“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.”
It’s fall. Big box retailers are churning out coupons inspiring us to spend money—seasonal decorations are already on the shelves … and is that really a Christmas Carol I’m hearing?!
With the constant messaging from every angle, it’s super easy to get swept up in consumerism.
The tiny cracks in your cell phone screen start to look more like craters, and your aging tablet feels heavy in your hand. You start to justify to yourself why you NEED to replace them.
Look—I’m not here to talk you out of buying anything. You may need a new phone, or tablet, or laptop, or … fill in the blank with the latest piece of tech you’re hankering for here. We’ll tackle the hankering for new improved software in an upcoming article, so stay tuned.
I’d never tell you what to do. Only you know what you need.
What I AM going to tell you is this.
Before you hand over your credit card in exchange for the latest and greatest gadget, pause long enough to ask yourself these 3 questions.
#1: WHAT PROBLEM AM I TRYING TO SOLVE?
When we buy something, we’re exchanging our hard-earned money to get something in return. We’re trying to meet a need, whether it’s real or imagined.
Here’s an example of a real need: You’re hungry, so you buy food.
Now, here’s an example of an imagined need: You’re bummed out or bored, so you buy a new pair of shoes.
In that second example, buying the shoes isn’t the issue. It’s just that the solution doesn’t fit the problem. Sure, the new shoes might give your mood a temporary boost. But unless you apply a solution that targets the actual problem, you’ll be stuck in a loop.
So, before you trade in your current tech for something new and shiny, ask yourself: What problem am I trying to solve?
If you’re genuinely concerned about security on a device that’s several years old, or if your aged tech doesn’t have the memory you need to store all your digital files, fair enough. Buying new tech may well be a solution.
If you really just like the look and feel of a new phone compared to your current one, which works fine …. Take a beat to consider if the investment is worth it.
We’ll also address what to do with your retired technology in a coming article, so don’t get too comfortable just tossing it in your “junk” drawer.
#2: IS TECHNOLOGY THE SOLUTION?
Once you’ve identified why you want a new tech gadget in your life, you’re in a good spot to figure out if tech is the solution.
In our example above, if what you want is a shiny new thing that looks good in your hand, take a deeper dive.
What are your true motivations? More respect from neighbors or colleagues? Feeling more stylish on a daily basis?
To be clear—there’s no judgment here. If buying the latest iPhone will really make you feel more confident in your everyday life, go for it.
You do you.
But be honest about your reasons for purchasing in the first place, and—this is equally important!—be honest about whether new technology is the RIGHT solution.
If it is, shop away—no guilt required.
If it isn’t, though, take the time to figure out what the right solution IS. Otherwise, you’ll be staring down the barrel of the same problem before you know it.
#3: IS THERE AN INTERNAL PROBLEM BENEATH THE EXTERNAL ONE?
All too often, we blame our technology for problems that WE are responsible for.
We procrastinate on a project, then get annoyed at our computer for running slower than we’d like.
Do a quick gut-check to see if the problem you’re trying to solve is actually your own attention and focus. If it is, a device that’s running the latest and greatest in “time-saving” software WON’T help you.
It’s a band-aid disguised as a cure.
You can’t solve an internal problem with external “stuff.”
Trust me on this. I’ve worked with thousands of clients who’ve tried to do this over and over.
If your REAL problem is a fundamental one around time management, productivity, or prioritizing, technology can help. But it is NOT a fix.
That’s why I say right on my home page: Clutter isn’t your problem. You are.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Shopping isn’t a bad thing, and neither is wanting things. It’s all a part of being human.
The problem occurs when we look outside ourselves for a solution to an internal problem.
Machines can’t fix what ails you, but YOU CAN.
Next time you find yourself yearning for the feel of a shiny new piece of hardware under your fingertips, take a breath. Heck, while you’re at it, take THREE breaths.
Then ask yourself the 3 questions, and get clear on your motivations. You might just surprise yourself.
While you’re at it, keep up the momentum with my book Unstuff Your Life. It’s all about how to get clear on your values and use them as the driving force behind decluttering. Harness that energy and start today!