Technology is supposed to make running a business easier, but if you've ever lost an important computer file, struggled with a new piece of office equipment or felt swamped by a deluge of voice mail, you know that's not always the case. How can you gain control of technology . . . instead of letting it control you?
Michelle Weil and Larry Rosen have plenty of answers. Internationally known experts in the "psychology of technology," the owners of Byte Back Technology Consultation Services in Orange, California, have shown businesses how to benefit from technology for 15 years. In their new book TechnoStress (John Wiley & Sons, $22.95, 800-225-5945), Weil, a clinical psychologist, and Rosen, a research psychologist and professor, share their strategies for taking charge of technology.
Business Start-Ups: With techno-lingo so ubiquitous, it's easy to feel like everyone has faster, better equipment than you do. How do you sort through the hype and decide what type of technology you really need?
Michelle Weil: For the start-up, the most important step is to network within your community or with other people in your line of business. Find someone you can consult with who has a similar setup to what you're going to need, and see what's working for them.
It's important not to buy into the media hype of "instant obsolescence." Technology is a tool that stays useful for a long period of time. Buy a system that does what you need it to do now and has some growth capabilities--and then don't worry about all the choices.
Larry Rosen: Keep in mind that you don't have to have every single bit of tech right now. Start with what you feel you need first; add on from there.
BSU: Technology lets us do business any time of day or night. How can entrepreneurs ensure business doesn't invade every waking moment?
Weil: Small-business owners don't want to look small. They want to look like they're always available to answer their phones, so they get into cell phones and pagers and equipment that lets them be accessed wherever they are. The boundary between business and [personal time] is blurred.
But you can also use technology to maintain that boundary. If you're going to be unavailable, change the recording on your voice mail or cell phone so customers know when they can reach you. That supports your boundaries, and it also provides information on what people can expect from you, which increases customer loyalty.
Rosen: [People] can't work 24 hours a day. We need downtime, and we need to be firm about it. You must be able to say, "I'm done working for the next four hours. I'm not going to pick up my phone, answer my faxes or check my e-mail." When you're downstairs and you hear the e-mail in your office upstairs go "beep," it's tempting to check it. But you have to turn off the computer, turn off the fax, turn off the beeper.
BSU: Your book discusses "multitasking madness"--how we're so used to switching back and forth between tasks, we've lost our power to concentrate. How can we get it back?
Weil: Technology interrupts us, and now we've begun self-interrupting. It enables us to switch tasks rapidly, and now we're switching our focus too often.
To cure multitasking madness, ask, "Just because I can do XYZ, should I right now?" If you're writing and you get an e-mail, you don't have to read it right then. Finish one task before you go on to the next.
Do you have Technosis? Find out at the TechnoStress Web site, http://www.technostress.com
Byte Back Technology Consultation Services, (714) 538-6890