Looking toward 2021, and the technology that can help
There is no doubt that 2020 has been a tough year for most companies and business owners. We’ve needed to change direction multiple times and for some who have been through similar situations before, like 2008’s Global Financial Crisis, they were able to switch on what they learned to survive, or even thrive, through this year.
Moving forward into 2021 we are entering an environment where telecommuting, remote working and online collaboration are normal. Face-to-face meetings and even handshakes are not advised. I hope that you have taken some learnings from this year and can apply then to 2021. Here are a few of the tools and strategies I’ll be using.
Expect and embrace change
If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that change is inevitable. Prior to the pandemic, many people (including me) were banging on about working from anywhere. To the people who supported this, it made sense and enabled a lot more productivity by eliminating some unnecessary commuting time, costs and non-essential small talk. There was a significant opposition to this, including some prominent organisations and tech leaders. Now, daily meetings by videoconference are the standard, and companies are reducing their physical footprint in favour of flexible, remote working conditions.
There are many other changes to our daily life - some positive, some not so. The key, for me, is to realise that change is inevitable and to roll with it.
Something that helped me early on to accept and embrace change was this book (link to Audible). If you haven’t already read “Who Moved My Cheese” by Dr Spencer Johnson then get on it.
Don’t try and keep everything in your head
I can still remember my phone number from 35 years ago. Also the phone numbers of my friends and family. However I’m lucky if I can remember my own phone number today. Why? We have managed to outsource that to our phones. Similarly with a lot of other things like instruction manuals, recipes and tyre pressures! Why remember it when you can just “Ask Siri”? Or “Hey Google” pretty much anything from the collective knowledge of the human race?
I think there are things that can and should be remembered (your mum’s birthday for example), but then there are other things that don’t need to be remembered.
For me, one of the things that I outsource to external memory is collecting and cataloging ideas. When I have an idea, I just create a note, put some hashtags in it and then I don’t think about it again until I need it. For this I use Apple Notes (it fits with my ecosystem) but there are plenty of great cataloging apps available including OneNote and Evernote. Keep them on all your devices and when inspiration hits, take care of it! Another great app that I use a LOT is Otter - it allows you to speak and it transcribes what you’re saying - very accurately. I use this when I need to keep notes about something but I’m driving or walking. It’s really handy (or ‘hands free’!)
Take care of your security
In 2020, there were numerous scams and malicious operators trying to steal money, identity and whatever else they could. There are a few simple things that can help you with security and to keep your risk low. You’ll never fully remove the risk of being targeted, but apart from the normal anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls and spam blockers - one of the simplest ways to manage your security is by using a password manager.
The golden rule has always been if you can remember your password then it’s not complex enough. So in line with the last item I would recommend outsourcing remembering your passwords to a password manager like 1Password or Lastpass. This allows you to have an encrypted database of your passwords available to you when you need it with one password (and please turn on two-factor authentication for additional security).
It will also generate passwords for you and has rules so you’ll never get caught by those pesky complexity rules.
Take care of your mental health
With most of the world either being quarantined, isolated or fearful for the future we must learn to take care of our mental health. For those of us with particular existing issues, these can only get worse as the current pandemic continues and we become more an more isolated. Taking care of mental health is different for everyone and can include anything from breathing exercises to medication. For me, one of the tools I’ve found particularly easy and valuable is the Headpsace app. It’s a guided meditation and mindfulness app that guides you through a short basic set of meditations. There is nothing mysterious or mystic about it and it’s all explained in plain English (or German, Spanish, French or Portuguese). For me, it’s a go to for any stress, anxiety or just if I want to be calm for 10 mins.
If you’re feeling lonely (or not) and want someone to talk to - consider a Replika. This app provides a conversational AI based character that learns about you and from you. It also has a series of conversations such as Positive Thinking and Building Healthy Habits. Your Replika also gets to know you over time so this can be creepy, or natural.
Take care of your physical health
Mental health goes hand in hand with your physical health. While I’m not a shining example in this particular area there are some amazing health and exercise apps out there at the moment. Some of them with celebrity instructors and others that target specific age groups. A simple search brings up many of these, most recently Apple has released their Fitness+ system that integrates with your Apple Watch to ensure you’re getting enough exercise, sleep and nutrition. A lot of these apps need a significant amount of personal motivation, which is an area that can sometimes be my downfall. Fortunately for me, the pandemic has allowed a lot of operators in the fitness industry to move online. With weekly check-ins and apps to track your activity, online personal trainers are now more accessible to people like me who dislike the stereotypical PT yelling at you in a gym.
For me I’ve had steady improvement in developing better exercise and nutrition habits with my personal trainer and think that this is a great way to get the motivation and qualified experience to push myself to improve. Shout out to Holly Smith who has helped improve my health.
So there we have it. I don’t expect 2021 to be easier than last year. But I do think that there are things we can do to improve how we deal with it.
Michael Lobb works tirelessly to help clients solve business problems using technology and heads up a team of developers, designers and miscellaneous nerds at Teamscāl. In his spare time, he likes long walks in the park with his dogs, Chappie and Pocky.