The other day I scored major points with my son. He indirectly mentioned his concern about my iPhone obsession by commenting about how another soccer mom watched her phone more than the game.

“She’s reaaaaaaally manic about her phone, Mom,” he eyed me closely. He was looking for hand tremors, involuntary eye-twitching or anything to reveal whether or not I could take on his veiled challenge. (To my defense, I do watch his games, not my phone, but it is usually in my pocket, tugging at my thoughts even as I focus on the field).

In an effort to prove him I could do without my phone not only on the sidelines, but also in life, I snapped it off mid-day in the middle of my work week and headed for the pool.

“Looks like it’s going to be a hot one. And look, Son, I’m leaving my phone at home.” He raised not one, but both eyebrows as he watched me turn it off completely and calmly place it in the cupboard.

Can you hear the slot machine go ka-ching? Yes, I scored big with him that day. And you know what? Instead of drawing my attention to my phone screen, I had plenty of time to watch other people do it instead.

Is that really what I do all day? I watched people cling to their devices like an emphesymic patient to his oxygen tank. Because I knew my phone was at home, I felt more energetic, as if that holding pattern of “what is someone calls/texts/emails me” had been eradicated. And in truth, it had.

It appears many more of us are engaging in digital distractions than not these days.

My Wall Street trader friend on Twitter @StalinCruz pointed out an article about distracted walking that underscores our often harmful obsession with smartphones. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1,152 Americans have been injured in handheld digital device-related events while walking in the past few years. A man recently fell onto the train tracks in Philadelphia while playing with his phone. Luckily, he was not seriously injured, but it shows how all-consuming our electronics have become that we don’t even notice the danger of our own behavior.

A University of Maryland study spanning six years found 116 cases in which pedestrians were killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones, two-thirds of whom were men under the age of 30. Fifty percent of the cases involved trains, while 33% were incidents in which a warning horn was sounded just before the accident.

Believe it or not, I have friends who leave their cellphones behind when we meet. We enjoy hours-long conversations without the need to cache, photograph or Facebook every moment we spend together for their broader network. I find when I’m with people who’d rather update their social media status than update me on their lives, it is a classic cocktail party experience in which they are looking over your shoulder for someone better to interact with. It’s distracting at best. And in the case of walking, talking and texting, it can be lethal too.

Take the no phone zone challenge today. Leave that mobile behind and reconnect with people in the flesh with your eyes, ears and fingertips at the ready for a real, not virtual, human interaction. Turning on to life is worth it.

Trust me on this one.

 

 

Tech wizardry is yet another skill set the 21st Century demands. Don’t know basic html? You are in such trouble. Haven’t a clue how to configure an iPhone? You hack.

Life. It’s complicated.

Apart from feeling like the IT department, nay, the CIO of my family, I have been called to stretch my mind way farther into the Cloud than most people

As retrieved from CloudTimes.org

would admit. Upon the recommendation of a dear friend who’s just as iPhone-happy as I, I cheerily downloaded the latest iO5 software, which is iSpeak for a sleeker operating system that allows the iPhone to do cool things like check your email and let you surf the ‘Net (does anyone even call the Internet that anymore?), which is what prior operating systems let you do too, only this one is supposed to offer a more svelt experience. I, on the other hand, nearly died.

You see, my nifty little update completely erased all my phone contacts. And disengaged my iPhone from the mobile network. So, like many who experience an unexpected power outage, I panicked in the dark. That is, in the light. The light-ness of my dismembered inbox.

I sniffed. I snorted. I stomped. Dagnabbit! Someone else must have experienced the same thing. So I went to my (Microsoft!) desktop and checked out a few forums. Soft ways, hard ways, go to the Apple store ways. None of it helped. Until I remembered my mobile phone provider gave me a manual configuration sheet to follow when I first set the thing up. So here’s what you need to do if you too are lured into the sexy surrender of a software update on your iPhone that then paralyzes the use of your mobile network.

Step 1: before you do absolutely anything tricky like connect your iPhone to your iTunes account and expect it to innocently choose only those things that will make your life more convenient and not do a general swipe/swish/swoosh when you press ‘update’, forgettaboutit. iPhone does what iPhone wants. So keep that manual configuration data handy that your mobile provider used to set up your phone in the first place.

Step 2: Go to >Settings.  Tap >General, then >Network. Tap on >Mobile Data network.

Step 3: If your data has not be erased, genuflect to the tech gods who did well by you. If it has been, go to the next step.

Step 4: Put in the configuration data as it is listed on the sheet your mobile provider gave you. Don’t have it? Call them.

Step 5: Leave a comment here telling me about your experience. Did it work? Are you cheering gimme a P-O-W-E-R-O-F-S-L-O-W! What does that spell?

Ah. Forgettaboutit! But do leave a comment because we tech minds have to stick together. It is far too easy to get lost in the Cloud.

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According to the 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index released by AAA, mobile phone users know they shouldn’t text and drive. Yet many do.

