Stop blaming your Blackberry for your lack of self-discipline

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Are you thinking your Blackberry use is out of control and you need to turn it off? Forget it. The problem is not the Blackberry, it’s you.

The Blackberry actually gives you the freedom to effectively mix your personal life and work life so that they don’t have to compete with each other.

Don't talk to me about the idea that the Blackberry undermines your ability to have work-life balance. First, the idea that you could ever have it is ridiculous. But a Blackberry at least gives you hope.

Without a Blackberry, you always had to choose one or the other. Work and life were always competing for large chunks of time in the day. But with the Blackberry, you can have a blended life where work life and personal life complement each other. What I mean is that the Blackberry makes it so you can always do work but also always do your personal life, so you choose which one has priority, minute to minute.

In the 80s, if you went to your kid's soccer game, you could not do work. Today, you can go to your kid's soccer game and take the call from the CEO that will change your life (or have a fight with a co-worker) and then go back to soccer. You get both. It's not one or the other. If you could not take that call, you could not have gone to the game. That’s why the Blackberry is great for your life.

The challenge that the Blackberry brings is that you always need to know your priorities, at any given moment. Anne Zelenka at Web Worker Daily describes this process as really focusing on one or two things and that's it.

Then ask yourself: Given what you are doing right now, which emails and which calls are important enough to take? If you are not clear on the answer at every given moment, you are constantly having to make difficult decisions about answering emails or not and you feel a false sense of overload by the demands of the Blackberry.

If you are having sex, you have a good sense that very few emails in the whole world need your attention right then. If you are at a birthday party for ten year old boys and they are screaming up and down a soccer field, you are probably bored and emails look a little more enticing. This is not about addicted or not addicted; this is an issue of knowing when email is essential and when it’s a distraction.

You have probably been out to dinner with friends and they checked their Blackberry. This means you are not their most important priority at that time, just for that moment. You of course hope that your presence would make you most important, but in fact, it did not. Does that mean your friend is addicted to her Blackberry? No. It means your friend is prioritizing and she’s letting you know that you rank high enough for in-person, but you don’t trump everyone.

That seems fine. Normal, really. If people would just call a spade a spade and stop complaining about the device and start thinking about how to make better choices for their priorities.

If you want to see a whole generation make great choices about their priorities using the Blackberry, then latch onto Generation Y. They have been managing multiple steams of conversation simultaneously for more than a decade, so they are aces at it. And they are fiends for productivity tips. The most popular blogs are productivity blogs, and David Allen is a rock star in this demographic. So young people are constantly using prioritizing tools to make their information and ideas flow more smoothly for both work and life, back and forth, totally braided.

Blackberries are tools for the well-prioritized. If you feel like you’re being ruled by your Blackberry, you probably are. And the only way to free yourself from those shackles is to start prioritizing so that you know at any given moment what is the most important thing to do. Sometimes it will be the Blackberry, and sometimes it won’t. And the first step to doing this shift properly is recognizing that you can be on and off the Blackberry all day as a sign of empowerment.

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  1. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Great post! My BlackBerry has allowed me to schedule doctor’s appointments in the middle of the day, take lunches with friends, and even on rare occasions sneak away from work a few hours early, and not feel like I’m abandoning my obligations. On weekends, I turn it on silent, or leave it on a table where I never look at it. Good stuff.

  2. Don B.
    Don B. says:

    I wonder what category this post will be under when I want to reference it again if I get a Blackberry. Have considered getting one primarily for nonbusiness use. I relish not being available by cell or any other device but have noticed piers who are irritated with me for only being available during office hours. Friends accept how much I dislike the phone and know to email me at work and be patient. In todays world that makes me a jerk so I try to make up for that in other ways. Do we really need to have twenty-four hour availability? Frankly I am amazed how many people are on the phone or the Blackberry at the beach or while playing golf as if one activity is not enough. I very much liked the soccer game example though. Still without a cell or home computer here and happy but may change. Looking for more reasons to change count this post as a step toward connecting to digital world.

  3. Kate
    Kate says:

    I readily admit that it drives me crazy when my boyfriend checks his phone during dinner while we’re out with friends or on a “date”. And, as you said, it definitely has to do with not being the priority. I understand that I am not the priority all the time (totally fine), but surely that email can’t be so urgent that it can’t wait the 30 minutes until we finish dinner.

