes within the applications themselves.
- Screen time. Most modern smartphones and devices have built-in settings and apps to help you track your screen time. You might even be able to limit it. This is especially important for apps and devices that tend to distract you or take you away from more productive work.
- Notifications and distractions. You should also know that even a small distraction can take a toll on your productivity for almost an hour; it takes time to focus and build momentum, and even a seemingly minimal distraction can spoil that. Turn off notifications whenever possible, and consider closing apps that might distract you (like your email account during a busy work day).
- Communication. Communication is invaluable in any workplace or at home, but modern technology makes it all too easy to get in touch with someone, even when they’re busy. Don’t let go of everything you do every time you get an email, instant message, or video call request; intentionally and consciously use your communications applications.
Measure and think
Leverage a combination of built-in technology tools, time tracking, and other analytical dashboards to track your productivity and progress. How do you use the different tools available in your arsenal? How much time do you spend on different platforms and on screens? How many hours do you work and how many were you able to do?
Systematically measure your productivity and observe how it changes over time.
Don’t assume that new technology improves your performance; try to prove it. If that doesn’t work for you, consider cutting it off and moving on.
If you’re not careful, a new app, gadget, or other high-tech investment can end up harming you, either distracting you, interfering with your work, or making something you were already doing more difficult.
As long as you think critically about adopting your new technology and continue to exercise good judgment in your technology infrastructure, you may end up taking advantage of new technology.
Image Credit: Curious Photograph; pexels; Thank you!