  • 95 percent of drivers surveyed admitted concerns about the risks associated with the dumb use of smartphones in the car (texting or e-mailing while driving)
  • 93 percent said they were concerned about drinking and driving;
  • 87 percent claimed they would support laws against reading or typing while driving.

But check it out. 35 percent admitted they text or read/write emails while driving.

It’s tempting. I know. You’re sitting at a red light so what’s the harm, right? Well, foot off the brake, eyes off the road. The next thing you know you’ve rolled into the intersection.

Distracted driving is a serious issue.

It’s not just the phone, either. Fiddling with the radio, eating, drinking or dealing with children in the backseat can also drive people to distraction.

My power of slow tips for you:

  • If you can’t keep your hands off the hand-held, toss it in the trunk. Really.
  • Drive without the radio. Just try it to see how focus can help with your safety record.
  • If backseat riders get too rowdy, pull over at a nearby rest area or parking lot. Your destination can wait five more minutes. It’s more important that you arrive in one piece.
  • Eat at the kitchen table. Your car is not a restaurant.

What challenges do you face to keep your thumbs on the wheel and your eyes on the road?

 

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Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

A visit to the mobile phone store taught me a lesson or two about what happens when you don’t know the questions to ask.

After purchasing an iPhone, I was told I couldn’t change my two-year contract for another month in order to add the Internet option so I surfed the Internet via my home-based WiFi, with inpunity, or so I thought.

Until I got the bill two months later (I was in the US for one of them). It was then that reality hit. My mobile phone company was charging me for what they thought was data transmitted by their system, which it wasn’t. And when I confronted them, they blamed the Apple store, that mecca of cool, for not telling me.

It’s a classic case of the consumer paying for service providers’ lack of intelligence; or, put bluntly, my not knowing the right questions to ask. As in, “How can I surf without said phone company claiming money for work they had not done?”

You’d think one wouldn’t have to pose such a question, but today, it’s cover your butt at all costs or everyone in the fluorescent-lighted store will stare unblinkingly at you.

The truth is our hand-held devices may offer us a lot of freedom, but they also sacrifice our privacy. The phone company knows whether I’m using their system or not, but because the phone was not set on ‘airplane modus’, they could happily claim I had. And don’t get me started on the whole ‘iPhones-have-GPS-and-therefore-Big-Brother-knows-where-you-are-always” shtick.

Puzzling.

Have you, in your work life, wished you’d known the right questions to ask before you started something? It seems to be the lesson of the month for me. It’s not how much you know, but whether you know to ask the right questions before it’s too late.

Or too expensive, for that matter.

PS  Here’s a great article to avoid my mistake!

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If you’ve ever been to airports with automated speed walk sidewalks, you’ll observe that about fifteen feet before the sidewalk ends, you hear a voice alerting you to your pending expulsion from it. Not so for real sidewalks on the street.

Photo courtesy of Ohio State College of Engineering

According to a New York Times report, a recent Ohio State University study about texting while walking and the 1000 reported injuries incurred by texting walkers points to an increasing issue of pedestrian traffic safety.  Ohio State University’s Transportation and Parking department is trying to offset the rising epidemic by putting up signs such as the one pictured here.

Or, as I like to say, “You text? You’re next.” That goes for pedestrians as well as drivers.

I can see it now. Sidewalks will soon be equipped with textured flooring just to alert texting pedestrians that a curb is approaching. Or maybe they’ll have recordings of soothing, yet urgent voices like the ones at today’s airports, pointing the way to safety and attention.

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Our collective urgency, fear and yearning to stuff more into our day are merely symptoms of a much larger issue: how we relate to time itself.

Establishing a positive relationship with time is a lot like investing. You have to give something to get a return. Investing a little time on the front end can give you a surplus at the end. Here’s how.

Time suck #1: Juggling too many things at once.

Solution: Stop multitasking. In scientific terms, what you are really doing is task-switching. The brain cannot concentrate on two or more comparably difficult things at a time. The amount of time it takes to rev up to a new task, then rev down is anywhere between a few milliseconds to a few seconds. Over time you are spending hours transitioning from one task to the next. Furthermore, attempting to multitask is not only inefficient; it’s also exhausting. Estimated Time Savings (ETS): Depending on your level of multitasking, up to several hours a day.

Time suck #2: Unclear prioritization. You are reactive, instead of being proactive.

Solution: Set your priorities. Write down your top items each day. Classify them by priority. Be sure to complete the top five or so and move the rest to the next day’s list. Remain flexible in case your priorities shift (leaving a burning building, for instance, is more important than finishing that report on your desk). Working toward your ultimate goals a little bit each day will help you get there faster than if you dedicate irregular times to fulfill goal-related tasks. ETS: Weeks of all-nighters!

Time suck #3: Lack of self-care.

Solution: Exercise. Mental clarity can improve your focus, thereby increasing your productivity. Take a brisk mid-day walk to get some fresh air and a new perspective or eat a light meal (sitting down ~use utensils!) to fuel your mind for the afternoon. ETS: A twenty-minute investment can equal several more hours of productive thinking.

