While visiting friends a few weeks ago, I noticed a change that I wasn’t too thrilled about. Technology was beginning to take over their lives. Literally.
Over the last six months, technology had changed the way my friends socialized. Before, you could hold a lengthy and meaningful conversation with them without any distractions. Now, you can’t go 90 seconds without checking the latest text message on their phone. But the worst part is that you could be in mid-sentence and hear a little “ding!” and either friend would instantly whip out their phone and start texting a reply. Sometimes they’d try to fake acting interested in your conversation with a nod and a “uh huh”, proving yet again that multi-tasking never works. Other times they’d politely interrupt and say, “Sorry, one minute. My friend texted me.” Even though there was an apology, what I heard was “One sec… you’re not as important as my other friend”. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
This is a perfect example of how we’ve started to let our lives be overrun by the urgent, not the important. Instead of talking to the person in front of them, they were willing to interrupt a conversation for a more urgent input: their cellphone.
It’s incredibly interesting what we’ll do when an urgent stimuli (the “ding!” of a text message, for example) rears it’s ugly head. Text messages are the worst offender. We’ll hear the text go off, and even while trying to concentrate, the only thing we can think about is the text message. Why? Because it’s an urgent prompt. It’s begging for your attention. Other forms of urgent inputs:
- Cell phones/text messages
- Twitter (it’s true!)
- Email (especially with pop-ups)
So what are the things that we should be worried about, the “important” things in our lives? Easy. The things that last and provide value.
- Friends/Family– There’s nothing more important in life than friends and family. They are directly linked to our happiness and well-being.
- Life Goals – Goals that we’ve set that want to be accomplished eventually.
- Projects due/commitments – These aren’t necessarily related to work.
- Health– Taking care of our bodies is incredibly important. Personal health is something that greatly adds to our level of happiness (believe it or not).
Unfortunately, focusing on the urgent ensures that we’ll never get to the important. In order to make sure we’re doing what’s important, we need to find a way to ignore the urgent and focus on the important with steely resolve.
I struggle with this daily. (As I write this I’ve had 2 text messages and the doorbell rang!) As a person who makes his bread working on a computer, I find that it’s quite easy to get distracted. The web is a beautiful and social place, but not one well-suited for productivity. Eliminating urgent inputs is something that is going to continue to grow in importance, especially with the widespread adoption of iphones and the like. Our world is continually becoming more connected. As a result, it’s going to be much harder to filter out the urgent stimuli.
How about you? Are there any methods that you use to really combat these urgent messages in our everyday lives?