Section 3: Taming Your Tools
How to gracefully manage new technologies for better workflow and well being
“Making E-mail Matter” Aaron Dignan
“…the average knowledge worker spends 28 percent of his or her workweek either writing, reading, or responding to email."
When we talk about email today it is more a discussion of how to master your inbox; an endless list of tips and “hacks”. But the trouble is that our inboxes are still an endless stream of information taking up more and more of our time.
In this essay Dignan suggests we reframe the way we think about email: we should use our inbox as another tool to reach our long term goals.
To do this Dignan suggests that we put a list of our top 3-4 goals on our computer monitor or somewhere equally prominent. Then, whenever we get a new email, we consider how it relates to those goals. Is this email something that you could forward to someone? Is there something that you could ask to move the ball forward or foster a relationship? Is this an opportunity to ask for help? With your goals in mind you can reply to, label, and file important emails. Similarly if you find that certain emails are constantly distracting you from your goals, you can unsubscribe or tell the sender how their messages could be more helpful.
It may seem counterintuitive to be a highly-selective gatekeeper of your inbox, I mean people are sending you emails for a reason right? The reality is that email has become a dumping ground of unnecessary information (and many people think that if they CC someone on an email that they are free from responsibility). Because it is so easy to shoot of a mass email, people do so without thinking about the burden it places on the recipients - is the information they are seeking worth it?
It is time for us to reclaim our workdays and saying “no” to unnecessary emails is the first step.
“Using Social Media Mindfully” Lori Deschene
One of the challenges of running a primarily online business is how to make your presence known. Most of us turn our attention to social media platforms as a marketing tool, but we need to be careful that we use it to our benefit and not our detriment.
Social media can quickly consume large chunks of time and we can become obsessed with metrics; how many followers/comments/likes/shares/etc. do we have? This mentality feeds a viscous cycle where we focus on the quantity of engagement rather than the quality.
To counteract this we can be mindful of how we use social media. How can we meet our objectives while also providing value to the people following along?
Q & A "Reconsidering Constant Connectivity” Tiffany Shlain
“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” Sophocles
In this Q&A section, Shlain discusses the importance of knowing how and when to use technology. She argues that because we created the internet, and we are both good and bad, the internet is also good and bad; meaningful and distracting.
Part of knowing when to use technology is knowing when not to use it. Shlain mentions that she regularly takes a “technology shabbat” where she deliberately unplugs and takes time to be present in her life and with her family. She also stopped bringing her phone into her bedroom. This allowed her to get better sleep and further reduced the urge to check social media at all times day or night.
“Awakening to Conscious Computing” Linda Stone
In her essay Stone discusses the impact of screens on our overall health. She has coined the term “screen apnea” to describe how, when we look at screens, our breathing becomes shallow, we move less, etc. She advocates for learning proper posture when using technology; learning to sit and breathe in a way that counteracts “screen apnea.”
“Reclaiming Our Self Respect” James Victore
“We have welcomed technology so fully and lovingly into our lives that we no longer take the time to stop and question the relationship"
The effect of always being on call - reachable on evenings, weekends, vacations - has made it hard for us to distinguish between “urgent” things and “important” things. Everything is labeled urgent and gets tossed onto the ever-growing urgent pile. When we choose to devote our time to this urgent pile, we choose to prioritize other peoples needs over our own. This busy work pulls us from our meaningful work.
Victore argues that we need a new etiquette when it comes to technology. We need to take a step back and clarify the things that are truly important to us because doing busy work is easy, doing your best work is hard.
- What are 3-4 goals that you have?
- How can you use email to further those goals?
- What value do you get from social media?
- What value do your social media followers get from you?
- Do you take breaks throughout the day?
- Write down 3-4 goals and place them in a prominent location in your workspace
- Create email folders related to your goals
- Create a mindful social media strategy. What do you hope to gain from social media? Why should people follow you?
- Take a technology shabbat for one evening a week
- Take more breaks throughout the day. If you don’t know where to start, download a copy of my weekly planner (it already has breaks sprinkled in!)
- Set boundaries for when you check and respond to email
Start strategizing your social media with this free content planner from The Library!