Do It 2017 #12: Don’t get stuck in your technology tastes
There is a point in everyone’s life when our music tastes atrophy. It maybe the 1980’s or 90’s or for some of us it might even be the 60’s or 70’s. We simply stop listening to music after a certain date, or, worse still, we actively denigrate any music outside our chronological range.
There is an even worse version of this syndrome, though. We can get stuck in our use of technology, too. Where our taste in music doesn’t usually fundamentally affect our lives, getting stuck in our technology choices can affect your productivity, your work, and your career. If you don’t keep growing your technology skills the world — personal and public, home and work — can quickly pass you by while those around you continue on their productive way.
Let me be clear. I am not suggesting you immediately adopt every new service, social media site, software or hardware. Rather, you need to be aware of those new innovations so you can actively decide which ones can help keep you keep growing your work and productivity.
This was all brought to mind as I watched several people struggle with organizational issues over the last few weeks. Whenever I see this occur I can almost immediately think of 2-3 ideas that would ease their organizational issues and lead them to a higher level of productivity. In almost every case, though, they are extremely reluctant to make changes, even if those changes would be better for everyone involved. The most common reason I hear for not changing is “I don’t want to learn something new.” Even if the changes are something I would consider minor, they will continue to struggle along — adding hours to work day — when 10 minutes of learning could save them hours instead.
Why does this happen? Well, much like the music example above, they are stuck. Even worse, they have decided to remain stuck, no matter what the cost. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your own life and work, too. While it affects those who are stuck, it also affects everyone around them. I know I can find this extremely frustrating when faced with a situation like this and I am sure are, too. No matter what you might say or do, nothing will change.
So, how do you keep your work moving forward? How do you prevent yourself from getting stuck?
First, when faced with an issue — especially an issue that you have faced multiple times in the past — take 10 minutes and see if there is a way of preventing the problem from recurring ever again. The truth is, there might not be a good solution, but in many cases, there will be an easier and faster way of accomplishing your goals. Technology moves at breakneck speed — and always has — and today’s unsolvable problem could very likely be done and dusted by next week. Again, you don’t have to research and adopt every single new piece of technology out there, but when you see one, think for a moment of how it might make your life a little bit easier. If you have a use for that technology, then go and use it. Sure, you might have to take a few minutes to learn about it, but the overall effect on your productivity could be dramatic.
A couple of examples
From my recent experience, there are 2 areas where technology could most people greatly if they only took advantage of it. First is technology that helps you communicate and coordinate with groups of people.
In the past, if we wanted to work on a document with someone else or communicate with a group of people we had to pass around files on floppy disks or use reply all on our emails. This often leads to files having multiple, different versions and people who are “out of the loop” on important discussions and decisions. That doesn’t need to be the case anymore, though.
There are many options today that can help groups work together no matter where they might be in the world. My own favorite is Google Docs, which includes word processing, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations and more. There are many others available to you and it matters little which one you use. The benefit comes from using it.
Whenever I am starting a new group — whether it’s organizing my CareerCamp unconferences — the first thing I do is start sharing any documents with all the involved parties using Google Docs. In this way everyone can View, Edit or Comment on the files to include their input AND, more importantly, everyone else can see their input immediately and build off it. Never again will you have people commenting on different versions of a document, changing sentences that have already been changed or figures that have already been connected.
The same benefits also apply to calendars. I have spent years using shared calendars and I can say that nothing has a greater effect on my sanity. All three of us have different — and often competing — schedules. It is important that when I enter something in my calendar I have an up to date view of everything in everyone else’s calendar and vice versa. If you can stop multiple bookings, issues with who has a vehicle that day and where everyone is on a specific day, you can do a lot to ease your stress, worry, and confusion. This is so much better than a calendar that is saved into a document and then emailed around. Static documents are out of date the moment they are saved. Wouldn’t it better to have a shared calendar that can be accessed by everyone and is guaranteed to always be correct?
Finally, every group should have an email list or productivity service such as Slack to facilitate real time discussions between group members. For email, you shouldn’t rely on everyone’s due diligence to hit Reply All on every email. Set up a mailing list like email@example.com instead. Then, when people send an email to that address, everyone on the group receives the email automatically.
Slack (Slack.com) is a more “real time” version of a mailing list where people see new messages from members as soon as they are posted. Workgroups can be thousands of miles apart and still feel they are connected on a daily basis.
Using either of these methods you can drastically cut down on situations where people say ‘I didn’t see that. What version is this? Did such and such do what they said they would?” These systems keep everyone on track and in the know.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in your use of technology in your life or in your business. If you are facing issues over and over, reconsider how the application of a little, new, technology might help smooth your path. While you can happily keep listening to your favorite hits of the 60s, 70s, and 80s without any undue effects, ignoring new technology and the productivity benefits it can have for you can be painful and slow your work and career.
Are you stuck in your technology tastes? How can you break out? Share your comments below!