Does Technology Really Make Us More Productive?

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Every day a new smartphone app crosses our digital path. Google Play for Android has over 1.5 million apps and the Apple store has over 1.2 million (source). The IoT (Internet of Things) movement is flourishing, as well. In 2015, Gartner predicted that by 2016, 6.4 billion “things” (everything from your coffee pot to your office printer) will be connected to the Internet (source).

Need to get a grocery list together, organized by where certain items are located in the grocery store you frequent? There’s an app for that. Need to communicate with your remote team on a particular project while you are away on a business trip, but you don’t want to bombard their inboxes in the middle of the night? There’s an app for that too. You can even print out items for your team meeting from your smartphone when you are commuting to the office so that your reports are ready when you arrive (hopefully, for everyone’s safety, you’re on a train or in a cab when you do this).

This sounds terrific! We can do everything faster and more conveniently than ever before, at work and in our personal lives. We’re always connected to our teams and have limitless ways to be more productive and save time. And this is all made possible through the Internet and our smartphones. Great! But…

Let’s pause and meditate about this for a moment before we continue downloading the most recent productivity app. Let’s think about why we feel this need to be connected to the Internet all the time across all devices, why we feel the need to track our every movement and plan, and why we think that it makes us more productive. I’m starting to wonder if it does. And I know that I’m not the only one. (Total disclosure: I have 6 productivity apps on my smartphone at the moment, not including all the Microsoft Office products I use. So… I am trying to play the “devil’s advocate” here and think about this from all angles.)

While a number of enterprises and companies attempt to go mobile so that their workforce can be on the go, sometimes it causes problems because there isn’t just one single app for everything that needs to be done for a project, or for someone in a certain role. As highlighted in this article , typically apps aren’t comprehensive and only contain singular functions. For instance, you have an app for writing documents, and another one for editing it, and yet another one for financial spreadsheets, and another one for team communications, and yet another one for a project calendar. This doesn’t seem to be conducive to being more productive because you have to constantly learn different apps each time you are attempting a different type of task, and you always have to open and close apps to get what you need done… and then you have to remember to sync them all!

According to a study conducted by Pew Research, 46% of workers feel more productive because they have access to the Internet, email, and smartphones. However, only 2% of total time spent on mobile apps is used for the purpose of being more productive (infographic source). There are also a multitude of apps being created that monitor our activity on the Internet and shut down our access to the Internet so that we can be more productive; here’s a list of some of them. So there’s an app that makes sure we don’t use other apps.

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Nowadays, we are constantly being sold this idea that we need to be more productive, at work and in our personal lives. We need to do more, quicker, cheaper, and on the go with our mobile devices. How? There’s an app for that. And the apps all notify us, every minute of every day, that we need to be doing something.

There are so many apps intended to make us more productive that I couldn’t even count the number of productivity apps available for download in the Play Store on my Android device. And when I searched the Google Play Store for a simple grocery shopping list organizer, there were 24 results! This doesn’t even include the options that are available in the Apple store.

For those of us who live and breathe simply to discover the newest app or productivity software, 24 apps for a category may not seem that high. However, if you’re like many Americans, you don’t live simply to discover the newest and greatest app. According to another Pew Research study, over 60% of Americans don’t flock to adopting new technology and wait until it has been on the market for a while (there a variety of contributing factors for this).

There have also been many movements, articles, and pleas (made by people other than our family members born before the 1960’s) about disconnecting ourselves from our devices entirely every now and then so that we can be more productive and less stressed out. Here are a couple of resources to consider:  Why unplugging can lead to happier, more productive workers , Why You Need To Unplug Every 90 Minutes

So, after you meditate on this, will you go download an app, or unplug entirely? Perhaps the best way to be productive is somewhere in between…

 

Extra Reading Related to this Topic: Technology isn’t workingWe Should Always Have Three-Day Weekends

 

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