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How Technology Saps Productivity—and How to Fight Back

By Litera Microsystems on March 15, 2018
Litera Microsystems

If you’re frustrated with technology, you’re not alone. Once upon a time, we thought new technologies would solve all of our problems. The internet gave us a world of information at our fingertips, with endless instantaneous searches. Email promised quick and easy communication between everyone involved with a project. Cell phones allowed us to be available even when we weren’t in the office.

For every problem that technology has solved, another problem—or more—has grown in its place. What went wrong, and how can you fight back?

How Technology Steals Our Time

Some of technology’s flaws are obvious in retrospect: with mobile devices that allow us to work when we’re not in the office, we might have predicted that we’d end up working when we weren’t in the office.

Yet the potential addictiveness of smartphones might have been less apparent. A 2016 study found that the average smartphone user touches their phone 2,617 times every day. Let that number sink in. There are only 1,440 minutes in a day, and most of us devote some of those minutes to sleep. Over two thousand touches add up to a lot of wasted time.

Now that we can communicate instantly, we do, often even when we have nothing urgent to say. The speed and ease of email, and its unlimited ability to copy recipients, has driven up the number of email interactions exponentially. But that’s not all: we also have to juggle text messages, LinkedIn networks, instant messages, collaboration app pings, and the endless notifications that pour in from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and others. Plus, some of us still get phone calls and voicemails and notes left on our desks. In short, as technology makes communication easier, we communicate more—but how much of that communication is truly valuable?

Then there are meetings. While it used to be a logistical headache to schedule a meeting, online calendars, meeting applications, and video chats now make scheduling a snap, spurring a tremendous increase in meetings. According to a study reported in the Harvard Business Review, a typical manager working 47 hours per week spent 21 of those hours in meetings and had less than 6½ hours per week available for uninterrupted, focused work.

Is the answer to this wasted time the wholesale abandonment of technology? Would we be more productive if we returned to pencil and paper, or snail mail and landlines?

How Technology Can Save Time

Thankfully, there is still technology that truly helps us do more of what matters. The key is differentiating that useful technology from slick apps that don’t actually help with anything important.

Assess technology not in terms of coolness or innovation but in simple terms: how much real time will this save me in doing the tasks I must do? Everyone who produces reports, legal briefs, or regulatory submissions has to format, prepare, and carefully proof their documents. Everyone who crunches numbers must calculate formulas quickly and correctly. Everyone who searches databases needs a way to sort and filter information rapidly and thoroughly.

Focus on the tasks you need to do, not on what you could do with a flashy new app. That’s the kind of functionality we provide at Litera Microsystems: technology that reliably helps you do your true work quickly, easily, and confidently. Our solutions make every stage of the document lifecycle more transparent and straightforward, allowing you to get in, get out, and get done.

After all, technology only saves time when it helps you do what you need to do.

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