Before I write anything about gadgets I should make a confession — I don´t own any. I don´t have a cell phone or a pager. I don´t have an iPod or any other mp3 player. I owned a PDA once, but that was a long time ago and I´m not sure where it is now. Nothing I own is Bluetooth-equipped and the only portable data device I carry is a pen. It would seem odd, then, that I make a good portion of my living writing every day about the latest and greatest in the field of mobile technology. I like to think that the detachment gives me objectivity. And I do use a laptop all day, so I´m not a complete luddite.
Mobile gadgets are supposed to make us more productive. With them we can work in places where we otherwise couldn´t and take better advantage of our time. It has allowed us to leave the office without losing touch, and that has changed pretty much everything about how we work in one way or another. That´s all true, it´s mostly positive (we´ll talk about the other, darker side more on Friday), but it´s only half the story.
Because our gadgets now have more processing power in their tiny cases than our computers did just 10 or 15 years ago there is very little that they can´t do. And that´s where we get into trouble. Take the video screen, for example. There is almost nowhere where manufacturers haven´t put a video screen. We can watch movies on our iPods, TV shows on our phones and sports highlights on our PDA. The pictures are getting better, the storage capacities are improving so we can store longer video clips, and more and more content is available every day. That´s cool, that´s fun, that´s neat. But it´s also a major productivity trap.
Here´s an exercise — take out a piece of paper and write down every good reason you can think of that you need to watch video while you are out and about, every way that you are further ahead because of these capabilities. If it is a long list you probably aren´t being honest with yourself. Unless you have a very specific purpose for watching on the go, you aren´t being more productive. You´re just adding one more useless way to waste time.
Every time you drool over a new piece of technology and convince yourself that you absolutely need to own it, ask yourself this one question — do I really need this capability? The answer is probably know, and that will save you time and money.