Saying NO to your iPhone


Technology Overload

Does this look like one of your workdays? You are at your desk, facing two computer screens. On one, the internet is open to do research, and the other screen has one of your four email accounts open (the other three notify you when a message arrives). You also have text messaging active, along with Google chat, in case someone at the office needs to connect. Around your neck is an LG Bluetooth stereo headset, ready for the next call that comes in on your iPhone; and iTunes is running in the background. Buried in the middle of all this technology is a project you are working on that’s due tomorrow. You’ve been working on it all week and just aren’t making the progress you thought you would, despite your skill in multi-tasking.

Turns out, research proves you can’t multi-task. John Medina writes, in Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, that we are “biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.”  Four steps must occur in your brain every time you switch from one task to another. It is time-consuming, and that’s why we find ourselves losing track of where we were and having to ‘start over.’ When you are interrupted, studies show that it takes 50% longer to complete a task, and you are likely to make up to 50% more errors.

I found myself experiencing real frustration over my work-life balance and technology in December of 2012. I was surviving instead of thriving.  That’s when I picked up Medina’s book and figured out I had to build some boundaries around technology. I wanted my life back.

Here are seven choices I made that helped me set strong boundaries.

  1. I turn off iTunes, notifications for email and messages, and Google chat whenever I have a project to complete, a blog to write, or a training to design. I now get it done in half the time.
  2. I don’t check email after 7 pm in the evening. Too many nights I’ve laid awake upset by an email that could have waited until morning.
  3. I only check email 2 – 3 times a day, and I have no email notifications of any kind operating on my iPhone. This enables to spend quality time on the person I’m with or project I’m designing.
  4. I say NO to my iPhone.  I usually don’t answer the phone when I’m with someone else, and I don’t use it in a checkout line. Face-to-face contact is precious.
  5. Sundays and vacations are days of rest from technology. I may talk to someone on the phone, but I rarely check or respond to email. This is huge, as it strengthens the other boundaries you’ve set around technology.
  6. I stopped trying to “do” Twitter. I have an account and enjoy tweeting to help a speaker or presenter; but, too many times, I found myself setting things up at 8 pm.
  7. When I first started blogging, I was told I had to do it 2 – 3 times a week in order to build a following. Now I write 5 – 6 times a year—and only when I think what I’m writing will benefit others.

Do you want your life back? Would you like to thrive in our 24/7 world?  I encourage you to start small and set 1 or 2 boundaries around the technology in your life. You’ll find your relationships become richer, your sleep more refreshing, and your free time will really be free.

How do you pick up the pieces when life takes a tumble?

On our recent vacation, we flew through the Milwaukee airport.   After going through security, we spotted what they call the “recombobulation area”.  It’s the place where you

  • Put your belt back on
  • Put on and tie your shoes
  • Put your wallet back in a pocket
  • Get your laptop back in it’s case
  • And put your jacket back on.

Most people end up feeling a little discombobulated after being screened.  So it was great to see the airport had a sense of humor and provided an area where you can get it all together again.

When your life takes a tumble , or you are just are worn out from the cares of this world,  you need a recombobulation areas in your life.  As we stress out over work, as we are stripped of our dignity by others, as we start to question who we are and why we do what we do, spending time in quiet helps us pick up the pieces and put them back together again.

My recombobulation area is a small table at a downstairs window that looks out over a variety of bird feeders in our back yard.  Time with the Lord, in prayer and journaling – where I can look up and see the beauty of His creation – makes all the difference in how I approach the world.  It keeps me whole and helps me maintain my integrity.

“A lack of quiet in a leader’s life leads to soul insanity.”   –Dan Webster

Thank you, Scott Gaalaas

“The YMCA will eat you up if you let it.  Be careful to take time off for what’s most important.”

Those words were spoken to me by my very first boss in the YMCA movement, Scott Gaalaas.   It was 1986, and he’d just hired me to be the aquatics director at the Monroe County YMCA in Bloomington, IN.  He was cautioning me that a career in the YMCA would be time consuming.  “It ‘s your responsibility,” he said, “to take time off when you need it.”    He punctuated that advice with the statistic that YMCA professionals had a higher divorce rate than the general population.  He was an advocate for living your life by your values.  He took his own words seriously, and retired from the YMCA at the age of 63 and moved from Oak Park, IL to Loudon, TN, enjoying time with his family and grandchildren.   He was building homes with Habitat for Humanity, riding his bike, and playing racquetball.   He recently suffered a catastrophic stroke and “graduated to glory” on February 22nd, 2012.

I will miss my former boss, mentor and friend.  Not only did he teach me life balance,  he taught  me how to read a financial statement, develop a budget, and how to delight the members.   He was a man of integrity, because he could be counted on to do what he said he would do.   Over the years, as we each moved to different locations, we often reconnected at AYP events.   In the early 1990’s, we both served as executives in the Chicago area.   We played golf in Arizona, and Florida with  YMCA colleagues.

I will miss Scott deeply. He poured into my life in a way that had a huge impact.  I know he did that for countless others.  While I didn’t always have the best life-balance, I was better than I would have been because of his mentoring.   Great leaders count their success by how many people they developed.   Scott is right there with the best.  Thank you, Scott.

Do you really want to cram more into 24 hours?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal Article outlined how to do just that with technology. My question is: how do I prioritize my 24 hours so that I’m doing the right things; not just more things. About every 18-24 months, I make it habit to reprioritize my activities. As an action oriented person, I need to check my integrity – does my activities calendar match my values? So, I call this the  “The Prioritization Quiz”. It’s basically 3 simple questions to consider as you go through your list of activities. Here goes:

First: List all the activities you have on your plate.

Second: As you consider each activity by itself, ask yourself three questions:

  1. If this were the only thing in my life, how would I feel?
  2. If this weren’t in my life, how would I feel?
  3. Why am I doing this?

 Here are three things from my own lists over the years and my answers to the quiz:

A – Serving as treasurer for a local sports non-profit

        How would I feel is this were the only thing in my life? Terrible!

        How would I feel is this weren’t in my life? Great!

        Why am I doing it? I said yes when I didn’t want to do it in the first place.

B – Writing a column for the local paper

        How would I feel if this were the only thing in my life? Great – I love to write.

        How would I feel is this weren’t in my life? Sad; I really enjoy writing.

        Why am I doing it?   For the challenge and because I enjoy it.

C – Coaching a children’s soccer team

        How would I feel if this were the only thing in my life? Not good; I don’t really like soccer!

        How would I feel is this weren’t in my life? Great – I find myself stressing over it.

        Why am I doing it? To spend time with my kids and teach values in sports.


A – It’s a no brainer. I should resign as treasurer and have more time for more important things.

B – I need to keep doing this because it feeds my spirit

C – I’ll keep coaching for a while. Even if it’s not my favorite thing, the reason I’m doing it is very important.  

 Take some time and do The Prioritization Quiz yourself. Let me know how you found more time to do what matters in your 24 hours.