The drive behind technological advancements is to do more with less—that is, to incorporate the functions of multiple tools into fewer and fewer devices. We all know where this ends up: The smartphone has become the ultimate business tool, coordinating our communication, scheduling, transportation, marketing, personal contacts, travel and more—all in a single, pocket-sized device. How convenient, right?
Surely the more functions you can pack into a single device, the better. But we all have instances in which we’re crippled by our consolidation of functions into a smartphone. Regardless of whether you’re an iFan, a CrackBerry addict or a ‘Roid user, you know the fallout from a device malfunction. If you put all of your technology eggs in a single basket, you run the risk of finding yourself unable to function if that basket is overturned. How can you avoid this trap? By stocking your bag with the following seven old-school gadgets and tools.
1. Calculator: If you only select a single device from this list, let it be the calculator. A pocket-sized solar powered calculator solves a number of problems. You won’t have to page through your apps to find the calculator function on your phone or laptop; you won’t have to figure out how to simultaneously use the phone and calculator functions on your phone; and you won’t need to rely on your phone battery. The calculator is a simple and efficient tool that you should carry in your pocket, briefcase, handbag or backpack.
2. GPS device: Yup, I know your phone can do that, but when you’re on an important call, hands-free of course, you cannot simultaneously listen to your GPS and take the call. Get yourself a separate unit (much cheaper than they used to be) and you’ll be able to see the map and visual directions, even if you have to handle a quick call. Again—battery power can be a factor here too—you don't want your cell phone’s battery to die.
3. Alarm clock: If you’re on the road, especially for business, there’s nothing more important than making it to your meetings on time. A battery operated alarm clock gets you up bright and early even if you’ve forgotten your phone charger or the power goes out. Better to be on time than to make excuses for being late.
4. Compass: Okay, you may think I’ve gone off the deep end here, but seriously, a compass takes up almost no space and it can save you at critical moments. In Manhattan, do all those tall buildings interfere with your phone’s GPS? If you have a compass and know that your destination is uptown, you’re prepared to get yourself out of a jam with a compass. Also, you may find that this old-school device can be quite a conversation piece.
5. Watch: We all rely on our phones to keep time, but you know that there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to have a conversation with someone who’s constantly checking his or her phone. If you’re wearing a watch, you can keep track of time without appearing to be rude by checking your phone, and you also have what’s rapidly becoming a rare fashion piece. Make your watch part of your business persona.
6. Pen and paper: When you really need to streamline your routine, a pen and paper simplifies your life dramatically. Rather than spending 60 seconds looking for and opening your notes app on your phone, and then spending another 10 minutes dealing with the emails that have distracted you, go low-tech, high-efficiency. Jot down a note and move on with your day. Taking notes reduces distractions, and you can slip a single piece of paper and a pen in your pocket and work through a busy day without needing to lug a briefcase or bag.
7. Polaroid camera: You won’t believe how useful this old-school device can be. What’s the ultimate leave behind after a sales pitch? A Polaroid of you and your new client shaking hands. Did you deliver a great speech? Hand out a couple of Polaroids of you and your audience members and watch their delight as they shake the pics and wait for them to develop. People love this nostalgic technology, and it’s so much more satisfying to have an actual photograph that you can pin above a desk, rather than just another digital image in an email.
I don’t expect everyone to start discarding smartphones for an abacus and a sextant. I know I’m hanging on to my smartphone. What we can all benefit from doing, though, is taking a hard look at the ways in which we use the technology at our disposal. Sometimes the very best solution is the simplest, lowest-tech option.
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