Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

Expectations, discipline and habits…

Posted by Michael Brown on February 13, 2006

People tend to look for quick fixes, something that will make things better now. So, people tend to buy technology solutions (both hardware and software) that will fix their life NOW. Sometimes those solutions get shelved when they don’t meet the person’s (unrealistic) expectations. It may have been the right solution for the person, but their need for a NOW fix for their problem meant that they would not build the habits nor the discipline to make the solution really work for them. So they either go back to “old way” of doing things, or worse, look for yet another quick fix that will likely get shelved for the same reasons.

The tricks to making technology solutions like smartphones and handhelds work are to apply three elements: discipline, expectations, and habits. You have to take a disciplined approach by determining what your solution should accomplish, and by having realistic expectations as to what it can really do for you. After all, it’s a tool, not a miracle. Once you have obtained your solution, you have to be disciplined about using it, thus building habits. You also need to have realistic expectations as to how fast you can incorporate your solution into your daily life. It takes a minimum of 21 days to build a habit, so you should persevere for a month to see if something is or isn’t working for you. If something’s not working for you after the month, try to identify where it’s not working for you specifically, in comparison to the work you did previously determining what it should be doing for you. This is what we call “gap-analysis”; finding the little differences between what we expect and what we have. Often what’s wrong is something small, something that can be addressed without having to trash the whole solution.

Handhelds and smartphones are productivity tools, and as such we have to build habits to use them effectively, and that requires discipline. All too often the quest for productivity enhancing tools can turn into a productivity draining black-hole, simply for the reasons I mentioned earlier. It’s very easy to get lured into spending time and money – both very valuable resources – pursing the siren song of the quick fix. The way to avoid that trap is to have realistic, clear expectations of what you want your solution to accomplish for you. It needs to fit into the big picture of your life, providing maximum integration and benefits, while minimizing disruptions. The way to ensure that is to do your homework.
Define your NEEDS and your WANTS by figuring out what you need from the device, and what would be nice to have. Look at all the tools you currently use (computer, software, phones, planners, etc.) and see how you can reduce the number of items to carry, while maximizing how you use them together. A Palm handheld or Treo Smartphone can “plug into” a lot of the computer-based tools you are already using, and with the right set-up, the right software for your needs and some good habits, it can make your life a whole lot more productive and enjoyable. Just don’t expect it will happen overnight… It will take a month of determined effort on your part to make it a life management tool.

Next time, I’ll be talking about my upgrade from the Treo 600 to the Treo 650, and the differences I found between them.

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