Break the BlackBerry and Laptop Addiction Mon 16 Apr 07
eWeek.com recently reported on a recent poll by Reuters that determined that the use of BlackBerrys and laptops tend to blur the distinction between our work life and our home life. We are always available and always checking email. The survey found "Nearly 30 percent were so attached to them they only switched them off while sleeping."
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. To use the technical IT acronym this is a BFO - a Blinding Flash of the Obvious. This sounds like one of those multi-million dollar research studies funded by our tax dollars that discover such breakthroughs discoveries as: "most people like chocolate".
It's no accident that BlackBerrys have earned the nickname "CrackBerry". Being always accessible and connected to email can be an addictive habit. Has your family ever gotten upset because you just had to check email 20 times per day while you were on vacation? If so, maybe you're ready for a 12-step program. The good news is that there are some things you can do to get your BlackBerry use under control without completely giving up on email entirely.
Two useful techniques are:
- Take action to reduce the number of un-necessary emails that you receive
- Prioritize your actions - take control of when you check and respond to email
Tim Sanders in his "Sander Says" blog suggests that you "Make your emails CLEAR compliant" as a way to reduce the email glut. When someone is sending you too many emails most of which you don't really need he suggests that you send them a note asking them only to send you emails that are CLEAR compliant, CLEAR being an acronym the criteria that the email should meet before they send it to you. Sanders reports that he got this from Bill Jensen's book Simplicity and that it reduced his email load by one-half almost immediately. That's pretty impressive and it can help reduce one of the main frustrations of email - too many that you don't really need to see.
The second tip is to realize that just because emails arrive just seconds after they are sent it doesn't mean you have to read them immediately. Read them based on your schedule and priorities not the sender's.
Early in my career I worked at Lone Star Steel when W. Howard Beasley was CEO. I always recall Howard relating a story from early in his career when he was an assistant to Treasury Secretary John Connally. Keep in mind as I relate this story that Connally is one of those larger-than-life Texans. Beasley and Connally were out golfing one weekend when a Secret Service agent came running up to Connally and breathlessly announced that the Commerce Secretary wanted him to call immediately, it "was an emergency". Connally politely thanked the Secret Service agent and then calmly went back to his golf game. Perplexed, the Secret Service agent said, "Mr. Secretary, you don't understand - it's an emergency." At this point Connally turned to the agent and replied (I don't know how to type with a Texas accent so please use your imagination), "Son, I'm afraid you're the one that doesn't understand - it's not my emergency." and then went back to his golf game.
Connally had his priorities set and wasn't about to let someone else take control of them. I doubt that if he had lived at a later time that Connally would have been a "crackberry" addict. The point of all this is that just because someone would like us to read their email and respond immediately it doesn't mean we have to disrupt our activities to meet their needs. Constantly being interrupted by emails lowers our productivity and effectiveness especially if the email wasn't really necessary.
Get in the habit of checking your email at regular set intervals rather than as they come in. Use the time between checking email to concentrate on your other tasks. I think you'll find your productivity goes up. If your an "addict", start out with small email checking intervals, every 15 minutes for example and work your way up to ever longer intervals. After awhile you'll discover that you are using email rather than email is using you.
Tip: Go into your laptop and BlackBerry and set the new email notification to "off" or "none". This will remove the temptation to check email everytime a new email arrives.
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