Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus. - Alexander Graham Bell
We use our gadgets for distraction and entertainment. We use them to avoid work while giving the impression that we're actually working hard. - Meghan Daum
The moment of drifting into thought has been so clipped by modern technology. Our lives are filled with distraction with smartphones and all the rest. People are so locked into not being present. - Glen Hansard
I have a confession to make to the many people who wonder what the secret is to getting me to answer my phone.
If you’re not in my calendar today, then don’t bother calling / SMS’ing me if you expect an immediate reply / comment. I won’t even know you called me until the end of the day.
In our world of always being connected, always reachable, I have noticed that a lot of people who complain that they never get anything done appear to exist to be at the beck and call of everyone around them, whether it be via phone call, SMS, Facebook, Twitter or whatever the current distraction du jour is.
That’s fine if you believe that you exist only for the needs of others or that you are willing to sacrifice your priorities in order to meet everyone else’s.
However, if you believe you exist to serve a Greater Purpose, using your strengths, gifts and talents to the greatest potential possible, you cannot exist this way at all.
When I plan my day (right after my Quiet Hour), I note who needs to call me that day and I set up my phone to allow calls and SMS to come in from those people or people associated with them.
Family members, my closest friends and colleagues / friends who are currently in trouble and need support are always on this allowed list.
If you didn’t make it to that list for the day, when you call or SMS me, you will be redirected. I won’t even be aware you reached out until the end of the day when I do my end-of-day wind-down.
While many have told me that this is unfair or uncaring for the people who might want to reach out to say hi, to ask advice or to complain incessantly about something they have no interest in addressing themselves (using me as the whipping post for their complaints), I reply to the criticism with these observations:
If I exist to be everyone else’s entertainment, company, source of knowledge or whipping post, at what point do I get to focus on who I am and why I exist?
If I have to be at everyone else’s beck and call “just because” but the other person reserves the right to reject speaking to me because they are busy or don’t feel like chatting, where is the fairness and balance in this exchange?
If I allow everyone else to monopolize my time, who is to blame when my work / play doesn’t get completed to my satisfaction or for the needs of someone else – the people who called me or the person (me) who allowed them to overrun my day?
Is my ego that weak that my sense of worthiness and self-value is established by the number of people who reach out to me?
If it takes me 20 minutes to get back on track after a distraction, how much work can I really get done if I allow distractions to flow in through the day?
How respectful am I to you (or to someone else) if I keep pausing myself or interrupting them to check my phone?
Do the interruptions contribute to my day or do they just burn time that can never be reclaimed?
I chose one person in particular who didn’t understand any of these ideas (he called them selfish) and I called him daily “just to chat”.
After a few days, he understood, but not before getting angry with me first. After he calmed down, he got it.
According to my mobile carrier, my phone sends / receives 22,000+ SMS messages a month. I use SMS more than voice (unless the person I am interacting with prefers voice chats) because I’m busy and focused on meeting my goals as well as serving the needs of the people around me. I keep communication brief, direct and fact-focused. People not used to this eventually come to appreciate it and often adopt the same approach themselves.
If you choose to spread yourself across your entire network without any sense of focus or discipline, how do you expect to meet your goals or the goals / needs of those whom you serve (unless you don’t have any goals, in which case wasting your time or having it wasted for you won’t feel like a crime to you)?.
By the way, many times when people call you to kill time, there is a possibility that you were the last person available to them. How does it feel knowing that your time is of such little value to them that spending time with you is only slightly better to someone than having absolutely nothing to do at all or that they called you simply because they were bored (regardless of what is happening in your day)?
The Bottom Line
The people who complain the most about not having enough time to get things done are often the same ones who have no sense of focus or prioritization in how they use their time or how they allow others to use it. They also don’t care if / how they waste the time of others.
Those of us who have the discipline to protect our time / results by shutting out distractions believe that we don’t have the time to complain and we don’t have the right to tie up other people’s time “just because” (since we don’t like them doing that to us). We’re too busy being grounded in gratitude to have the opportunity to create and collaborate and we are focused on creating results (whether for work or for play).
And besides, if I have a complaint to make, making it to someone who can do nothing about it infects two people with a negative attitude (instead of one) and meanwhile, my problem still exists. On top of that, the person whom I have just infected is now distracted, unproductive or spreading my negativity outwards like ripples in a pond.
We all have 24 hours in a day.
Do you use those 24 hours for balanced work / play / learning / sharing / loving effectively, do you waste them or even worse, do you allow someone else to steal them from you?
Are you sure?
I’d love to hear your thoughts but don’t bother calling / SMS’ing me to tell me unless you know that you’re on my calendar today!
In service and servanthood – create a great day for yourself and others because merely having one is too passive an experience.
PS When I do entertain the complaints of others, I remind them that I am a “touch-once” person. When a problem comes up, we can avoid it, talk about it or do whatever we want with it. However, if we don’t adopt a “touch-once” policy and address it as soon as it comes up, it will always be there tomorrow.
So when someone comes to me with a complaint or they are seeking advice, they can only bring it up once. If they want to discuss the same topic later without having tried to resolve it, I shut them down. Lack of intention or effort on their part is not an excuse to burn up my time.
If we don’t focus on solving problems at the earliest opportunity, we may find we don’t have much energy / time left to address opportunities for creating and collaborating because we’re too busy being burdened down by the noise of unresolved problems.
And that only leads to more complaining.