Choice 4 of The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity is, ‘Rule your technology; don’t let it rule you.” To be perfectly honest, this is probably where I struggle the most with The 5 Choices. The other choices come more naturally to me. Acting on the important, going for extraordinary, and scheduling the big rocks, are all part of my daily routine, but technology… not so much.
I’m no luddite. I love technology and new ways of doing things. The computer in my car, the cellphone in my pocket, the laptop I’m writing this post on. I love them all, but I’m far from their master. If my battery is replaced in my car, I’ll let the clock blink 12:00 until my next service. If my cellphone is dropping texts, or not opening web pages correctly, I’ll text my brother-in-law to see if he can help. And if, God forbid, something happens with my laptop, I’m on the phone with IT immediately (unless my cellphone is also acting up, in which case, I send smoke signals).
So really, I’m far from ruling my technology, but I’m not letting it rule me either.
Even though I have a hard time establishing mastery of the various forms of technology in my life, I practice Choice 4 by not allowing that technology to master or hinder me. Try these three tips to get the ball rolling on implementing Choice 4 in your daily life:
1. Put your phone away when you are speaking with someone.
Don’t let your technology rule you, especially when you are connecting with someone on a personal level. Have you ever had someone check their phone as you were talking to them mid-sentence? How did it make you feel? If you felt like a priority at that moment, something is broken in you. When you go into a meeting, leave your phone in your desk. If you have to bring it in, leave it in your pocket. Ignore the buzzes and beeps. Take control of your technology, limit the interruptions, and increase your ability to connect with people. And whatever you do – resist connecting your phone with your watch. Every time someone looks at their watch now, I think they’re impatient with my conversation and need to leave, when in fact they are checking a text or an incoming call.
2. Clean out your inbox.
Look, I’m no Microsoft Outlook pro, but I’m definitely no slouch when it comes to being organized. An email inbox that is chalked-full of messages that are unread, unresponded to, and unfiltered, is a recipe for disaster. If you have 10k messages waiting to be sorted, why not just delete them? Especially if that mountain is what is stopping you from starting, why not level it, and begin with a clean playing field? Go ahead and archive it, put it in a folder for later if you are a digital packrat and afraid of deleting anything. The goal is to have a clean inbox. With messages read, responded to, and out of the way.
3. Turn off your tech.
Set do not disturb on your phone, block notifications after a certain time, or just power the devices off when you are out of your work time. If you respond to every ding, buzz, and chime, you are being ruled by your technology. If you set the time for when you respond to those notifications, you are being proactive and deciding when you welcome those interruptions. If you’re a slave to technology and check your email at night when you wake up, commit to yourself that you’ll stop doing that. The messages will be there for you in the morning, the world will not fall apart overnight. If you’re not so much a slave, but more of an addict, you can ration out the time you spend on your tech. Try spending 5 minutes of every hour checking messages and emails, maybe every other hour. The key is to find a routine that works for you where you aren’t subject to the constant interruptions your tech can provide.
I do these three things regularly, and I still struggle with Choice 4. Doing these three things will not resolve the productivity paradox (It is both easier and harder than ever before to achieve extraordinary productivity and feel accomplished in our lives), that paradox is our reality now. But what it will do is help you lay a foundation of productive habits that support the growth of even more productive habits. You have to start somewhere!
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