Perspective from Sandi Goldfarb: I inadvertently left my mobile phone at work the other night. My first reaction: sheer panic. How could I be responsive to clients and co-workers without my iPhone at the ready? How could I possibly keep up with the flood of emails and texts that fill my inbox? And then I remembered the words of …
I inadvertently left my mobile phone at work the other night. My first reaction: sheer panic. How could I be responsive to clients and co-workers without my iPhone at the ready? How could I possibly keep up with the flood of emails and texts that fill my inbox? And then I remembered the words of wisdom Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post, offered at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event.
A few colleagues and I recently heard Huffington speak about her new book, Thrive, which focuses on the healing benefits of sleep, the importance of balancing our work and personal lives, the value of social relationships over social media and the need to end our addiction to electronic devices. Like almost everyone I know, demands and deadlines generally keep me tethered to my mobile phone. And despite the research that confirmed Ms. Huffington’s findings, I was skeptical. But that night, I had the perfect excuse to test-drive her theories.
When I arrived home, I emailed my husband and daughter to let them know they could reach me on our landline, which is metaphorically covered in dust and cobwebs. And then I moved on. I logged off my laptop and closed the lid.
Instead of scrolling through emails and responding like one of Pavlov’s dogs to the incessant ping of incoming messages, I listened to NPR while cooking dinner. I read the newspaper, not the dot com facsimile, the real print edition. I watered the green shoots emerging in the garden and talked to my neighbor. I focused on home instead of home pages.
Today, people cling to their mobile phones like religious talismans, afraid to put them away during meals, at ball games or while driving. Some feel that they can’t afford to disconnect, even when they are sick or on vacation. Many walk around with phones pressed to their ears like beachcombers trying to hear the ebb and flow of the ocean in a conch shell. Others keep their cell phones on their nightstands or under their pillows, which must confuse the hell out of the Tooth Fairy. With all that nocturnal beeping it’s no wonder we’re all tired.
Not too long ago at a fundraiser I witnessed a colleague, head bowed, during the invocation. I was taken by this humble gesture until I realized that he was actually texting. Using humor, research and common sense advice, Ms. Huffington reminded me that I don’t have to be that person. And she isn’t the only one encouraging a retreat from the rat race. Companies around the globe are considering “no email after hours” policies to allow staff a brief but reinvigorating respite from work.
Clearly, those of us in client service industries have to work a little harder to find the right balance. I try to focus on messages that are urgent or time sensitive and leave the others until morning. “Try” being the operative word here. In addition, unless I have something to contribute to an e-conversation, I avoid the “reply all” option, one of the worst inventions in modern history.
I hope my forced withdrawal from my mobile device will continue, one day at a time. And with apologies to Dr. Timothy Leary, I invite you to join me in this quest. So whenever you can, please, turn off, tune out and drop in.