    That said, I’m considering getting one too. We’ll see how I behave then and if my opinion changes.

    Great post!

  4. Anna
    Anna says:

    I agree completely. If your work communication is mainly email, a BlackBerry, used wisely, frees you more than it controls you. I have a personal BlackBerry that I put my work email on–nobody needs to know I have it, but I can see emails coming in when I’m gone to make sure something earth-shattering and extremely time sensitive doesn’t come up. If it’s something I can handle in the morning, I don’t bother following up immediately. And I don’t have to worry while I’m on “life” time about work.
    The real addicts are the ones who can’t separate their lives from their work anyway–which I’ve found is more of the Boomers and some Gen X than anything else.

  5. Matt B
    Matt B says:

    While I agree completely on the priority points, I’m not sure I agree with your premise that the Blackberry is a tool that helps join your work and non-work lives. I think the reality of the situation is more along the lines of, Person A doesn’t have a Blackberry and is given one. Person A now works when not at work because he’s got a Blackberry.

    The person that it helps bring more non-work events into a working world is Person B who works 18 hours because he isn’t flexible enough to combine both work and non-work. In that case, the Blackberry may allow him to stay connected enough with work while living the rest of life like attending a soccer game that couldn’t have been attended otherwise. In that case, win-win I guess.

    However, I still think the general expectation of businesses is not that they’ll give you a Blackberry so you can leave during the middle of the day and still be able to deal with work, but that while you’re not at work, you can still deal with work (above and beyond standard hours). In that case, I look down on the Blackberry, and the owner isn’t given much choice about what he can prioritize because work has already decided that work comes first. Of course, giving up that choice to your employee is a personal preference and a priority in itself, but I think most people lose out against the Blackberry/work gravitational pull.

  6. Anna
    Anna says:

    Matt B has a good point on one thing that I touched on in my response–the difference between choosing a BlackBerry and having a BlackBerry given to you. When your employer has purchased the phone and is paying the usage charges, you may feel more obligated to push it to the top of your priority list. If you choose a BlackBerry for yourself, and use it for work purposes on the side, it’s entirely up to you how to respond to its alerts.

  7. Taiyin
    Taiyin says:

    I am sending this post to my husband who has been threatening to throw my Blackberry in the East River for about a year now. (Of course, I’m not entirely sure that being told that he’s not my highest priority will help that argument much.) Thanks!

  8. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “If people would just call a spade a spade and stop complaining about the device and start thinking about how to make better choices for their priorities.”
    My favorite sentence of the post!
    Also you could substitute “the device” with “their boss” in the above sentence and that would work as well!

    * * * * * *

    Oh, such an interesting observation, Mark. You could actually substitute anything for “device”. We’re always looking for stuff to blame for not getting the most important goals in our lives met.


  9. avant garde designer
    avant garde designer says:

    I, too, am pissed when my dinner out is interrupted by my date’s Blackberry. It also pisses me off when I have to listen to the table next to me talking on their cell phone. I think both should be banned in restaurants, at least after 5 PM.

    What bothers me even more, however, is when I see adults talking on their cells while with children. I’ll see a mother and child walking hand and hand, and the mother is blabbing away on the cell. What does this say to the child? The child doesn’t know anything about balancing family and work priorities, but he does know one thing, the mother would rather be talking to someone else than talking with him.

    Turn the phones and Blackberries off when you’re with your kids. Don’t let machines interrupt the conversation your child is having with you. Before you know it, you can’t get them to talk and you wish you’d listened when you had the chance.

  10. Cyril
    Cyril says:

    What is funny though, is that everybody focus on the Blackberry but the same rationale applies to all the tools we are using to communicate. The difference between beginning of the cell phone era and now is the omnipresence of the communication tools in our life. If we cannot blend the tools with our life then we are unbalanced. Not by the tools but by our incompetence to manage them.
    When I hear my boss who is so proud having more than a thousand unread email in her email inbox, I just smile internally to what she thinks gives her importance is in fact proving her inadequacy in our modern world.
    Same think applies to people complaining about their Blackberry…

    * * * * * * *

    Sidenote: I am stunned by the number of people who brag about how much email they have in their in box. People think it makes them sound important, but really, I think it’s like formally announcing that you are an incompetent time manager.


