Zen Technology: How to Get Clear on Your Needs and Wants to Be More Productive

Erika Salloux Living Harmony LLC

Have you ever whispered to yourself, “I really wish I had a way to play Monopoly with my friends in France.”?  Or has your inner voice said, “It would be so wonderful if I could turn off the lights in our kitchen while I’m out at the movie theatre.”  “No,” you say?  Come on, haven’t we all wished we could transfer money from one bank account to another between dips in the ocean?

If you’ve never had these desires, then I’m gonna let you in on a few technology and brain science secrets.  I know I’ll be ruffling some feathers here, but here goes.  And it’s all based in science; really it is.

Often times technology does the opposite of what we imagine and hope it will do for us.  Instead of aiding us in being more productive, it increases our stress.  This happens when we use it in ways that we don’t need to use it.

All you need is this one wee mantra:

Let the need dictate the technology, not the technology dictate the need.

Simply put, if you didn’t have the desire for something in the first place, don’t get it just because it exists.

This mantra will simplify your life; give you more time for visceral, life experiences; and bring more serenity to your existence.

Rather than purchasing the latest and greatest of every new product on the market and downloading fresh apps whenever you get bored, ask yourself, “Did I have a need for this before I found out about it?”

“Do I need a phone that makes coffee?”  The answer is, probably not, and trying to create a need for something you bought is the biggest waste of time and money.

But, hey, if you find yourself needing to have your business contacts in your pocket when you travel, go out there and look for an app that lets you carry around your entire contact management system on your mobile device of choice.

If you regularly need to send people documents that you only have hard copies of, buy a scanner.  You had a need, and you satisfied it.  But when you saw that there was a mobile phone app for playing chess with your friends no matter where each of you is, and you downloaded it, I can pretty much bet that, in your hands, this new piece of technology is probably going to make you less present in the moment and create more chaos in your life.  You didn’t already have a need for such an app, so leave it alone.

The more technology tools we have the more we will be in front of our screens.  And this leads to more interruptions, which lead to more attempted multi-tasking.  Yes, I said “attempted,” because neuroscience has proven beyond a doubt that our brains do not do two things at once. They actually switch back and forth super quickly, and sometimes not so quickly.  And it’s a fact that when we “try” to do two tasks at once that use the same parts of our brain we are making our brains stupid and being less present.  And being less present leads to increased stress.  As some of you may know, that’s why Yoda, says “Do. Do not. There is is no ‘try’.”

You don’t believe me?

Well, Matt Richtel, a technology reporter for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2009 “Driven to Distraction” series, which prompted all the laws barring use of devices while driving, has been covering the effects technology has on us for many years.  He tells us to think of technology like food. Some is fried dough, and some is broccoli. Many of us are eating heaps of fried dough daily with all that technology we don’t need. He has said that research shows that every time we check our mobile device we get a rush of dopamine. When we don’t check, we get bored, since we have conditioned ourselves to receive the dopamine. So then we need more and more stimulation for a small bit of excitement.

Add to that what Edward Hallowell, a Boston-based psychiatrist who is world renowned for his work in ADHD, has said about our technology, and you get the next piece of the picture.  He notes that research shows the more we check our handhelds, the more our brains create the kind of chemistry that you see in those addicted to a drug. The “Crackberry” term is no joke.

We have become addicted.

Here are a few tips for decluttering your current technology:

  • If you haven’t used an app in the past six months, delete, or uninstall, it.
  • Only use one method or application for managing your tasks.
  • Only use one calendar. Yes, this might seem like a no-brainer to some.  But let me tell you, I’ve seen clients using up to four when they begin working with me.

And here are a few apps that will help you be more productive and present.  (Of course, only get them if you have the needs I mention.)

If you’ve ever wanted to increase your creativity, and thus your productivity:

Coffitivity (shown below) lets you hear the recreated, white noises of cafes.  There’s a good deal of research out there that demonstrates that these sounds increase creativity.


If you haven’t been taking breaks while you work:

Time Out pops up on your computer to remind you to pause and get away from you desk and your work.  I use it whenever I’m at my computer.  It’s running right now as I write this.  You can customize the break length times and how far apart they are from each other.  Once again, research has shown that people are more productive and creative when they take breaks.  That reminds me to toss in here a bonus strategy: ALWAYS take lunch breaks away from your work and desk.  Yes, I said “ALWAYS.”

So don’t fall into the false economy of time trap and the myth of screaming busyness full of stimulating irrelevance.  For increased serenity, mindfulness, and productivity, play it simple, and keep reminding yourself to let the need dictate the technology.

© Copyright 2016.  All rights reserved.  Living Harmony, LLC.

About Erika

Erika is a Certified Professional Organizer® (CPO®) who is the founder and president of Living Harmony, LLC.  Since 2003 she has gotten people organized so they can live their desires and purpose.

Employing her holistic and coach-centered approach to organizing, Erika conducts transformative speaking programs.  Her signature EmpoweredTime™ process leads those looking for a more calm, grounded, and focused reality to increased health, serenity, and productivity.  Participants learn how to banish paper clutter for good using her PaperPower™ system.  And her JetPac© method transforms packing and traveling from stress to simplicity for all kinds of vacationers, trekkers, and business travelers.

Erika regularly contributes to Boston-area and national media outlets.  Her appearances include NPR, NECN, CBS, FOX, WUMB, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and The Boston Globe.  She has acted as an organizing consultant for Real Simple.

Erika is an active member of NAPO.

One thought on “Zen Technology: How to Get Clear on Your Needs and Wants to Be More Productive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *