Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Getting Things Done

How to Harness Technology So it Doesn’t Harness You

Dear David,

Do you ever feel that technology gets in the way of productivity? That tools slow things down? I agree that some communication and project- and time-management tools are invaluable. But often they get in the way of getting things done. For example, the number of apps and tools I must use to complete tasks at work function more like speed bumps than conveyor belts. And they certainly don’t contribute to peace or sanity. How should I handle this?

Hopeful Luddite

Dear Hopeful,

Let me start by saying that despite my thirty-five years of consulting, coaching, and training in hundreds of organizations, I don’t have an easy answer for you. I’ll just commiserate with you!

I agree wholeheartedly that the digital tools we need and like require more intensive labor than they should. It would be great to have a digital dashboard that integrated all apps, allowed you to manipulate information in a single location, then sent the revised data back to its original location. And all upgrades would happen automatically! Doubtful, in my lifetime.

In the meantime, we have to make the tools we have work as best we can. Imagine your workspace is like your kitchen, with tons of different gadgets and tools that serve different purposes. You can gain a lot of clarity just by making sure you regularly clean and organize your kitchen (and digital ecosystem). You can go a step further by discarding out-of-date hardware (and software)—to keep your “cockpit” streamlined.

The digital revolution didn’t necessarily make work simpler; it just speeded up processes and introduced a zillion creative options. And its tools require constant upgrading.

Keeping all that straight in your own life is challenging enough. But when you add to that the technologies that teams and organizations incorporate to try to become more productive, which you may be required to use, frustration can dramatically increase.

Problems with shared technology usually arise because (1) the formulas and protocols about how to use the applications are not well defined, and/or (2) not everyone plays appropriately, so the data is incomplete or unreliable. This is particularly true with shared software for project status tracking. And if the system is not 100% trustworthy, it doesn’t serve you well or save you time. Same goes for the team and the organization.

To stay on top of this game you need to integrate the GTD methodology so you appropriately engage with all potentially meaningful inputs in your life, and learn how to use your digital implements like a master chef. And find some savvy twelve-year-old to be your digital consultant! If you can get all that on “cruise control,” you’ll recognize it’s a great time to be alive.

Good Luck,

Want to learn more? See how our courses help tech organizations.

Develop Your Crucial Skills

Image for

What's Your Style Under Stress?

Discover your dialogue strengths and weaknesses with this short assessment.

Take Assessment

Image for

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the newsletter and get our best insights and tips every Wednesday.


Image for

Ask a Question

From stubborn habits to difficult people to monumental changes, we can help.

Ask a Question

2 thoughts on “How to Harness Technology So it Doesn’t Harness You”

  1. Jeff Grigg

    People over-complicate their lives with electronic tools that they don’t really need. I’m a professional computer programmer and I’m never without this laptop. But what tools are on my desk right here? …

    Day-Timer calendar — where I track meetings, work time, etc.

    3×5 cards and a pen.

    Use the simplest and most straightforward tools that can get the job done.

  2. Colette F. Levy

    This may seem trivial but is there any way you can make the emails, mobile friendly? I tend not to read them because the font is incredibly small and when one zooms, the text doesn’t readjust into the frame.

    I’d venture to think you might be losing many sets of eyes as a result. Such good content, so it might be something to think about.

    Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Get your copies
The ideas and insights expressed on Crucial Skills hail from five New York Times bestsellers.


Take advantage of our free, award-winning newsletter—delivered straight to your inbox