  11. Miriam Salpeter
    Miriam Salpeter says:

    I have been thinking a lot about the concept of balanced vs. blended work/personal life. I actually blogged about it as it pertains to job hunting (with a neat drawing illustrating the progression of work-life blend/balance by Venkat Rao):

    In pre-cell phone days, physicians had beepers because contacting them could be a matter of life and death. Today, everyone has a cell phone or Blackberry. I can’t believe that so many people have such important work matters relying on them that being out of touch for an hour or two here or there will mean the end of the world. How often do you really take the call from the CEO that will change your life? If you had missed the call (maybe you were in the bathroom), couldn’t you call back?

    Yes, it is convenient to take care of work on the road, and it is great to have a device that allows “down” time in airports, in waiting rooms, in line, etc. to be productive. I am all in favor of using technology to our advantage.

    However, sometimes it seems to me that being so connected and “blending” work and life means that a person loses the opportunity to focus on life. For example, you're at the soccer game, but you miss the goal your kid kicked because you were checking the Blackberry. Adding insult to injury, it wasn't even an important message.

    I practice work/life blending, and I’m starting to think that my goal should be something between "balance" and "blend." I don't believe in "don't call me after 5:00," but I think that some boundaries are healthy for everyone – €“ workers who report to someone else and entrepreneurs.

    The fact is, unless you are lucky enough to work for a very employee-centric organization, a trend toward "blending" is going to favor the employer. In other words, the employee is on call all of the time, but should feel lucky to be able to go to the dentist or a parent-teacher conference in the middle of the day, Blackberry in hand.

    I haven't read anything that convinces me that work-life blending is the answer, but I have an open mind and will keep reading!

  12. Jonathan E.
    Jonathan E. says:

    If you want to see a whole generation make great choices about their priorities using the Blackberry, then latch onto Generation Y.

    Gen Y is teaching me that I need to make sure that by the time my children have phones they don’t text while we’re at family functions, in public places, at dinner, etc.

    They also won’t be tuning out life while wearing iPod headphones. My parents didn’t let me run around with a Walkman, and I turned out just fine.

  13. Janice
    Janice says:

    I agree with whomever made the point that if it’s a work-issue Blackberry, your boss is going to expect you to be on call 24/7. While you still have a choice about what to prioritize at any given moment, choosing between having a paycheck and your personal life is not really a great one. But if you do have one of your own accord, then yes, it is more about setting your own boundaries and limits. And yet if people know that they COULD reach you at any hour b/c you have a cell phone, blackberry, etc., then the problem is that people start thinking you’re a jerk who’s ignoring them. Like most handy tools, it is a double-edged sword. Whether the pros outweigh the cons depend not only you, but also on the expectations of the people who’ll be using it to reach you. As for me, I’d rather stay late and the office and then be home when I’m home. The ability to be productive during downtime is great, but I don’t need my attention fractured anymore to the point that my personal life no longer exists. I make a point not to check my work e-mail at home unless it’s really important. If I need to put in more hours, I’ll just stay late or come into the office at the weekend. Once I leave, I like to leave it behind. Again, that’s just my preference.

  14. kristi
    kristi says:

    When it comes to the point of whether you are obligated 24/7 because the Blackberry is provided by an employer depends on the culture of the company who issued it.

    My BB is company-owned, but my off-time is still respected as mine due to my company culture having a strong belief in “work/life balance.”

    I’m not saying the company is perfect in this area, but no one expects me to drop my life to handle work all the time.

    If something comes up, and I can manage to handle it without disrupting my family life, I do. But I also do exactly what Penelope stated:

    I prioritize, and at any given moment, I know what needs to be done.

  15. Erika with Qvisory
    Erika with Qvisory says:

    I appreciate your perspective on this topic. It’s important to remember that in almost all things in life you have choices. The sooner you realize that you’re choosing to live the way you are, the more in control of your life you’ll feel. I love that you narrowed this topic down to priorities, because I think you’ve hit that particular nail right on the head.

  16. Elena
    Elena says:

    The premise of this post (lack of discipline) is right on, but the examples are not. Checking your messages while out with a friend? Rude. Answering emails while watching your kids soccer game? Downright offensive. Why go at all, unless you consider yourself just a chauffeur. Come on, 99.9% of those emails in reality are not that important.

  17. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    I do think that a Blackberry is a very freeing instrument. I have taken calls from clients while traveling in the car, or in the airport, or at the hair salon, and no one was the wiser. I have reviewed documents, and gotten important information while living my life, and more at my convenience than I ever experience in the office. Without it I would never be able to leave the office without worrying.

