Easy Access That Strips Us All of Down Time - Joanna Campbell Slan

Easy Access That Strips Us All of Down Time


So I’ve been traveling and parenting for the past five days–busy with my family–and when I checked my email, what a shock.

You see, I’ve trained people that I’ll respond to their emails in hours or less! I keep my email on all day as I work, and I check my messages frequently. I’m not nearly so available by phone. (I am supposed to clip my cell to my clothes, but that’s awkward. I feel like I’m wearing a honking big peace symbol or some other freaky accessory.) Nor do I always check the home phone. (We have Charter and there’s no flashing light to indicate how many messages. To find out the number and the time of your messages, you have to go through the whole queue. A total pain in the backside) But I spend most of my day with my hands on a keyboard, so I’m almost always able to check my emails several times an hour.

One message told me about a meeting the next day. Okay, missed that! I try to be flexible, but next day?

Another wanted a response same day. Uh, no.

Another wanted an answer the same day. Even though I’d turned on my “away” message.

You know, used to be, we didn’t expect people to turn on a dime. Folks worked 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. And our weekends were our own. People actually took vacations–and during these, they were unavailable. They didn’t work during their vacations. If you wanted something from them, you had to wait. Wow. What a concept.

And then there was the cute photocopied sign taped to cubicles: A lack of planning on your end does not mean an emergency on mine.

But the joy of instant communication means we’re never out of range. We’re never off duty. We’ve become addicted to instant gratification, instant response. We expect other people to respond in real time. In some ways, that’s great. We can get stuff done quickly. We can turn on a dime. We can work at odd hours. We can work when it’s convenient for us. We can follow up quickly. We can wait until the last minute–and feel confident we’ll get the information we need on any project.

When someone isn’t available, or doesn’t answer, we scratch our heads. “What’s up with THAT?”

We’ve lost something valuable…we’re lost the ability to wait. We’ve lost the ability to give each other space. We’ve lost the respect for each other’s needs. We no longer understand that other people have other priorities. We think we always come first. We’ve lost patience. We’ve lost down time. We’ve lost privacy. And our family time is riddled like Swiss cheese, with holes poked by all the routes of access to us.

I read over the missed messages, and I decided not to stress them. I am not the leader of the free world. Nothing I missed was near so important as spending time with my son and husband. And clearing my head for a productive week ahead.

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