How can I use technology and gadgets without being overwhelmed and staying productive?

Paul April 2, 2011
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I use your website daily and sometimes find items of interest there. As a little bit of background, I’m 6x, live in the US, and work full-time manipulating electronic files. I consider myself productive when I am immersed in what I am doing. But, I have no cell phone, no Blackberry, no laptop, no other electronic gadget other than an MP3 player, and I really do not feel that I need any electronic gadget, or to be connected to others on a nearly constant basis.

I realize that many people younger than myself are up to their ears in technology and gadgets, and that these things may help their productivity and lives in general. But how does someone of my age usefully engage in technology without being swallowed by it? Perhaps productivity should be thought of in the attached illustration.

Again, thanks for the website, for it provides me with useful insights and tools.

  1. Josh Fox
    April 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Personally, I would do this by asking myself several questions about what I would need and want, along with what I don't need. Setting a price range might help as well. Then weighing the options based features and price. Starting a dive into tech gadgets would start with what the most pressing need is. Starting with a single gadget that provides features that you feel you might need in your everyday life. For instance, if you frequently think "It sure would be nice if I could...", then that would probably be the best place to start.

    I'll use my own current situation as an example.
    What I need is a mobile device that can handle web browsing, email, office documents, and capable of helping me be more productive with research and writing. My laptop isn't really mobile anymore because the battery doesn't last much longer than 10 minutes. My iPod Touch isn't cutting it anymore either.

    What I don't need is a cell phone or anything with a mobile operating system that is hindered by design, so phones and anything from Apple is out.

    What I want, is something with decent battery life and portability. The ability to offer distractions such as games, music, and video would be great to balance work with play.

    My price range is under $300. This is a major purchase for me considering my budget.

    With these factors, I was able to narrow it down to Android, but since they are mainly phones, I focused on Archos for their Internet Tablet series ranging in size and price. I wanted something larger than my iPod Touch, so that limited me to 3 significant devices, the A43, A70, and A101 (the numbers correspond to their size: 4.3", 7", and 10.1").

    I weighed my options based on the devices capabilities. The A43 is more portable and has a better camera on it. The price is about $100 less than the A101 as well. The A70 wasn't in contention for long because it's a mid-point between the other 2 and not that much more affordable than the A101. I finally decided on the A101 because of the screen size. My vision isn't the best and having the larger screen will help me greatly with the device.

    Once you narrow your choices down, it might be a good time to assess it again with asking yourself more questions, especially if you have any doubts at all regarding any aspect, whether it's your needs, wants, the price, or how well you feel the device will integrate into your life.

    If you come up with your needs, and devices you already have cover them all and you're comfortable with it, I wouldn't bother too much. Basing a gadget purchase on needs and high ranking wants is probably the best way to find something that you can easily integrate into everyday life. Your budget is equally as important as well. If you have regrets about spending the money on something that doesn't cover needs properly, it will likely impact your willingness to use the device.

    Once you have made your decision and get your new gadget, dedicate some time to get comfortable with its features and don't be afraid to explore. An example of this is my when my parents got their first computer, my father didn't do much more than play solitaire because he didn't want to explore what the computer had to offer. It could have been a case that he just wasn't sure what he could do with it, or maybe he was afraid of breaking it. If you've based your purchase on needs and wants, then you probably have a good idea of what the device is capable of, but chances are, it has much more to offer. If you're afraid of breaking it in the sense of software rather than physical, there's almost always a way to reset the device to a factory install. When first getting a device, find out how it is done and keep backups of important information that you end up putting on it in case you have to perform a restore on it. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many great places online to get help with nearly anything you could want. There are usually communities with forums to help with specific devices, or places like MakeUseOf Answers.

    Considering most major tech purchases are either a computer or a mobile device, another important factor is how often you plan to take it with you when you leave. Then again, you might also find that all you need is a voice recorder or digital camera.

    In the event that you get a bad product, don't be afraid to return or exchange it if it is permitted. Buying from a physical store with a flexible return policy is the easiest way to do this. Many online stores only accept returns if the product is damaged and will only exchange it for the same product.

  2. Mike
    April 2, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    I think there is no definite guide or approach to follow - it's more like trial and error.

    It's not like an construction kit where you put things together in a certain order. It's more like an assembly kit where you have to find the parts which go well together for your own purpose.

    For example I gave up reading emails on my iPhone after a week or so.
    My private accounts are POP3 only so I kept reading them twice.
    My business accounts didn't pay off because of how I could categorize the emails:
    - one third of my mails are things I can't deal with on a phone
    - one third of my mails are things which take ages on a phone (small screen)
    - the last third are mails I could deal with but are not urgent

    Although millions of people use it for productivity I haven't found a single use for my Dropbox account yet despite the variety of ways (or hacks) you can use it for.