Rule your gadgets, don’t let them rule you! Says Alistair Scott

My first PR boss would often tell us how, as a junior account exec working in a PR firm in the early 90s, one of his key roles was to stand over a fax machine ensuring that press releases made it to journalists. This involved carefully laying each page down, one by one, to be pulled through the scanner.

How things have changed! New technology, particularly smartphones, have completely changed our working life. Where the old stereotypical PR exec might have had a Nokia mobile permanently affixed to their ear, a modern equivalent would have their face ever downward, buried in emails, tweets and calendar items (and the occasional tube-ride round of Candy Crush).

It’s a testament to Steve Jobs’ lasting legacy that zippy, modern gadgets still carry a bit of creative “wow” factor. I know several PROs outside the technology sector who feel they need to be sporting the latest iPhone or tablet because their clients “expect them to be on the bleeding edge”.

Source. New mind-control for Google Glass

Gadgets can be a huge help to our working life and are important to staying on top of what – and more importantly how – people are communicating today. But this doesn’t mean letting them rule your life! Here are some tips for making sure that your technology is working for you, not the other way around.

1) You’re invited to this meeting, but your phone isn’t.

We all need time to be creative and be ‘unplugged’. While not true for all meetings, many – especially creative sessions – should be held without distraction. If some of your colleagues break into a cold sweat if they are more than 10ft from their mobiles – here’s a game you can play: Have everyone in the meeting stack their phone in the centre of the table. Anyone who picks up their phone has to suffer a penalty – treats for the office, a round at the pub, taking on minute writing duty, etc. You’d be surprised how effective this can be at stifling those flow-breaking “covert” message checks and ensuring a more productive, focused meeting.

2) Get comfortable with your notification settings.

Most people (alas, not all) now know how to change their phone from noisy to silent in the theatre, restaurants, or during royal weddings – but there is so much more you can do. Mobile developers, particularly in iOS7 and recent Android updates, are providing more and more options to customise what kind of notifications you get, and when. You can set “Do not Disturb” sessions for meetings, writing-time or overnight using iSilent, Busy Me, or Silence for Android. Some apps and overlays will edit the notifications you get during the day, Yahoo’s Aviate!, for example, changes your phone’s settings based on whether you’re at work, at home or travelling, while Google Now provides a unified channel for notices about meetings, mail, news and more.

3) Make “multi-tasking” a dirty word.

Jim Taylor, PhD from the University of San Francisco argued in Psychology Today that when we think we’re multi-tasking, what we’re really doing is “serial tasking” – switching between tasks in rapid succession, forcing our brains to constantly shift gears to the severe detriment of each individual task.

So cut multi-tasking out of your life, and embrace productive, single-mindedness! Your technology doesn’t even have to be side-lined for this – it’s actually not bad provided you’re using it to help you stay focused. Be tenacious with what you’re working on, trusting that your technology will be there when you ‘re-emerge,’ ready to get you caught up at lightning speed with whatever you missed so you can crack on to the next task as swiftly as possible.

Technology – particularly communications technology – marches inexorably on. From fax machines to dial-up modems to smartphones, we are going to see smart watches, Google Glass (and its inventible imitators), and even possibly micro-chipping in the months and years to come. It’s easy to be intimidated by this wave of new technology, or to get completely sucked in by it. Don’t succumb to either extreme – take the time to get to know your tools and make them work for you.

Any other tips for how to show your tech who is the boss? Let me know via @tweetstair, or I’d love to hear about them in comments.

Alistair Scott, account director, Broadgate Mainland

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