I’m in a coffee shop in Melbourne the morning after Hurricane Katrina hits. In a rather surreal twist I can connect to the internet to chat in online forums with people that had just left the devastated areas, or were in the process of being devastated. Such events lead to cheerful considerations of whether information technology is a universally positive thing, like, say, the invention of low-fat chocolate, or something slightly more sinister. If you had found yourself in such a horrific situation, ask yourself this: “What is the one thing I need when my house is about to be blown away by a hurricane?”. For one person at least, it was to make a post to an online forum and then take his hard drive – with him to the storm shelter.
In walking to this coffee shop from the hotel, I saw three people cross the road while staring fixedly at their mobile phone and texting someone or browsing the internet. One woman was nearly run over and seemed to consider the situation to be a somewhat annoying break in the middle of her conversation.
As further evidence of technology’s strident dictatorship of our lives, I continue to receive emails on that most addictive of devices, the insidious Blackberry even though the office is 2000 km away.
I increasingly find that clients are rushing towards the sweetly seductive promises of technology: that a particular gadget will “make your business more competitive”, that it will “decrease your turnaround time”, and it will “make you productive on the road”.
The salesmen for these mobile torture instruments rarely discuss the side-effects: that you will acquire a nervous tic in your eye every time you hear a high-pitched beep, never be able to completely relax anywhere, or develop a low opinion of those who do not answer their emails within 12.5 seconds.
All that time we spend in the back of taxis, apparently, is what we need to use more productively to keep ourselves effective and on track as the successful advisers to business we CPAs are.
I happen to think that I was already using that downtime effectively, thanks very much. I need it to recharge my batteries to keep interested in the job at hand. As far as my clients are concerned, they deserve to know that I am on top of my game and worth what I am charging them. If I haven’t had time to properly look over their work, or have been constantly distracted by office disasters that someone else should be looking after, I haven’t met their expectations of me as a professional.
We are all human and if you want to achieve the best business results, you need to down tools and go home. Forty or fifty productive hours a week is much better than eighty hours wondering whether your “significant other” would understand if you were to stand them up tonight.
This Christmas, think about the technological tools used in your business. There are definite business benefits to these gadgets and mobile devices – but you need to be careful. If you’re thinking about that gadget in the shiny plastic wrapper, and how desperately you need it, ask yourself how you survived to your current age without it, and then ask how you will really use it. If the answer is “poorly” – then don’t buy it.
Your first rule this summer should be “No Christmas presents that need electricity!”. Buy yourself an abacus if you feel you need to keep in touch with numbers, or do a jigsaw puzzle with your family.