Converting your downtime

Jonathan D. Blundell —  July 9, 2010 — 5 Comments

Converting downtime with a smartphone | Photo by Jonathan Blundell

A post from Lifehack.org really hit home this week, especially as I’ve been thinking and writing about Decluttering your schedule.

I actually considered adding “use your downtime to catch-up” as an added point in my own writing, but this post convinced me I was right to leave it out. (Also read the previous post about single-tasking.)

Converting “Down Time” Nowadays, it seems, everyone with a smartphone has gotten into the habit of continuously trying to convert “down time” into useful, work time. Here are some everyday examples of ways in which many professionals are converting their “down time.”

– a manager driving on the highway at 70 m.p.h. sends a text to his team (while spilling hot coffee into his lap)
– an engineer in a meeting that’s going slowly, checks her email and replies (missing two action items assigned to her)
– an accountant watching his child play baseball on Saturday morning closes a deal in the fourth inning via cellphone (and lies to his son about seeing him make his first catch ever)
– a supervisor attending 3 days of personal productivity training is unable to leave her smartphone untouched for more than 15 minutes (and later complains that the trainer was ineffective)
– a consultant speaking to a client on the phone remembers that he should have sent an urgent message to a colleague, and quietly does so (even as the client notes the sudden lapse in attention and interprets it as a lack of interest in continuing the relationship)
– a hard driving attorney once again takes his smartphone to the urinal where he can multi-task (… and is noticed by his boss’ husband who happened to borrow his smartphone just five minutes earlier)
– a family cheers in unison when executive-Mom forgets her smartphone at home 5 hours into the annual vacation (and falls into despair when FedEx delivers it the next day)

I recently asked a client: “How did your big presentation to the executive team go?” She responded: “OK… but the CEO spent the entire hour on his (expletive) Blackberry.”

This was bad news for my client, whose project was now being viewed by the CEO as another chunk of his “down time.”

It’s a sad commentary when we (read: I) are so caught up in being “productive” and converting our downtime that we completely lose track of being present.

We tune out of the present and focus on news, Tweets, e-mails and telling friends across town that we’ve just checked-in to our local Chick-Fil-A.

I’ve managed to remain pretty steadfast in not forwarding office e-mail to my smartphone or checking it after hours, but there are so many other conversations I obviously deem more important than being present in the moment.

Has our reality become so dull that we can’t let the outside world wait while we enjoy the present?

I don’t have any new revelations today.

But I am deleting Foursquare from my phone, turning off Hootsuite notifications and leaving my e-mail unsynced until a time when I truly do have down-time — time that can’t be construed by anyone else as not being present in the moment.

And I can also say, “Hi, I’m Jonathan and I have a problem.”

Jonathan D. Blundell

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I'm Jonathan Blundell. I'm a husband, father of twins, blogger, podcaster, author and media geek who is trying to live a simple life and follow The Way. Circle me on G+

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5 responses to Converting your downtime

  1. I use to be the same way with my cell phone. I had use to have iPhones, Blackberrys, Treos, ect. Getting notifications from Facebook, Myspace when it was popular, twitter, linked in, 3 email accounts, ect.

    About a year ago I had enough with it and now just have a basic phone that makes calls and texts. I even disabled the voicemails because I dislike having yet another ‘inbox.’

    Interestingly, over the past year my income has gone up! This may be just be a natrual progression but I think it has to be being more productive by not having as many distractions.

    • That’s interesting that you turned your voice mail off too. Seems like that would add extra work for me as I don’t always call everyone back if it’s not needed — but who knows.

      I’ve heard of people turning off texts rather than voice mail. Why’d you choose text messages over voice?

  2. Hi! My name’s Stewart and I also have a problem.

    Mine is related but with a twist. I have the ‘can’t leave my phone alone’ thing but I also work from home which means I never leave work. I work for a Church denomination and the number people have is my mobile or my home so people call me at night because they know I’ll be home.

    I’ve also got my work email on my iPhone so I can check it when I’m out.

    I have no idea why I need to check it when I’m out! Since reading this I’ve decided that out of office hours that email gets switched off.

    I’m trying to focus. I’m checking Twitter and Facebook less and at certain times. Same with email. 3 times a day.

    The hardest thing is keeping the phone in my pocket when we are out. Must try harder.

    • Hi Stewart! :-)

      I hear ya! One of the biggest helps I’ve found is turning those dang notifications off.

      Turn of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter e-mails and you’ll win half the battle.

      If nothing else, set a rule in your e-mail to mark them as read and send them to a set folder.

      The next step I’ve found in the battle is turning off e-mail and other notifications on the phone. When I’m not constantly getting dings and whistles telling me there’s a new message I’m more likely to leave the phone in the other room and focus on the now.

      But it’s a battle and not one that’s easily won. Thanks for the input and sharing! We’re all in this together!

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