Back To The Phone Age

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
— Gertrude Stein, early 20th century American writer.

“Men have become the tools of their tools.” — Henry David Thoreau, 19th century American poet and philosopher.

Back to the Phone Age by Laura Stack #Productivity #Technology

No doubt about it: modern technology has made us ultra-productive—and many people invariably pack more work into whatever time they save. But all too often we soon hit a point of diminishing returns, where our techno-saviors end up driving us to distraction and stealing our personal time.

Electronic tools worsen this tendency because they kindle an urge for instant gratification. Think about it your thought process when you receive an email. You want to look at it right away, because if you don’t, you’ll continually wonder who’s emailing you, which keeps you from focusing properly on your job. The phone ringing can be even worse—jerking you out of your work trance and making it difficult to pick up the threads again later—no matter how brief the interruption.

So if you really want to maximize your productivity while maintaining a real life, you must tame your technologies and start using them only as intended. Try these tips to get yourself back on track.

Ignore the bells and whistles. Who cares if you can download 50,000 different ringtones, check Twitter, and play Frogger on your smartphone? You bought it so that you could take phone calls and read emails on the fly. It’s a tool, not a toy, so discipline yourself to treat it as such.

Turn it all off sometimes. Tough tasks often require laser-like focus for hours at a time, so you can’t allow casual interruptions. If possible, shut down your email, turn off your cell phone, and set your landline to roll over to voicemail. Handle your email messages all at once a few of times a day. On a broader scale, set boundaries around your work-related tools when you go home at night or on the weekends. Tune out so you can enjoy family and friends.

Stay on point. When you do answer your email, leave the jokes, personal messages, and social media chatter for your coffee break, focusing only on work-related messages. Reply to them in a straightforward, business-like manner. You needn’t be curt, but you don’t have time to ramble on either.

Forget the Internet exists. Many office workers stub their professional toes by surfing the ‘Net when they should be working. Not all surfing is a waste of time, however; research, communication, and education are valid uses. So be careful of going there for something legitimate and following the rabbit trail down an unproductive path. Don’t even surf during your breaks; get away and do something human, like talking with friends or going out for lunch.

Who’s the Boss Here?

Modern technology is a blessing, no doubt. But it’s a mixed one.

The secret to using it successfully, without it using you, lies in striking the proper balance. Instead of glomming onto any new tech-toy that comes along, do a little research first. Weigh its pros and cons. If you decide to adopt it, take steps to define your use of the new tool and be vigilant in its application. Vigilance is, after all, the price of liberty—and you never want to let your tools control you—not if you want to maintain your status as a healthy, productive human being.

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  1. […] abundance of technology available to make the way we work simpler, slicker, and more effective. But do Smartphones truly enhance our productivity, or do they hold us back from the task at […]

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