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We Should Drive Technology ... Not the Other Way Around

Pat Katz sends a regular email called the Pause Newsletter. Its focus is on stopping and smelling the roses in this high speed world in which we live. Quite often one of Pat's topics will strike a chord with me and today is one of those days.

The topic today was how people let their PDAs (because its not just Blackberries) rule their lives.

I would like to add that we are also driven by:
1. our telephones ... they ring, we stop whatever we are doing and answer!
2. our email ... a new one arrives and anything else we are working on is interrupted!

The reality is that our best work is done when we are focused on the task at hand ... planning to make time for the phone, emails and the PDA will make us much more productive, much more organized and will mean that we are driving our agenda instead of the technology driving us. And ... at the risk of sounding "soft", stress levels will be greatly reduced.

Read what Pat has to say ... and subscribe to her newsletter at her website.


It's been several years since I last offered a comment on Blackberry use and its impact on our working and personal lives. Recent experiences have popped this little beastie top of mind once more. I ranting and raving...just a bystander's report partnered with a few bits to consider.

Having been engaged to deliver an after dinner speech, I share the evening meal with the coordinators of the Staff Retreat. The table is set - rolls, salads, water, china and cutlery. And at each place, resting right next to the dessert, a Blackberry (not the edible kind), placed with loving care by the occupant of the chair. The meal proceeds. Nibble on the salad, check the Blackberries. Sip the soup, check the Blackberries. And so it goes from course to course, bits and bytes between the bits and bites.

I've just delivered a morning seminar at another Staff Retreat, and shared a delightful lunch with the organizers. As I return from the buffet table with my dessert in hand, I seat myself and look up to find the tops of four heads pointed my way. My lunch companions simultaneously engage in the Blackberry Prayer - scrolling and typing under the table.

In a full day seminar on leadership development, despite requests to unplug the technology, two of the participants persist in Blackberry distraction. When the conversation involves them directly, they raise their heads and make eye contact. As soon as the discussion moves elsewhere in the room, they check out and click in to the technology. At the first break, they announce they're desperately needed elsewhere and that they'll attempt to reschedule their professional development for another time. I wonder will they ever be able to unplug long enough to really listen to their colleagues or think in any depth about the future.

At yet another conference, I'm chatting during the break with one of the participants. His Blackberry is holstered at his waist, set to vibrate. Each time it gives him a buzz, he lifts it from its cradle, looks briefly to see who's calling, and pops it back in the holster. While he checks, I'm suspended in conversational limbo. Will I continue to be more important than the callers, or will I lose this round to some one or something else of clearly greater importance?


All the situations I've described feature minds divided. The techno devotees end up being partially present and mostly absent. The chances of their choosing the most optimal responses to the people around them are as limited as their attention.

When it comes to techno tools, and being constantly accessible to the whims of the whole wide world (that's www, for short), here are four points to consider:
* When we allow ourselves to be governed by the pulse of technology, we embrace speed at the expense of thoughtfulness.
* We are nowhere near as indispensable as we imagine ourselves to be.
* Every piece of technology has an off switch. It won't wear out from overuse.
* Blackberries don't have feelings. However, our misuse of them places our connections with the people who are in front of us at risk. Human relationships do wear out from disregard and lack of care.


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Partial attention generally leads to partial results." - Todd Wilkens