I know that there are a lot of tools out there. From photo capturing, storing and editing, to document creation and storage, to project management, to social media, to website management, and everything inbetween. If you look at all of the digital tools that are available now, it can quickly become very overwhelming. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Why? Well, because the way we use the right tools + the right way, is largely about concepts.
The technology that exists now is getting better every day at keeping the end user in mind — whether it be hardware (as in the actual device you are using), or software (as in the apps and programs you use). Technology pioneers of this day in age know that people are busy, people are overwhelmed, and people don’t have time to learn a new tool every other day. They are focusing on making things easier and more seamless for people like you and me.
One of the things that is great about the plethora of apps and programs that we have to choose from, is that a lot of them use the same tools. So the concept of how something works and functions in one app will often times be exactly the same in a totally different app. Here’s an example: most apps that do any kind of word processing will use a WYSIWYG toolbar for formatting. If you’re not familiar with that funny word, it is just an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. So this toolbar is what gives you the ability to change your font, or make something bold or italic. You can align your text, and even create bulleted or numbered lists.
As you’re reading this, you probably know which toolbar I’m talking about, because you’ve likely seen it in one or more apps that you use on a regular basis. From app to app, or program to program, this toolbar might look a little bit different, but the concept of what this toolbar is and how it works is exactly the same. So if you’re jumping from Google Docs, to Evernote, to Microsoft Word, to Podio, to Gmail, your learning curve is relatively shallow. By taking the concepts of basic formatting with you, you’re already “Pro Tech” at five applications, and that’s just the short list of all the places you can find this type of toolbar.
The formatting toolbar for word processing isn’t the only set of familiar icons either. You’ve probably noticed that you’ll often see a paper clip as the icon for attaching something. The icon that looks like a less than symbol with circles on all three points is usually used for sharing something with another app or person. And whenever you see a camera, you know that you are going to be using a picture that you are either taking new right at that moment, or selecting from a gallery of photos you’ve already taken.
You can see that even just by these few examples, you already have a base knowledge of how to use a ton of digital tools and applications without even realizing it.
Another thing that helps to simplify technology and remove some of that overwhelm is the concept of pulling from real life and the way things work for us in a tangible sense. Like I said before, technology creators, the user interface and experience designers, and programmers and developers, are constantly trying to make things easier for us when it comes to new tools and apps that we have available.
Here are a couple examples of what I mean when I say, “pulling from real life.”
Imagine you have a whiteboard that you have drawn a few columns on. Then you have some index cards with various pieces of information on them and you hang them up on the whiteboard with some magnets. As you’re working with those index cards, you move them from one column to another, and when you’re done with the card, you remove the magnet and take it off the board. It’s a pretty basic concept and I would venture to say that as you’re reading this description, you are following along quite well and know exactly what I’m saying.
Now let’s translate this into technology. Trello is a productivity tool that works on the web and on stand alone apps for mobile and tablet devices. Trello can be used in so many different ways, but the main concept of how the application works is exactly like the whiteboard scenario I just described. Within the app you create different boards. On each board you create lists, and on each list you place different cards. If you want to move a card from one list to another, you just grab it with your mouse (or your finger on touch screen devices), and simply slide it to another list.
Another example is within the Evernote application. Evernote is also a tool that works on the web and on stand alone apps for mobile and tablet devices, and the main function of this application is to be a place where you can keep information. The way you do this is by putting information onto a note, that you keep within a notebook that contains other information of a similar topic. And if you really have a lot of information you can stack that notebook with a couple other notebooks and keep them all in the same place. Now all of this is digital, but it works just like it would if you had real notebooks sitting on a table.
By taking the concept of something you understand in real life and applying it to the technology you are using, once again, you are making the learning curve a lot less steep as you start using more digital tools throughout your life and business.
So don’t be intimidated by the technology that’s out there. Whether you’re taking concepts from one application to another, or concepts from real life and applying it to the tools you are using, just simplify how you’re looking at all of the options you have available. Once you simplify it and realize that so much of technology is just about concepts you already know, all of those digital tools you’re hesitant to try and use won’t be so intimidating.