Friday, November 5, 2010

The Blackberry Blues

Recently, a student reminded me that multitasking is the art of doing many things poorly. I find this to be so true. A series of blunders this past week on my part showed me that I'm not good at multitasking or wearing several hats at one time.

I love teaching yoga and being a massage therapist, but I don't enjoy doing the administrative work that goes with it. It's not a hat that fits me particularly well. Honestly, the only job I've ever been fired from (though technically not fired, just my end-of-work date moved up because neither of us were happy) was a job as an office assistant. Right now, if I could, I'd probably fire myself as my own office assistant.

If I fire myself, then who do I hire? I can't afford a secretary or personal assistant, though I've often dreamed of having one. I get calls weekly from companies wanting to sell me elaborate and expensive software programs that do way more than I'd ever need. However, these same programs don't clean the studio, answer the phone or respond to the ever growing number of emails in my inbox begging for my attention.

Three years ago I broke down and purchased a Blackberry. I always joke about the irony of a yoga teacher with a Blackberry. It seems antithetical. Isn't one of the ideas of yoga to simplify life and be more present, not more wired? Yet it was an evil necessity. I was tired of constantly running upstairs to the computer to check my email. Or run home if I was out somewhere to make sure I hadn't missed something important. Now it seems my Blackberry has become a Crackberry. I feel the frequent need to check it and respond instantly to any waiting messages. What was supposed to make my life easier has actually made it more stressful as I feel almost too available.

I often hear the same complaint from friends and students. Technology that is supposed to simplify our lives has made it more complicated than ever. Sometimes just to give myself a break I leave my Blackberry at home while on a walk. Or if it's Saturday, my day off, I intentionally ignore messages until Sunday. This week I decided that I'm going to give myself one hour or so in the afternoon to respond to emails all at once instead of responding to the constant trickle of them all day long. (Unless it's something time-sensitive). I also don't check email after 8 PM so as to give myself sometime to unwind in the evenings. My hope in setting such boundaries is that I will be more present, efficient and less scatterbrained.

You may have heard the term "tyranny of the urgent." Our attention is constantly being hijacked by whatever urgent, important, crisis of the moment which usually isn't an urgent, important, crisis after all. Perhaps it's time to set boundaries. Turn off your cell phone once in while and go smell the flowers so to speak. Something as simple as limiting email in the evening as I've done can create more breathing room. Even media-fast for a day a week might be a nice break from the constant stream of information we are bombarded with. I definitely recommend turning off your cell phone during yoga class. It should be at least one hour where your attention (and the rest of the class's) isn't being drawn elsewhere.

I'm not suggesting that all technology is bad and we should go back to the Stone Age, but we do need to be more intentional about how we use it. It should help us be more organized and less scattered. We should decide when we wish to be available and when we want to be off-duty so to speak. A healthy balance of work and downtime is badly needed in our society. Technology can help us achieve that if we use it correctly and not let it run us.

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