I love my phone. I really do. I am a heavy user for sure and spend a lot of time on it during the day for work, during the evening for work and looking at my social feeds. Pretty much like all the rest of you I suspect. And I do believe that when used in a considered and thoughtful way there is absolutely nothing wrong with these devices. However, I haven't always used mine in a considered and thoughtful way. In fact, me and my phone were once an inseparable item day and night.
And what happens when that happens? It breaks our ability to compartmentalise situations. And that is a big problem. Let me explain what I mean. Our days should be made up of a series of connected but ultimately independent situations. Getting up and getting ready. Having breakfast. Commuting to work. Attending different meetings during the day. Coming home or joining friends for dinner. Watching TV. Going to bed. Or at least something like that.
Now normally as you transition from one situation to the next you spend a fractional moment leaving one behind and entering the new one. Which acts like a reset button. For example, when I get off the subway and walk into the office, I most definitely take a deep breath on crossing the threshold and get ready to start my work day. It's a kind of lightning quick preparation for what is coming next. Equally, when you move from one meeting to the next, you need that moment to detach from the last conversation and get ready to add value to the new one. The importance of these little oscillations cannot be underestimated.
Now enter the phone. It's creating a time continuum. As soon as one situation is over, we're all now defaulting to picking up our phones. We then transition to the next thing without taking our eyes off our device. And in many cases we're walking into the next situation, head down, deep in the phone content and only snap into the moment when someone or something breaks us out of the spell. And this is so destructive.
First of all, it pretty much tells the next person or group that you're meeting with that you value them less than whatever is on your device's screen (and that might be an instagram picture). Secondly, you haven't had the refresh moment since the last situation so you're going to take a while to get into the new one. Third, you've probably seen something on your phone that needs your attention (or you think needs your attention - social media notifications anyone?) and that will nag away at you meaning you're not going to be focused and present in the moment. Phone enabled No Man's Land. And so on. No refresh. No oscillation. Overlay the fact that we're all doing this and you start to get a sense of the scale of the issue. The scale of the distraction. The scale of the rudeness!
So, in the spirit of my blog, About Tomorrow, let's focus on one simple and practical thing we can do differently starting tomorrow to improve this situation. Here's what I did when addressing my work to home transition. When arriving at home, before I go into the house, I finish my call/text/instagram and simply switch my phone off and put it in my bag (this is important as even if it's in your hand it gives off the wrong impression). That way, I walk into the house focused on what's in front of me and immediately participate in what's happening in that moment. Sure, I'm going to switch my phone back on later in the evening, perhaps once we've had dinner or once the kids are in bed but that undivided attention on arrival allows me to connect properly and also put a tangible moment of separation between work and home. It's made a huge difference. Not so much in what this behaviour achieves (normal, polite and respectful behaviour!) but in what it stops from happening (distracted, distant and disconnected behaviour). This is relevant at home, at work or when out meeting friends.
And switch off your notifications. Not necessarily for text messages but certainly for social feeds. Take back some control and also avoid sitting at the dinner table listening to all the pings and dings which are so distracting (it's an addiction people!). Review stuff when you're ready and on your timetable. I have done this and it's a game changer.
Commit to making a small change and share what you plan to do or ideas that you have implemented that worked. Good luck and if you like what you're reading, please subscribe to the blog so that I can send you regular updates.