Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Because We Can Doesn't Mean We Must

A smartphone

Mobile. It’s a word whose meaning has morphed in the last decade. These days, mobile means untethered. You can carry a small device with you wherever you go and never be out of touch. Well, as long as there’s a cell phone tower or wifi connection.

I’ve seen the value of taking my work mobile for … well, a long time. With everything from laptops with wifi to tablets to smartphones.

But, to be honest, I’m a reluctant mobile phone user. I have one, but it’s nothing fancy. It makes calls, can send and receive text messages, and supposedly can do some basic web browsing. I say supposedly because I haven’t tried that. My mobile really can’t compare to any of the smartphones I’ve owned in the past, which had everything except a death ray. I’m sure there’s an app for that.

That said, all of this mobile technology creates a number of unreasonable expectations. Not only for us, but for employers, clients, friends, and family as well. And I don’t think those expectations are always a good thing.

Jump!

What expectations? That you need be connected and online 24/7, in case you miss something. That you’re at an employer’s or client’s beck and call at all hours. That you’ll jump when someone say jump.

That’s no way to live life. That’s no way to run a business, from either side of it.

I was looking through some old bookmarks recently when I ran across this article. The article hits the nail squarely on the head. From the article:

Last week, a high school sophomore told me that she brings her phone into the shower with her — in a Ziploc bag. She didn’t want to miss an incoming text message. When I asked her if, in her sleep, she had missed life-altering messages, she looked at me blankly.

The last sentence sums up my feelings about mobile technology. In most cases, you’re not going to be missing anything by being offline for a few hours or overnight. In fact, you need that time offline to get away from work and enjoy (or at least go through the motions) of that little thing called your life.

How I Deal With This

My mobile phone gets turned on at the start of the day. It goes off when the day ends, usually between 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. I’m up-front about that with everyone I know. If they can’t reach me by phone, they can leave a voice mail on my mobile number or on Skype. Or they can send me an email. I’ll get back to them within a few hours. I tell everyone that when I’m offline, I’m spending time with my family and friends. In the case of employers and clients, I tell them that their project isn’t turning into a pile of dust.

Over the years as a freelancer, I received a few desperate messages from the night before about some world-ending problem. Those messages were usually followed by another message a few hours later saying the problem wasn’t as bad as they thought and they don’t need a quick fix. I’ve only had to fight huge client fires two or three times, but those were during my normal hours.

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