Maximizing Your Greatest Asset: One Major Way Technology Can Change the World

technology_and_productivity_time_money

Time is money. It’s also – I might add – the currency of your life.

Time is the only resource that is truly distributed equally. The woman who manages the front desk of a non-profit and the CEO of CocaCola get to enjoy, spend, or squander their 24 hours (or their 1,440 seconds) a day – no more, no less.

To say that time is precious is an understatement.

The now famous Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” is a beautiful testament to the demands and limitations of time. In it, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the brilliant (and multi-tasking) former Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs effectively articulates how challenging it is for women today to have a family and a successful career. She debunks the argument that it’s about “wanting it enough,” or “prioritizing,” it’s a fundamental matter of social structure and – you guessed it – time.

The culture of time macho.

Today, we not only reward those who improve our business’s bottom line, we reward those who invest all of their time back into the company. This isn’t necessarily a matter of efficiency or getting the job done, but rather it’s often a martyr-like badge of devotion – a way to prove ones commitment to their work by spending their entire lives there. Slaughter calls this the “culture of ‘time macho’ – a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, travel around the world and bill the extra hours that the international date line affords you.”

The time macho mentality can be famously linked to perfectionists like Steve Jobs, who reportedly had his employees working for 90 hour stretches (and sleeping under their desks to try and keep it together) in order to achieve the level of quality he demanded in the amount of time that was devoted to reaching each goal. Today, powerhouses like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are very public about the demands they place on their employees’ time in order to stay competitive. As CNN reported, in 2010 “after word leaked that Google was starting to work on a ‘Facebook killer,’ Zuckerburg called on engineers to work nights and weekends for 6o days to revamp key social features like photos, groups, and events… The cafeteria opened up on evenings and weekends, [and] children dropped in for dinners and good-night hugs before their parents logged back in for late nights.”

But it worked. “By September, Facebook had released a slew of new feature like better grouping tools to mirror those in Google+ circles.” Although the success of Google+ is a widely debated topic today, it is clear that Facebook held on strong against its mighty competitor.

As a result of these iconic companies and our powerful modern work ethic, today time, like money, has become not only a valuable asset but an enormous source of ego and pride – something we can abuse in order to earn our badge of honor, a way to demonstrate how selflessly devoted we are to our success and careers.

But what does this accomplish?

What if we put our swords down, and focused on doing good work instead of more work? What if we used the evenings to refuel – eat a wholesome meal, enjoy our families, exercise and rest – rather than destroying ourselves to earn these elusive honors?

I’m not implying that we set our sites lower, rather I’m suggesting that we re-adjust how and when we spend our time to reach our goals and maximize our productivity. I’m not alone in this idea. Slaughter herself reminisces on the long hours that brought her to her current state of success. As she explains in Why Women Still Can’t Have it All:

“I have worked very long hours and pulled plenty of all-nighters myself over the course of my career, including a few nights on my office couch during my two years in D.C. Being willing to put the time in when the job simply has to get done is rightfully a hallmark of a successful professional. But looking back, I have to admit that my assumption that I would stay late made me much less efficient over the course of the day than I might have been, and certainly less so than some of my colleagues, who managed to get the same amount of work done and go home at a decent hour.”

Yesterday I had a conversation with one of our Solutions Architects regarding the benefits she believes she brings to her clients lives. At the end of the day, she expressed, she feels confident in the value of her service because she knows she gives them the gift of time. Custom applications with filters that allow for automated processing and reports has the ability to chip minutes, and hours, off of daily data entry. Over time, the cumulative impact of these daily efforts is huge. 15 saved minutes a day is equal to over an hour a week. It’s equal to 5 hours a month. It’s equal to 60 hours a year. What could you do with an extra 60 hours?

Our solution is one of Slaughter’s solutions, as well. The solution is to utilize the powers of modern technology to streamline and mobilize our businesses so that we get more flexibility in how we spend those hours of our lives. As she explains;

“Long hours are one thing, and realistically, they are often unavoidable. But do they really need to be spent at the office? To be sure, being in the office some of the time is beneficial. In-person meetings can be far more efficient than phone or e-mail tag; trust and collegiality are much more easily built up around the same physical table; and spontaneous conversations often generate good ideas and lasting relationships. Still, armed with e-mail, instant messaging, phones, and videoconferencing technology, we should be able to move to a culture where the office is a base of operations more than the required locus of work.”

Understanding our goals.

We are hired to help create great companies. We are depended upon to raise great children, and be active members of a productive, healthy, and responsible society. Whether your job political (like Slaughters) or technical and creative (like mine) our goal is to help people live great lives and take care of ourselves and our loved ones in the process. We are hired to build products that last, help our economy thrive, create innovative programs and campaigns, and make the most of each day.

At no point in those requirements is it essential that we sacrifice our families and destroy our quality of life because of time. What is implied, however, is that we learn to manage time wisely. To have a successful company, career, political campaign, or Little League softball team requires time, focus, and hard work. What it doesn’t require is hours of data entry, or time sucks like administrative tasks and long commutes for an in-person meeting that could just as easily be handled via Skype. Technology has evolved to the point where much of our “mindless” work can be automated, saving your work tasks for the intellectual and creative power that comes from a balanced life and an energized, devoted mentality.

At the end of the day, technology has given us the power to communicate with one another instantly from anywhere in the world, automate much of our accounting and data-entry tasks, and access the sum of human knowledge with just a little click of the mouse (Google, anyone?). This should allow us to work harder and work smarter – saving us the time to find a little bit of balance at the end of the day. And that, I believe, is something that really will make the world a better place.