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The intelligent use of technology

Author Tony Crabbe took part in the first of our new Power Hour Sessions, his book ‘Busy: How to thrive in a world of too much’, explores the issues facing entrepreneurs that sap time out of busy working weeks, and offers advice on how to work smarter. We invited him to share some of his advice below

In 1996, the future came to MIT. Seven young researchers walked the halls with the world at their fingertips. They carried backpacks containing computers and radio transmitters. They had digital displays attached to their eyeglasses. They were connected, mobile and ‘always on’. They called themselves ‘cyborgs’. Nearly two decades later, we’re all cyborgs.

Technology has made us super-human. We now have at our fingertips infinite knowledge, astonishing memories and the capacity to effortlessly reach across oceans to communicate with anyone. Technology can make us more, yet as we grapple to keep afloat on the information tsunami it can feel that technology is stealing our ability to think: a recent study found 30% of knowledge workers had no time at all to think each day; and 58% had only 15-30 minutes. The fact is, no matter how wonderful technology is; it is just a tool. Here are three suggestions on how to use technology more intelligently, so we can start thinking again.

Use email properly

Email should help us to think better; we just don’t use it correctly. The power of email is that it should reduce your distractions. When someone wants to communicate with us, we can choose to respond at a convenient time for us. We can do our big thinking tasks, uninterrupted, and then at times of our choosing we can blast through our inbox. The problem is, most people don’t do this. They stay always alert, allowing their inbox to dominate their agenda, pouncing on email as they arrive. Not only is this constant interruption ineffective; it makes you dumber: one small study found that the impact of being ‘always on’ on your IQ is as bad as losing a night’s sleep or smoking marijuana!

A division of labour

The brain is only designed to do one thing at a time. Harvard MBAs performance dropped to that of an 8 year old when they tried to do two things at once. When we are holding ideas or tasks in our heads at the same time as trying to think, we reduce our effective IQ. So, as a cyborg, use your machine parts for what they do best: storage. Get any stray thoughts out of your head and into your phone or tablet. Let technology do the remembering, so the brain can use all its power on thinking.

Fight fire with fire

Why do prisoners get fat? It is because they don’t wear belts, and so aren’t monitoring their waistline! It turns out, when we monitor our behaviour more; we have more self-control. Monitoring can be important if we want to think since it turns out the distracting temptations of email, Google and Facebook are harder to resist than sex or food. However, we can also use technology to keep us focused. Apps such as RescueTime will track your digital usage, monitoring when temptation gets the better of you. Or, you can go a step further with apps like Freedom which completely shut off your internet for specified durations so you can think.

We are cyborgs coming to terms with a life transformed by machines. If we find our lives dumbed down and over-run by our gadgets; technology is not to blame; we just haven’t used it intelligently.

Register to watch the Power Hour business web series so far: www.webcasts.com/powerhour.



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