Fifteen years ago we were promised a more productive future, where technology was going to transform how we worked and make life easier for all. Is anyone feeling this yet? Probably not. In fact, most of today’s knowledge workers would say that they are busier, working longer hours and are more overwhelmed and stressed.
What went wrong? Did the technology not deliver? Or did we just not take advantage of it enough. I believe the latter is true. We have some amazing technology at our fingertips designed to make us more productive. PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones are now the norm from a hardware perspective, and software tools like MS Outlook, Google Calendar, OneNote all have the potential to boost our productivity.
The problem is, we are using these tools, but only partially. A good case in point is MS Outlook. Outlook is by far the moist used productivity tool in the corporate workplace. Most people use this to manage their emails, and have made the shift from paper diary’s to the Outlook calendar for their meetings.
Yet in my experience, only about 10% of people use the task functionality in Outlook to manage their priorities. The good old to-do list is still the favoured tool of choice for task management. Why is it that we are perfectly comfortable to accept a meeting invitation, and manage that in our electronic calendar, yet we are still so paper based with the rest of our work?
I see this thinking in play with many of the electronic tools designed to increase our productivity. If we can go beyond dabbling with these tools, and use them more fully, our productivity will skyrocket. Here are some tips to get more from your technology:
Consolidate your calendar and task list
Whether you are using MS Outlook, Lotus Notes or Google Calendar and Gmail, consolidate your calendar and task lists into one view. All have the ability to show task lists for each day in the calendar, which will help you to plan your time and priorities holistically.
Sync your mobile calendar and task list to your desktop
If you do have a Smartphone, consider having your email, calendar and task list sync to your device. This will allow you to stay organised on the run, on the train, between meetings or when away from your desk. Just be disciplined about checking your email constantly, or after hours.
Don’t use your Inbox as an action system
One of the biggest issues I have seen over the years, as we moved from paper to technology, is the fact that many people now use their Inbox as an action system. Your Inbox is the worst action system possible, it is usually just a big pile of emails. Manage email priorities in your electronic task list by converting emails into tasks.
Think with your head, remember with technology
In the corporate workplace, many of us get paid to think, to problem-solve, to create and to make decisions. Yet so much of our headspace is used these days just trying to remember the many things we need to do, or discuss with other people. Do yourself a favour and learn to get this stuff out of your head and into a place you can trust. Use your smartphone to capture thoughts on the go.
Don’t just use technology to replicate – augment
The value of technology over paper is not its ability to replicate how paper is used, but to augment your ability to manage information. Tools like OneNote can replace your paper notepad, but their value is far higher than just capturing notes electronically. The real value is in how you can access that information when needed, share with others, and turn that information into intelligence.
Collaborate using the power of technology
Our productivity is impacted by others, just as we impact on their productivity. Technology has increased our ability to collaborate with others more productively. Just look at how electronic calendars make organising complex meeting so much easier. Now take that thinking and apply to your other tools.
Capture useful information with your camera
Why copy down notes or slides in a presentation when you can that a photo and review in its full glory later. Ok, I know that for some the act of writing aids recall, but at least try to compliment your notes with a photo for even better recall.
Take advantage of the micro moments
Much of our day is made up of chunks of work – meetings, projects, tasks. But in between the chunks are small packets of time that often get wasted because we are not digitally organised. Take advantage of these micro moments to get quick things done, and harness the power of your phone, tablet or laptop to do this.
Learn on the run with podcasts
We all value the power of learning, but now have less and less time to stop and learn. Technology has opened up a world of digital learning through tools like Podcasts. Rather than listening to music on the train, subscribe to some free podcasts and use this time as a time to learn on the go.
About the author:
Dermot Crowley is a productivity thought leader, author, speaker and trainer. Dermot works with leaders, executives and professionals in many of Australia’s leading organisations, helping to boost the productivity of their people and teams. He is the author of Smart Work, published by Wiley. For more information, visit www.dermotcrowley.com.au