Workplace Productivity & Technology: The Fine Balance

What comes to your mind when I say Workplace Productivity? Right kind of lighting, ergonomic chairs, positive environment etc.?

According to the Work Foundation, there has been an explosion in research documenting the disruptive effects of technology which has primarily focused on the hollowing out of jobs and the replacement of routine and standardised tasks. There has been less of a focus on how technology enriches work and can enable people to work in more intelligent and smarter ways, making more effective use of the technology

Doesn’t it seem dichotomous in 21the st century? When we are using technology to find new solutions but don’t think of it as an enabler for workplace productivity?

Workplace Productivity & Technology: At Loggerheads

This question has grappled me for a long time.

How is that we continuously obsess about how Social Media affects our productivity but rarely give a thought to the way we create an expense report using MS Excel?

If it takes 8 hours for that task, do we ask ourselves is there a way to reduce that time?

Am I using the right features of the tool or am I using the features optimally?

Workplace Productivity & Technology: Opposing Factors

I think there are three factors which result in this oversight:

  • Novelty
  • Learning Curve
  • Fatigue

Novelty

More often than not it is a pain to incorporate a tool in our defined work schedule especially if it involves a change in habit.

And if we don’t see immediate results, we just start assessing our workplace productivity w.r.t that one particular habit.  

When I started using ProWritingAid to edit my work, the process was daunting. I felt I missed deadlines because I spent time on the tool.

I still have not been able to use Boomerang for my email because I ‘think’ I don’t have the time to learn it and frankly, it has been going okay without it.

I just make a mental note of emails I have to reply later, go back to the sent items folder every time I need to see did I follow-up or not. It isn’t much time, is it? The search box in Gmail makes it easy!

But, here is a problem when I do that it breaks my chain of thought and I take some time to come back to the same pace. Often, I completely forget about the task I was involved in or I am not 100% sure about the status when I am updating my client.

This is just one task – emails. If I add similar habits for my actual work, inefficiency may seem like a virtue I am striving for.

Don’t believe me? What if I tell you that I shuffle between the pages of notebook everytime I need to recollect the thoughts I had for a particular post.

Or I will copy the link in the address bar on shared Google docs and send it as email, instead of using Email collaborators feature.

When I started working eleven years ago, creating a document in MS Office , downloading and emailing it was a standard process. Needless to say, version control was very important in that practice. The habit of sending a link of a shared document over email seems like a great improvement over that.

Because I have been doing it for past eleven years, these habits don’t appear counterproductive.

However, I need to remind myself that tools I have been using for work have evolved, therefore I need to evolve too and learn to let go of habits hampering my productivity and it all starts with the daily routine, as John C. Maxwell says

You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success if found in your daily routine

Learning Curve

Before one starts becoming productive using a tool, there is a learning curve to traverse. In some cases that is a bigger challenge than a change of habit.

As an Adobe employee, I had access to Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite. When I joined the company, I was sure that within months I will be comfortable with Adobe Photoshop.

But, every time I tried to edit a picture or change background, I got lost. I didn’t even know where to look for functionality I wanted.

Few times I did Google for “Adobe Photoshop for beginners” but the results weren’t interesting enough for me continue my learning.

In this case, it went okay if I didn’t learn the tool it did not affect my work directly.

But, I cannot same the same thing for email marketing software. If it was as difficult to learn that, my work would have suffered.

In such cases, I scout for niche blogs and follow them. It works better than Googling every time because:

  1. I don’t have to go through 4-5 sites to find the information I am looking for
  2. These sites are usually run by experts who put a lot of effort in the content and are always open to interaction.

For e.g. my business partner runs Trump Excel where you can find bucket load of information on Excel. He also listens to his audience and creates content on their demand.

PS: Know of any great niche sites on tools ? let us know in comments.

Fatigue

Given the amount of technology overload, my habits listed above seem like a tradeoff to save myself from living my life in apps. I don’t need an app for everything, if my notebook is enough to keep a track of things, why do I need Trello?

Because it is smarter and effective.

Till two weeks ago, I was dead against an idea of using an online app to do something which can be done without staring at a screen. Didn’t I say my notebook was just fine?

One day I left it on the 2nd floor of my Co-working place while I was in meeting on the ground floor, the other day I left it at home, few days before that I wrote some points but can't decipher my own handwriting, phew!

Therefore, I moved to Trello. I don’t make my daily or weekly to-do list there. I have boards where I list what all I am working on and what all I have to accomplish at a broader level.

Because I use it for one specific purpose of keeping notes, I don’t have to look at it again and again. For e.g., once I am done with this post, I don’t have to look at it again.

So the trick for me to reduce technology fatigue is to limit the usage, use it for the specific purpose and as soon as that is over, don’t look back.

Workplace Productivity & Technology: What Works?

There is no one follow all guide for workplace productivity. What works me may not work for someone else. But there is one common factor for all of us, technology.

All of us have access to pa lethora of tools which when used wisely may help us discover that trick of making technology work for us rather than the other way around.

Have same favorite Workplace Productivity tips or tools? Share them in comments.

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