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.”