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Why technology 'sprawl' might actually be making us less productive

Jun 6, 2017

adam-sherez-228582.jpgWe all have one — that co-worker that always has the scoop on the next productivity tool or app that they swear will change your life by saving you tons of time.

As a result, you have dozens of tools and apps downloaded on your device, all designed to make you more productive and efficient.

But with what we know about the detrimental effects of multitasking, are all these tools really saving us any time? Or, are they doing just the opposite?

Sure, some of the tools likely live up to their promises and help you get more done, but the time we spend flipping back and forth between tools and ensuring these tools are up to date and logged into really adds up.

According to original research done by marketing company Hubspot, 82% of the over 2,000 business owners, salespeople, and marketers they surveyed lose up to an hour a day managing tools.

By this point, our work lives are inextricably reliant upon digital tools and apps, but there’s a case to be made for centralizing our workflow around the right tools in order to remain efficient.

The case for centralization

Despite drastic increases in the number of and time spent on productivity tools, Americans are not becoming more productive. According to the New York Times, gross domestic product output is only increasing because Americans are working longer, not because they are working more efficiently.

Americans office workers were able to do much more work in a day when it became customary for everyone to have access to a computer, but when it comes to technology, more doesn’t appear to be more.

The problem with technology sprawl

Just like urban sprawl makes travel less efficient, technology sprawl can be detrimental to our daily workflow.

Before you read any further, consider the number of tools you use on a daily basis. Gmail or Outlook, Spotify or Pandora, your calculator app, etc. And that’s not getting to the professional suite.

Now consider how many of those tools have some redundancies to them.

According to the salespeople Hubspot polled, 60% of their tools overlapped with others. That means that not only are you likely wasting time flipping back and forth between tools, you’re wasting time on tools that don’t truly satisfy your needs. For example, you might be using a spreadsheet to track deals, another platform to research properties and yet another set of forms to track commissions.

Luckily, there’s a better way.

How to pare down your tech stack

Once you’ve committed to centralization, it’s time to reevaluate your tech stack. To do so, you need to take a good, hard look at what is helping you get through your day efficiently and what is dragging you down.

  1. Conduct an audit. First you will need to make a list of all the tools you use. Pick several typical days to do this then make a note every time you open up a new program or app and tally your total. More than you thought, eh?
  2. Evaluate tools for comprehensiveness. Next, you’ll need to evaluate your tools for power and capability. Sometimes, we get stuck using a tool because we’re simply accustomed to it and don’t want to bother learning a new one. Score your tools based on which can cover the most needs. For example, if you’re using Evernote and Google Docs to track tasks and notes, it might be time to pick a side.
  3. Keep the most powerful and easy-to-use tools. While you might need to invest some time in learning a new, more powerful tool up front, your investment is sure to pay off once you’ve gotten yourself in the groove. By opting for tools that do more, rather than a bunch of tools that do one or two things, you’re sure to save time on switching back and forth.

May the best tools win!

Next: Your CRE technology stack

Nell Gable

Written by Nell Gable

Nell Gable is a freelance writer who specializes in creating compelling content for CRE companies and startups.

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