Sometimes you just have to be slapped upside the head to have some sense driven into you. I was catching up on some reading and came across this piece from Sasha Dichter and these words struck a chord with me:
In today’s world we all are continually experimenting with the lines between connection / productivity / responsiveness and distraction / rudeness. Two colleagues of mine suggested the following four rules for managing incoming email and handheld devices, which I liked:
- Turn off desktop alerts of new emails coming in (the little box that pops up) (in Outlook: File > Options > Mail > Message Arrival > Uncheck “Display a Desktop Alert”)
- No reading email before breakfast
- No reading email while in transit
- No phone or email in the bedroom
My own scorecard is as follows:
- I turned of desktop alerts for new emails about a month ago and I love it.
- I almost never read email before breakfast and when I do it’s a sign that I’m under a crazy deadline or stressed for some other reason.
- Hmmm. I made a rule a couple of years ago not to look at my phone while in elevators, and I’ve stuck to that (it had become a reflex), but I spend enough time in transit that I don’t know that I can commit to this one.
- I do have my phone in the bedroom but I can honestly say it’s 95% as a time-piece and alarm
In reality these four rules are a really low bar. Increasingly I think we will all be playing with the limits and rules that work for us, and everyone’s line will be different. What makes me nervous is when I get reflexive about checking. That sort of unconscious behavior feels unproductive. (Emphasis mine)
My wife has flat out told me it annoys her how much I check my phone. At the table, when we go to bed, etc. and today when I was checking out at a store I realized I was checking my phone even before the clerk was saying thank you. In other words I'm being exceptionally rude to the people around me, and what bothers me most is I'm certain I'm missing signifcant chunks of conversation with my family. My kids are only a few years from flying the coop permanently – two of them are already in college – so this is just crazy behavior. Do I seriously want to waste the limited days they're still under my roof with my nose stuck in my phone? Obviously not.
For some reason it took reading a stranger's blog to bring me to that "Well, duh" conclusion. I plan on using some of his rules augmented with some of my own to do better.