In my prior article, Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need, I wrote about the right blend of supports that are needed by those who want to change critical time-management behaviors. These supports help us make the transition from the habits we use today to the ones we intend to practice at some point in the future; they help prevent the collapse of well-intended plans once our willpower inevitably fades.
Thankfully, we live in an age where powerful new technologies are being introduced every day that have the power to shape habits on a massive scale. For example, it’s clear now that smartphones have transformed the world’s daily habits in ways that were never anticipated when these devices were popularized in the early 2000’s.
In fact, the makers of these devices imagined a connected future in which users would be untied from their desktops and office, giving them greater choices and flexibility, increases in productivity and more balanced lives. This future has been realized in part, but it’s far from the total picture. In exchange for greater convenience, we are now working more hours than ever before and are available to receive and reply to messages late in the night and early morning and on weekends, holidays and vacations. Not even sick days are exempt. At the same time, dangerous multi-tasking while driving has become a world-wide problem, and the increased discovery of fecal matter on phones shows our new tendency to use smartphone in unlikely places.
New technology has led us to a world of new workplace habits on a massive scale, including both good and bad habits. The creators’ intentions are quite beside the point and it’s fair to say that they we are using these devices in ways that were simply not imagined. Unfortunately, this all points to our tendency to adopt new technology in ways that are unplanned, and therefore unproductive. We jump to using the shiniest new gadgets without understanding how we want to use them.
Readers of Lifehack who have followed this series of 6 articles could place themselves in a very different position. After completing an analysis of their current systems, and setting new target practices, they know they can get a good idea of the new habits they want to implement, and how quickly they wish to make the transition. They don’t fall into the trap of trying to change everything at once, and have a good idea of the habit support system they need to succeed.
With this knowledge, they can make much more sophisticated, and effective choices about the kind of technology they should be looking for to help complete their improvement plans. Instead of having their habits shaped by the latest release, they forgo what they don’t really want as they search for what they really need.
In my book, Bill’s Im-Perfect Time Management Adventure, I took the liberty to introduce an email app into the story that I wish someone would invent, as it would fill a gaping hole in my time management system. I called it “Tzinbox” and in the book it’s used by the employees of Syscon, the setting for the book, a weekly report to employees on how well their email, and therefore their time, is being managed. In the story, it returns a score that tells the protagonist, Bill, whether or not his time/email management skills are improving.
On reflection, you’d probably agree that this is the kind of app that should exist. It probably doesn’t because we are too busy chasing gadgets, and not busy enough figuring out where the gaps are in our systems. We leave new technology ideas to the companies that produce software, mobile devices and computer.
It’s a mistake. The roots of lifehacking weren’t about mindlessly chasing down tips, tricks, shortcuts and gadgets in the hope of quick, slick improvements.
Instead, the new Lifehacking is about intelligently analyzing our needs and gaining a deeper understanding of what we really need. Then, it’s up to those of us who live on the cutting edge of personal improvement to clamor for features, add-ons, plugins, apps, gadgets, programs, devices – anything that we need to be more productive.
We need to get off our collective behinds and separate ourselves from the thoughtless consumerism that has turned knowledge workers into the most distracted people on the planet. The New Lifehacking isn’t about just following trends. It’s about doing the work to figure out what people need, starting with a sophisticated understanding of our own shortcomings.
In my final article in this series on I’ll describe what’s possible if we pull together all the ideas presented in this series of posts.