I know that’s a fairly provocative question, but now that I have your attention, please hear me out. Technology certainly has many, many benefits. As a former corporate accountant, I sure wish the personal computer had been available back in the day to save me the frustration of adding and re-adding numbers on multiple-column spreadsheets. Today’s workplace and workers certainly benefit from the improved productivity and efficient communication that technology makes available. However, I wonder if we’ve gone too far.
I make a living at helping people make the most of their time, and it seems that technology has now crossed the boundary of making us productive and has moved into the realm of being an obstacle to productivity. Take email for instance: It used to be that it was a tool that allowed senders to communicate with numerous people at the same time and allowed recipients to respond when it was convenient for them. But no more – in many workplaces, there is an expectation that employees will respond instantaneously every time they get a new email. It boggles my mind that anyone can be expected to get anything accomplished when they’re constantly being interrupted with other people’s demands.
I think email and texting often stealthily cross the boundary of making communication more efficient – how often have you been engaged in back-and-forth email or texting communication that, as it turns out, could have been handled more efficiently via a phone call? It may start off as a simple question posed via email or text, but soon turns into back-and-forth banter that takes up more time than a phone call would. Know when to say when and stop the email and texting madness and dial the phone.
Speaking of phones, I see many people who have become slaves to a tool that is supposed to set them free. There are many great conveniences that smartphones offer, but like email, I think they’ve actually made people less productive in many cases. They can be a constant source of distraction and interruption – so much so that some (smart) companies have banned cell phones (and all technology, for that matter) from meetings so people will actually pay attention to the meeting.
One of my colleagues offered this observation about the smartphone: “While it’s a great tool, it’s quickly getting more complicated to run the business, between the phone calls, texting, and emails on various platforms (phone calls via the office land line and smartphone, email via the computer and smartphone, etc.). In fact, I have a younger client (a busy mom, author, and speaker) who runs her entire business off her smartphone — while she’s on the go. Naturally, her emails are cryptic, at best. Often she answers only 1 out of 3 questions in an email. Another client only hits the ‘reply’ button for emails from her smartphone instead of ‘reply all’ (these are important emails in which the entire team needs to be in the loop). I’m also finding that people who use smartphones will send text messages to my business line, assuming that it’s a smartphone … it’s a land line! Plus, smartphone users don’t take the time to type a relevant, current subject line in an email … they just go find an old email message, hit Forward, and type in the content — the recipients receive an email with a confusing, out-of-date Subject line.”
Smartphones can also take away from opportunities to interact with our fellow human beings. I’m constantly amazed when I go to restaurants and see tables where everyone has their face glued to their phone – they’re either talking, texting, or doing something or other online – anything but talking to the people they’re with. Seems to me they could have just ordered carryout and stayed home with their technology. And I could say something similar about many of the fans who sit near me at Chicago Blackhawks hockey games – they’ve paid good money (or if they haven’t I want to know how they got their tickets!) to attend a professional sporting event, yet they spend seemingly at least half the game texting and checking Facebook. I don’t get it!
I laughed out loud when I learned there’s a smartphone app that offers users a transparent view of what’s in front of them so they won’t walk into a tree or light pole while they’re texting and walking. People are risking their physical and mental health in order to instantaneously communicate, yet are missing out on so many opportunities to relax, be present, let their minds be still for a moment, appreciate their surroundings, or personally connect with their fellow human beings. It’s not clear to me how all this connectedness and instantaneous communication is making lives better when it seems like so many people are totally stressed out!
Call me old fashioned, a Luddite, or behind the times – I can take it. I certainly have no issue with using technology to enhance our lives, but I think we’re at a tipping point that is making us less engaged with our fellow human beings, and certainly less productive and more stressed.
How much more productive and fulfilled could you be if you put down your phone for a few hours and were fully present in the moment?
Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,