A couple weeks ago, I had an appointment to meet a potential new client at a coffee shop in downtown Asheville. This person and I made our appointment via email, so everything was in writing. I created the appointment in my calendar, wrote in the person’s name, and added name of the coffee shop where we were to meet. In my Contacts list, I added her phone number, email, and other information about her company. I had a handout I also wanted to bring her, so I added that to my To Do list. I hit “save” on each of those and went about my business.
On the appointment day, I drove to said coffee shop, found a parking place, and paid for parking. I was about 20 minutes early and had a migraine brewing, so I cracked open my car windows, reclined my seat, and used those precious extra minutes to close my eyes.
*Bing bong*Bing bong*
My 10-minute notification alert sounded off on my phone.
Picking up my phone, I started to swipe the reminder away when something caught my eye.
“City Bakery,” I read on my phone’s appointment reminder window.
“City Bakery?” I said out loud. “Crap.”
I was parked near Green Sage Café.
My brain was SO not working, although my technology was working perfectly. Thankfully, the place I was supposed to be was only a few minutes away. I high-tailed it over there, found a parking place very easily, and zoomed in right on time. The meeting was wonderful and so was the person I met with.
I share this story both to show I’m not perfect and illustrate how our calendars and To Do lists are only as good as the people using them.
And gentle reader, sometimes we suck at using our technology.
Now, it’s true that some people use these tools flawlessly. Stuff goes in them or on them and stuff gets done. People show up on time and at the right place. “If it’s not on my calendar,” says my friend Anastacia, “it doesn’t exist.” Generally, I’m one of those people, too (I better be – since I teach it, I better be practicing it).
Most often though, it’s us – the user – who makes a mess of things. And when that happens, these lovely and useful tools become a source of frustration, aggravation, and stress for many people.
My goal here is to help. To demystify the troubles people have with their technology and to make suggestions for how everyone can get along and play nice.
Below are the most common ways I see people failing with their technology. And to be clear, when I talk about technology, I mean smartphones, tablets, computers and the software and apps that are supposed to help with our productivity and time management.
Ready? Buckle your seatbelt…
- Never making time to get adequate training on how to use the tool/technology– have you ever actually sat down and watched the How To video for this new thing you are about to use? Have you searched YouTube for an instructional video? How about hiring a professional to educate you?
- Inconsistently using the tool/technology – this is you trying out a shiny new thing and using it just enough for it to be familiarly unfamiliar (and frustrating). Not using enough to incorporate it as a habit is a bad, bad thing.
- Failing to plan to incorporate the technology into your larger system – anytime you add something new into your system, it behooves you to figure out how this new thing will impact what you already do.
- Having “Other, Secret” Lists – this is you using your technology, but also using your brain to remember some segment of things. I call this the “Other, Secret” list that lives in your head. Yikes! Some brain/some list makes it difficult for your brain to trust your list. This makes for a bad relationship based on suspicion. “There’s something you’re not telling me,” says your list to your brain (and with a very accusatory tone, I might add).
- You abandon your tool or technology – this you trying a tool for an hour or a day and then you quit using it. “Oh, I tried that tool,” you tell someone when they mention it, “but it didn’t work for me. It’s no good.” Can’t blame the technology for this one if you didn’t give it a fighting chance! Our tools and technology feel so much rejection when you abandon them.
- Switching tools based on one person’s enthusiastic recommendation – here’s another form of tool abandonment. “I read about the most awesome productivity app in Inc. Magazine today,” says your buddy at the start of a networking meeting. He whips out his smartphone and starts showing you how awesome this new app really is. Soon after, you find yourself tuning out the speaker at the front of the room, holding your smartphone under the table, and surreptitiously downloading the new app onto your phone. “This app will change everything,” you tell your brain. Your brain sighs with a heavy knowing about how this will go.
- Trying all the tools/apps/software and never making a decision – you research and research and perhaps even download some tools, but you don’t ever commit to incorporating even one into your system, much less practice using it. You suffer “analysis paralysis.”
- Not having your tools/technology communicate with one another (meaning they all sync up together in real time). In our overly connected world, there’s simply NO excuse for this one! If you need help here, let me know. I can make a few excellent recommendations based on your needs.
Gentle reader, do you recognize yourself in any of the scenarios above?
There are a slew of really useful tools and technology out there – but you have to give them (and yourself) a fighting chance by using them! Not all of them, of course, and certainly not all at the same time.
Even as technologically-averse as I am, I believe a few well-chosen tools can seriously help you be more productive.
- Research what you need and want
- Choose the best option for you
- Incorporate the tool/technology into your current system
- Practice using this new tool/technology for the next 30 days
- Re-evaluate as needed (yearly is fine)