Being Present > Being Connected

Originally posted on 8/30/2012

We live in a world where we are constantly expected to be on 110% of the time. Customers (rightly?) expect their demands to be met  NOW. We get messages, tweets and texts INSTANTLY. We get our news REALTIME. And it’s starting to make  us/or maybe just my friends very reactive individuals and business people. We’re never ‘there’ when we are at a meeting/lunch/coffee conversation/home. Nothing irks me more than grabbing a coffee with someone and he/she continuously checks his/her phone and I can’t even say I wasn’t guilty sometimes. Actually, one thing irks me more; calling a sport where an oblong object is carried/thrown for about 80% of the time Football. That really irks me.

The distraction of ‘instant’ communication became more evident to me about 3 months ago when I watched the video (at the end of this post) by Joe Kraus of Google Ventures. He talks about Slowtech and how distracted we’ve become. Too distracted for deep thought. And very reactive. A self audit highlighted a bad situation: I woke up to my phone alarm. I switched off the alarm and I’d immediately ‘connect’ to email. The rest of my day became reactive from that point on. Sorry to tell you this but I probably responded to your email on the crapper at some point in the last 4 years. I’d take coffee chats and the buzzing of my phone during the chat would distract me even if I didn’t take the message.

I decided to take drastic action. I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone. A few weeks later I disconnected email from my phone. This morning I read this blog post by A YCombinator partner who did the same thing and decided I’d share my own results.

1. My life is richer because I’m more present in conversations and more aware of the things going on around me. I no longer have the distraction of ‘an urgent’ email I need to respond to. If it’s urgent I get a phone call. My relationships are benefiting from my full availability and consciousness.

2. I think deeply about strategy and tactics for Power2Switch: Observation and deep thought are required to do a thorough assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to a business. Without the distraction of email on my phone I can walk, ride the train, read more and think. It’s liberating.

3. I have more time: You would think that ‘ignoring’ email would create a full inbox. It does, as I get a few hundred emails a day. But I was checking every email twice. Once on my phone (cursory) and then responding later on my laptop/ipad. Now I only check once and I am more effective at responding or actioning. My email filter has been greatly improved because I concentrate when I’m in front of my laptop.

4. Power2Switch had the best 3 months yet (the last 8 weeks almost matched all of 2011):  Even when I got an email about a bug on the Power2Switch site, there was nothing I could do about it on my phone (but my stress levels rose) and the problem got solved quickly by Sys Admin anyway. Without the ‘urgency’ of these sorts of emails I now focus/do real WORK and impact the other parts of the business that I can. I’m less prone to sending the team distracting ideas (‘let’s offer bus travel price comparison’) that then make the team more reactive. It’s a win win for all involved.

Responding to emails while you’re walking to the train station is not real work. Critical thought, programming or finding insight that helps you better serve your customers is Real Work. So join me in the Slowtech (but more efficient Tech) movement (I’m slowly convincing the P2S team). Take email off your phone and be present enough to be better at everything you do. You’ll love it!

 

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