What would life be like if the electronics revolution of the past 30 years hadn’t happened? Among other things, my mission of teaching you how to achieve “Maximum Results in Minimum Time®” might have drowned in a sea of carbon paper, adding machine tape, fax print-outs, and conference calls. If you don’t have a clue what those first few things are, then you can thank thousands of creative techies for that, and count your Millennial blessings!
“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” —Bill Gates, American businessman and philanthropist, founder of Microsoft.
Productivity has skyrocketed in recent years due to technological progress, and there are plenty of ways to take advantage of it.
I’ve watched, fascinated, as individual and team productivity have gone through the roof, and the technology itself has become awe-inspiring. Not even a decade ago, I was writing about the ailment called Blackberry Thumb. That’s as rare now as Blackberry PDAs. Remember those? Remember PDAs at all?
Today’s smartphones include all the best features of PDAs, cameras, telephones, televisions, music players, timepieces, alarm clocks, walkie-talkies, and even tablet computers, especially as iPhones get bigger. As for tablet computers themselves, ten years ago they were limited to larger, expensive laptops you could configure to act as a tablet. That’s so 2007; now we have the Star Trek-style tablet that can do everything a smartphone can, except make a Wi-Fi hotspot. No one expected this when the first brick-sized cell phones came on the market in the 1980s. But it happened, and now we have so many spin-off apps and devices it doesn’t take much effort to convert that technology into increased productivity.
You’re probably all over that already, but let’s look at a few less-obvious technologies that can help you work better and faster, sometimes for less money.
- Ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Although city-wide “Muni-Fi” networks aren’t widespread yet, so many places offer free or cheap access that it’s easy to find a place to do a bit of connected work. If you find yourself delayed, out of town, or just at loose ends for a while, you can stop at a coffee shop, public library, bookstore, or even a McDonald’s to keep up. Even if you can’t find a Wi-Fi network, your smartphone will let you set up a Wi-Fi hotspot as long as it can tap into a cell tower. You can then access the Web and Cloud at will through your laptop or tablet.
- Smartphone Wi-Fi. Speaking of hotspots, they’re more agile than you might think at first glance. They aren’t meant for long-term use, as they gobble bandwidth and aren’t always as efficient as other Wi-Fi sources; but the quality and coverage continue to improve, with some providers offering unlimited usage. This is tempting for those of us facing unreasonable Internet services costs. For example, even if you only want Internet, some providers arrange things so it’s easier and cheaper to bundle it with cable and a phone landline rather than split it out separately. So why not drop your cable services altogether and connect through your hotspot? This won’t work for most businesses, but if you’re a solopreneur or often work at home, it’s one way to keep expenses and annoyances down. You can batch your email to go out all at once when you log in, and needn’t stay connected long unless you’re doing research. You don’t really need “always on” Internet, now do you?
- The Cloud. With the highly distributed electronic Cloud and a few related apps, you’ve got nearly ubiquitous and universal access to your data. You can work on any project anywhere in real-time, as long as your devices are synchronized—a fairly simple matter with apps like DropBox and Evernote. You can now put everything important into the Cloud and never lose it, including all your photos as well as documents. Suddenly, searching for items is easier, sharing documents is a snap, and you never have to worry about having left important documents or your backup presentation at the office when you’re a thousand miles away.
It’s Here; It’s Now
Technology provides us with near-infinite ways to increase our productivity. Some are obvious; coming up with others forces you to think around corners in ways you normally wouldn’t. You can certainly think of a few things I didn’t have space for here and that hasn’t already been done to death. I’d love to see you share them in the comments.
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