The paradox of technology time-saving devices

Technological tools are often marketed to be time-saving but we seem to all be time-starved.

I think we’re in a weird adjustment phase, still, nine years post-iPhone launch where we’re still figuring out how to make our “smart” devices actually work for us and towards giving us more time to focus on the meaningful and less on the meaningless.

The challenge is this: With all this great and rapid innovation we are, indeed, creating efficiencies but we’re also creating new options. Options end up giving us new ways to spend our time and seem to drain it and not always in a way that actually contributes to growth in personal physical, mental or spiritual health and happiness.

Software engineers or anyone involved in building technology products or providing tech services knows this. The late, great Alex King wrote a great post about how “We’ve Made Web Development Complicated.” And this is true.

Increasingly complexity is inherently bad. Complex problems sometimes require complex solutions. We aim for simple and elegant but won’t always achieve it. Not every solution is a single-button iPhone. So we have all these options and now technology builders have all these choices to make. Often people waste a lot of time making these decisions and planning for problems they don’t have yet, and may never have, and this does the opposite of what the new tech solutions promise: It stifles innovation, creative productivity and generally allows our sometimes unfocused human minds to wander, feeling less confident in the decisions we’re making and spending our timeless effectively.

It reminds me of the issues around getting a massive diner menu: you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you’re in the mood for and then feel less content with your choices after making them. Studies show people generally feel more satisfied with their selections when they’re choosing from fewer options.

So we need to constrain ourselves. We need to understand that across the board, there is power in constraint.

We need to understand that the reason tweets abound on twitter is because of the tight, 140 character limit placed on creative outbursts.


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