Taming the Technological Beast

Technology is an amazing thing – with devices such as smartphones and tablets, you can have access to your email, instant messenger, social media and, of course, the internet virtually everywhere. But the big question is does this technology really help you become more productive or does it put you on a virtual treadmill where you’re moving fast but not going anywhere. Truthfully, technology can be a Trojan horse for procrastination so by keeping it in line, you’ll be able to get more done.

Over the last few years I’ve started to feel that technology creates the illusion of making you feel more productive, when in reality the opposite is happening. Two experiences in particular stand out my in mind. The first was an awards dinner I attended in which a young lady seated at my table spent the entire night texting her friends on her Blackberry. This was a perfect example of someone who had an opportunity to make real connections to increase her business, but instead under the guise of multitasking, got absolutely nothing accomplished.

The second experience happened a while back when I had scheduled three hours to finish up a project. I made the mistake of checking my email and noticed I had a number of Facebook invitations from people I hadn’t talked to in years. So of course, I logged into Facebook, looked at their pages, wrote them each a note and then responded to a number of other requests I had. Then a few people that noticed me online began to chat with me and before I knew it, my three hours had passed.

It was this latter experience that pushed me to become more focused with my use of technology. I now block off time for social media so I can reconnect with old friends and make new ones, but also because social media is also an integral part of my business. The caveat is that it’s too easy to get distracted and let time quickly slip away.

Here are some quick tips to help you tame the technology beast:

  • Disconnect from your digital life when you’re at an event – especially one with networking. By sitting in a corner texting people you already know, you’re missing out on the chance to make new connections with real people face to face. So resist the urge to answer calls (and don’t even think about making them) at these events.
  • Only use the technology you need for the task at hand. For example, as I’m writing this I only have my word processor open. That means that I’m not getting notified of new email from my mail client or getting notifications from Twitter or Facebook from my web browser.
  • Schedule time for social activities on social media. Having an online presence is important to many of us these days, but you don’t want socializing to get in the way of more urgent tasks. Your friends on Facebook, Twitter and other online communities can wait an extra day to hear back from you.
  • Unplug if you have to. I have an old laptop without wireless internet on it, so recently I used it when I was in a time crunch to finish a script for an audiobook. Without the temptation to check my email or web site stats, I was able to focus all of my attention on completing the script.
  • Avoid online communities that don’t provide you with any real benefits. Over the past several years I’ve participated in close to 30 social networking platforms and groups– many of which I’ve had very little benefit from. I’ve now pared it down to about five that I regularly participate in, some of which I only check once per week.
  • Set up rules within your email system. Spam filters are great, but you should take it a step further. I have folders for messages for each social media service and mailing list that I’m on, so my mail is automatically organized for me. I spent two hours setting up all of these rules (and set up new ones as necessary) but I got that time back in extra productivity within a week.
  • Schedule time for fun. All work and no play eats away at us. I love video games so I’ll schedule time to play my Wii or even social media games such as Gardens of Time. The trick is to schedule it so it doesn’t interfere with more important tasks and that you stick to your time limit.

Take a look at the way you work and ask yourself whether technology is helping you or overwhelming you. You may find that a few hours invested in optimizing the way you work will help you focus more on the important tasks when needed and save you time in the long run.

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