The advances in technology over the past 20 years have been phenomenal. Shoot, even the past 5 years have been incredible. We seem to be making every piece of technology faster, smaller, stronger and cooler than previously thought possible. Now we have things like cell phones, PDA’s, laptops, wifi… just about anything that can connect you to your work anytime, anywhere. Yes, our quest for optimal productivity and portability has made us much more productive than the antiquated model of 9 to 5 and an “office” phone.
I wrote an article on Friday about my computer fast, and it had tremendous response over the web. The article actually made it to the front page of digg (and instantly crashed my server, yay Digg effect!). I had no idea that the article would have such an impact, but because it did means something struck a chord with a lot of people. Basically, the fact that somebody could actually shut off their computer after 6pm was something quite novel to a lot of people. Why? Because we use the computer for everything; work and play. The lines between the two have been blurred. You have to make hard edges if you want to be productive.
Studies have shown that workers who worked 9-10 hour days only were productive for about half the time. The longer you work, the less productive you become.
So now you are starting to see the problem: We use a lot of our technology for both work and recreation; yet the longer we work the less we get done.
The Cell Phone
The cell phone has been a HUGE advancement over the traditional LAN line. A portable phone the size of a credit card (sometimes smaller!) can be used almost anywhere (depending on your provider). Ultimately, this means more people can become connected at more times. Or a math equation:
More People + More Places + More Availability = Cell Phone
However, this type of thinking can quickly turn against us. Now bosses and clients think that if they have your cell phone digits, it’s ok to call past the traditional working hours of the day. Because we’ve “advanced” our technology to go beyond the phone located in our offices, we’ve invited it into our personal lives.
Gotta Keep ’em Seperated
So how do we fix this? We start to firm up our flabby edges that seperate work and everything else. Boundaries have to be set and kept.
Oh, and there’s always going to be the “I know you don’t usually answer the phone but it’s an emergency!” call, when it’s really not and emergency. Switch to voicemail. That’ll teach ’em. And if it truly is an emergency, call them back. I bet 99% of the time it won’t.
[If you’re worried about listening to too many voicemails, you can check out SpinVox, which converts your voicemail’s to SMS and email messages. I do a lot of my project management with the incredible firefox extension GTDGmail, so I use GotVoice to send my voicemail’s to my email. So far it works great, and I can keep track of everything easier.]
What about the people who are your friends/clients who call after hours? Here’s my rule. If the incoming call is going to be work related and not terribly important, I don’t answer. In order for this to work every aspect of work needs to be shut out early on. I know this method doesn’t work in some circumstances and settings yada yada yada… but it can probably work with most people. Don’t be closed minded into thinking that this positively could not work for you. Just try it, and see what happens. You’ll be surprised at the results :)
A few decades ago this invasion into our home life would not have happened. Why should it happen now, just because technoligically we’re able to?