Technology is making us busy, not productive

Go ahead, reread the headline again, it’s correct.  We have reached the limit of technology making us more productive, and entered the era of “being busy”.  We are losing the fundamental ability to prioritize our work time, and now stay busy all the time; responding to emails, texts, and other REACTIVE tasks.  So what is technology’s role in all this?

Think about this for a minute.  If you could ONLY accomplish work at a physical location, let’s call it your “office”, wouldn’t you focus on accomplishing your tasks as efficiently as possible?  Otherwise, you are stuck in this mythical place until your work is done.  You may even have to come to this “office”, on a weekend to finish work you were supposed to have completed earlier in the week.  No one would want to live like that!

Along comes technology to save the day.  Now we can work anywhere!  No need to accomplish anything before you leave the office, because you can now work on vacation, at your child’s game, during family time….literally anywhere but at the office.  No need to plan your day, because we will just constantly work wherever we are.  Welcome to the era of being busy, but accomplishing less.

So how do we go from being busy to being productive?  Going back to basics is the answer.  Let’s pretend we are at the office, which is the only place we can accomplish our work.  What three tactics would you use to be most productive?

How to be productive, not busy in three steps:

1. Plan out your day and chose three to four results you want to deliver

Plan out our day using some type of prioritization matrix.  The world-famous “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” had just such a matrix, which is more relevant today than ever.  Choosing the results you want and putting them on a task list (Microsoft To Do) is a great way to organize each day.

2.  Minimize interruptions

Interruptions are the single most taxing thing your brain will encounter during the day.  Also known as a context switch, you have to completely put on hold what you were doing, engage with a new context, process that, and switch back to the old context.  Billions of dollars have been spend on optimizing computer chips to efficiently handle these context switches and interrupts…so working to minimize them on your brain is likely a good idea also.  Close Outlook, shut your door (or put on your headphones), and let people know you will be unavailable during certain times of the day.

3.  Know your high/low energy times

Everyone has different energy cycles throughout the day.  Capitalize on them.  Schedule your demanding (and hopefully important) work during high energy times.  Leave the Not Important work to periods of low energy.  Filling out expense reports during high energy times because you don’t want to tackle a hard issue, is called procrastination!

Technology can be a great productivity enhancer and certainly lead to an improved quality of life.  This only happens if you proactively plan your day and decide on what you want to accomplish.  If you simply “stay busy” wherever you are, technology is just a way to keep you “at the office” all the time.  Don’t fall for it!