Welcome to 2021, my friends! By the time this newsletter goes out, January will nearly be in our rearview mirrors and we’ll all be heading strong into the first quarter of the year. 2020 is behind us, and many of us offered it a “good riddance” as we watched the ball drop on a quiet New York City several weeks ago. We’ve had this month’s topic planned for months, but I’ve had quite the writer’s block getting it going, and it finally connected to me why. As we came to the end of 2020, it felt like we are all looking forward to a fresh start, a life that’s somewhat back to normal (albeit a new one), and putting some of the things behind us we’d been forced to adopt in the previous year. The new year was going to be a “reset” for us like it often is, but it wasn’t focused on looking forward, rather it was simply a desire to not repeat the past. Today I’d like to share a couple of my own perspectives on tech trends I’d like to see in 2021.

Virtual Isn’t Everything

We learned that a lot of things last year could be done virtually. Screen time exploded as our meetings moved to Zoom and Teams and messaging tools continued their stranglehold on our communication with those we interact with. My hope is that in 2021 we don’t just accept this as the norm and move on with it, but that we find places where virtual communication works and where it doesn’t, and we force ourselves to find the balance where it fits and when we are able.

There’s something to be gained by seeing more than someone’s head and shoulders on a screen, by shaking their hand after closing a deal, or by forcing yourself to walk into an office and have a hard conversation that just wouldn’t be as effective over a video call. We’ve learned how to be safer, but I have a sense of sadness for those whose roles have shifted from an office environment to a virtual one with no sign of ever returning. I feel there is some camaraderie that will be degraded, some purpose that will be lost, and some bonds that will grow looser. Let’s strain to keep virtual life to an effective minimum, and make as much room for real interaction as safely possible.

Don’t BYOD Everywhere

A common trend over recent years has been to BYOD – Bring Your Own Data. Whereas our business life used to be limited to a computer our work provided, we’re often allowed (and even expected) to utilize our own phones, tablets, and other devices for work purposes. While this is convenient when you want to sit down in the easy chair and delete a stack of emails at the close of a day, it also means work can follow us anywhere and everywhere we go, regardless of the time of day or our other expressed priorities.

I’m a prime example of this myself. My work email is linked to about every device I have, and it’s often one of the first few things I check every morning. Virtually always, there’s nothing urgent then. For the rare time that there is, I realize there are already procedures in place that will alert me with an alarm that overrides my silenced phone, or better yet, alert the team member who’s on call that night. I’ve decided to take a 10-day trip with my son this year completely off the grid, and yes, I’m quite nervous about it. It will push me to let go of things I hold very tightly and entrust them to other experts who can handle them just as well as I can for that period of time.

Turn the ringer off. Leave the tablet downstairs. Put the laptop back in its bag at the end of your work-day from home. It doesn’t matter which little step you take – just find one, take it, and stick with it.

As I shared at the top of this article, these weren’t the trends I was thinking I’d be writing about, but these are the trends I choose to bring to life and encourage in the life of my team and family this year. I’d love to hear from you how you’re disengaging when the time is right, and how you think that will improve our lives this year.