Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding, USAF (Ret) hailed an Uber simply by mouthing the words into thin air.
The restaurant employees knew his name as soon as he walked in the restaurant.
Those two instances were shared with me by Gen. Spalding recently an an an interview about the power of the 5G telecom network. We were discussing the larger ramifications and potential weaponization of the network, but for the purposes of this post, let’s focus on the time savings of that technology.
In both cases, the facial recognition capabilities enabled by 5G technology made it more convenient for him to catch a ride and order his food.
This is what technology does, right? It makes things easier and saves us time.
In their new book, The Future is Faster Than You Think, authors Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler discuss the impacts of the exponential technological growth occurring today. One of those impacts is saved time.
In one example, Diamandis and Kotler share the example of the early days of the original Apple Macintosh computer. As the story goes, Steve Jobs was unhappy with the startup time of the computer, and told engineer Larry Kenyon that shaving ten seconds off the boot time of the computer, multiplied by five million uses every day for a year would save “over a dozen lives.”
They also share this story of a study out of the University of Michigan:
“Back in 2014, University of Michigan behavioral economist Yan Chen gave participants a bunch of questions, provided half of them with internet access and the other half with a library. Then she started the clock.
Online inquiries averaged seven minutes an answer, offline required twenty-two, meaning every time we type a query into a search engine, technology saves us fifteen minutes. If we apply a little Jobsian logic to this, simply taking the 3.5 billion queries a day processed by Google, we find that Google alone saves us 52.4 billion minutes a day. That is to say, Jobs was right — that’s a lot of lifetimes.”
52.4 billion minutes a day saved simply from the ability to search via Google.
Now, consider the voice revolution and the fact that these query times are being cut even further by the ability to simply ask “Alexa” or “Siri” your questions while you go about your daily routine.
Yes, technology is allowing us to save gobs of time.
But what are we doing with all that extra time?
Gallup’s most recent “lifestyle” poll showed that six in ten working Americans say “they do not have enough time to do what they want.” Overall the number is almost half of Americans saying they don’t have enough time — numbers that have held pretty steady over the past two decades.
If technology continues to save the amount of time it takes us to accomplish tasks at home and work — shouldn’t the amount of people who feel they don’t have enough time be plummeting, as well?
Last year, I participated in an online Q&A with a group of entrepreneurs. During that presentation, I shared the fact that I set a goal of working 12-14 hours per day. Upon hearing this, one of the entrepreneurs asked me if I just “waste away on the couch” for the rest of the day.
In response, I asked him how many hours per day he was physically at the office. He replied, “seven to nine hours.” Then I asked him how much actual outcomes-focused work he accomplished during that time. After some back-and-forth, he admitted that he only accomplished about two-to-three hours of real work.
So, why did he waste the rest of the day in the office? As he shared with me, it was a feeling of guilt; guilt that if he wasn’t at the office he’d feel like he wasn’t working hard enough (even though for much of that time he wasn’t actually working). He also had feelings of guilt because he said his father once told him that it’s the duty of a man to be in the office for eight hours per day.
I also asked that entrepreneur what he would do with his time if he wasn’t in the office. He couldn’t answer the question.
You see, this entrepreneur, like so many people, hadn’t identified the activities, experiences, people and things that fulfill him outside of work. When that happens, you cling to the only thing you know — even if it means busy work that takes away from time you could be using to build your relationships and your mental and physical health.
Then there are other people who use all that time saved thanks to technology to fill their empty cup with mind-numbing activities. Binging on Netflix. Staring like a Zombie at their Facebook feed on their smartphone.
And they do this instead of filling their cup with activities, such as playing outside with their kids; spending quality time with their spouse or significant other; reading the book they’ve always wanted to read; hitting the gym and exercising.
Then they tell Gallup (or their friends) that they don’t know why they don’t have enough time to do what they want.
A few years ago, I had a client who complained about his lack of time and how it was hurting his relationship with his wife. We were texting back and forth one weekday evening, and I asked him what was going on in his household at that moment. He told me his wife was in another room looking at her iPad, the kids were in a separate room watching TV or playing video games, and he was texting me in between glancing at his iPad.
It became clear to me this was a regular weekday evening at his household.
I urged him to put down the iPad, head to whatever room his wife was currently in, and perhaps have a discussion. Maybe bring the kids in with them to play a game together, or talk, or communicate.
Bottom line, the time we save due to technology doesn’t much mean anything if we fill the gaps with mindless activity that provides his temporary dopamine rushes (i.e., your social media feed and finding a new Netflix series) at the expense of your self-care and relationships.
When you live the freedom lifestyle, your days are full, but you’re not busy. That’s because they are chock-full of the activities and experiences that fulfill you.
Have you identified those experiences?
How are you spending all the time you “saved” this week?