Timeless principles underpin our ability to leverage shiny new gadgets effectively

I often get asked which app or technology should be used to improve individual productivity. And like everyone else I have my favourites, but for most people I think the question is actually wrong if the goal is to improve productivity.

It’s not surprising people gravitate towards shiny new gadgets or the latest technology in our commodity based disposable society. However, it’s unlikely all benefits of the gadget or technology can be realised unless principles of effective behaviour are in place.

Remember when the introduction of computers in business was going to create the paperless office? While there are numerous organisations that have achieved this objective, yet decades later most haven’t because the behaviours have not changed. 

Or the original purpose of email was to send short text notes to other people on the same network. Email has evolved into something much larger with research uncovering we now spend 28% of our working week on emails.

And that’s not even mentioning that too many emails, being distracted and interrupted by email, focussing on the wrong priorities if living in the inbox, feeling overwhelmed etc all rank very highly as negatively impacting productivity by knowledge workers.

Now I’m not against technology as I worked in the IT sector for 17 years. But it’s the behaviours in how we use these tools which determine whether we’re able to fully leverage the potential benefits.

Recently I was listening to a Podcast from Tim Ferriss (author of the 4 Hour Workweek) and Tim shared similar views to mine. (by the way if you haven’t listened to Tim’s Podcasts you might be interested by the diverse range of content he covers from Podcast to Podcast) When asked what technology would he update the 4 Hour Workweek with in 2015 Tim said while technology can help, it’s about timeless principles not the shiniest latest gadget (think I've heard that before......) That 1st principles are both flexible and adaptable and the same today as they were in 2007 when he wrote the 4 Hour Workweek as they have been since time basically began.

I’m surprised more businesses don’t share similar views or why it is often incorrectly assumed that people already have these skills.

When you are next at work take a look around and see who’s really making progress on their targeted outcomes versus who’s getting caught up being busy and basically spinning their wheels. Maybe you don’t even have to look very far as you might know the person very very well…..

For this to be relevant I think it’s about putting a modern twist on the principles and integrating them with how we use technology today. As an example you could outsource your graphic design quite cost effectively to Fiverr (www.fiverr.com) but the outcome would most likely be less than ideal if you are unable to manage the principle of delegation (clarity of task, expected timeframe and quality).

To get greater productivity, 3 approaches I suggest to integrate with technology are:

1) Workflow – The way you process your work ie store, retrieve and process information, strategies to reduce distractions and interruptions, how batching like-minded tasks will help to get more work done faster

2) Activities – Are you planning and prioritising the right activities? Do you place urgency over importance? Is your day or week reactive to demands or is your effort proactive in driving towards targeted outcomes?

3) Collaboration – With flexible work environments and the Cloud more and more tools like O365, Privatised Social Networks (Yammer), Instant Messaging (Skype) enable you to collaborate with others. Are you leveraging the power of many through collaboration?

While I’m a huge believer in technology helping us move forward, I also believe the foundation is built on principles underpinning the effective use of technology. And when we get it right that’s when the magic happens.