If Time is the New Currency… is Technology Robbing Us Blind?

by David B. Bohl

Time is money… the expression is as old as the day is long… and yet these days, “the day” is not nearly as long as we need it to be to get everything done that we want to do.

If that sentence made your head spin a little, chances are it’s because, like most of us, you’re caught up in the usual rush, rush, rush that has become your expected mode of operation. No matter where we turn, it seems like everyone has an amazing new product or tool that’s designed to make life easier and save everyone a ton of time. And yet, our precious minutes just seem to slip away, despite our every effort to “own” our own time.

Technology is a great example of a time-snatcher marauding as a time-saver. Gadgets and gizmos are being waved in our faces at every turn, all promising to save us time, put us in touch with the important people sooner, and get what we have to get done out of the way so we can move on to better things. Yet how often do we actually call the shots against the technology that rules our lives and forever seems to occupy our time?

Consider the following “time-saving” technology tools, and what they represent in your life. Is it possible that something as simple as creating boundaries and setting limits, is the real secret to making our time our own again?

Cell phones.
Cell phones are hardly a new technology. Yet over the past ten years, cell phone time management has gone from bad to worse. Thanks to spontaneous and interruptive cell phone use, the boundaries that once separated different aspects of our lives (work, play, rest time, family time), are quickly and quietly dissolving away.

When did it become acceptable to stop in the middle of what we’re doing and grab the phone simply because it’s ringing? We have voicemail boxes so people can leave us a message. We have text messaging and the page feature, in the event someone needs to share some critical information right away. And lest we forget, we have off buttons on our phones, that allow us to temporarily shut out the clamoring world so we can turn our full attention on simple yet nevertheless essential tasks in our lives. Things like driving our cars home safely, or having a conversation with our families over dinner.

Laptop computers have given us the amazing ability to simultaneously juggle work priorities with our home life… and this saves us an abundance of time. Or does it? Is it possible that instead of getting more accomplished in a day as the computer companies would have us believe… we are actually getting LESS done?

Could it be that in our eagerness to plow ahead from one task to the next, we become tense, fragmented, distracted, and unable to carry out the order of the minute? Indeed, many would agree: on the whole, we actually end up WASTING far more time than we would have if our lives were segmented into manageable portions, as they were in decades past.

What would happen if we told our bosses, “Goodnight, I’m heading home for the evening… ” and then we left our laptops tucked away in our desk drawers until the following morning? What if the next time we traveled on business, we left our portable computers behind and simply didn’t answer email for that time away? Would chaos ensue? Would our world come crashing down? Or is it possible that all the “urgent” matters aren’t really all that urgent after all?

Email has been named another great time saver. Instead of writing someone a letter, putting it in the mail and waiting four days for it to arrive at its destination, we have email helping us reach more people in less time. Simply pop open your favorite email program, hit SEND, and have the recipient (or a whole list of them!) read your message within minutes of crafting it. Instant mass communication. Seems like a Godsend, doesn’t it.

And yet… some will say that the instantaneous aspect of email wreaks havoc on our communication skills. While all of this immediacy at our fingertips seems mighty convenient, it unfortunately leaves us plenty of opportunity to get sloppy. How many times have you been involved in an email conversation that “went all wrong” because neither you nor the party on the other end could figure out what the other was trying to say?

Is it worth the “retracing of our steps” to try and patch communication gone awry, simply because we’re trying to “save time” by using email? Just think of what would happen if, instead of impulsively tapping out a response to the next person who emails us, we gave the matter some thought. What if instead of hurling back a quick retort, we took some time off and simply let things simmer? Might that mean less time arguing, less time struggling to be understood, and less time spent working so hard to undo what we did?

Most will agree… for the majority of purposes, technology is a good thing. We can accomplish many tasks so much more quickly and easily, thanks to the internet, computers, and all things digital.

So the problem, then, is not with the technology itself. It’s actually with our obsession and preoccupation with the technology… the need to have constant communication rule our lives. Many people are now seeking relief from the havoc that technology has inflicted on their work life, home life, and the frantic blend of both as they merge together.

Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves… in terms of technology conveniences, is it time to set some personal guidelines and begin to respect the boundaries set forth by others?

How will technology affect future generations; productivity at work. Relationships, and giving our full attention to people who matter the most. Living in the now – even something as simple keeping our wits about us while walking down the street… without competition from the cell phone, or the iTunes blasting in our ears.

Will we finally learn to put technology back into its proper place, instead of giving it permission to take over our lives?

Time will tell.

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