Does more technology equate to more efficiency? In today’s hyper-connected world, we are surrounded by technology, and there are new trends emerging every year. While it’s certainly opened doors and helped us to achieve more in the world of work, can it be argued that all tech is productivity-friendly?
It’s not unusual to rely on apps and software to complete everyday tasks – in fact, the average smartphone user has 60-90 apps installed and spends around 2h 15m on their phone every day (Source). We are certainly spoiled for information, variety, and function. But does it make us more productive – or less? Let’s examine the evidence.
The argument for technology
We can certainly argue that over the past two centuries, technology has improved our ability to work faster and connect with our colleagues and clients. There is no reason to fear technology that helps us to focus and complete our work – this benefits everyone. For the vast majority of us, making it through the working day without a laptop, computer, or smartphone is unthinkable.
Not only is there a wealth of information out there, we can also access it readily, and mostly for free. The ability to learn, research, and fact-check is second nature to us now. What’s more, as employees and business owners, we’re able to stay connected to the workplace from anywhere, and at any time.
As such, businesses are generally moving at a much quicker pace. Our devices contain everything we could need, from calendars and contacts, to news and email. Cloud-based software is invaluable, enabling us to store all kinds of information on remote servers that are accessible to everyone. And who could argue against conferencing technology, with its ability to take us face-to-face with clients on the other side of the world?
Technology has undoubtedly transformed the job landscape. But it’s not without its downsides.
The argument against technology
One of the pitfalls of our increased use of technology is that we sometimes find it hard to unplug and disconnect from our work. This, in turn, does not necessarily help us with our productivity. We all need time to switch off.
There needs to be a distinction between being busy on our devices, and actually getting things done. We have to be disciplined enough to draw a line between ‘work time’ and ‘play time’, which can be challenging when you feel obligated to check your email every 10 minutes. While connectivity has helped us in a number of ways, it’s also contributing to a reliance on devices that can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and FOMO-prone.
It’s also true that one form of technology may distract us from another. We may be busily typing away on our laptops, only to receive a WhatsApp message that we feel compelled to respond to right away. Our phones and devices are filled with distracting luxuries, on top of everything that helps us stay productive.
If we want to make the most of tech to improve our productivity, we must learn to practice self-discipline.
The impact of tech on education
To some extent, the basic model of education has not changed that drastically over the years. We still have classrooms where a teacher stands at the front and speaks to an audience of students, though many of them now have tablets, laptops, or e-readers, instead of carrying heavy textbooks.
But when we look closer, we can see that tech has had a profound impact on education already – and this is just the start. Technology has landed a teeming mass of information right at our fingertips. And while we shouldn’t believe everything we see written online, there are plenty of formal learning portals that students can use to supplement their education.
It’s never been easier for students to access new subjects that interest them, in or out of school. Cloud-based tools such as Google Docs and Sheets also facilitate collaboration on group projects. Thanks to the internet and mass popularity of smart devices, we’re never far away from finding the answers we seek.
The role of technology for entrepreneurs
Not only has tech impacted schools and the workplace, it’s also changed the game for entrepreneurs as well, particularly in the last 10 years. For example, it’s never been easier to create an ecommerce website – you can simply purchase a domain name and use a DIY online store builder. And if you need to learn new skills, such as social media marketing, you can take a free online course with an organisation like FutureLearn.
Technology has lowered the barriers to entry for new entrepreneurs, both in terms of costs and expertise. The web allows us to track and automate many long-winded processes, giving us time to work on the important stuff. In other words, we can use our time more productively.
These are the kinds of opportunities that just weren’t available a few generations ago. Many of today’s entrepreneurs have the ability to work from anywhere, and at any time – all they need is a laptop and an internet connection. Even children and college students are starting their own businesses nowadays – and with relative ease, since they are digital natives.
Is technology getting out of control?
One of the most frequently asked questions about technology is whether it’s ever going to get out of control. Not surprising, given the number of sci-fi films about killer robots, evil cyborgs, et al. So what are the chances of technology turning its back on us?
The trouble starts when technology evolves beyond the point where humans can predict what it might do next. Facebook recently abandoned an experiment after two AI programs started communicating with each other in a strange language only they understood. And scientist Stephen Hawking believes that rapid technological advances, paired with the aggressive instincts of humans, could ultimately threaten our survival.
We are on the brink of a new era, one that gives us everything on-demand. And this will almost certainly have both positive and negative outcomes. While some believe that technology will give us superpowers, others are already concerned about how much time we spend with our heads bowed over devices rather than interacting with our family and friends.
It’s unlikely that by this point, society will backtrack on its use of technology. But with a little balance and awareness, perhaps we can avoid some of the bleak scenarios we see painted before us in dystopian dramas like Black Mirror.
Technology is very much what you make of it, and while it’s undoubtedly addictive, it’s opened up infinite possibilities and much easier ways of doing things. I for one would be helpless without my spreadsheets, apps, and online tools. On the flipside, we could all benefit from keeping an eye on our compulsive social media usage.
What are your favourite techniques for maximising productivity? Do they involve technology, or do you prefer old school methods? Please share your views in the comments.