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Jobs 2021: Tech habits to prepare you for the new decade

Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda
·Contributor
·7-min read
Overhead view of business colleagues discussing project on digital tablet
There are some habits that will set you up for success in the coming decade of work. (Source: Getty)

When it comes to the next decade of work, we need to get comfortable with uncertainty.

Much of that uncertainty will come from the ever-evolving technology that’s reshaping how and when we work.

AI and automation will further transform entire industries, taking some jobs but then also giving rise to other opportunities. Meanwhile, how we communicate, network and collaborate with others will continue to be enhanced by tech.

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With all this change, it can often feel like tech development is happening to us, rather than for us.

So how can we take control? Below are some tech-related habits to adopt now in order to prepare for your next job, project or your overall career over the next few years.

Make tech-enabled learning constant

The opportunities for learning from your smartphone are endless and cover almost every topic area possible.

The thing is, you don’t yet necessarily know yet what you’ll need to know as you tackle your next job or project.

What matters is your curiosity, and your ability to learn and find the information and resources you need.

Developing a learning and development habit through the readily available tech out there is a great start.

So consider how you can always have a course – whether it’s for professional or personal interest – on the go at any one time. Or think about a skill or hobby you’re looking to pursue, and get active on using free Youtube videos or something else to help hone it.

It’s not the volume of courses or skills acquired that matters, but rather the habit of learning that you develop.

You could be putting in as little as 15 minutes a week, and that would make a great start.

Try the new stuff out

Just when you think you have one platform mastered, a new one emerges, promising to change everything.

It can be tempting to just shrug it off, ignoring the new stuff in order to stick with the platforms that you do know, in the hope the more familiar stuff will survive the test of time and innovation.

But a better plan is to actually set up a temporary account and trial these new platforms. You don’t have to be on them forever, it could be as simple as jumping in for a few days before you delete the app/programs or other platform along with your user details.

This is particularly important when it comes to the tech your kids might be experimenting with. You may have zero interest in it, but going in and taking a look around is the best way to ensure you can at least talk to your kids (or maybe it’s somebody in your team) about it. That way, you can raise any concerns and aid them in navigating any issues that may come up.

On more complex platforms that are difficult to trial out personally, ask to sit with someone else as they use the tech so you can familiarise yourself with what it’s doing and why.

Remember, there will always be something new, no matter how comfortable you feel with what you’re already using. So make it a habit to experiment.

Take an active interest in who is behind the tech

The AI transformation is happening right now. It’s not only entering workplaces and transforming industries, it’s also entering our homes.

You don’t have to work in AI or hold a technical role in order to need to understand it.

We should all aim to take an active interest in the who, what, where and why behind these new developments.

What kind of teams are developing these tools? Who has the power behind them? What are their ultimate motivations? What ethical implications are involved? How could privacy be impacted?

And it’s not just AI, it’s any kind of tech that we bring into our professional and personal lives: including social media platforms, collaboration tools, and the apps we use for everything from exercising to keeping track of our finances.

Make reading up on the latest tech-related news and developments a regular habit. Get to know some of the big personalities in this space.

Familiarise yourself with what the World Economic Forum and others are saying on the wider impacts of AI and automation, as well as some of the ethical issues that have been raised.

And whenever you go to download a new app or access some other kind of tech, make it a habit to do some research first regarding any possible implications, especially ethical concerns and privacy.

Schedule your email and other messages

Email is not going anywhere fast, despite significant advances in online communications in recent years.

Those emails are going to keep coming in, disrupting and interrupting you – until you create clear habits and processes around what you will and won’t accept.

The same things goes for other messages and alerts that come up on your devices, like those from Slack and WhatsApp.

So make it a habit to spend less time on email and related messaging services, by adopting some simple strategies, especially any methods you can use to stop over-checking emails.

Some such incoming messaging is part of your work, and you may have no choice but to have these switched on during your work day.

But in other cases, it’s possible to create routines and processes around when these are checked and answered.

On email, it could be by creating a rule to only check incoming messages at the beginning and end of the day. Or, if more frequent checking is required, it could simply be once an hour for five minutes at a time.

Be intentional about when and where you’ll check the messages that come in, and aim to respond to them with a “single touch” policy.

Establish strict and regular off-screen time

With so much of our lives and work dependent on tech, it’s important to get comfortable with a regular habit of off-screen time.

This could be set up as a nightly routine of turning the phone and other screens off at a set time, and/or it could include a full day or weekend with no screens. Other opportunities could come from taking short holidays that occur offline.

Find what will work for you – breaking the always-on habit will be difficult at first, but keep it strict and keep it regular and it will pay off in the long run.

Develop a creative habit that’s intentionally free from tech

Creativity will be even more critical in the future of work. It’s a key skill that can’t be replaced by AI and automation, at least not yet.

But it’s a skill that’s hard and takes a lot of work, so start practicing.

Establish regular short (even 15 minute) bursts of time to do creative thinking in whatever way that works for you.

For some people that may involve taking a short walk. For others it will be sitting alone with a pen and paper.

What matters is the intentional space that you’ve made for that creativity – a space that’s free from distraction and interruption, thereby free of the tech that’s been designed to do just that.

This is part three of our Jobs 2021 series, where Yahoo Finance is exploring how to succeed in the next decade: earn more, lead better and win in the next decade of work.

Want 2021 to be your best (financial) year yet? Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to the free Fully Briefed daily newsletter here.