Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

The Rise of Technostress

In their book, Technostress, spouses Larry Rosen, Ph.D and Michelle Weil, Ph.D. observe that technology can help place innovative workers in the driver’s seat. It also can create such dependency that you end up questioning your own creativity and capabilities. Technostress is everyday stress that is propagated by technology, most notably present when we do not rule technology, it rules us. Multi-tasking or tolerating too many interruptions at work feeds technostress.

Many managers are concerned that the increasing level of work-related technology will lead to loss of privacy, information innundation, erosion of face-to-face contact, having to continually learn new skills, and being passed over for promotion because others coming up the ladder are more technologically savvy. Larry Rosen and Michelle Weil observe that “Technostress is worse in the executive suits.”

To keep technology in proper perspective, the authors advise that you declare your independence and offer a “Technology Bill of Rights.”

Technology Bill of Rights

  1. I am the boss, not my technology.
  2. Technology is available to help me express my creativity.
  3. I decide when to use the tools technology provides.
  4. I have the right to choose what technology to use and what to put aside.
  5. I can use technology to stay connected, informed, and productive – my way.
  6. Technology offers a world of information. I get to choose what information is important to me.
  7. Technology will have problems, but I will be prepared to handle them.
  8. Technology can work 24-hour days, but I can choose when to begin and when to stop working.
  9. Technology never needs to rest, but I do.
  10. I can work successfully by enforcing my boundary needs.

Dissecting the Technology Bill of Rights

Some of the “articles” to this bill of rights are particularly apropos in the context of getting things done. Article #3 for example, “I decide when to use the tools technology provides,” is worth its weight in microchips. Some people are ruled by their e-mail, having to check it upon arising, throughout the morning, at lunch, throughout the afternoon, as they leave the office, and then even at home a few more times. Worse, they check in the middle of doing some other task that requires steadfast concentration.

Hey, it’s okay to use checking one’s email, or any other brief activity, as a mental break from a rigorous task. The problem with checking email or a cell phone for break time is that you’re likely to be exposed or introduced to more tasks at an inopportune juncture, where you are not prepared to address them. Straying a little here and little there often leads to major interruptions on your path to getting things done. Constantly checking for messages in the middle of working on something is akin to multi-tasking, and you don’t have to head down this path.

One executive from an Inc. 500 Company (the fastest growing entrepreneurial companies in America) revealed that he only permits himself to check email three times daily: at 10 a.m, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

At those intervals, he remarks, he can stay on top of the email communications coming his way, not miss anything, or not have anything become too “old.” Hence, he’s able to have long stretches free of email throughout the day.

You Do the Choosing

Article #6 bears scrutiny, particularly the sentence, “I choose what information is important to me.” Consider all the times you’ve visited the Internet in the past six to eight years, and all the information you’ve gleaned. If you’re like most career professionals, the sites you choose to visit on a regular basis boil down to the same handful perhaps five, perhaps six or seven.

Sure, if you’re going shopping, if you want to find a particular location, if you have keywords to throw into a search engine, you’ll visit other sites based on a specific need. Every now and them, you go where the web will take you. Otherwise, as a creature of habit, you fall into the same routine, visiting the same sites, gaining the same kind of news and perspectives.

You may use bots and information services to alert you to news and information based on the topics you’ve indicated are of interest to you. Do you, however, seek out the alternative viewpoint?
  • Do you visit the sites that explore issues in greater depth?
  • Do you visit sites from other countries?
  • Do you use this wondrous web to paint a fuller picture of the knowledge you’re seeking to assemble on a particular topic or issue?
For many people, most of the time the answer is no. We gather what we can gather as easily as we can gather it and that becomes the extent of our perspective. Much of the time, this is quite okay — you don’t need a well-rounded, in-depth answer, for now and for all time. You simply need quick information. Those times where greater depth, clarity, and focus are required call for you to invoke article #6 of the Technology Bill of Rights.

Follow the Scout’s Motto

Article #7, “technology will have problems but I will be prepared to handle them,” is worth noting. Do you have resources in place if your hard drive crashes, if a virus cripples your computer, or if any component of your hardware or software seems to be malfunctioning? Conscientious motorists belong to some type of auto club, have a favorite repair shop, and know a few things about how to troubleshoot their vehicle.

Similarly, conscientious technology users take precautions, particularly when it comes to computers. The greater your reliance on technology, the more adept you need to be, and the more important it becomes to have resources and backup systems in place, should problem situations arise. You don’t want to be “revving” so fast, handling this and that, that you do not take the time and make the effort to safeguard your work flow.

Rest, Who Needs Rest?

Articles #9 and #10, “technology never needs to rest, but I do” and “I can work successfully by enforcing my boundary needs,” are notable as well. When I hear someone profess to be available “24/7,” or when people hand me business cards that contain their work phone, cell phone, and home phone, inwardly I cringe.

Unless your job specifically calls for you to be available on selected days around the clock, i.e. you’re in law enforcement, national security, healthcare, or emergency services, why would you want to make yourself available to everyone at all times?

Will you lose out on a business deal because you are not available at 11 p.m. or 2 a.m.? Even if you do business with people in far corners of the world, do they expect you to be available and conversant at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m? If they do, and if you are, what kind of career is that? It’s one thing to get important things done; it’s quite another to unwittingly perpetually juggle multiple tasks and to surrender your work life to every little intrusion. You can’t afford potentially to be interrupted by any possible caller, and if you have differentiated your products, services, and/or capabilities, you don’t need to be “on” all day long.

Be sure that both your technology and your time serve you, not the other way around.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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