Posts Tagged ‘e-mail’

Manage Technology Before It Manages You

October 7, 2009

“The things you own end up owning you.” Well said, Tyler Durden. Now, keep that lye away from me.

“Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk’s cultural critique is directed at consumer items, like IKEA furniture, but it can just as easily apply to technology. Yes, technology empowers us. But, if we don’t manage it, it gains power over us.

Don’t check your text messages, e-mail or Twitter until you’re done reading this blog post. If your phone buzzes or Outlook or Tweetdeck flashes an alert, ignore it. If the prospect of this bothers you, you’ll want to read on.

Browsing the Web, carrying on a text conversation and responding to e-mails as they come in while you’re typing a paper may make you feel uber-productive. You’re multitasking!

Problem is, each of these tasks is going to take you longer to complete than if you tackled it by itself. You’re decreasing — not increasing — your efficiency.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Scientific research — up, up, put your mobile down, this is important — has shown that not only does so-called multitasking reduce your level of engagement with any single activity, you also lose a minute of productivity refocusing your brain every time you switch tasks.

Got it? Multitasking is a myth. Just like the well-rested grad student.

Here are five more tips — based on an in-class group assignment — on how to manage technology before it manages you:

  • Schedule technology blackout periods during which you forbid yourself from interacting with a computer, television or handheld device.
  • Make time for low-tech hobbies. Exercise (without your iPod, thank you). Read a book (the dead tree version).
  • Use pen and paper. For all the work that goes into developing slick calendar and to-do-list apps, paper often works best.
  • Face-to-face conversations should take precedence over the buzzing mobile, not vice-versa.
  • Don’t name your devices. It creates an unhealthy attachment. It’s also kinda creepy.

I’ll add one more: Get outside! Stepping away from your work and getting some fresh air can be great productivity boosters. Plus, exposure to sunlight has been linked to neurotransmitter activity that elevates mood. This tip is especially important as the number of daylight hours dwindles.