    I think this only applies if (1) you have a busy and full life and (2) you have a busy and demanding job. I don’t know if it is balance when my boyfriend has to pull over the car so that I don’t lose the signal while talking to a client. But I am sure he is glad that I have the phone, so that I can get emails, work on projects, and sit and be happy while he drives (without driving him crazy!), and keep everybody happy at work. And I can go with him when he moved for a new job, and never miss a beat.

    I love love love the post, and I am going to share with co-workers.

  18. the-evangelist
    the-evangelist says:

    The subtext to your post is a key thesis of the kind and insightful Lawler Kang: “There is no such thing as work/life balance. It’s ALL LIFE. The only question to ask yourself is, ‘What are your priorities?”

    The bottom line is that if you’re thinking that there is a divide between work and life, you’re wasting at least half of your life. The only question to ask yourself – given that life is finite – is how will you choose to invest your time.

  19. CAK
    CAK says:

    To me, this is really all about multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is the crazy art of flipping back and forth between two interests (work & life?) or two priorities, if you will. I know that most people are self-congratulatory when they have developed this art.

    But I’m uneasy with flipping back and forth (the experts on this say you cannot REALLY do 2 things at a time–it is actually a rapid back-and-forth).
    Multi-tasking messes with my focus, messes with my mind. It is like seeing/being an ADHD kid. Whing-whang–like mood swings.

    I like single-mindedness much more. I like focus. I like to see others zeroing in on one thing. I like to see distractions kept to a minimum. I don’t like interruptions.

    When I started carrying a cell phone, it was only for emergencies–I have a son with a health condition, where I needed to be able to be reached and to get to his school post haste. If others called me on my cell phone for any other reason, I rebuked them: “This cell phone is for emergencies ONLY,” I’d say.

    I went on like that for about 7 years, never using my 60 minutes, then 100 minutes per month. Now, I must confess, I use the phone for other reasons and do not rebuke callers. Nor do I answer if I am behind the wheel of my car. Nor does my cell phone take messages. This is all to say that I have drawn the line (and have redrawn it several times since the beginning).

    I am offended when people take a call and I can hear their conversation. I don’t want to hear their conversations–I feel as if I am being forced into invading their privacy/space (does anybody remember party lines a la country telephones?). I am offended when people in the restaurant allow conversations/eye contact to be interrupted by cell phones/blackberries. And yes, not giving one’s full, undivided attention to the child one is with is rude, verging on cruel.

  20. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Great post. I now understand two things. First, that my husband is much better at prioritizing than I thought (not that I thought he was bad, but just maybe average). He can leave e-mails in there unread for days when he knows roughly what’s in them, even that the content important, but not a priority for that moment. Then a few days later he deals with it – they don’t seem to get lost, just prioritized and answered later.

    Second, I now understand why so many people in my industry are constantly on their BBs — either they can’t prioritize or their work is their life.

    One more plus on the older BB model he has — it’s so big that he doesn’t bring it everywhere he used to bring his cell-phone. He’ll almost always answer a phone, so this was sometimes annoying. Now he just leaves the whole thing behind when he’s not working or expecting a call.

  21. Neil
    Neil says:

    haha, a blackberry can rule your life! been there done that lost the shirt… The simplest way is to just not have your blackberry around when you are not in work mode. leave it at the office or only for office hours!

  22. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I have never been out to dinner with friends and had them check their Blackberry. Are you insane? That is not normal.

    I have also not gone out on a business lunch and had my dining companion check their Blackberry, unless it was surreptitiously while I visited the bathroom. And if the Blackberry/mobile phone dares to make a noise, it usually gets turned off.

  23. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I don’t consider it rude to talk on a mobile phone in public. Some people get really bothered if the person behind them on the train is talking on the phone. I don’t get it. Why is that any more obtrusive than if they were talking to the person next to them? As long as they are not talking too loudly, I think it’s fine.

  24. Mary K
    Mary K says:

    “…This means you are not their most important priority at that time…and she's letting you know that you rank high enough for in-person, but you don't trump everyone.”

