Put Technology to Work

Advances in digital tools have radically changed the way we live our lives.

As such agents of change, they have the potential to alter our approach to organization too, for the better. But if you’ve ever spent a few dollars on a new digital gizmo, certain it was worth every penny for the time you’d save, only to find it didn’t even come close to living up to its promise than you know technology can be a double-edge sword. When used properly, electronic devices and personal computers are amazing practical life appliances. However, when used improperly they can be massive time wasters.

Sarah on ‘The Over-promise’

‘So many electronic widgets today are presented to us as ‘solutions’ that we often expect them to do the hard work for us. Just plug in the device, start using it and voila — your files are organized, your contacts are neat as a pin, your schedule is mastered, and your photos are cataloged…right? If only! Getting anything organized takes time and using any program or device requires you to adapt to the way the technology ‘solves’ the problem. If you don’t give some thought to what the technological gadget requires you to do before you buy it, you will probably end up disappointed.

Alicia on ‘Over-compartmentalization’

‘Another common issue with techno-gadgets is over-compartmentalization. Too often devices and programs help you manage one part of your life, for example your work calendar, to a fantastic degree. However, when it comes to integrating that one program with the rest of your life, you’re out of luck. It’s up to you to try to cobble together multiple ‘solutions’ that will work for you in the other areas of your life. That means more work, more time and diminishing returns. Be sure to consider how easy a program makes it to sync, share or generally link the information it is managing with other people or programs that are important to you.’

Three Great Ways to Get Organized with Technology

Below are three ideas for getting the most of digital tools.

#1: Ask a Critical Question
Before you put any technology to work for you, ask yourself, ‘what am I trying to accomplish?’ Clarity around that simple question leads to effectiveness. Having a clear outcome in mind puts you in control, not the technology. The more specifically the objective is defined the easier it will be to find a tool that can actually help. Try to state your goal in terms of the specific desired results or outcomes (i.e., “Set up a paperless system that ensures I am never late in paying a bill”).

#2: Focus on Today
It’s a fact of life that the device you bought yesterday will be trumped by another product or a new version of the same product in six to twelve months sometimes even the next week. So rather than chase the latest, most exciting version of something — ask yourself: what do I need it to do today? Once you get clear on that, it’s easier to stop obsessing about what you might get in the next generation release. If you determine that a device would only be useful as an organizational tool if there was a significant change in the functionality, design or both, don’t try to buy a stop-gap tool for the interim period. Put it out of your mind until such an advance occurs and find a low-tech tool in the meantime.

#3: Give it a Time Trial
Give your gadget a set amount of time to prove itself. If by the date you set, you find that it just doesn’t work for you or makes your tech life difficult in any way, ditch it and move on. Many products have worry free trial periods that allow you to send the item back.