Software Tools - Productivity or Distraction?


I was looking for a file today on a Microsoft Teams site, so I go into teams, look under files, when all of a sudden I see a chat request from another member in another teams site, so I jump over to help answer their question. Feeling proud of myself I then head back to do some more work on my plate. Ten minutes later I realized, wait a minute - wasn't I just looking for that file?

We live in a world, full to the brim of distractions.  One of my favorite perks of 'work from home' is at least people can't just 'walk into my cubicle' asking questions whenever they feel like it. I have much more time to focus on what I promised to deliver when I promised, and people really appreciate that.

Software Tools should help us be more productive, and not provide us with new and novel distractions.

But like most things in life, it's just not that simple!

When my kids were young, I bought them some electronic toys, a robot for example that walked around made funny beeps and such, and said funny things. They also had a toy 'piano' that they could press the keys and it would make various sounds, and even one of those 'see-and-say' things that would spin around point to an animal say the animals name and what sound it made 'MOO'

I noticed, all of these toys and an interesting 'feature' that I don't recall when I was a kid. If you let them sit still unplayed for a few minutes, they start making sounds to try and get you (ie: the kid) to engage with them. Let's call this "auto-engagement"

Many apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TicTok do the same thing - The second I put my phone down, a notification goes off to get me to pick it up again. This is a programmed behavior, it is NOT a coincidence.

These tools and software want us to be addicted Some of them do it in very small, barely noticeable ways and before we know  it --  we are hooked. Don't believe me? - Here is my challenge

Back in the 1980's 'the promise of technology' was that it would reduce our work week, give us more time to spend on vacations, with family, with friends. Technology would improve our productivity and make our lives easier.

Perhaps, to some extent, this is true, but to a larger extent, technology pushes us to interact with it, to constantly be distracted, and seemingly jump from one topic to another in fast succession.

Toys should not try to "trick us" into playing with them, Apps should not remind us that we need to interact to 'be social' - The problem is of course this is how these 'free' tools make money.

Microsoft Teams costs you nothing as an individual, you can sign up and use teams for Free. Ironically, you can pay for it if you want to and get a few extra features, but make no mistake the app will work to distract you, It wants your eyeballs using it. It is competing with your apps to get your interest.

The key to Productivity is something called 'flow'. Flow requires complete focus on a task, it is about living in the present moment. We achieve our goals when we are in a state of flow.  If we are constantly distracted, jumping from one 'emergency' to the next, we never achieve flow, and we are in danger of reaching burnout.

To be focused and in the moment, means resisting that urge to jump from one thing to another, an app that aids you in being Productive, helps keep you focused, helps keep you in a state of flow. It means moving away from the "tools" that you think you need, those that distract you, call out for your attention, and instead surrounding yourself with inputs that re-enforce concentration and focus.

You might also find these same apps cost your more money ($$) they are not free at all, why? because their business model is not set on the goal of getting your eyeballs to look at them. It is set on the goal of getting you to be productive.

So think about the tools you use, the people you interact with, the meetings you have. Are these oriented to helping you focus, to improving your concentration, meeting your commitments? achieve your goals? or are they simply "busy-ness" keeping you distracted like the dude sitting in front of that slot machine, pulling the handle, hoping this is the time you get to 'WIN'?

If we want our software, our technology to be productive, we need to support the business model that produces useful software, not the model focused on distraction and addiction. "Auto-Engagement" is not healthy but unless we stop supporting it, it will continue to grow like a virus... something to think about.

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