Technology should be used as a tool, not a pastime. As a tool, it can increase efficiency and free up time for priorities, including leisure, and improve quality and performance. As a pastime, it can waste time, displace priorities, precipitate stress and quicken the pace of life.
Technologies that offer few lasting or significant benefits, such as the Pokémon Go craze, die a natural death. For example, it took less than two weeks for Pokémon Go to capture about 45 million users. But it only took the same amount of time to level off and decline to less than 30 million users. Still a time consumer, it does not have the potential of negatively impacting your time – and life – as much is the more useful technologies such as email and texting.
Email revolutionized written communications. The leap from snail mail to electronic communications wiped out the problems of distance and time, providing instant communications around the world. Unfortunately its ease-of-use immediately expanded its frequency to the point that unnecessary and unwanted communications negated the time saved by its speed.
It’s not a new phenomenon. Long ago, washing machines used only a fraction of the time being taken to do laundry by hand. But its ease-of-use encouraged more frequent washings, and combined with the increase in the number of items we purchased, negated most of the time savings. Just as the time saved by faster cars is negated by longer distances travelled, greater traffic, construction and gridlock, so the even greater speed of instant messages was offset by its frequency of use.
This results in little increase in personal productivity; but does result in a faster and more stressful level of working. And although email and instant messaging may have little net gain in productivity, social media such as Facebook and Twitter could result in an actual reduction in productivity since it is being used more as a pastime than a tool. So called “friends” and “followers” you may never meet in person can consume hours a day. For example, the average time currently being spent by Facebook users is about 25 minutes a day. Social media should be used as tools not simply pastimes. You can promote your business, network, solve problems, provide reciprocal help to others and even cultivate real friendships when used as tools. The key is to have a purpose in using the technology, other than simply spending time on it.
Electronic communications should be used deliberately and less frequently – with set times to check and respond, and policies on when to close shop and when to open for business.
Technology is not something to be avoided or feared. It can increase your personal productivity as well as your enjoyment of life by speeding up the mundane and providing opportunities for both physical and mental activity. Even some of the electronic games can provide relaxation while improving working memory and cognitive skills.
It is for both the young and the old. Imagine being able to deposit checks without leaving your home, using the transfers to send money to your grandchildren, and purchasing books online that are instantly transferred to your iPad or laptop in electronic format.
I personally love being able to dictate articles to my laptop using voice activated software, and taking the drudgery away from making up bibliographies with the help of bibme.org. A Google search will access specific information instantly. Spell check is automatic. Definitions, synonyms and so on are at my fingertips. What a great world we live in.
Just as having a purpose in life motivates you to get up in the morning, takes you over the rough spots, and brings fulfillment, so having a purpose in using technology will increase your personal productivity, make your job easier, and free up time for those things you really love to do.