Every week, the average American spends the equivalent of one day online. This is more than double the time we spent online back in 2000. But what are we doing with those 24 hours? Are they being spent productivity?
As I argued in my first book “Rewired: How to Work Smarter, Live Better, and Be Purposefully Productive in an Overwired World,” technology helps us connect with colleagues, clients, friends, and family, but it’s a double-edged sword. Technology can also make us feel like we are always at work and unnecessarily wired. While technologies can help us do many things better, we must ensure time spent online is time spent well. To do this one has to be intentional about how they are using new technologies, when, and why.
Here are five best practices for leveraging technologies in the workplace:
1. Rethink Where and How You Work
Everyone is unique and we each have uniquely different “ideal work environments.” Too often, people don’t know what they need to be their best and default to the status quo (e.g., working at a desk, on an office chair, in front of a desktop computer). Technology offers us the portability and flexibility to be our best wherever we like to work, but first, we need to understand ourselves and what conditions lead to our best results. For example, I coach best in solitude with space to walk, I write best in the mornings with fresh air and sunlight, and I plan best sitting at my desk. Rethinking where and how we work can create new challenges (e.g., the line between life and work be eroded), but it can also give one the freedom to choose their own hours and more easily prioritize what matters, including parenting demands.
2. Automate Recurring Tasks to Increase Time
In addition to building strong teams, new technologies can help us automate many routine and tedious tasks. From paying bills to sending out meeting reminders, time once spent managing low-level administrative tasks can now be automated. In the process, we can not only save time but also potentially lower personnel cost.
3. Collect, Filter and Streamline Information
According to IBM, humans produce about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Not surprisingly, this far outpaces the amount of data we were producing just a decade ago — and yes, we’re expected to continue producing more and more data each year moving forward. While sorting through all this data can be a challenge, new technologies also create new ways to filter out information we don’t need or don’t want. By using filters properly, you can effectively access more valuable information while also eliminating most of the information you don’t need. The trick is to be intentional about what you filter in and out and to do this before you end up feeling overwhelmed.
4. Get Serious About Metrics
This brings me to another key point: The need to get serious about metrics. In fact, if you want to make the most of that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data produced every day, this is the best place to start. Organizations can now measure who is doing what and when and with what impact more easily than ever before. These metrics, however, are not simply numbers. By leveraging these metrics — embracing them as critical insights — we can start to make better decisions faster about everything from the staffing and promotions to training and resource allocation.
5. Recruit Talent to Build a Stronger Team (Wherever You Are Based)
Today, even small organizations can attract the right talent for the right task. Online hiring, the gig economy, and virtual work platforms have changed how talent is sourced and the potential for distributed teams to collaborate across space and time zones. Leveraging online recruiting for projects, we can actively build leaner teams, reduce overall staffing cost, and find the right person for the right task every time.