Life was a lot different back in the eighties when I was a kid. Gas was under a dollar a gallon, you had to wait a few days to have film developed and kids would disappear into the vast outdoors all day without any adults knowing where they were.
Today, gas is three dollars a gallon, you can see a picture the second you snap it and parents get shamed for not keeping track of their children. Times are different for sure. Are they better? Some things are better, but I think I’d rather live in the eighties than today if I had the option. I’m a fan of keeping things simple.
When I was a kid, my parents had a big Panasonic answering machine. It was about the same size as our VHS rewinder (Be kind, please rewind – that’s a story for another day) and the best part about it was that it stayed at home. Back then, nobody had cellphones. When we got in my parent’s maroon Reliant-K wagon and drove off, we were unreachable. It was freedom. We could go anywhere, and nobody could distract us. Sure, sometimes we’d run into somebody we knew but that was fun because we were able to catch up with them. Today, there would be no need to catch up because we’d already know everything that’s going on in their life from Facebook.
When we got home, one of the first things we’d do is see if that Panasonic answering machine was flashing a red light. If it was, we’d rewind the cassette inside and play the message. Back then, if someone didn’t leave a message, we didn’t know they were trying to reach us. Our phones didn’t keep track of missed calls because we didn’t have caller ID. Times were simple. Plus, getting a message was exciting.
Today, all our cellphones have voicemail. This is great but the problem is that it’s always with you. We’re all conditioned to constantly check our cellphones for notifications. Our daily activities are constantly interrupted by these notifications.
The little number in the red bubble is there to steal your attention away from whatever else you were doing. Maybe you’re having dinner with your family and DING!! Most of us start twitching if we can’t look to see who or what it is. What are we missing out on? Is someone live on Facebook? Did a co-worker send a funny text? Is the electric company emailing to let me know my bill is ready to be viewed? It could be anything and you could be missing out, so you stop mid-chew to look and you realize someone clicked Like on the meme you posted on Facebook last week. Phew, it’s a good thing you didn’t miss out on that one! In reality, what you really missed out on was quality time with your family at the dinner table.
I find that I don’t do well when I’m constantly interrupted. If I’m cooking dinner and I get a text, I start reading the text and, while I’m typing a reply, the pot on the stove boils over. Ugh. If a customer emails me when I’m in the middle of a project at the office, I start reading the email and lose track of my project. I don’t know about you, but I’m a very poor multitasker. I’m much better when I focus on one thing at a time.
FINISH WHAT YOU START FIRST
I’ve found that I’m a lot more efficient when I work on one thing at a time. Now, if my phone dings, I won’t look at it until I’m finished with what I’m working on. Whatever it is can wait. If my phone rings, I let the caller leave me a voicemail if I’m in the middle of something. And yes, I do listen to the voicemail and I return calls when I can give my full attention. Handling one thing at a time is much less stressful than having three or four half completed things on your plate at once.
I’ve also found it very helpful to use a time blocking strategy. It’s not always possible to do this but, when it is possible, I find that I’m more efficient and less stressed. I’ll look at my daily calendar and I’ll block time for certain activities. For example, between 10 and 11am, I might decide I’m working on a particular project and I will turn my phone on silent so that I can’t be interrupted. Between 3 and 4pm, I will return all voicemails and between 4 and 5pm, I will respond to all emails for example. Sometimes, this isn’t possible, but it works well when it is.
It’s time to take control. Don’t let technology rule your day. Use technology to help you with your tasks but never let it distract you from your goal. You’re in charge, not your phone.
If you’d like to have a conversation about this or any other topic, please reach out to me at www.lofrumentoagency.com/connect.
John Lofrumento, CFP®, FSCP®, RICP®
President, The Lofrumento Agency