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Tech. and Info. Management

Getting Out of the Technology Maze

It's not uncommon to hear technology referred to in the media as a "beast" that has to be "tamed." Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which conducts an ongoing examination of the effects of technology on our lives describes the problem: "Technology is relentless," he says. "In the case of the average user, it seems as if there are new gizmos to master all the time."

Love and Hate

But, we love the gyzmos that we find interesting and like the possibilities that global connections give us. We have a tendency to take for granted all that technology has done to improve our lives, yet waste no time in blaming it for the problems it causes and challenges it presents, forgetting that, to a great degree, we still can choose and control which technologies to use, as well as how and when. There is no federal law that requires us to upgrade, exchange or replace the old when a new version is released.

Whether you realize it or not, you've been adapting to new technologies over a long period of time—years, in fact! This means that many of them have become such an integral part of your life that you may not even be aware of how much of your time and behavior is dictated by their use. Not to mention vocabulary. What did we say before, "let’s get some feedback" or "network your way to a new job?" But not to worry – making better choices about which technologies you allow into your life and how you use them is a process that can be learned.

Take an Audit

The first step is to know what you have. Take a walk around your house and itemize all the technologies you already share your life with. Jot down each type of technology you find. Most of us have more than one of several types (for example, many people have more than one television set, VCR or DVD player, desktop computer, phone and high-tech kitchen appliances. You may want to add a column to your list (label it "Quantity") to get a really accurate idea of how much technology surrounds you. If you work from a home office full- or part-time, or, if your "technostress" is more acute where you work, you might want to make separate lists for each location.

Check the Frequency

Then, estimate how often you use the technologies you have. Consider why you bought each item to begin with. Think about how often you actually use each item and whether you're pleased with how you're using (or not using) them. Try these sample ratings to help you analyze your findings:

Never: it's a dead weight that’s collecting dust; I find I prefer using my _______ instead.
Rarely: I perform this task via my ______, but still feel I need it for the odd occasion.
Occasionally: but I often end up using something else to perform the same task.
Regularly, but intermittently: it still doesn't do all I need, so I end up going elsewhere/using something else a lot.
All the time: it works great, does all I need it to do and ultimately saves me time.
All the time, but it’s starting to drive me crazy. Plus, everyone in my household has his or her own; and now I feel that it is keeping us apart.

It should become clear pretty fast whether or not you're making the best use of the technologies in your world. Unless they fit into the "All the time" category above, many of the items you have are probably unnecessary or redundant, and it's time to consider eliminating them from your home, office and life. Simplify in order to make your life easier. Having more things does not equate to more ease or simplicity.

Less is More

Resist the temptation to ferret them away into a closet or garage. Try donating to worthy organizations. Doing so will make you feel good—and, in many cases, you can claim the donations as a tax write-off. Here are a few places to consider:

Places of worship
Homeless shelters
Girls and boys clubs
Women’s shelters
Re-entry programs

You do have options, choices, and opportunities for improvement. These suggestions are just to get you started. Everyone has to decide for her-or himself what works and what doesn't; sometimes you'll have to experiment a little. Just remember: you CAN get out of the maze. Control the technology -- don't let it control you.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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