Tending to the Fields: Welcome Back to the 24×7 World

I was recently asked my thoughts on a productivity theory that advocated allocating specific slots of time for specific types of behavior – Productive Work, Administrative Work, and Non-Work.  As the question was being posed to me, a mental image of an industrial era worker came to mind – how they conduct productive work during part of the day, administrative work part of the day (cleaning up, etc.), and non-work part of the day (at home, away from the factory).   What struck me as odd about that image was that it didn’t fit into most modern professional and corporate work environments.

In fact, my answer to the question was that the post-industrial professional and corporate worlds are more akin to a rural farmer’s lifestyle, than the 50’s image of Dad heading to/from work in his black suit and white shirt.  Let me expound a bit before passing judgment on this observation.

The 24×7 Nature of Information Flow

Information now flows 24x7x365.  And more significantly, we can access it – or, rather, it can reach us – on that same schedule.  Whether you’re at your desk or at your kid’s soccer game, clients and co-workers can reach you.  Even as little as 20 years ago, that wasn’t possible.  When you left the office, you effectively left the work world behind.  You might take some papers home, but they never followed you wherever you went.

Today, many people object to this invasion into their personal lives by technologies like the Internet and smartphones, but the hard truth is that these advances in communication are not going anywhere.  If anything, they’ll become more ubiquitous.  In fact, I recently saw a wi-fi hotspot sticker on a Seattle metro bus!

Moreover, many of these same technologies advance our personal interests – free video conferencing with our kids and grandkids via Skype and reconnecting with long-lost friends on Facebook to name a few.  So there are two sides to this coin as there are to most forms of advancement.

A Change of Perspective

My proposed solution to this quandary – and the answer I gave to the original question – is that we have to adjust our perspective on how we interact with the world.  And with that change in perspective, we have to change our behaviors to adapt.  We must be like the farmer of old who had to feed the livestock and tend to the fields and fix the fences – every day.  He integrated his work and personal life into a seamless existence.  He sought to earn a decent living, raise a good family, and participate in his community.  We must now do the same. 

There are many instances where this new technology – especially wi-fi and mobile Internet-capable devices – have enhanced our world.  The unsavory behaviors – yelling into phones in crowded places, texting while driving, gaming at the dinner table – are just bad manners.  These are the types of behaviors farm families never allowed. 

I encourage you to reflect on your own behaviors with these technical marvels and discuss them with those you love.  Seek to find the balance between connectivity and connection just as the hard working farmer has done for eons.

Integration and Respect

Remember that a well balanced life is one where things are well integrated and assimilated to affect a positive experience.  Manners and respect – especially in the use of our ever-growing cache of technological tools – will always pay dividends to you and those around you.

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