Time suck #4: Being a yes-woman.

Solution: Learn to say ‘no’ with kindness. Agreeing to edit your friend’s blog might be a nice idea, but if you are not in even exchange, it can be time-consuming over the long haul. Think of ways to realign your planning so she’s saving you time, too. Otherwise, politely decline. ETS: Depending on what you are saying ‘no’ to (are you saying ‘no’ to babysitting for an afternoon or to organizing the annual blood drive?), you could save yourself weeks’ worth of time to dedicate to something else.

Time suck #5: The morning rush.

Solution: Get up fifteen minutes early to meditate or write in your gratitude journal. Your mental positioning is as important as your physical one. Bring your mind and your body into alignment with a quiet routine before your day begins. Stretch your muscles and your mind. ETS: How you start your day is how you live it in its entirety. Getting off to the right start with a fifteen-minute investment in a centering activity (journaling, meditating, yoga poses) will expand the experience of your time horizon by hours.

Time suck #6: Sleep deprivation.

Solution: Get enough rest. Expanding your day by going to bed an hour later does not give you another hour over time. In fact, a non-rested thinker is a muddled one. ETS: Investing one hour can grant you at least three hours of more productivity.

Time suck #7: Miscommunication.

Solution: Manage expectations. Think you said something clearly and your partner heard it completely different? Clear communication and proper expectation management will save you hours of cleaning up the mess you could have prevented had you managed those expectations properly in the first place. ETS: A lifetime!

Time suck #8: Enslaved by your digital devices.

Solution. Designate times for information gathering. Email begets email. The more you send, the more you receive. Train yourself to check email periodically instead of constantly. Close out of your email system while working on other projects to avoid distraction. ETS: Up to ten hours. Trust me!

Time suck #9: Always on.

Solution: Unplug. Henny Penny may believe the sky is falling, but yours won’t if you go off-line for a few days. Most cell phones are equipped with personalized ring tones. Set it so you can identify who’s calling without having to even touch it. Or better yet. Turn it off altogether. ETS: Not only will you save your sanity, but you can potentially save hours of relentless data chatter by locating the ‘off’ button.

Time suck #10: Time starvation. The “I’m sooooo busy” syndrome

Solution: Embrace time-abundant thinking. Check how you talk about time? Do you never have enough of it? Are you constantly ‘just so busy’? Remember: activity does not necessarily equal productivity. When you realize you have more than enough time to do what is required to fulfill your ultimate purpose, the pressure is off. You stop engaging in activities that are not in alignment with that purpose. You spend more time on the things you love, thereby encasing you in even more joy and, yes, time! ETS: Your entire lifetime!

Stress recedes when you are present in the here and now.  As a matter of fact, now is all there really is.

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Benjamin Franklin
Image via Wikipedia

Benjamin Franklin meant well. He advised his tradesmen audience in the aptly worded „Advice to a Young Tradesman”  that time is money. In his day a person of trade, well, traded his time for the money he earned. In many cases today people think they still do that as well. But what they are really doing is spending a lot more time thinking about work than they are paid to do. Thanks in large part to technological advances, work has seeped into many aspects of our lives. So while we’re swinging our child on the swings, we’re solving that problem at work in our heads or on our cell phones. Many times you will see people ceaselessly thumbing their BlackBerries at coffee shops during ‘leisure time’. In today’s world, time is not money, my friend. Time is time and money is money.

In the world of slow, time does not equal money. Instead, time equals your existence.

The truth of the matter is ‘the time is money’ adage has gotten us into a lot more trouble than we realize. Because we live our lives based on the misleading premise that time is money, we attempt to do more in less time. We begin to confuse activity with productivity, as if the ‘doing’ will grant us ‘being’. Inadvertantly, we hop on the hamster wheel, running as fast as we can with a competitive mentality about the clock and what it supposedly represents.We have a negative relationship with time that gives us a sense of time starvation instead of abundance. Even our precious vacation time is not immune from the time-money equation.

According to expedia.com’s latest International Vacation Deprivation Survey conducted by Harris Interactive in April 2010, nearly one-third of the respondents admitted to engaging in work-related while on vacation. The trend seems to be increasing. In 2010 30% reported that they check work email or voicemail while vacationing as opposed to just 24% in 2009.

If you love what you do and you are not stressed by it, that’s one thing. But if you feel you can never disengage from your work to regenerate, chances are you need to entertain the idea of a lifestyle change. As this slide show proves, you needn’t worry about when you will ‘get there’. You’ve already arrived. And yes, time abundance can be yours.

Your body will tell you if you’re on the right track. Have you ever wondered why you feel so much better while on vacation? Not only is your stress level reduced, but you also tend to engage in more leisurely dining and longer sleep. Your body is a wonderful barometer for whether or not your pace of life is working for you. Inject some slow into your summer routine and see where it leads you. It might just take you off the beaten track. Take it from me, a recovering speedaholic. The road less traveled is a great place to be!

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