How to Defeat Technology Overwhelm Once and for All!
By Jena Kroeker
Have you ever seen someone walking a dog and wondered, “Are they walking the dog, or is the dog walking them?” The question is who’s in control. As virtual business owners, do you ever feel like your technology is taking you for a walk? Technology overwhelm happens when our bright, shiny tools and apps are in control instead of us.
For instance, we might be flitting around like butterflies from one tool to the other, excited to try them all. Or we might be struggling to make them work. Often we’re stuck with an overabundance of choices, unsure of which ones to use.
This is not surprising, since tech usage continues to increase. Notably, the statistics portal Statista reports that the number of mobile app downloads worldwide rose from 140.7 billion in 2016 to 218 billion in 2020. Furthermore, according to Statista’s mobile internet usage worldwide statistics,
“Mobile devices have become a fixture of every-day life for millions of people. Across the globe, web-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets have evolved into essential tools for communication, information, and entertainment alike. In 2020, the number of unique mobile internet users stood at 4.28 billion, indicating that over 90 percent of the global internet population use a mobile device to go online. Mobile ownership and internet usage are forecast to increase in the future, as mobile technologies are becoming more affordable and available than ever.”
As you can see, technology is a constant companion for many of us. But unfortunately, its convenience and availability can lead to a condition called “technostress,” described by Kate Borucka in her article, “11 Powerful Tips to Manage Technostress.” She explains that Craig Brod first coined the term in 1984 in a book titled Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution. He says, “Technostress is a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with the new computer technologies in a healthy manner.”
As an illustration, Borucka describes several different types of techno stressors. Here are three that impact us as freelancers and virtual assistants:
“Techno-invasion – the fast pace of technological change resulting in too much technology both in the workplace and personal life”
“Techno-complexity – lack of proper training, technical support, or poor technical documentation”
“Techno-insecurity – being afraid of not staying on the top because of lacking technical knowledge”
Can you relate to these stressors in your life and work? If so, fear not! Let’s delve deeper into the causes of technology overwhelm and discover how to overcome it.
Five Ways to Manage Technology Overwhelm
Here are five ways your technology could be managing you and how you can manage it:
1. Shiny Object Syndrome
If you love technology, you may have experienced Shiny Object Syndrome. It involves a tendency to chase the newest tools and apps. These new tools will call out to you, and they’re difficult to resist. SOS is not necessarily a bad thing to have. After all, as an online business owner, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. But if you’re losing productivity or paying for multiple tools that serve the same purpose, it’s time to stop and refocus.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
• Will this new tool ultimately benefit my business and my clients?
• Is there something wrong with the current tool I’m using?
• Am I exploring new technology because I’m bored, or is there a real need for it?
• Do I have a lot of tools and apps that I’m not actually using?
• Has this tool been around long enough to have proven functionality and credibility?
Additionally, consider Daniel Rose’s advice in his article, “Technostress: Why that new productivity tool could be doing your team more harm than good.” He suggests redesigning your typical workday so you can “avoid unnecessary overload.” For example, if you have a team, ask yourself, “What is the minimum amount of technology they need to carry out their tasks?” And similarly, “Do they need all those apps to do their job, or are they unnecessarily complicating things?”
2. Aversion to Technology
Some of us have the opposite feeling toward technology. It’s hard to admit, since we’re online professionals, but not all of us enjoy the latest tools and apps. We know we need them, but we’re not excited to use them. We may even feel anxious at the prospect of learning new technology. The tools sit there taunting us, saying, “I bet you can’t make us work properly.” And unfortunately, our fear makes us miss out on the increased productivity that comes from well-chosen tools.
Indeed, I confess that I experience this type of technology overwhelm. I’m especially clumsy when using mobile apps. And just when I feel like I’ve mastered one tool, a newer one takes its place, or the existing one changes. Furthermore, as the article above says, reading headlines about AI replacing human writers creates further uncertainty as technology advances.
If you can relate to these feelings, here are some strategies that can help:
• Decide which areas of your business need a tool or app.
• Start with one area at a time and research one tool at a time.
• Ask trusted colleagues and techie friends or family for their advice.
• Choose tools that have been around long enough to have a good track record.
• Decide whether you need to pursue more formal training to learn how to use a tool.
3. Not Enough Tools and Apps
Have you ever played the game “Musical Chairs,” and the fewer chairs remain, the more you have to run around in circles? That’s what business can be like when you don’t have enough tools and apps. Technology is managing you by not being around. It’s making you do more steps than usual to keep up with processes that could be done quickly with the right tools.
You may have a time tracker that doesn’t include invoicing, so once the time is tracked, you create a Word document and email it manually to your client. Or you may have a stellar all-in-one finance software that works like a dream… but you don’t have a social media management tool. You’re logging in to every single social networking account separately to schedule posts.
To combat this challenge, step back and outline all the areas of your business. As mentioned above, it’s helpful to start with one area at a time and add one tool at a time until your processes are streamlined. Choose tools that integrate smoothly with each other to further increase productivity and prevent technology overwhelm.
4. Difficulty Choosing Technology
Whether or not you have Shiny Object Syndrome, all of us are faced with a seemingly endless supply of new tools to choose from. And when security vulnerabilities are exposed, it becomes even more difficult to decide whether to stay with what you’re currently using or switch to a different tool.
As you’re surrounded by a crowd of tools and apps, all shouting “Pick me, pick me,” it’s easy to become frozen with indecision. This is where a Mastermind Group, a Technology Mentor, a Learning Community like FreeU, and trusted colleagues can help:
• Post questions on social media, asking for advice. If you belong to the FreeU Facebook Group, you can always share your thoughts and receive great feedback.
• Access resources through courses and membership sites. For example, the FreeU Resource Centre has Tool Guides related to different training tracks and certifications.
• Speak to trusted colleagues or a Mastermind group for their recommendations.
• Research ratings for each tool you’re interested in.
5. Not Enough Technology Training
Sometimes your technology is managing you by making you sweat. It’s saying, “Ha, you thought you had me all figured out, but you don’t.” It’s easy to spend hours exploring features or end up clicking the wrong function and have to start a process all over again.
Even the most tech-savvy of us can benefit from technology training. It’s the way to get the most benefit from our tools and have the least headaches. Moreover, it helps you remain competitive and marketable in the freelance or virtual assistant industry. As you continue to learn, you’ll attract clients looking for the most up-to-date skills in your area of expertise.
In a previous FreeU blog post titled “The Seven Important Soft Skills Every Freelancer Needs,” we recommend ways to “future-proof” your business:
• At regular intervals, assess your current skills and determine whether it’s time to update them.
• Seek courses, resources, workshops and virtual events that will inform and educate you.
• Showcase your newly updated skills on your website and social media profiles for all to see!
These strategies will also help you avoid technology overwhelm by stopping it before it starts. By choosing regular intervals for assessing your skills, you can stay on top of new developments. And to continue the dog-walking analogy, imagine yourself keeping your tools on a tight leash. You’re taking them for a walk rather than letting them run away, dragging you behind them.
To aid this process, we offer updated technology courses at Freelance University, like “Managing Clients with Dubsado” and Mastering Clients with Honeybook. In addition, we have an App Lab where students can access valuable tutorials on tools like Asana, Buffer, Canva, Toggl, and more.
And now we’d love to hear from you! Have you felt overwhelmed or controlled by technology in your business? If so, what strategies have worked for you? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments below!