Use Tech as an Accelerator, not as an End

When it comes to tools, we are in the best time in the history of mankind. Yet, we are as busy as never before. How come? With all the technology and productivity tools we have, one would think that we would have a lot of spare time, because we would get everything done so fast with our new tools. But it isn’t the case. Why? Because we let technology determine our processes, instead of our processes determine the technology that would accelerate our already existing processes.

This is a lesson that took me more than a decade to learn. Tech can be fun to use and it can be a distraction. I don’t mean the social media or video game apps. They are obvious distractions. I mean the productivity and collaboration apps.

Back in the day, I would come across a new piece of technology and I would fall in love with it. Then I would actively look for ways of how I could use it in my professional and private life. Some examples are Google Buzz, Google Wave, and almost any “productivity” app on my first smartphone. After a decade, I realized that it is backwards thinking.

Technology should come second, not first. Processes should determine the technology, not the other way around. The first step is to have a process that works on paper. The second step is to find or develop the technology to accelerate that procedure.

For example, you can write a note and have an office boy bring it to a colleague. It’s a good process. You can accelerate it by using email. Maybe, you should think about it that way. Would you send this note if an office boy had to bring it to a colleague? If not, maybe you shouldn’t send it in the first place. Worst than that, would you ask the office boy to bring the same note to everybody in your company? If not, maybe you shouldn’t send that email to everybody in your company.

Would you write down all of your random ideas as tasks to your to-do-list, if you maintained it with pen and paper? You wouldn’t. But that is exactly what I did when smartphones and to-do-list apps became available. Maintaining a huge to-do-list gave me a false sense of hard work. In reality, my productivity didn’t improve. Probably, it worsened due to all the noise in my to-do-list.

Would you shout your random thoughts to everybody in your company? Would it be productive if everybody in your company shouted their random ideas around while the rest was trying to work? But that’s exactly what Google Buzz was about. Probably, there are other similar apps in the market now. I don’t know.

Nowadays, I only look for a piece of technology when I know it would accelerate an already existing process. The rest is hype and distraction. I don’t worry about missing an important piece of technology. The useful ones will find me anyway.

Next time you are about to adopt a new piece of technology like a smartwatch, think about how this will accelerate your already existing processes. If you can’t come up with anything, skip it. Ask the same question about your existing devices and apps. If your smartphone is beeping and buzzing all the time without accelerating any of your processes, maybe it’s time to delete all those noisy social media apps and check what’s going on once a day for a few minutes via an old-school browser, if at all.