When laptops first appeared, computer manufacturers called them "freedom machines" and ran ads showing smiling users at the beach.

Why don't we see these ads anymore? Because we all know that technology hasn't increased our leisure time - just like the PC didn't shorten our work days as promised. Instead, we find ourselves being paged all day long and bombarded with hundreds of e-mails and voice-mails, then toting our laptops home to make up the time we lost answering all those messages.

We're working too much. There's no time any more. The start of the new millennium is the perfect time to reflect on how to create more balance in your life. How can you use technology to improve your productivity and still make time for what's important to you personally - whether that be your family, friends, sailing, golf, or just doing nothing?

How can you find more time to do what you want to do? Learn to use new technology to make your life easier. Start by getting the training you need to use the technology at hand - and by training your employees as well. Once you know how to find information efficiently on the Web, for example, you'll have an entire reference library at your fingertips. Efficient use of word processing, spreadsheet, and database tools can improve productivity. Online meeting site selection tools can allow you to toss out your stacks of hotel guides and brochures. Meeting planning software can streamline and automate many meeting planning tasks. It's worth it to make the personal commitment to change that such learning requires.

Realize that the technology itself will get easier to use. Software programs will become more adept at helping you perform tasks from surfing, to e-commerce, to day-to-day business operations. Voice recognition will be more widely used. Wireless palms, cell phones, and geo-positioners will merge to make more useful composite devices. Car computers will not only give us step-by-step driving directions, they will also find the best route to avoid the traffic tie-ups. Ultimately, the telephone, computer, and television will merge into an information center responding to voice commands, with access to nearly every book and film ever made. Technology has the potential to enrich your life in ways that have just begun to be explored.

Learn when to flip the "off" switch. Americans have become a nation of workaholics. Sure, we have become the most productive nation on earth (84% of all Web pages, for example, are U.S.-based). However, as Henry David Thoreau prophetically stated more than 150 years ago, "Men [and women] have become tools of their tools."

You can't run an engine at redline indefinitely. We must strive to achieve balance in our lives. Set aside time for your families and friends, for recharging, and for leisure. Learn to use technology to help you be more efficient on the job, but also learn when to turn off the cell phone and call it a day.

1.Learn to use technology, especially the Web, efficiently - There are 7.3 million Web pages being added daily, according to recent research by Cyveillance. Learn how to use this powerful tool to its potential.

2.Make a personal commitment to change - Make new technologies work for you, and realize that they will get increasingly easier to use.

3.Know when to log off - Make time offline for family, friends, and fun.