We all have email and web access these days, and it’s difficult to limp along without it. My DSL went down for about 6 days recently, and I realized for the first time how dependent I’ve become on Internet access to get information, to touch base with friends and clients, and for recreation. Amazing.
Many of us now carry BlackBerries or Treos or the like. If we choose to be — or perhaps if we fail to make an active choice — we’re potentially accessible around the clock. That brings many advantages, including the ability to get away from the office and still respond immediately to client needs, which in many cases facilitates work/life balance.
But have you ever spent time with someone who interrupts your conversation to reflexively check incoming emails or accept run-of-the-mill phone calls? It’s infuriating. Unless there’s a good reason for our family members or social companions to put us on “hold” while they respond to a technological intrusion, it’s just plain rude behavior. And yet, even as I condemn that, I know I’ve been guilty too.
If we accept calls and emails regardless of what else we may be doing at the time, technology is using us rather than vice versa. We limit our enjoyment of our downtime by making ourselves too available.
The answer, of course, is to make a conscious decision on when to make ourselves available to clients and colleagues. Perhaps your rule will be that you must accept work-related interruptions during normal working hours but not in the evenings or on the weekends. Maybe you’ll screen your calls and emails, only responding to those that truly need an immediate response. Maybe you will review emails but will not accept phone calls. Whatever your decision is, communicate it to your colleagues and, where appropriate, your clients so that people know when you’re unavailable.