Technology promised to make our lives easier by taking the word “hard” out of hard work, and in many ways, it has done that but by making our lives easier it has also raised the expectation on the amount of work we can accomplish each day. Twenty-years ago if you read and replied to ten or so letters in a day, that would have been considered a productive day. Today, you are expected to read and reply to ten emails in thirty minutes or so.
The wonderful technology that surrounds us today is fantastic. We have the answers to questions at our fingertips throughout mobile phones and computers. If I want to know the birthday of Nelson Mandela, all I have to do is ask Siri and within seconds I have the answer. Fifteen years ago, I would have had to have gone to a library to get that information and depending on where the nearest library was that could have taken hours.
With that growth in technology has come raised expectations. We are now expected to do a lot more work in a day than we ever had to do just ten to fifteen years ago and that means we need to change the way we work.
Fifteen years ago I was using a Franklin Planner to organise my day. I had time each morning before I left for work to spend a few minutes planning my day and I remember if I had more than ten tasks on my to-do list I was being very ambitious about what I was going to try and do. Today, for most people, ten tasks on a to-do list for the day would be considered a quiet day.
So the problem most people have today is not that the work has changed — it has, but only in how we do our work — the problem most people face today is the volume of expected daily work has increased dramatically and we have not developed ways of working to handle that explosion.
This is why you need to develop strategies that allow you to focus on your work, to get better at prioritising the work that comes in and to learn how to automate as much of that work as you possibly can.
Take email for example. Almost all email clients whether you are using Outlook, Gmail or Apple Mail allow you to create rules to manage your email. You can create simple rules that take all your newsletters out of your inbox and put them into their own folder so you can read them when you have time later. Or if you are managing a project you can have all your project update emails sent directly to a folder without ever dropping into your inbox. Likewise, you can create templates in Microsoft Word, Google Docs or Apple Pages to take care of a lot of the regular work you need to do.
Of course, to set up these rules and templates takes time, and time is what many people feel they don’t have. But here’s the problem with that thinking. Part of the reason you do not have time is that you are not taking advantage of these features. If you did take an hour or so to set up some mail rules and create a few templates out of the documents you regularly have to create, you would save yourself a lot of time in the future. It’s a sort of no gain without pain situation. The pain of setting up rules and templates now gains you a lot of time in the future.
Technology enables us to do so much more and learning how to take advantage of that technology is easy. YouTube is full of tutorial videos on how to get the most out Microsoft Office and Apple or Google’s productivity apps and so much more. There are tools such as Evernote that allow us to create digital brains that can store information simply and easily which can then be found within seconds later.
With all this wonderful technology it is still your responsibility to find out how to get the most out of it. It is up to you to learn how to use the tools you use so you get the most out of their functions. If you are not prepared to spend a few minutes each week watching a YouTube video on managing email more effectively or reading an article on best practices for working in the digital age then you only have yourself to blame when you cannot cope with the volume of work that continues to come your way.
Your workload is not going to reduce. The expectations on you to complete more and more is not going to go away. If you want to reduce your levels of stress and overwhelm then you need to take responsibility to spend a little time each week learning how to get the most out of all this incredible technology. Just learning the basics will not do much for you. Go deep, learn everything you can about the tools you use. Spend some of your valuable time setting up templates, rules and automation so the technology at your fingertips does a lot of the work for you.
To finish, here are a few resources you may find useful in developing your skills at using the amazing technology we are so lucky to be able to use.
Now go learn.
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