How to Determine if Technology Provides the Best Solution

3x5 Card

I love technology. There is nothing that thrills me more than to find a really cool app for my iPad, or discover a new way to accomplish an old task. I love tracking my To Do list with technology (I use ToodleDo), reading about new technology (using my Kindle Fire or iPad), and talking with others about technology. Sometimes, however, I’ve discovered that using technology is NOT the best solution.

Consider note taking, for example — there are clearly advantages to using technology when taking notes. I use a Livescribe [video] pen and notebook for longer meetings or an app for my iPad called SoundNote [video] for shorter meetings. Both allow me to take notes and record synchronized audio at the same time. Then, when I am reviewing my notes later, I can simply click on a word within my notes and listen to the audio conversation that accompanies that note. I can bounce around within my notes and only review the areas that need further clarification. Pretty awesome.

Sometimes, however, trying to scribble a note using an iPad or smart phone is simply not convenient. I’ve tried several apps on both my Android smart phone and my iPad that are designed for scribbling a quick note. Unfortunately, they simply do not work fast enough. If I am caught in a conversation with someone in passing, by the time I pull out my phone, fire it up, launch the app, and try to enter the piece of information I need to remember, too much time has passed. Invariably, I find myself asking for forgiveness as the person waits on my technology.

A much better method of capturing information on the fly is the old-school method of using a 3×5 card. I can whip out my 3×5 card (with pen attached) and scribble down a phone number or email address much quicker than I can accomplish a similar task using technology.

How do I decide if technology is the best solution?

  1. Evaluate whether or not I am really saving time or being more productive. Techno-geeks like myself tend to favor technology simply for the sake of using some cool gadget or tool. In order to be truly productive, we must be honest about the tools we are using. Recently, someone described a colleague by saying, “he loves to use productivity tools, but he’s really not that dependable. He forgets things a lot.” That is an indictment we all need to avoid.
  2. Examine the return on investment before making a decision. There are two factors to consider when evaluating return on investment: how much will this technology cost me in terms of money, and how much will this technology cost me in terms of time to learn. Technology that has a steep price and/or steep learning curve is usually not a good investment. A good example is the Mac OS application OmniFocus. Do a quick Google search on OmniFocus and you will read rave reviews. It’s is the Cadillac of task management tools. Unfortunately, you will also read a lot of comments and reviews noting how difficult OmniFocus is to learn and master, and the fact that you will spend close to $140 to purchase the Mac OS app ($80), the iPad app ($40), and the iPhone app ($20). That is a steep commitment both in time and money to use OmniFocus.
  3. Expect technology to function when and where I need it to function. We live in a connected world. In my technology toolbox I have Windows computers, Mac computers, an iPad, an Android phone, and a Kindle Fire (Android tablet). I want all of these devices to play nice with each other. With services like Dropbox and SugarSync, having access to my data from anywhere or anyplace is not a problem. What throws a kink into my workflow, however, is when I have one piece that doesn’t want to play with the other pieces in my technology toolbox. A good example is WordSearch Bible Software. WordSearch offers access to a good library of Bible study resources that are not available via Logos Bible Software, my Bible study software of choice. I use the Preachers Outline & Sermon Bible to help with preparation when I am teaching, and this resource is not available via Logos, but is via WordSearch. Unfortunately, WordSearch is Windows only. In fact, WordSearch is one of the few applications I still use that is Windows only. What a pain! Logos Bible Software, on the other hand, allows me to start researching a topic at work, go home and read some more about a topic using my iPad or Android Kindle, pickup where I left off using my Windows computer, and even read my resources on my Android phone. Unbelievable. I use WordSearch only when I need to access the POSB and a few other resources that are not available via Logos, but in an apples-to-apples comparison, I would steer any new Bible student towards Logos rather than WordSearch.

How about you? What helps you decide whether or not technology offers the best solution over old-school methods?

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