Communication 2010: The “smartphone stoop”, multitasking and a cautionary note


The other day it really kicked in for me at just how good I have gotten at multitasking.  I’m not sure how I feel about it though.

I was sitting at my desk working, crunching some numbers in Excel.  At the same time, I was watching tweets pop up on TweetDeck (retweeting ones that I like, of course) and instant messaging a client on AIM, when the phone rang. So I take the phone call, start talking and a text message pops up on my phone. All the while I’m checking my emails.  Good thing Facebook wasn’t open, or I would probably be getting IM’s from there too.

And my wife tells me I’m horrible at multitasking!

Consider… These days I sit in meetings and never get to look someone in the eyes. Why? People are always looking down at their BlackBerrys and iPhones. Let’s call it “the smartphone stoop.”

Consider… The other night my wife, 10-year-old son and I jump in bed to watch TV. Two minutes later, I look over and my wife’s on her BlackBerry, my son is on his DSi and I’m responding to an email on my iPhone. The picture of the modern family, I guess.

I can’t believe how much has changed in the way we communicate. Ten years ago I didn’t carry a cell phone. Now, I have a whole office in my pocket!

It’s bad enough that my office follows me into my car and bedroom, but it even follows me into the bathroom! (Sorry, let those calls and texts go to voice mail.)

Sometimes I wish none of this technology ever existed. Our world moves too fast. Heck, I move too fast for the 49 year old dinosaur brain I came with.  I’m not one of these kids who never knew a world without a celly, (as they call them), or a computer (Hey I’m a Mac).  My brain has RAM that came from an IBM Selectric.

Everything we do today on high (ludicrous) speed (and sometimes on autopilot) has an effect. Mistakes happen with all this multitasking.

And sometimes those mistakes play themselves out with your employees, bosses, clients and customers. Other times mistakes — seemingly harmless at the time — wind up on the internet, being reviewed millions of times on social media sites.

Sorry about the rant.  But the other realization I had is that business never actually ends.  Some of my clients who are younger than me, I’m pretty sure do not sleep.  I wind up working some nights until 1AM or better.  In fact I work longer hours now than I did when I was in my 20’s.

Lack of sleep.  Is there an app for that?  OK rant over.  Back to business.

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog, direct marketing and social media agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert. You can email him atjimdirect@aol.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect

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3 Responses

  1. It’s very true. In our society of everything happens NOW, there is no clear distinction between work and play. I don’t believe work/life balance as previously defined exists anymore. Instead, we now need to focus on balance. It does no good to separate your life from work if there is no way to separate communication. We just need to find ways to balance everything in our lives and work is now part of it. Good luck to all of us!

  2. Even when I’m on a conference call, I can’t get away from cell phones. Today, a call was interrupted three different times because other participants heard their cell phones go and immediately said, “Hold on, I’ve got to take this.”

    Yup, they were in a meeting with a client … and had to stop to talk to someone else.

    Who knows … since I couldn’t see their faces – or their hands – maybe they were busy texting the whole time.

    • Last week I was on a conf call Marjorie, and one of the attendees put the rest of us on hold. The other 9 of us were treated to some lovely hold muzak.

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