One of the greatests leaps in human evolution was the discovery of the tool. An extension of the human body that can increase force, power or shorten the distances… The results of the human activities were boosted to a degree that would seemed impossible without the use of the tools. The space beyound a human being dilatated to an unbelievable extent.
Likewise, the use of the information processing tools has made another great step in human evolution. Basically, the computer revolution was one of the biggest challenges for the human body and mind. Especially mind, of course.
I use a lot of tools, of information processing tools, to be more precise, that helps me get my stuff done. And the other day I just realized a very simple yet powerful situation: the tools you use ar just tools, you empower them. Might seem a little dumb, but I’ll try to explain…
I’m sure everybody uses a computer, a phone and maybe a PDA. An office and a car. Maybe pen and paper. Those are your tools. With them you can do your job, if you are like me, what we call a knowledge wroker. You sustain your life and your family’s life. And very often you strive to make your tools better. Buy a faster computer, a shiny new phone, a hyper PDA or a very fancy car. And also very often you realise that those new things haven’t got any good into your life. Apart from letting you without an important amount of money, of course ;-).
That’s because we tend to give a sort of life of their own to the stuff we use. Being so close to those tools we are starting to belive that they are our physical extensions. In some very feeble way they are. But in other, more serious way, they aren’t. They can’t think for us. They can’t do things that we are supposed to do. They can’t actually live our life. We are the only responsabile for living the life, we cannot transfer it to our electronic agenda or voice mail.
So, how you use your tools? How do you make the most of them? How do you make a most of YOU, by using tools?
Meanwhile I can show you what i DON’T DO with my tools:
1. I never use my phone as a PDA. I only use it when it comes to voice communication, either with other peopple, either with me. Meaning I just make calls and when something cross my mind I actually record a few words, to be later noted in my GTD system. If I would have a more complex PDA with an integrated phone, I would mix the functions, but if I don’t, I never spend time with the tiny phone calendar that takes me five minuters to input an event. It’s better to have it as granulary as it can be, given the nature of the tool you use: voice is voice, planning is planning.
2. I never use my computer to play. Actually, I prefer to incorporate the play in my life by playing with my little daughter. It’s far more real and rewarding.
3. I have only limited paper supplies, meaning just a few paper sheets, some pens and that’s it. The setup of my paper based office is very comfortable tough, and very complete, I actually have evrything I need, but those are simple tools, staplers, and pens, and so on. I dont’ need to make more than one move to reach to soemthing that I quickly need when I have to sign or file something on paper.
4. I automate as much as I can my software maintenance activities. Regardless of the operating system I use, I’m sure I can establish a way of updating all the software automatically in the background. Keeps me focused on using the computer rather than letting the computer use my time. I know that manually looking for updates finally becomes just a pointless web quest for nothing…
5. I sync as much as I can my computer and phone agenda. It’s a tough habit but once you master it, it’s ok. I don’t have bluetooth to my phone (my network does not support yet a phone with bluetooth) so I have to do it manually, this is why is hard.
6. I always place my self in tools-free zones when I think about what I want to do or what I like. I am not making personal plans while I’m at the computer, for instance. It’s just a tool. I also try as much as possible to evaluate the usefulness of each tool I have. Buying a new phone or computer is most of the time a matter of marketing response not an internal need that needs to be fulfilled.
7. I also put gas in my car whenever I reach the half of the tank. I like to have my car ready and prepared, I don’t want to make a goal in itself about my car and find myself runing for gas when I have to make an urgent trip.
These are just simple lifehacks that works for me. I know that there might be other perceptions. One of them is that a good tool forces you to perform better. I totally agree with that and I also think that is somehow the same thing with what I am saying: as long as you use the tool and is no the tool that is using you, you are in the happy zone.