We rarely work in places with no Internet access, no reliable phone service, and no interruptions. It happens at vacation homes, on airplanes, and in Jury Duty, where I write this. So far today, no jurors have been called, and I'm getting a lot done.
Limbo, it turns out, is a productive place. PC manufacturers and mobile phone sellers tout the multitasked lifestyle, and it works, for the most part. But it's eliminated the urge to plan, and the time to assimilate what we've learned. We do more, but think less.
So what are the unintended consequences of connectedness? First, we now choose our quiet places. When mountain cabins have good cellular service, it takes a conscious effort to "run silent, run deep." We have to decide to turn off the phone. We'll have to tell clients that we're out of touch, by choice, and that it's not a reasonable expectation that we be reachable.
Clients did not always expect to see our work within 30 seconds of the last keystroke. Yet new collaboration tools let them peek while we type, and heckle while we edit. We are more responsive, but are we any smarter? And what do we call the errors made in excessive haste. Speedos?
We should charge our highest rates while we sleep. It looks strange on an invoice, but consider what you know in the morning that you didn't the night before. A wise appraiser told me his standing rule - when staff turned in a completed report, he would read it, and set it on the corner of his desk, unsigned. If he slept soundly, he signed and shipped it the following morning. If he sat bolt upright in the middle of the night, there was usually a reason. The difference is in the pause.
We'll have to seek our own discipline, and to recognize most mobile phone usage for what it is - an addiction. People don't care that we're a few minutes late, yet this is the stuff of most cell phone talk. On a golf course, a fellow CRE expressed his love of fly-fishing. He spoke, between phone calls, of clean air, scenery, and solitude. I suspected that the real draw was the poor cellular service.
Is there a market for no-stim zones? Internet providers already market in terms of Spam filtering - what will the information invasion bring next? Phone-free restaurants? TV-free bars? Turf without surf?
It's now lunchtime, and no jurors called yet. I've finished five minor writing tasks (and this column) that have sat for weeks. With luck, I'll be here again tomorrow.
Copyright 2003 - Noah Shlaes