    Just as medical advances have outpaced our abilities to respond ethically, so have advances in technology. Relationships are the most important thing we have between and among human beings. However, a virtual connection just doesn’t seem equal to being face-to-face. I can understand the soccer game—there is considerable distance from the sidelines to the action. However, sitting at the same table and using your Blackberry just seems to violate all rules of etiquette. If a friend did this to me, I’d know exactly where I stood with him or her…and they most likely wouldn’t remain a friend.

  25. youareannoying
    youareannoying says:

    This post not as annoying. I don’t have the Blackberry network for this reason exactly. If I did have the BB network then I would have to make the tough decisions between dealing with the buzz or playing with my son.

    Fortunately the only real thing I use it for is for calendar and making sure that my work schedule never interferes with my home schedule. It is also fortunate that my co-workers, CEO and other executives have lives outside of work and don’t call or send loads of email on the weekend!

  26. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    I agree with one exception: I have a Treo and couldn’t imagine life without the touch screen. That little roller ball on the Blackberry–it can’t come close to being able to use the tip of your fingernail to click on even the tiniest link in an email or a Twitter.

    Or am I a total dinosaur and Blackberries now have touch screens?

    The one case where I don’t think a touch screen will work for me is the iPhone. The Treo combines the best of both worlds: actual keypad and touch screen. I don’t know about typing on a touch screen.

    But yes, my Treo has saved me from MANY an awkward or boring social situation. I do, however, draw the line at talking on the phone in public places like the grocery store. I’m not talking a quick call home to see if we need milk; I’m talking about the people who stand at the checkout and carry on a cell phone conversation while staring at the grocery clerk. To me, that’s not just annoying, it’s downright rude–not to mention degrading to the person ringing up your groceries, attempting to be friendly and interact for those 2 minutes. Nobody is that important that they just CAN’T stop talking for two minutes while they engage in an actual social situation with a person; if the call is that important then wait till you’re done then proceed to the checkout line.

  27. Simon
    Simon says:

    Great post, but…”Dave Allen” is NOT Dave Allen – he is “David Allen”. That’s just the way it is. Details…

    * * * * *

    Okay. Fixed. Thanks.


  28. Norcross
    Norcross says:

    I’ve got a smartphone myself, however, I don’t have my work email sent to it (it’s a personal one, not a company issued). I’ve been known to check email (and baseball scores) during numerous events, however, it isn’t tethered to me. Certain times are off-limits, period. Any employer that would expect that I forgo watching my kids do something will soon become a former employer.

  29. Dan Owen
    Dan Owen says:

    The idea that, when taking a life-changing call while at your child’s soccer game, you believe you are “at your child’s soccer game” is a lie that you are telling yourself, just as believing that you’re “on a date” while checking your Blackberry while on a date is.

    Likewise, you believe that you’re risking your career by spending time with your boyfriend, or whatever he is. The idea that you’re risking your relationship with your boyfriend by working in the way that you do doesn’t seem to occur to you, even with one failed marriage behind you. I notice that you’re still being very careful to not check your Blackberry while you’re with your boyfriend. In your case, the moment you do will be the moment when the bloom is off that rose. Even you understand that giving someone your undivided attention — child, boyfriend, client — is the essence of respectful, even loving, behavior, and that to compromise your attention undermines the relationship. Multi-tasking, however “productive” it may be (and whatever “productive” means when you ignore your dinner date to take a phone call) is fundamentally disrespectful. That doesn’t mean it isn’t allowed, but call a spade a spade.

  30. Joel
    Joel says:


    If you want to take the Blackberry to the farm, and stand in the middle of the field where it gets reception, you don’t have to justify it to us.

    Keep in mind how silly you’re going to look standing in the middle of a field holding a Blackberry up to the sky trying to get sync, a la Robin Williams in the movie RV.

    I think most of us here support you, but I, myself, will be snickering quietly at you along with the farmer when you do hold that Blackberry to the sky.

  31. Rich
    Rich says:

    Nice stroking of Gen Y, but let’s not get carried away.

    I would say that it’s not that checking messages, texting etc while at dinner or with someone else is prioritizing, it’s “not prioritizing”. What you are really saying is that the most recent communication is always the most important. Constantly checking blackberries or phones is a reaction or nervous tick not prioritizations.

  32. Paul Horan
    Paul Horan says:

    I was once at a barrel tasting, deep in a cave in Napa, where my colleague had NO Blackberry signal. He broke out in a cold sweat, and it clearly was NOT the claustrophobic conditions… I vowed then and there to never become “THAT” guy.

