ARTICLE: “Prevent Technological Takeover”

Does technology improve human productivity? Undoubtedly. But if we don’t use technology wisely, it can make us less productive rather than more so. Here are some ideas to use technology efficiently and avoid being overtaken by the daily deluge of information.

• When you receive an unsolicited email advertisement, just delete it. Responding, even to remove your name from the distribution list, highlights your address as active. 
• Contact your ISP and have then stop your junk mail. They can place a filter on the most common junk mail domains and addresses. When you receive junk email, add the spammer’s address to the filter to disallow any future correspondence.
• Have easy access to your email while traveling. Debbie Taylor, President/Owner of Taylor Made Events in Denver, Colorado, finds it quite easy to check her email even without a laptop. “On-line services are becoming readily available at commercial outfits such as Kinkos. It’s inexpensive and convenient to check in while traveling, and each person can respond when it’s convenient.” 
• Use voice mail to increase efficiency. If you need uninterrupted time to finish an important project, voice mail allows you to identify who’s calling and temporarily screen out less urgent calls. If you’re in a hurry, leaving a voice mail message will let you avoid lengthy conversations punctuated by the usual social niceties
• Batch your tasks. Taylor suggests you block out certain times of the day for writing, administrative work, and researching. Enter all your business cards into the computer once a day. Save receipts and log them into your accounting software weekly. Only check and respond to emails twice a day. By batching, you eliminate interruption time between activities. Stay focused; don’t dart around from task to task.
• Reduce the overwhelming onslaught of paper mail. Send large files as email attachments to vendors, clients and hotels. The receiver may choose to print the document or simply save it electronically. Beth Schmidt, Corporate Meeting and Event Planner for StorageTek in Louisville, Colorado, finds it very helpful if a hotel has email. Instead of mailing or faxing, they can send her details for a meeting, BEOs, authorizations, and confirmations directly over email, which saves her much time.
• Save time through group distribution. Bethellen Gallino, Managing Partner of BoundaryLight Information Technologies in Denver, Colorado, saves a great deal of time by sending information to multiple people. “Instead of making numerous phone calls or sending out multiple letters, I hit SEND once and reach several contacts simultaneously.” You can also broadcast a voice message to several co-workers instead of scheduling a face-to-face meeting.
• Don’t lose the personal touch with your contacts by doing everything via email or voice mail. Sometimes you have to make a conscious decision not to use it. Schmidt said, “Sometimes I use email even more than my phone. But if I feel I’m getting too distant, I’ll pick up the phone and call.” 
• Tell your friends and family members to take you off their joke lists. Gallino feels that too much time is wasted sending jokes via email. “I communicate with people who send and receive a lot of email. Their comments suggest jokes and spamming are the biggest annoyances in cyberspace.”
• Cancel your magazine subscriptions. Save money and time by doing your research on-line. Search for topics of interest and download articles from all over the world straight to your printer. Eliminate shopping trips by buying on-line. Save time on the phone with the travel agent by booking your own tickets. 
• Narrow your web searches. Another challenge is quickly finding the information you’re looking for. Gallino explained, “When you conduct a search, you get a huge list. Some of the information is really old or completely unrelated to what you want. Learn to be more specific about what you’re looking for.” For example, if you’re looking for a keynote speaker for your conference, don’t simply type “motivational speaker.” Rather, give a topic and several words to narrow your search.
• Learn to use your software correctly. Take the time to figure it out rather than struggling each time you use your web browser, contact management program, word processor, or accounting software. Local computer superstores and community colleges have inexpensive courses on many common packages.
• If you use the computer all day at work, make an effort not to use it at home. Don’t become obsessed with surfing the net. Schedule an appointment to spend time with your loved ones if you have to. Turn off your cell phone and insist on your privacy at home.
• Upgrade your modem to 56K. When you have a slow internet connection, too much time is required to upload/download files and load web pages. Spend the extra $100 to eliminate the frustration and increase your efficiency.

High-tech devices mean speed and availability. They should help us be more efficient, save us time and make life easier. But these tools are also great users of time. Recognize the potential faults of technology and focus on avoiding them. Then use some of the above tips to realize the great advantages of technology.

© 1999 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. You are free to use portions of this publication in your company newsletter, provided the following credit is listed at the bottom:

Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is “The Productivity PRO,”® helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or visit her website at