Time Has Changed
Is your time precious? I am sure most everyone reading this article would say, “Of course my time is precious, Steve.” Good, now we are on the same page. My time is precious, too.
Who controls your time? That is a far more difficult question. Less than 25 years ago, we might answer with “My job” or “My spouse” or “My children.” Our careers and families, even our volunteer activities can take up a lot of time, but often it is quality time, and it is enjoyable. We give up time for our health and hobbies, too, and whether it is walking a treadmill or taking dance lessons, such activities help us to relax.
However, there has been a shift in how our time is used, and it is troubling because many of us no longer own our time. It may be getting even worse for our children and grandchildren. Unless we are all careful, third parties will soon own our time and technology, and we can’t seem to help ourselves. The technology companies and their psychologists know this. It may be time for us to push back.
It was a small article because the issue was smaller then, but on March 24, 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported in a piece entitled “Your Time is Your Treasure” on a seemingly slam-dunk bet. The friend of a busy CEO bet him $15,000 that he couldn’t sit still for 15 minutes. That’s a thousand bucks a minute, folks! The CEO lost! Within minutes, the CEO felt compelled to check his smartphone and computer. He could not sit still. He could not even look out the window to see the trees or meditate or contemplate. Technology is taking over our lives.
The latest studies show that 83% of millennials sleep with their cellular devices. Many are sleep deprived and have trouble focusing. Their brains cannot shut down. However, we shouldn’t just pick on millennials in this regard. Think of the last time you went out to eat and saw whole families, from 6 to 86, on their devices sending text messages or comparing pictures or taking pictures of their food, rather than being with and enjoying one another.
Though we are all busy in our jobs, social scientists are also telling us that cellular devices often make us less productive than more productive. I suppose it’s nice to be able to look up facts such as zebras stripe patterns because it just happens to pop into our heads, but it has little to do with a report we’re preparing on lug-nut quality control issues!
Then there’s our friend social media. I am not about to bash social media, only to share that many of us are unable to leave it so we can socialize in real life!
Let me again ask my question in a slightly different way: who owns your very precious time? Do you? Unfortunately, many observers of human behavior are growing increasingly alarmed that we have given everyone else the ability to control our time. We are afraid of missing something by staying off our devices, but we don’t know what that something might be.
There is one thing we can all agree on regardless of age: the sands of our personal hourglasses will one day run out. I am not trying to sound morose. If you knew you had just one day left on this earth, would you spend it watching the news or experiencing your family? Would you like to share those last hours with your friends, or would you rather yell at someone you’ve never met on Twitter?
I have no desire to return to 1960, but I do believe we can reach a certain state of grace so that technology does not control our every waking moment. Here are a few simple guidelines from real life you might want to consider:
- Family dinner, either at home or in restaurants, is uninterruptible by technology. If you call or text me during those times, I will not respond because my phone isn’t at the table.
- I intentionally leave my mobile device at home from time to time. At first, it was disconcerting—now it’s liberating.
- When I am at work on a project, I will not immediately respond to email or texts. My focus is on the project.
- Meetings, either one-on-one or with several people, are uninterruptible by mobile devices. I turn my phone off during a meeting with people.
- After 7 p.m., family time is absolutely my top priority. I am not in love with my phone or my computer, but with my family.
- After 7 p.m., unless I receive a text that I have just won the Nobel Prize or that Sidney Crosby has been traded to the Buffalo Sabres, it will wait until morning.
- I am cautious about social media usage. I avoid meanness, mean people, ungodly people and anger. Time on social media is highly limited because each grain of sand in my hourglass is dear to me.
As much as possible, I want to own my precious time. No digital keystroke will ever be as important as the touch of someone I love. My smartphone may be smart, but it cannot love me back.