The technological world with its tools quickly sucks you in. Soon enough, you realize that technology runs your life, how you live and work, engage with people, and how you react to everything around you, which means that in as much as technology is a revolutionary idea that’s changed everything around us, it remains a double-edged sword whose limits you must understand to lead a happier life.
If the pings from your phone and laptop keep you on your toes and seem to ever illicit some inherent reaction and heightened states of anxiety, this article might be exactly the guide you didn’t know you needed.
But first, answer these questions – Are you inadvertently allowing digital tools to control your life by virtue of the fact that you don’t have a structure for running projects and processes under your purview? Is the information shared by and to your teams clear and sent to an accessible place for easy communication between people? In other words, do you have the right tools to streamline your communication structures?
What we need to recognize is the fact that in as much as the digital tools now resemble our modern economies, it also means that these tools are now obsessed with your attention, and you are spending more and more time working (and using said tools). We do a lot from the online space, and we hardly disconnect from our computer screens, which means that the tools we use pretty much control our lives. Any error in communication sends you into a panic even during the weekend, and something like a Pii email error leaves you crippled with fear of letting down the team, or worse, getting fired. We have been here, and we are guilty of being at the mercy of the devices and tools designed to simplify work.
Since you don’t want to sit back 20+ years from today and, in retrospect, regret how much control you gave away to the virtual world, here are some of the things you could do to regain control over the digital space and the incessant pings.
What to do
- Make the digital tools work for you.
It’s not true that having the most organized digital space will make you more productive, and some days, the slurry of tools meant to help you will only throw you into a turbulent space that makes you feel like you are losing your mind. This is because an organized digital space with tens of tools and folders makes you confused, and it’s akin to a kiss of death, thanks to the incessant notifications and the baroque of complexity experience. In other words, too many of the tools throw you into a madness swirl.
To counter this, we recommend using the most simplified task management systems, which assure you that you can easily find and work on everything necessary without feeling overwhelmed.
- Prioritize the things that matter
You need to engineer your space in a way that allows for the prioritization of the things that matter. Otherwise, too many of the digital tools would lead you to succumb to the ideology of openness where the tools (collaboration) used are a tad too public and stressful. For example, to avoid overwhelming your brain or running yourself down from anxiety every time an inbox appears, you may want to structure specific times during which you will be checking emails, then archive or respond to them immediately. You could also choose to star the emails to attend to them later. Also, opt to send email notifications from news streams into special inbox folders, which you can access at specific times. Although setting up such conditions will take a bit of time, it’s quite helpful in the long run, and it also gives you more time to be productive.
Your focus determines whether you get control over the digital tools in question or the tools run and destroy any sense of sanity you may still have. The simplest way to focus is to divide your work tasks; for example, have two buckets; one with the tasks that need to be squared away easily and the ones that need more work or can be handled later. Then, find a process or tool for easy management. And when it comes to the deep work that calls for more concentration, always focus on checking off one task at a time – which means pausing notification on your devices just to get that one thing done (albeit faster and without errors).
Sometimes we waste a lot of time on processes and tools when the good old pen and paper would suffice. So, if you notice that you spend more time on process-based tasks, opt for a simpler approach for taking notes. Besides pen and paper, lists and process scheduling is easier with tools like Evernote.
- Turn them off
Finally, you should learn that you can only gain back control from digital tools and the online space by turning off the tools and notifications. Why not use away status and the notification controls to dive into some deep work or rest, then get back to them when done or after a reasonable amount of time away? In other words, you need to get rid of those little distractions to gain control over every minute of your day.
Lastly, find a solution or approach that works for you, and stick to it. Also, keep tasks and communications transparent for access by the rest of the team.