The 21-day challenge – no phone in the company of others

As I sat in the back of a taxi rushing from one appointment to another this week, quick to check my phone for messages as soon as I jumped in the cab, the taxi driver asked, “And how’s your day going?”

I stopped and chatted and found out what he thought of the troubles with the state of the nation. The taxi driver lamented that most people were too busy on their mobile phones to chat any more. As I said goodbye and thanked the cab driver I noted how great it was to have a chat and hear someone else’s point of view.

It made me wonder what do I miss out on because I am often not ‘present’ as I focus on what my iPhone presents? It is probably pretty lonely being a cab driver now – if customers are no longer eager to ‘havachat’.

When a plane touches down, many simultaneous ‘ding dings’ chime out demanding the attention of their owner: most business people seem completely addicted to their phones.

A friend of mine recently lamented that he had been unreachable because he was in an all-day meeting, and the response when he did come ‘back to the grid’ was: “Is something wrong with your phone?” People seem to have a high expectation that if they send a message, the response will be instantaneous.

I note that I was off air for two days this week – no email, phone, SMS or internet. And whilst I had quite a backlog of emails and messages on my return, I was highly efficient at getting back to people because I was completely focused on that task in that hour.

Is all this ‘immediate’ communication really giving us the opportunity to do good work? How many emails or text messages are dashed off in haste only to be misunderstood or incomplete? Are we being truly present?

As the taxi passed the bus stop, I noticed that most of the people waiting were all inspecting their mobile phones – not even noticing the existence of the other human beings around them.
In all this urgency to connect – are we not ‘seeing’ those around us? People who provide us services or who are part of our community.

I am often asked: “How do you juggle all the different responsibilities that you have?” My answer is simply to be truly ‘present’ – turn off your mobile phone and be with whoever you are with. But does this same courtesy extend to those beyond business colleagues, family and friends?

Okay, I am taking a personal challenge for the next 21 days to not use a mobile device in the presence of others. And I wonder who I will get to meet and what conversations I will get to experience – and also the added upside of not sending off a one line reply to someone without a considered response.

Let me slow things down, and not rush to everything, and I’m sure I will do better work as a result.

Who wants to play with me – the 21-‘being present’-day challenge? Let me know how you go.

One of Australia’s outstanding entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker, a blogger and a published author, most recently publishing Five Thanks a Day. She has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.

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