In the age of the smartphone, it’s easy to become a slave to technology. That’s not to say that all technology enthusiasts are slaves to their gadgets. Far from it. But it is easier than ever to fall into that trap. Thankfully, it’s just as easy to shed those technological shackles and turn the equation around. With all the functions our gadgets can perform, it’s also easier than ever to make technology work for us.
The principle at the center: How to make your gadgets less of a distraction. If we can do that, we can use them to improve our lives. Here’s how to do this with one of the most common and universal gadgets, the smartphone.
Technological slavery: how to triumph over IT!
Slave to the Smartphone
There it goes again. The red light is blinking again. Maybe an alert sounded. Whatever the case, something just distracted you from your work. Anyone who uses a BlackBerry for work knows this feeling all too well. The flashing red light means a new message, which in turn means someone wants something from you. Better drop what you’re doing and get to it.
Such is the life of a technological slave. No one enjoys it, when it comes during working hours. Unfortunately, for a slave to technology it doesn’t end there. The alerts come at all hours: at home with the family, on weekends, and even while on vacation. Those are prime times to ignore requests and separate from technology, but the slave can’t help himself. He keeps going back to see what’s behind that red blinking light.
Even worse, the blinking red light or the beep can mean dozens of different things these days. Everything from email and text messages, to applications such as Facebook. It’s all one big distraction, and it takes away from things that actually need doing.
The only question is, who would ever want to be such a slave?
Breaking free of technological slavery
The only way to break those chains and free ourselves from smartphone slavery is to condition ourselves. One way we can accomplish this is to set up self-discipline safeguards. If we can’t escape the Pavlovian response to the blinking red light, we have to somehow limit its occurrence. Thankfully, this is easily accomplished on a smartphone.
If the sound of an alert is what draws you to the device, turn sounds off. If it’s the blinking red light, flip the device upside down. Maybe you’ll miss something here or there, but unless your job requires immediate response to issues, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. If it is an issue, technological slavery might be built into your job. But if it’s not, you’ll get to the message soon enough.
Then, at a regular interval — maybe ever 15 minutes at first, and gradually expanding from there — check your messages. But only check after those 15 or 30 or 60 minutes are up. What most people find is that they didn’t miss anything that required an immediate response. The sender was quite content to wait the 15 or 30 minutes for the reply.
This exercise can expand into the weekends, and it can extend for hours on end. Set the phone aside and do something with the family or friends. Then, after an hour or two, check to see what you missed. Again, it’s not likely that anything required an immediate response.
It’s then that we see that we can break free from technology.
Turning the tables
Once we free ourselves from technological slavery, we can realize what technology can do for us. That is, it can help us get organized and live simpler lives. Here is just a partial list of functions that our smartphones can help us achieve, for free or at least very cheaply.
- Financial aid. There are dozens of free budget tools for every smartphone platform. These tools make it easy to record what we spend and keep under budgets. After all, smartphones come with us everywhere, so it’s easy to write down what we spend and compare that to a budget.
- Workflow control. In the slave stage, the workflow controls us. Once we start to use technology to our advantage, we control the workflow. Task managers and calendars make it easy to schedule what tasks get done when. And if we turn over our smartphones and put our noses to the grindstone, those tasks get done distraction-free.
- News filter. Any type of media can become a distraction. That is, if it’s pushed to us. With smartphones it’s easy to pull the news items you want to read and leave out all the rest. Set everything to manually update, and you’ll never see an item as a distraction. It is, instead, an escape.
- Leisure aid. Many smartphone functions boil down to leisure. Streaming video lets us escape the world for a few minutes. Many apps work with your fitness program. Various games and activities have dedicated apps. These can all enhance our leisure time activities.
The key is to integrate these functions into your daily life, rather than have them thrown at you. It’s a thin line between technological slavery and technological mastery. But once found, it can have a profound aspect on your life. Using your smartphone for the things you want, when you want them, rather than having things thrown at you, is the key to breaking the shackles and mastering your device.