How Gadgets Force Habits

I have been playing with the idea that time management systems are more complex than I originally described in my early writings on this website.

I originally described each person’s system as the collection of the habits, principles, practices and rituals that they use on a regular basis.

I recently expanded the definition to include a user’s choice of mobile gadget, software, webware and email client.

As I continue my assessment of whether or not to purchase a personal smartphone for productivity purposes, one of the downsides of any upgrade I make is that I’ll have to develop some new habits depending on the smartphone I choose.  I base this observation on the fact that I’ll have to create at least one new habits…. which is to maintain not just a power cord for the device, but also a backup cord in case of emergencies.

I’ll obviously have to develop the habit of keeping the unit charged, and now I’m wondering how long the battery charge will last during periods of modest use.  It’s clearer to me that every mobile device bring new habits that must be learned, and having a smartphone means that I need to be more careful.  (My current cheap cellphone held a charge for several days, and lots of people had chargers.)

I’m also looking for ways to keep certain habits that I don’t want to change.  For many years, I have always carried a paper pad with me that acts as a manual capture point.  Why haven’t I upgraded to an electronic method of manual capture?

The advantages of paper are:
– it’s inexpensive
– it can get wet without failing too badly
– there’s no need for it to be charged
– it’s faster to write than type, or use handwriting recognition
– other pieces of paper can be used in a pinch
– it can be used to record diagrams as well as text

I’d prefer to keep this habit going, and I’m looking for a wallet that allows me to carry both a smartphone and a pad of paper at the same time.  If I have to carry a separate notepad, I’d be willing to do that, but it would be so much easier to have the two connected.

Blackberry Protocols

I was assisted greatly by email from Cees Dilwig, who shared with me the need to develop protocols for Blackberry usage.

The first thought I have is a list of practices to avoid, such as using the device to:
–  check or send messages while driving, or to answer the phone or make non-emergency calls
–  interrupt events such as meetings and conversations in order to check or send messages
–  switch to work during established blackout periods – vacations, holidays, weekends, odd hours, weddings, in the bathroom, etc.  This may require keeping a schedule of some kind of times when the device is closed off to external communication.  For example, I don’t have internet access at the location I’m typing this post.
– check email more frequently

In my video on How I’m Choosing a Smartphone, I talk about passing the knapsack test, which simply means that I want my smartphone to do more than a knapsack full of gadgets that it’s “replacing,” in order for it to allow for greater productivity.   Cees made a great point in his email to me — it’s easier to pick up email with a Blackberry than with a laptop, due to the difference in protocols being used.

I hadn’t fully realized this fact, and it’s quite true.  During this weekend, at a temporary location, I have no internet access, which means no email access as I’m working on a laptop.  With a Blackberry, however, I’d have access to my email, and to the internet in some form.  Also, when I travel, gaining access to email is always a hit or miss affair due to the availability of wireless access.

This means that using a smartphone for email access passes the knapsack test with flying colors, as it’s providing internet access where none exists — and that is important to my productivity.

My greatest concern is developing the Blackberry Itch — that feeling that I need to check email just in case there’s something important.  My wife recently saw a woman at the beauty salon who grabbed her device while her head was back in the sink getting her hair washed.  She simply couldn’t wait the few minutes it would take to wait for the hairdresser was finished.

I’m eager to not join the ranks of the addicted!