I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am absolutely pro-paper. However, that does not make me anti-tech. I see the important role technology plays in our daily lives, especially as it pertains to productivity and work-life balance. In my observations, technology is quite the gift. When used appropriately, it can increase efficiency, enhance quality, and even support a lifestyle of balance. The unfortunate truth is we don't always use it in such a positive way and, for many of us, technology has become our binding to an imbalanced life.
There are countless books, articles, and podcasts about the relationships we have developed with our devices. The harsh reality is that science is used to manipulate us into craving the connection. As technology has advanced in our culture, the bond between humans and gadgets has grown in a way that I fear is slowly, and powerfully, changing us. Alas, that is a subject for another blog so I will bring this back to the point.
With all the downfalls of technology, there are ways to use it to our advantage. The positive intentions of our devices can be realized if we are willing to take control over our tools versus letting them control us. Consider the following tips to help you utilize your tech for a life of better balance.
Use an automatic responder on your email or text messages. This is often called a vacation responder as its common use is when you are away from the office for vacation. However, this tool is really exceptional for communicating expectations any time, in both a personal or professional settings. Whether letting senders know you ‘check your email once per day and to call you with any urgent items’ or that ‘you are in deep work and will respond within 24 hours’ this can be a powerful practice. In addition to telling others what to except from you, this is a great way to reduce the perceived sense of urgency that many new emails or text messages can create.
Lean on digital reinforcement. Planning on paper has numerous benefits, but the real path to success in this day and age is embracing a hybrid lifestyle. I will almost always encourage you to plan on paper first, and utilize digital tools to support those plans. This is most often seen in sending a digital calendar invite to confirm meeting details such as a start and end time, meeting location, and agenda. Digital reinforcement can also be sending an email, creating a digital paper trail, or utilizing an app to have additional information at your fingertips. There are so many options here so I recommend keeping it simple and asking me for help. If nothing else, just remember the order of operation is paper first, then digital.
Adjust notifications. This is one of the most debated, yet valuable tips I can offer. Most notifications on our phones and computers are not actually helping us. The pings and dings are often Quadrant 3 items that pull us very quickly into Quadrant 4. They derail our productivity and often negatively influence our experiences. Have you ever been enjoying dinner with a friend when a work email pops up and totally spoils your mood? The reality is you will sync your inbox or check your social media as soon as you have a spare second. It’s better for you to do this on your time instead of at the beckoning of your phone. The adjustments are simple to make and wildly effective. If you are not fully comfortable with this, start small. Select one app to stop receiving notifications from or stop the audible alert on your computer that accompanies a new email. You will be surprised what you don’t miss and what you seek out on your own terms.
Whether you love it or hate it, technology is here to stay. However, we don’t have to let it run our lives. Let’s embrace the purpose of our technological advancements; to make our lives better. Plan on paper and support your plans with technology. This one-two punch will knock out burnout and help you find more peaceful productivity in your days.