Last week, due to events out of my control, I spent an entire week away from my computer, and did little on my Blackberry (an event that hasn’t occurred in years). At the end of the week something funny occurred. I felt relaxed. I felt better. I slept better. And, my mind didn’t feel like a washing machine in the rinse cycle that doesn’t have an off button. It made me really think about what my days consisted of over the last few years.
First thing, in the morning, I would grab my coffee and Blackberry before heading to my office. Once there, I’d snuggle up in my “fat” chair and start perusing all things news. Since I do commentary for radio and television, I have to keep updated on everything. My “perusing” starts with Fox News, to CNN, to Reuters, to The Wall Street Journal, to The New York Post, to The New York Times, to The Huffington Post, and so on. Then, it’s off to the gossip sites to see which celebrity of the month is getting their ass thrown in jail. So, I start with TMZ, to Popeater, to E!Online, to People, to USWeekly, to DListed, to The Superficial. Keep in mind, as I’m doing my “research” my television is blasting the news—feeding my brain even more unnecessary info.
After this it’s onto my 7 pesky email accounts, one of which currently has 18,186 emails in my inbox. 16,167 of those remain unread. Everything from radio/TV requests, fan mail, kook mail, agent and attorney mail screaming “Why aren’t you answering my email?” hate mail, mail from producers, directors, web manager, book promoters, book editors, book publishers, book fairs, book scammers, and book wannabees. Then it’s time for the phone conferences.
From here, I rip myself off of my comfy, fat, chair, throw on my tennis shoes, and head to the park for an exhilarating walk/jog (more walk than jog, trust.) Sweating and breathing like I need a permanent oxygen tank, I leave the park to pick up my kids from school where I’ll then spend the next two hours shuffling between sporting events. During this shuffle, Blackberry is permanently embedded in hand, texting, emailing, and checking breaking news. Back home. Back in the office, and back in front of the computer. Now I’ll spend a few hours writing chapters in my new book and writing blogs, before switching over to the social media sites to Tweet, Facebook, and Link myself In with others.
Finally, time for bed.
Blackberry still in hand, or right next to my head, I close my eyes praying my mind goes into a coma and I can sleep. Almost there until…bing!…text message coming in. Okay, it can’t be that important, it can wait until tomorrow…reaches over and grabs phone checking message. I swear I will ignore the next one…blip!…this one’s an email. I toss and turn, knowing it can’t be anything important…again reaches over and grabs phone checking email. Oh, it is an important one from the West Coast who consistently fails to realize the time difference. But, it must be answered now. Finally, convinced I can get myself to sleep, I drift off to slumber land for 3 hours…ding!…Damn Facebook. Alright whoever you are, I’ll accept your request before going back to sleep.
Before my eyes even open in the morning I am subconsciously reaching for my Blackberry. Eyes opened, I see there are already 33 text messages, emails, and Facebook messages that need answered. It’s a brand new day; time to do it all over again.
Technology. My older daughter texts me from upstairs to bring her a glass of water. She and my younger daughter text each other from their bedrooms. “Honey, remember 2 let the dog out,” my husband text’s me from the basement. “Mom, can you come here?” my oldest Facebook’s me from one room over. Driving my daughter and her friends to the movies recently, I noticed an unusual quiet coming from a car full of teenage girls. Looking around, they were all focused and texting on their phones. Some were texting each other! My oldest was nervous when her first boyfriend was coming over. “Why?” I asked. “Well, we’ve never talked before, Mom.” “Whaaat? You’ve never talked to him on the phone?” “People don’t do that anymore, Mom! We text and talk on Facebook!”
I fear the next generation is going to be completely face-to-face-communications-disabled.
But, I’m clearly not helping matters either. Dorie Clark, CEO of Clark Strategic Communications recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post on the subject of information overload. In it she wrote:
The “live stream” of tools like Facebook and Twitter can have an addictive quality. Many executives facing this tidal wave go in one of two directions: complete obsession (checking the Twitter feed when you wake up in the middle of the night) or panicked paralysis (avoiding all social media like the plague). Try to find the golden mean. Schedule your social media time and stick to it so it gets done but doesn’t take over your life. Thirty minutes a day, split between following others and your own “content creation,” should be just fine. Over time, you can find the amount that works for you and the best time of day to fit it in. The first step is recognizing that you’ll never be able to keep up with all the information that comes across your transom – so don’t even try. (See Tim Ferriss’ interesting discussion of the “low-information diet.”) But with a strategy and focus, you’ll at least be in the game.
I think I will definitely take her advice. I realized after last week that I didn’t drop over and die because I wasn’t completely informed about EVERYTHING. In fact, I have made a personal vow to take “information vacations” frequently. I found my peace of mind, my sanity, and most importantly, sleep.