The drive for years has been to do more with less – that is to incorporate the functions of multiple tools into fewer and fewer devices. We all know where this ends up – the smart phone has become the ultimate business tool, coordinating our communication, scheduling, transportation, marketing, personal contacts, travel, and more – all in a single, pocket-sized device. How convenient, right? Surely the more functions that you can pack into a single device, the better. But if you think about it, we all have instances in which we’re crippled by our consolidation of functions into a smart phone. Regardless of whether you’re an iFan or a Crackberry addict, or a ‘Roid user, you know the fallout from a device malfunction. If you put all of your technology eggs in a single basket, you run the risk of finding yourself unable to function if that single basket is overturned. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.
Here are eight tools you should have at your disposal:
1. Calculator – if you only select a single device from this list, let it be the calculator. A pocket-sized solar powered calculator solves a number of problems. You won’t have to page through your apps to find the calculator function on your phone or laptop; you won’t have to figure out how to simultaneously use the phone and calculator functions on your phone; and you won’t need to rely on your phone battery. The calculator is a simple and efficient tool that you should carry in your pocket, briefcase, handbag, or backpack.
2. Typewriter – We’ve all faced the challenge of needing to fill in a few blanks on an online form and submit it, only to discover that you can’t edit a field on the document, or if you can edit the field that you screw up the formatting and it’s unreadable. Go old school here: print the form, type your information, and then you can either scan and email or fax the document. You’ll save time and frustration. Knock it out old school and move on!
3. GPS device – Yup, I know your phone can do that, but when you’re on an important call, hands-free of course, you cannot simultaneously listen to your GPS and take the call. Get yourself a separate unit (much cheaper than they used to be) and you’ll be able to see the map and visual directions, even if you have to handle a quick call. Again – battery power can be a factor here too — if your cell phone’s battery dies as you’re driving through a sketchy area in an unfamiliar city, do you really want to have to ask for directions to your swanky hotel at midnight?
4. Alarm clock – If you’re on the road, especially for business, there’s nothing more important than making it to your meetings on time. A battery operated alarm clock gets you up bright and early even if you’ve forgotten your phone charger or the power goes out. Better to be on time than to make excuses for being late.
5. Compass – Okay, you may think I’ve gone off the deep end here, but seriously, a compass takes up almost no space and it can save you at critical moments. In Manhattan and all those tall buildings interfering with your phone’s GPS? If you have a compass and know that your destination is uptown, you’re prepared to get yourself out of a jam with a compass. Also, you may find that this old school device can be quite a conversation piece.
6. Watch – We all rely on our phones to keep time, but you know that there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to have a conversation with someone who’s constantly checking their phone. If you’re wearing a watch, you can keep track of time without appearing to be rude by checking your phone, and you also have what’s rapidly becoming a rare fashion piece. Make your watch part of your business persona.
7. Pen and Paper – When you really need to streamline your routine, this pair of tools simplifies your life dramatically. Rather than spending sixty seconds looking for and opening your notes app on your phone, and then spending another ten minutes dealing with the emails that have distracted you, go low-tech, high-efficiency. Jot down a note and move on with your day. Making notes reduces distractions, and you can slip a single piece of paper and a pen in your pocket and work through a busy day without needing to lug a briefcase or bag.
8. Polaroid Camera – You won’t believe how useful this old school device can be. What’s the ultimate leave behind after a sales pitch? A Polaroid of you and your new client shaking hands. Did you deliver a great speech? Hand out a couple of Polaroids of you and your audience members and watch their delight as they shake the pics and wait for them to develop. People LOVE this technology, and it’s so much more satisfying to have an actual photograph that you can pin above a desk, rather than just another digital image in an email.
I don’t expect everyone to start discarding smart phones for an abacus and a sextant. I know I’m hanging on to my smart phone. What we can all benefit from doing, though, is taking a hard look at the ways in which we use the technology at our disposal. Sometimes the very best solution is the simplest, lowest-tech option.