While I’ve had many different jobs and challenges over my 18-year career, they’ve all been in one industry: technology. It has duly fulfilled three critical needs in my life: a passion, a hobby, and a career. Over time and combined with life experience, I also found that technology gifted me the ability to continually self-actualize and to become drastically more efficient. Or so I thought.
We’re all drawn to technology for different reasons. Some are amazed by its magic. Some in awe of its power. And some hopeful for its utility. There are actually two types of technology that deserve our attention: technology that we own, touch, and use daily in our lives (think Apple & Amazon) and technology that we see, read about, and admire from a safe distance (think NASA & Nanotech). Both are integral to our livelihood, but for now, let’s address consumer technology components like gadgets, web services, apps, games, and media.
Here’s my core technology component portfolio: MacBook Air + iPad + iPhone + Time Machine + iCloud + Safari + Mail + iPhoto + Pages + Keynote + Skype + Evernote + Tweetdeck + Twittleator + Spotify + Google Apps + Posterous + Facebook + Twitter + LinkedIn + Kindle + FIFA12 (iPad) + Dropbox + 1Password
These are the core components I use daily to effectively make a living, communicate, learn, and be entertained. This might seem like an extensive list to many, but I’m somewhat proud that it’s about one-half of what it was two years ago! Even so, I still feel burdened by too much technology that incessantly feeds on an ever-limited time and mental capacity.
Where some components of technology surely bring productivity and efficiency, others take away equal or greater amounts, leaving users with feelings of unfulfillment and unhappiness. The more success technology enables, the more addictive and reliant it becomes. A vicious cycle with diminishing returns surely awaits.
I’m not saying to shun technology; just suggesting that thoughtful technology choices, appropriate behaviors, and self-awareness are necessary in achieving a healthy balance to living well in a wired world.
To assist in this area, I recommend the following five practices to limit and optimize technology overhead to something (maybe) more manageable:
1. Just say no!
When Google+ launched, it was heralded by “famous” bloggers like Robert Scoble as the social network to rule them all. I didn’t buy it and decided from the outset to ignore the service altogether no matter how many invitations or “glowing” reviews. With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Posterous, and host of others, did I REALLY need another digital diversion to demand my time? Nope.
2. Try before you buy
If it’s on my phone, computer, or any device, I give new apps or services a probation period to prove their worth. If I’m not getting smarter, wealthier, healthier, more efficient, or more connected to meaningful people within 3-6 months, I’m deleting or shutting it down without remorse. GoWalla was a recent example where I was one of the first on board and first to bolt when it was apparent that there was no real reward for the time commitment to participate. Turned out to be a wise decision. Foursquare is likely next to go.
3. Understand WHY you are using a new technology
As mentioned above, every app or service should have a specific unit of value for every unit of time spent with it. Do some homework and get to know your technology components, thinking about the end game--the concrete value it really brings you. Are you building your personal or company brand? Are you looking to grow your friends or follower list? Are you positioning for your next job or client? Are you forging a better future? Avoid overlap and digital “islands” that don’t effectively complement or supplement other assets in your technology portfolio.
4. Design a technology portfolio
Look no further than the financial investment world for a strategy to “balance” your technology portfolio like your financial asset allocation. Based on your age, goals, budgeted screen time, and overall “digital health”, choose the appropriate time investment allocation for your chosen tech components. Currently, mine roughly looks like: 30% Apple (iOS), 15% Google Apps, 15% Facebook, 15% Twitter, 10% LinkedIn, 10% blogging, 5% experimental (Foursquare, Pinterest, Quora, etc.) And like any good investment portfolio, keep it SIMPLE and manageable.
5. Screen-less Sundays
Consider using your Sunday (or even a portion of it) as a day to abstain from technology. Use the mobile phone only for voice calls, but power down your computer, tablet, and Kindle. Read a physical book in the park, take a long hike, enjoy a sport or fitness activity, spend time with family or friends, or just meditate under a tree. Just try to be outdoors, breathe fresh air, and admire the simple beauty of nature all around you.
Like it or not, its a wired world of technology we live in. It’s up to us to have the discipline and self-awareness to use it to our full advantage while leaving enough time left for everything else that brings joy, not to mention a bit more rest and sleep. Most importantly, we need to use technology safely, as in, not while driving a car, riding a bike, or walking across a busy intersection. Let’s all start there, and slowly but surely take some of our humanity back.
by Dean Kakridas
illustration by Courtney Kuhlman
Response: hermes-it.inTHank you, nice info