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Do Smart Phones REALLY Help us Work Smarter?

A couple of days ago, my son was asking me about how we did things before cell phones, in particular, smartphones. I routinely talk on this subject in the messages I deliver, using the time in college and how we communicated where the action would be on a Friday night. Today, on college campuses everywhere, I’m sure this occurs all through text on finding out what is going on Friday night. But in the fall of 1994 at Fort Hays State University, come Friday afternoon, there was no texting, but on-campus face to face communication was alive and well, as most all of us were discussing where the party would be that night and or Saturday night with a slight fever pitch!

Regarding Nash’s question, though, his level of thought process was how did we communicate and conduct business. And to be honest, it was hard to explain beyond the simple facts of we relied on face to face communication, wired telephones, and fax machines. Who reading this remembers how fax machines were used to transmit jokes even!?

Today our forms and options of communication are more than the many different brand options for fax machines in 1980. We live in a fast-paced world where productivity in the capitalist space has soared through the roof giving us many of these technologies. And to give some research behind the forms of communications used today, the average American adult sends and receives 32 texts per day, totaling 18 billion texts every day. There are even other data showing 94 texts per day. In terms of email, data shows the average office worker receives 121 emails per day. As of 2018, there are about 124.5 billion business emails send and received each day, while there are about 111.1 billion consumer emails sent and received each day, while it is projected these numbers combined will be at 347 billion daily emails by 2022. And lastly, the ever-addicting cell phone, research shows the average person unlocks their phone 150 times per day. To recap, we text 32 times per day, we unlock our phones 150 times a day, and we email 121 times a day on average. That means we are tapping into our improved forms of communication efficiency 303 times per day. If a person sleeps 8 hours a day, that means for the remaining 16 hours we are seeking some form of non-face to face technological communication on average of 19 times/hour.

And for my son Nash, hence his question, because he “gets it” as he watches us conduct business and live life and sometimes I wonder, “How did we do it in 1994?” Today we use technology to do things 303 times a day, and in 1994 we did things so much more differently. But was differently in 1994 worse or more inefficient than today or was it better? While we appreciate the efficiency and speed at which we can accomplish things today, are we truly accomplishing greater heights as we should be? Is it really progress? Is it deep work? Or is it just shifting of communication and superficial work oftentimes?

Think about deep meaningful work. Think about making big progress. These 303 notifications we get a day delay what we do. They distract us, and prevent the deep thinking throughout each day, as we do nonstop “rowing” back and forth between the 303 notifications in which we often go nowhere. Trends in life and business prevent us from doing deep work. These alarming trends developed over the last 10 years prevent us from learning hard things and performing at exceptional levels. Our current embrace of distraction is a horrible and destructive phenomenon. Just think about it, how much time does it take you to answer all the emails, texts, and non-stop phone calls each day? The data shows you are getting 303 of them to take care of and if they take on average of 10 seconds to handle, that is 51 minutes a day. And I bet it is more time than that.

What are we truly accomplishing in all of these 303 notifications!? How much time is your team spending just moving information around? On the business side, we are virtually spending billions paying people to process emails. What is the impact of all your messages on your bottom line? I believe for many, it will rob them of achieving their true greatness. And we don’t have to accept this constant buffet of distractions. These things are depth destroying behaviors. A culture of connectivity may be the demand, but we must analyze what is the value. Nothing great is achieved without deep knowledge acquisition. And connectivity may be easier in the moment, but deep work creates much more life fulfillment, intrinsic value, and an ability to pursue a purposeful passion far greater than any text, email, or phone call.

So try these things –

  1. Do 30 minutes of self-improvement work before 7 am.

  2. Answer emails 3 times a day and not in between.

  3. Shut off all notifications of any kind on your phone.

  4. Sleep with your phone outside of your bedroom.(Buy a darn alarm clock!)

  5. Eliminate forms of social media if you don’t know how many miles you have scrolled aimlessly.

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