I am a geek. There, I have said it. I am a geek about all things that truly draw my interest. I began my career as a computer geek with a degree in computer science. So technology should not be a challenge for me, but sometimes it still is.
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I am no longer actively involved in the world of computers, but my husband is, so I remain connected. Even so, trying to find the correct balance of enough technology to get the job done without being handcuffed to it is quite a challenge. As I have continued to work through finding my own balance, I have discovered five steps that make it easier to use technology on the go.
Before I begin, let me clarify that when I speak of technology I am talking not only about the devices (phones, tablets, readers, computers), but also the applications that run on said devices. In addition, this includes the publicly available technology such as cell phone service, WiFi and internet access in general. Practically everything is on the table. When planning to use technology on the go, there are a series of steps you should take in order to plan properly.
The first question to ask yourself is, What are you trying to accomplish? This is another way of asking what is your goal for acquiring and using the technology at your disposal. Any time I am disappointed in my technology, I have often forgot to ask myself this question first. On some trips I my just need to “stay in touch,” so a cell phone might be more than adequate. However, if I have to accomplish some business goals while away from my office, the answer to this question can be very different. Begin by making sure that your goal is clear.
Next decide which tools (hardware and software) are needed to meet the stated goal. Keep in mind what services and support infrastructure are available. At the visitor center near our vacation cabin there is fairly reliable WiFi, but practically no cell service. As such, even basic communication is better accomplished with e-mail, Skype or some other internet-based service. If you have to type a lot of information, the keyboard on your phone might not be sufficient. Does using a touch screen enhance or limit your productivity? There is more to determining the tools required for a task than just one aspect.
As you work through your list of tools, analyze the pros and cons of each in hopes of finding the right balance. Keep in mind that often there is more than one tool to accomplish the goal. You can screw in a Philips-head with a flat-head screwdriver, but it isn’t the most efficient process. On the other hand, if you have to bring the flat-head screwdriver anyway, is it worth the extra hassle to also bring a Philips-head? Although being efficient is a good objective, also be realistic about what you can accomplish with a given tool.
A step I often skip (much to my detriment) is to test the tools in a controlled environment. I can’t tell you the number of times I have tried to do something on the road with a limited tool set only to discover that a critical function will not work in the manner that I require. This often is the point of “hate” in my relationship with technology. However, investing the time in testing, learning and refining your tool set while you still have options can make the world of difference.
Finally, whenever possible, have a back-up plan. Sometimes assumptions go astray, technology fails or something new comes up. When you have a back-up plan, the little hiccups seem to have a much smaller impact on your productivity. When a back-up just isn’t available or feasible, do your best to let it go. Holding onto the frustration is never helpful and often when you let go, you will find an amazingly creative solution.
Do I always do these five steps? Unfortunately no, and that almost always includes some sadness. But when I start by focusing on a goal, decide on my tools, find a balance, test the tools and have a back-up plan, my relationship with technology is all about the love.
What is your process for finding the right balance in your own relationship with technology?