I actually enjoy being connected, I like to have technology that instantly allows me to see what happening in the world, communicate with others and share my own thoughts. The difficulty with being connected in a way where you can easily be interrupted is that it can become a steady flow of interruption, then before you know it – life is one constantly interrupted flow with moments of focus.
At work we have the following communications: email, hipchat, skype, google hangouts, phone, internal wiki and the client site. There have been times that I’ve started to log out of all the different platforms, just so I don’t feel the internal pressure to check each one and see if I need to address something there.
This morning I woke up and laid in bed for about 15 minutes and the entire time had internal conversations:
— What if I missed “x’s” email and they are waiting on my reply?
— I didn’t tell everyone that my email was off for the day, what am I missing?
— I know I have that email from two days ago, I wonder if they wanted an immediate reply or it can wait another day?
You see, reading email is the absolute first thing I do every morning. And I often do it on my phone and then head to the computer to respond to the messages that I feel need immediate attention.
(Funny note: my hipchat on my phone just dinged as I wrote this — I’ll share more about this in a second)
Yesterday I disabled email on my phone in an effort to try and step away from the feeling of being summoned. What I found was that I have a pretty well established nervous tick regarding staying connected, especially with email. I have to estimate, but I would guess that I pulled out my phone to check email at least once an hour if not a couple times an hour. One big mistake I made was not disabling all of my email accounts, as I have three. By not removing all of the accounts, I believe that the dopamine fix I get by keeping this nervous response was feed.
The fear of not having email for an entire day caused enough anxiety that I ended up downloading the hipchat app for my phone, with the expectation that if someone really needed me – they could message me. (And why I was able to see the message that just came through?)
In the video I shared on this blog previously with Tim Ferris, he talks about not having an iphone because he doesn’t trust himself with email on his phone. I need to step back and reflect on my own use of these services as I move forward in my five year planning, it is not a habit that leads me to being the productive, happy and successful person I aim to be.
I do have a friend that runs a successful business. It requires a lot of hours, a lot of his attention and pretty much his decision making on all major decisions. There was a long period that being around him was not very fun because his Blackberry was always out and he was always replying to the latest customer complaint, employee question or service provider response. A year ago (I was actually there on my birthday) he shared with me how his life improved when he removed access to email from his phone. I’m 100% certain his wife and son are happier because of it. It allows him to be present when he’s home.
It was a little bit of jolt while I was there because he constantly made fun of me always checking my phone. The tables had turned.
Here is that video again: