Strengthen digital competencies: 3 tips for more sovereignty in dealing with technology

Managing successfully with software and social technology

Digital devices and software tools offer mid-sized businesses, small business owners, and the self-employed tremendous opportunities to make their day-to-day business lives easier. Family businesses, startups and solo self-employed people can successfully use programs and apps to make their work more effective. They don’t even need to bring the professional know-how in all sub-areas to do so. However, they do need special soft skills and digital competencies to successfully compete in cyberspace with their products or services.

Software tools and apps for every need

The Corona pandemic has accelerated digitization around the world. Digital skills have come under increased scrutiny. In my new book, “The Digital Consciousness,” I explain in detail why they are necessary for a society of empowered citizens. The way we organize our work and leisure time has changed permanently: we use online shopping, social media and messenger not only in our private lives, but also increasingly in a professional context. Companies, employees, and the self-employed take care of services, conferences, customer meetings, official matters, or further training via online platforms, digital forms, or video chats as a matter of course. We are accustomed to having not only our phone, calendar and camera available at all times with our smartphone, but also access to a globally networked world of information, maps, goods and services at the same time. We pay cashless in most stores and arrange insurance, contracts and tax returns with the help of specialized apps. The apps help us by automating processes or providing us with suitable tips directly at the appropriate time, enabling us to avoid unnecessary mistakes thanks to a head start in knowledge.

What else do software tools offer companies and the self-employed? The digital helpers support appointment management and the automation of accounting, organization and archiving. They help with setting up and managing a web presence and business correspondence and simplify the preparation of quotations and invoices, for example, with ready-made templates. In addition, software programs offer professional solutions for design, e-mail and social media marketing and monitoring, and project management. Thus, thanks to digitization, self-employed people have a whole range of technical tools at their fingertips to help them run a mini-business.

Better networking with psychological and social digital skills

Hybrid working and home offices have become the new standard during the pandemic. Co-working spaces are springing up everywhere, where people can flexibly rent their own desk, a shared office or conference rooms. These new solutions offer a unique opportunity for collaborative exchange and synergy effects for one’s own work. Self-employed people also benefit from this, as they can exchange ideas with like-minded people there. In particular, solo self-employed people who offer their services in the digital space don’t just have to be good business managers and organizers. They also need to be good networkers and know about target group-specific communication and community building and management.

This requires mastering the social engineering of interpersonal relationships. Social engineering, better known as social engineering, refers to the use of psychological and sociological laws to influence social life. Social engineering in the context of the Internet is often understood in a negative way by the public, namely as manipulative influence that often takes place through financially strong and powerful lobbies. Social manipulation, however, is rather a natural form of communication that everyone has mastered.

Companies, the self-employed, but also private individuals should definitely take advantage of their opportunities to participate in the digital cosmos. They can search for, approach and get to know experts in their field in networks. Position yourself as an expert through regular posts and build up qualitative reach in the long term. Instead of relying on agencies, become your own lobby and build your self-marketing through your own content in the form of blogs, posts, comments, online surveys. Through efficient community building, you can try out communication strategies and thus use the social media environment as a practical field of experimentation and optimally align yourself with target markets and target groups through community input.

Less digital is more: self-determined and resilient living and working

Digital devices and online platforms can quickly become time and productivity traps that distract from work instead of supporting it. Social media portals deliberately capture our attention through algorithms tailored to make us spend as much time there as possible. Our emotions are appealed to, tempting us to reveal more of ourselves than we actually want to. The smartphone is a time-eater, and many people are aware of that. According to a Deloitte study, 38% of Germans rate their smartphone usage as too high, 31% feel the compulsion to constantly look at their smartphone, 24% have already deleted apps that cost them too much time. Permanent push notifications from apps interfere with our activities, our privacy and our natural flow. We fall into ineffective multi-tasking, which often leads to poor focus and failure to complete tasks wisely. We are on constant alert, which drains our energy. How do you prevent this?

1. Use digital devices and apps in a self-directed way.

Optimize your smartphone’s menu and interface settings to suit your needs. Reduce push notifications from apps to a minimum, set them to silent or preferably disable them altogether. Instead, follow your own schedule for using apps or online platforms. Set fixed schedules for the daily duration of individual app use and review your usage patterns. Also, define smartphone-free time and smartphone-free spaces where you give your full attention to an activity, their family or friends. Adopt rules of the physical world for your online use, such as business hours. To simulate a lockdown, block access to social networks temporarily, for example (yes, there are apps for that, too).

2. Manage information overload and use pluralism of opinion.

Follow quality instead of quantity and focus on your interests. Question undifferentiated portrayals and distrust lurid headlines. Take a critical look at the agenda setting of editorial departments with regard to the financing of media houses. Critically include your own background and tips from people you trust. Consume international portals, alternative sources, blogs, and testimonials from lay people that open up other perspectives. Prefer reading and watching technical literature, in-depth background reports, and entire books rather than consuming daily news and short-term trends. Take breaks to avoid being overwhelmed by too much input.

3. Maintain psychosocial health and build resilience.

Practice information hygiene by not consuming too much negative news. Rather make your own experiences in social contacts or in experiencing beauty and harmony: only in our own experiences do we experience values that are closely connected to our feelings. Spend time in nature, sports and culture. Cultivate hobbies or discover your creative side. Detach yourself from claims of perfection and an exaggerated idea of health suggested to us by advertising. Create rituals and take care of your mental well-being. Take symptoms of exhaustion seriously and allow yourself time off in good time. Digital apps can be a helpful support by providing tips for healthy eating, cooking recipes, fitness programs, meditative relaxation and sleep aids.

Simone Belko, a linguist and European studies scholar, is committed to digital literacy. She is the author of the book "Digital consciousness" ("Das digitale Bewusstsein"). She has many years of experience as PR manager, journalist and cultural trainer in Germany and abroad. As a project manager for digital products in the online games and FinTech industry she was responsable for content strategy, web/ app development, localisation, marketing, IT support and community management.

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