When I first started work, electric typewriters were the newest invention! I learnt to type on a manual typewriter, and when I was given a new, electric typewriter at work, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
How far has technology come in what I class as a relatively short amount of time? What amazing inventions we have today – my Dad is still blown away by how many tunes you an get “in” an iPod and how a camera no longer requires film. It used to fascinate me that you could feed a piece of paper into a machine in one office and it would appear ‘as if by magic’ on a machine in another office – even in another part of the world, so the introduction of email was another invention you just didn’t try to fathom – it was just ‘unbelievable, yet true’.
I laugh when I watch some of the films from twenty to thirty years ago, with the actors using “mobile” phones – those great big boxes that needed a battery the size of a briefcase – who would have thought that today we would be able to do so much on our tiny mobiles? It’s just incredible.
So this week, when my mobile phone stopped working and had to go back to the manufacturer for repair, I thought my right arm had been cut off! I’m so used to getting my emails while I’m on the move, it really irked me that the temporary replacement my mobile provider had given me wasn’t up to scratch, and all I can do is make and receive calls!
Suddenly, I have more time on my hands. I’m more focused – no longer distracted by the beep every time a new message arrives in my inbox – no longer unconsciously reaching for the phone to see what the message is about, and composing an immediate response. To my amazement, the world hasn’t come to an abrupt stop. I haven’t lost friends. I haven’t lost opportunities because I didn’t respond immediately. It took a while for me to accept it, but life really can go on without emails on my handset!
It takes me back to when I started work, before email existed, and we had “in-trays” and “out-trays” and employed messengers to collect and deliver mail between departments, and to batch the external mail and deliver to the post office and collect and distribute incoming mail. All done by hand. But it worked! And the amazing thing is, that my mode of work was such that I didn’t even look at my in-tray until I’d finished all my work!
Today, your inbox is your in-tray. Are you like me, and constantly checking it? Do you drop what you are doing to respond to the latest email, or do you wait until you’ve finished all your work before you look to see what else has come your way? Do you get wound up if you don’t get an almost immediate response from a colleague to an ‘important’ email? Are you aiming for an empty in-box? Do you get up early and stay up late in an attempt to “keep on top of everything”? Do your relationships suffer because you keep your loved ones waiting, or miss out on social activities “because you just need to finish one last thing”? If you do, then I encourage you to STOP.
Life is meant to be lived. There will always be emails to respond to, phone calls to make, something else on our ‘to do’ list. Always. And no matter who you are, what you do, how hard you work – the work will always be there. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important than quality time with your loved ones. Technology should be embraced for the convenience it brings, not allowed to rule your life. After all, when you’ve gone, there will still be things in your inbox.
So this week, let go of your obsession to complete your list of things to do, and make some time for fun, family and time for you. You’ll find a sense of well-being, you’ll recharge your batteries, and you will probably also be more productive.