Recently, my son James had a doctor’s appointment. While waiting in the back room, he texted on his phone and watched videos. But as soon as the doctor walked in, he handed me his phone. Even at 13, he knew he couldn’t pay attention to the doctor and have his phone in his hand.
Why can’t some adults learn this? Last week, I had a meeting in downtown Denver, because a prospective client had requested an in-person conversation. During our conversation, he kept pulling out his phone, turning it on, swiping, and glancing down, clicking on his email, periodically tapping one and reading. He must have checked it 10 times while I was there—no explanation, no apology. Seriously, couldn’t he have waited 30 minutes to check the phone? Instead of 30 minutes, our meeting was extended to 45 minutes, and only 15 of it was spent half-talking to me.
I’ve written before about how to slip the electronic leash, so it doesn’t take over your life. But things seem to have gotten worse lately. A recent trip to the airport illustrates that I’m not immune. I was driving to the airport for about the 1,457th time, practically on autopilot. Suddenly, at the end of the ramp onto the interstate, an orange construction barrel was right in front of me, and the road veered left around a bit pothole. Assuming I’d see the same thing I’d seen countless time before, I was caught unaware. I swerved hard and hit the brakes to keep from hitting the barrel, sending my cup of coffee flying and spilling all over the floor of my car. Then I had to drive 40 minutes to the airport, sans coffee, while still smelling its tantalizing aroma. My fault—I wasn’t paying attention.
Then at the airport, while walking down the hallway toward my gate, another woman was walking toward me, going upstream against the pedestrian traffic. She was reading email on her phone, oblivious to everyone coming at her. She meandered through the oncoming crowd, walking right in front of people like they didn’t exist, making them pull up short, practically tripping me with the bag she was pulling behind her with the other hand. Hellooooo! Get your nose out of your phone and pay attention to what’s going on around you! Well, I wanted to say that to her but refrained.
Then I was fortunate to be upgraded to first class on a plane with lie-flat seats. Before takeoff, the flight attendant warned us to store our phones, because if it slid into the cavernous seat mechanism, it couldn’t be retrieved until we landed. Sure enough, my neighbor didn’t pay attention and laid her phone on the armrest. We took off, and just as the attendant had warned, her phone slid down into her seat. She spent the first hour of the flight attempting to retrieve it before giving up.
The bottom line: wherever you are, BE THERE. Be present. Stay in the moment. Set boundaries. We don’t allow our children to have their phones at the dinner table or while on family outings, because we’re trying to teach them that the people around you deserve your time and attention.
If you just can’t resist the siren song of technology, hand your loved ones your phone when they enter the room.
© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, a.k.a. The Productivity Pro®, helps professionals achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. For over 20 years, her keynote speeches and workshops have helped leaders boost personal and team productivity, increase results, and save time at work. Laura is the author six books, most recently Execution IS the Strategy. Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.