    I demonstrate my priorities to my friends and family by turning OFF the electronics when we’re together. I’m divorced, so I’m with my son only periodically. I want him to always know that nothing in this world trumps him.

    Even with that, I don’t think I’ve ever hit more than 100 unread e-mails (not counting spam).

    (FYI: I’m a “tweener” – not quite BabyBoomer, not quite GenX’er)

  33. Grace
    Grace says:

    So, the problem isn’t the Blackberry; it’s that we need to ‘just say no’? True, most of us don’t have strong boundries; we cave into work, social pressures that say we need to be available 24/7.

    We are told that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. However, sometimes you have to deal with the symptom so you can understand the real problems. Penelope, you sound like an addict who is saying, “I can stop at anytime; I just don’t want to.” You don’t need to be the woman waiting by the phone because he might call. It’s pathetic.

    It is common courtesy to shut electronic devises off when you are with others. Don’t be selfish. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too, at the expense of others.

    Stop having self-induced ADHD, let go of the guilt that drives you to be all things to all people, trust that you are resourceful and complete and that the world will not stop if you are not plugged in. Chances are, you won’t miss that million dollar text message. Try to focus on one thing at a time. It’s so Zen.

  34. leslie
    leslie says:

    Its amazing how many people get pulled into a situation that isn’t within their sphere of influence just because it is so easy to cc everyone on the project knowing they are checking their blackberry frequently. Prioritizing who to send e-mail to and who not to is also important.

  35. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    The common courtesy to shut off electronic devices when you’re with others seems to have disappeared. Lately I’ve noticed that in virtually any group of people at any given time, whether in a business or social setting, someone is talking on a cellphone, texting or using a BlackBerry.

    I recently attended a luncheon presentation during which the air buzzed with Blackberry signals literally every three minutes for the entire 1.5 hours. Extremely distracting and irritating!

    The only way to stop this rudeness and disregard is to be vocal that shutting off these devices really IS a common, expected courtesy rather than an old-fashioned concept that isn’t compatible with today’s work/life demands.

  36. Scott
    Scott says:

    Before the wife and kids I was always on my blackberry because it was always work, then the wife and kids came along and at 6pm when I get home the blackberry goes away until the next morning. The weekends it just goes away. There is more to life than some petty email. If there is a problem at work, they know how to contact me and its not by a blackberry. I enjoy the time spent with my family and not reading some silly email from work that can easily wait until the following day. My family is and will always be my #1 priority.

  37. Carla
    Carla says:

    I don’t know about this one, Penelope. I agree, it is all about multi-tasking, and yes, there are many freeing moments brought about by the invention of portable electronics like a cell phone or blackberry. But as a busy mom and a self-employed freelancer, who has taken business calls at the beach with the kids and even breastfed during client meetings, I’d say the older my kids get, the more I want to separate work from home life. It’s great that in special cases I can be reached by clients or reach them myself no matter where I am, but if I took time out of coaching t-ball to answer client emails, why bother being with the kids at all? They don’t have my attention and I’m doing them a disservice. I’d have been better off finishing work and making just half the game, so they’d have my whole attention while I was there.

    Oh, and if I was out for dinner and my companion checked his blackberry without a very, very good reason, I’d be very, very insulted.

  38. bill martineau
    bill martineau says:

    I agree that the blackberry (in my case Treo) can be freeing and allow me to head out of the office to attend the teacher/parent conference and answer the email right away (mind you I didn’t look until after the meeting was over), and that’s great for me as an independent business owner. But the people I work with in the IT industry view it as more of a leash that tool of freedom.

    As for the addicted aspect I believe we are just in the early stages of determining what’s appropriate in terms of public & personal usage.

    For instance I just completed a family vacation and had a few things that needed me to follow along while others in the office handled them. So I would check it three times a day (morning, Noon & night) and reply or when necessary make a call to handle the work. In fact during the week I received about 50 emails, only replied to 14 and had to make just one phone call (Xobni provided the stats), and my wife was very appreciative.

    As for the dinner companions I’m sorry, but I’m offended if you're picking up your cell/blackberry/treo without it first ringing because I know that you either value it more highly or you're just bored.

  39. Neil C
    Neil C says:

    Great post. I agree that the Blackberry gives you the power to determine how to use your time. Allen has some good ideas & this post is timely for me as I am taking on 2 new markets but will not have the staff to cover it for 30-60 days.

