The Struggle for Balance in an Age of Smart Technology

This weekend, I had out-of-town guests visiting me here in Boston. While touring the city, my guests made ample use of their iPhones for everything from navigating the city’s often confusing streets, to finding restaurant reviews in the neighborhoods we found ourselves in, to identifying the songs playing in bars we visited, to passing the time in the T playing games like Angry Birds.

I found myself thinking about what a pervasive presence smartphone technology has become in our lives. At one point during the visit, one of my guests even posed the hypothetical question: what did we do before we had these?

No one can deny the vast number of utilities smartphones offer. They are multi-functional tools the likes of which we hadn’t seen before a few years ago. Despite this and despite massive sales, smartphones do have their detractors. Critics cite the nearly obsessive way in which its owners are constantly using their devices.

Today, the Metro Boston reported that students in a psychology seminar at Temple University were asked to go a day without surfing the web or using their smartphones. Only 14 students out of 31 managed to complete the task. The students were also asked a difficult question: when we’re glued to our technology 24/7, does it actually make us good multi-taskers or does it just distract us?

Staying focused with and despite our technology is essential for communicators. How can we balance the many technology tools we use, including smartphones, without becoming lost in the shuffle and losing our direction? It helps to take a breather and assess every tool we use in light of the question: how is it helping me meet my goals?

This is a good question when approaching a tool like Twitter. Tweeting from you iPhone at work every twenty minutes might seem like a good idea at the time, but unless the content is rich and is advancing professional goals, it might be a waste of resources.

The more inundated we become with our technology, the more difficult it becomes to manage our most essential resource: time. As communicators, we have to make sure we are getting a return on our investment in time, in the same way our clients expect it from us. So as opposed to becoming better multi-taskers, the time may be ripe for us to become better time managers.

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