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Techno-Gadgets for Time Management: Helpful or Harmful?

Smartphones, tablets, apps — they’re designed to make life easier. But when you spend so much time with them that other priorities begin to slide, it’s probably time for a reboot.

Do you know someone who looks forward to making an annual pilgrimage to the CES the way most people would plan a trip to Bora Bora? The guy or gal who has all the latest high-tech gadgets, and who can’t go five minutes without checking their smartphone? A person who, despite all the technology at their fingertips, always seems to be late to meetings and appointments? Or forgets that you had plans at all?

For a technophile, the CES might as well be Epcot.

Or — be honest — are you that person?

Of all people, you’d think the supremely tech-savvy would be the most organized. We have all manner of meeting notifications, task reminders, and alarms available through our smartphones. We have tablets with apps that realistically simulate notepads and old-school day-planners. We have Bluetooth®- and wireless-enabled everything, so that no matter where we are, we’re always in the know and on top of our game. Right?

Come on. More like, “Yeah. Right.”

We technophiles are always chomping at the bit to get the latest and greatest gadget or app. But is all this easily accessible technology actually making us more organized? Or are we wasting more time than we’re saving?

Begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • When your device rings/buzzes/plays a Pitbull song, do you automatically pick it up?
  • Do you open an email as soon as you get a notification? (We’re going to go out on a limb and assume it’s not in the form of a “You’ve Got Mail!” soundbite.)
  • When you wake up in the morning, is your first instinct to grab your phone and check emails, texts, or social media?

If so, you might have unwittingly become leashed to that which was intended to free you!

Technology is supposed to help you become more productive, more efficient, and less burdened by mundane tasks. But if you’re finding the opposite is true — that you’re actually constrained by your beloved devices— we’ve got some time management tips designed to help you free yourself from the tech leash.

Technology should enable us to do more in less time, thereby allowing us more freedom to relax, spend time with our loved ones, and still get our work done. Utopian? Maybe. Impossible? Not at all. It just takes some discipline and planning.

Choose Wisely

In October 2013, Apple announced they had hit the one million app mark in their App Store. The Google Play store is estimated to have 1.3 million apps currently. So there is no shortage of apps that can help you stay focused and on track.

But when you don’t have a game plan to help you use your technology responsibly, you’re likely to get caught up in an application black hole. So do your homework first.

Instead of downloading every app that looks like it might help you achieve your goals, take some time to do your research. Pick one that meets your specific needs, and don’t download another one unless you’ve determined the first one is not a winner. This approach will cut down on redundancy, as well as overspending.

We’ve all done it. Who doesn’t have multiple apps for list-making, note-taking, or time-tracking? And while many great apps are free, most of the truly valuable apps are not. So why pay for multiple tools when you’re really only going to use one?

In addition, when you have multiple apps for the same purpose in your arsenal, you’re either going to duplicate entries or have your data spread out across multiple apps. Pick one, use it, and don’t look back.

Have a Game Plan

We’ve all seen those people who never look up from their phones. They are everywhere, oblivious to the IRL (In Real Life) world around them, typing furiously with both thumbs about . . . well, who knows.

While we all want to believe that the world will truly stop spinning if we don’t respond to an email right away, the truth is, it won’t. Most of the time, whatever is waiting for us on the other end of the screen is not an actual emergency.

And whether we want to remember it or not, there was a time when people really did have to leave a message for you at a physical location and wait for you to return to that location to retrieve the message! (Spoiler: Nothing exploded, and no one’s life was destroyed.)

We’re not advocating that people stop returning messages in a timely manner. But if you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that about 99% of your correspondence can wait.

To make sure you are managing your inbox (as well your clients’ expectations for timely communication), set aside two or three blocks of time per day to check and respond to email and voicemail messages. That’s it. Resist the urge to check your phone constantly for new message notifications.

Make sure the people close to you know that if there truly is an emergency, they should actually call you instead of sending an email or text. And, if they get your voicemail, they should leave a message. Nothing says “It’s not that important” like a missed call and no voicemail.

Use Technology as a Tool, Not a Tether

None of us wants to believe we’re not in control. But if you’re having trouble putting down your phone to have dinner with friends, or have gotten into a fender-bender because you were texting while driving, then you might want to re-think how you are using technology.

One time management technique that’s particularly cool is the Pomodoro Technique. This presentation by Greg Head, Infusionsoft’s CMO, will give you a good feel for how it works. But the basic idea is that you focus on whatever task is before you, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, you stop, get up, and take a short three- to five-minute break. Then you get back to your task.

So how can technology help us with this time management technique? Use your phone to keep track of your 20-minute increments. Log your progress using the software of your choice on your laptop. The point is to balance the use of technical tools with the need to stay focused without interruption.

The Bottom Line

Technology is part of our daily lives, so make sure you’re using it for good and not evil. Take stock of the truly useful and productive apps, and get rid of those that you know are wasting your time. With the appropriate use of the technical wonders of the modern world, we truly can get more time back into our lives.

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