    I agree with everything right up until the point you started sucking up again to gen Y. I would blog about the negative experiences I have had while employing some Gen Yers but since I am unable to prioritize since I am a Gen Xer I will have to put it off until later.

  40. Mark
    Mark says:

    The time you spend on a Blackberry expands to fill the space available. The trouble is most of that “space” is illusory and rather than being “wasted time”, it’s immensely valuable. It’s only when we do “nothing” that our brain gets to do something by itself – rather than responding to the world around us.
    Doing “nothing” is creative, regenerating and irreplaceable. That is why I don’t have a Blackberry. Life is not a competition to answer most emails! And if my CEO sent me an email after hours, he has a problem, not me.

  41. Dave Atkins
    Dave Atkins says:

    I agree; see


    for similar threads. How we navigate the priorities is key…your behavior is rude if it offends the people you are with…so there are times when it is fine to be twittering away or emailing on the blackberry, but, in different company, it is not ok. I think we are all so easily bored and distracted these days we need the power to switch focus easily. It’s not multi-tasking, it’s being able to say, OK, I have a free minute now, I can send an email instead of worrying about it while I am supposed to be paying attention to someone else. It give us choices and options.

  42. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    All I know is — if I was with a friend who checked her Blackberry or answered her cell phone when we were at dinner or in the midst of conversation, I would get the hint and start finding new friends.

    It’s not about being “addicted” to the device, but I agree that it IS about priorities. Why spend any of my social time with someone who does not view our time together as a priority *while we are together*? Rude? Insulting? In my opinion, “friendship-killer” is more like it.

    There are only 2 times when I could see it acceptable to be out to dinner with friends and accept a phone call — (1) when it is family/children and a 911-type emergency, or (2) when you preface the dinner with “I am so sorry, but I am expecting a call from work. So I may have to excuse myself in the middle of dinner for a minute or two.” Then only take that call and leave the table to take it.

    Like that classic commercial line: Nothing screams “I’m Important!” like screaming “I’m Important!” into a cell phone. Have some manners, people…

  43. Lane
    Lane says:

    @Mark W. & Penelope: “the device” could be substituted with “Gen X/Boomers/Gen Y” too. I often get the sense that there’s a lot of blamestorming on previous, or later, generations when where one should really look is at oneself.

  44. Christine
    Christine says:

    I like the freedom that having a BB and remote work desktop gives me. I look at BB around after I put my toddler to sleep. If something’s urgent, I’ll tend to it then. That way I can spend the rest of my evening with my husband. I find BB less intrusive than cell phones. But then, I also enjoy my iPod touch. I’m sure I’ll eventually get an iPhone.

    Great post, as always!

  45. Diane
    Diane says:

    I have a friend who used to teach night school. The office knew that between 6 and 10 pm, she would NOT answer the cell phone, and it wouldn’t even be on – someone else would have to field any emergencies. She expected her students to turn off their cell phones unless there was a major emergency, too – it was too much of a distraction to have people going in and out to hold conversations, or arguing over the window seats because they got better reception when they were texting over there. She said that students who interrupted class by walking in and out were not just hurting themselves, which was their business, they were distracting others.

    Personally, I set aside certain hours of the day in which I won’t answer the cell phone, it’s totally silenced, not even on vibrate. Parts of my job require uninterrupted concentration – otherwise, small details get missed and they make the difference between working and not working. I also refuse to hold phone calls in the bathroom, that’s just too much. I will make calls on the bus, but it depends on what the call is – checking up with my workout partner on when and where to meet, yes; a conversation where I need to take detailed notes, or discuss a confidential project, no.

  46. just like me
    just like me says:

    I am a lover of the I-mate – a preferred aussie blackberry rip off … my most preferred part – as GM of a small organsiation is the ability to delegate while not in the office. At first my office kids hated it – now they love it as it further demonstartes how I value their input and how intrinsic their roles are to ‘getting on with business’.

    Three months after gettting mine I bought them all one … they were chuffed (USA translation – this means very happy and made to feel special.)

    Far from weighing me down the I-Mate set me free ..

  47. Alanna
    Alanna says:

    This was a brilliant post, and it’s a point that I wish more people understood. People choose to use their blackberries or whatever because it seems more interesting that what is going on at the moment. End of discussion.

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