If everything works correctly, technology is incredibly empowering. But that ‘IF’ is an enormous uncertainty. When technology starts to run our lives it can become detrimental to our happiness and productivity.
The symptoms of technological overload include confusion, frustration, burn out, and an empty bank account. Between buggy software, poorly designed gadgets, and constant demands on our attention, this can happen to anyone before they realize it.
Fortunately, if you anticipate the problems technology is likely to present, you can take action to the avoid them. With a bit of planning and forethought, you can reap all the benefits of technology and bypass the pitfalls.
Here are the most common causes of technological overload and some suggestions to help you to eliminate them:
1. Gadget Mania – It’s natural to want the newest gadgets to show off to your friends, but more often than not splurging on the latest release is a mistake.
Why? The biggest reasons are covered in this rant by former Engadget editor Joel Johnson.
You don’t need it. Wait a year until the reviews come out and the other suckers too addicted to having the very latest and greatest buy it, put up a review, and have moved on to something else. Stop buying broken products and then shrugging your shoulders when it doesn’t do what it is supposed to. Stop buying products that serve any other master than you. Use older stuff that works. Make it yourself. Only buy new stuff from companies that have proven themselves good servants of their customers in the past.
The message is clear. To get the most value from technology don’t buy the ‘latest and greatest’. Wait to see what actually works and make wise investments. Impulse buys will leave you broke and stuck with an inferior product. If you need something new to play with find some cool freeware.
2. Unrealistic Expectations – Technology becomes a curse when we expect it to magically solve our problems.
If only I had that new personal organizer I’d get my life together. Or, maybe a new Blackberry. If I could send email from anywhere I’d be twice as productive.
Unfortunately it isn’t that simple.
Thoughts along these lines are really excuses. Technology is neutral, it doesn’t work for or against you. Once you decide to take ownership of your own actions and use technology as a tool instead of a crutch you’ll be able to maximize your effectiveness.
3. Tons of Noise, Very Little Signal – We’re constantly bombarded by media vying for our attention. Whether it’s T.V., radio, or the internet, someone is always trying to get into our heads and make us listen to what they have to say.
The problem is that most of these sources aren’t saying anything of value. Most are repeating the same stories or trying to sell us something we don’t want. In the confusion, it’s easy for the insightful, original voices to get drowned out.
To avoid this pitfall you need to be careful with the way to allocate attention. You have a limited amount of time. To hear what you want and need to hear you must master filtering out noise. When it comes to media, less is more. If you find yourself thinking, “Maybe this isn’t worth my time,” it definitely isn’t. Cut it, turn it off, go somewhere else where you know you can find great value.
4. Mental Clutter – How many times a day does technology impose on you mentally? Between emails, IM messages, phone calls, and RSS feeds, the figure is at least in the hundreds. All these distractions tend to linger. Something is always unresolved. Something always needs to be done. In this state we can’t relax and burn out is inevitable.
To avoid this pitfall and de-clutter your mind you need to become extremely well organized. Technology has made systematic organization more important than ever. We have more to deal with so we need to help ourselves keep it all straight.
Start writing things down as soon as they come up. Keep multiple lists for different types of tasks. With this information recorded, your mind can focus completely on the task at hand.
If you’re serious about getting organized but don’t know how, Getting Things Done by David Allen is an good place to start.
5. The Cataclysmic Crash – Everyone knows someone who has suffered a catastrophic system failure and lost their life’s work or all their priceless personal files.
This is probably the easiest pitfall to avoid because all it requires is taking care of your computer and being careful about what you download. Make sure you have up to date virus protection and security software, and please, no downloading from naughty sites or places you don’t trust. If you aren’t sure about a site, always play it safe. Ask someone who’s a bit more tech savvy than you are. Once a mistake is made, you can’t go back. With a bit of caution you can save yourself a giant headache and keep your technology working better, longer.