Can someone please tell me who first said computers will simplify my life and make me more efficient? I'd like to sit down with him and have a serious discussion on the topic — I'm starting to feel like the victim of a bad practical joke, or better yet, a pawn in some nefarious conspiracy. Let me explain.
Years ago, I had a simple Rolodex on my desk. Whenever I got a new business card, I'd write the contact information on a card and add it to the little wheel. If I felt lazy that day, I'd just tape the card to a blank Rolodex card and pop it into place. When I wanted to call someone, I only had to thumb through the alphabetized system and find the right number. It was an efficient — and simple — system.
Now my Rolodex has been replaced by a “sophisticated” program on my laptop with more features and options than I'll ever care to know. I have to manually enter new contact information into this program, and when I want to find a phone number, I have to open the program, enter the person's name in a search field, and I finally get the information I'm looking for, along with everything else I could possibly want to know, like the person's age, mother's maiden name, blood type — you name it.
This may sound fine in theory — and it actually works on occasion — but it isn't always so simple. My search may find the person, but the phone number won't work because I transposed a few numbers during my initial data entry. Or more likely, my search will come up empty because I never entered the information in the first place. This means I have to dig through the stack of cards sitting next to my computer. And, of course, that stack is in no logical order because I had every intention of keying them into the database as soon as I got them.
And let's not forget about the mail system. I can recall the good old days when “snail mail” was all we had. Then someone thought we needed a better, faster way to communicate with others. (By the way, I'm looking for this person, too.) Now, instead of receiving my mail once a day, I'm able to receive e-mail 24/7 from anywhere in the world. And of course I'm expected to instantly respond to every message. So now, in addition to all of the paper mail I receive and must process, I also get to read, print, and respond to dozens of additional electronic pieces of mail each day. Why is this supposed to be good for me?
But it doesn't stop there. My wife recently bought me a PDA to help organize my life. (At least this time I know who to blame.) At first, it sounded like a good idea. Get rid of my old paper desk planner and store everything in this compact toy. No more sticky notes to worry about misplacing or bulky calendars to carry around. This new device promised to keep track of all my appointments, help me track my travel expenses, and instantly give me access to my entire database of personal contacts. Yeah, right!
Once again, my life just got more difficult. Now instead of picking up a pen and writing myself a note, I grab the stylus and start pecking on a screen that's smaller than my wallet. And then I have to remember to hot sync the device with my computer in the office so both systems always have the most current information in storage. And here's an important fact worth mentioning: These devices run on batteries. And if you're on the road and don't replace them before they die, guess what? You're totally screwed! You lose everything, including any entertaining games you may have downloaded to the device. Trust me, I speak from experience.
But like it or not, computers are here to stay. And although I struggle to incorporate them into my daily routine, I know there are too many success stories out there to ignore the benefits these systems have to offer. So the best advice I can give you is don't follow in my footsteps by fighting the future. You'll make it a lot easier on yourself in the long run.