Monday, August 10, 2009

DeStress Your Life - Part 3

The third suggestion is one I just recently began practicing: Choose your availability.

Remember the time when we had party lines where we had to wait our turn to use the phone? And then we had a telephone, and then home and business phones, and then fax numbers, and then cellphones. Sometimes I would take out a scrap of paper and ask a person for their phone number only to get such a long list of possible numbers that I filled up my scrap and couldn't read the hodgepodge of data.

Now days, many folks like myself are consolidating to one phone number, their cell.

But the problem with cellphones is that there is a presumed 24/7 availability. Who hasn't seen, or worse, heard, a person using a cellphone at dinner, or in a theater, or on public transportation? Who hasn't used their cellphone in the bathroom? Or while driving a car? I was trying to read at the airport the other day, and Mr. Rude Cellphone-man was talking so loudly, calling everyone he knew, that I just put my book away and waited until I got on the plane. Thank goodness planes still ban cellphones.

I was at a Shabbat dinner the other week and a person's cellphone rang, he checked it (yes, at dinner, on Shabbat no less) and lo and behold, it was a text message from CNN announcing the death of a famous person. Like one couldn't wait until they got home to learn "late breaking news."

I began the practice of turning off the ringer of my phone while I was recovering from my broken leg. The practice seems to serve me well. Yes, there are complaints. No, I haven't missed any emergencies.

By turning off the ringer on my phone, I choose when to check my messages. I am not interrupted during meditation or when I am talking with someone over a meal, or when I am studying or preparing a sermon or class. And most of my friends are relieved to know that they are never disturbing me by calling anytime, day or night, knowing that I will call them back as soon as I check the messages.

In fairness to those who call me, I check messages each time I take a break. And I return calls when I am able to give that person my full and undivided attention.

Again - this comes not without complaints from those who want 24/7 or immediate access. But the advantage is that my phone is not constantly ringing or vibrating to disturb the quiet of those who are around me. When I call the person back, they have 100% of my attention. If I am with someone and my phone is turned off, the person I am with gets my complete attention. Strangers do not have to listen to my personal conversations. And, by not getting interrupted when I am working, my focus is better, my work product is better, my concentration is better, and I am less stressed.

Have you ever tried to have a phone conversation with a person who is driving a car? (Heck, for some of you readers, that person may have been me because until my dog walking accident, I was notorious for driving while on the phone.)

Here is an example of the modern day Three-Way between the drive thru person, the cellphoner and the cellphonee: "just a minute....yes one venti iced Americano....can you hear me? gimme another minute, wait....... no room for cream what were you black, thank you.....what? I missed keep the change....really, that is so sad.....can I have a napkin, I hear you, yes, I know you are upset.....thank you....."
Tell me, do we not have 3 stressed folks with this common occurrence?

Can we always choose our availability? No. But there are large, very large, blocks of time when we can.

If I know someone is sick and may need my attention -- my phone is on. When I am expecting company who may need driving directions - my phone is on. If there is a crisis going on where I may be needed - my phone is on.

But if I am working, reading, with someone, driving, at a restaurant, in a public place, in the bathroom, resting, meditating, or sleeping -- my ringer is turned off and I will check messages as soon as I am off-task and can give the caller my attention. Choose availability.

(Remember, when you are in an airplane, no one can reach you and the world still turns, the sun still rises and sets.)

I actually even know people who do not own a cellphone - and the world still turns, the sun still rises and sets.

Think about your 24/7 availability. Do you allow yourself downtime? Time to stay on one task or one enjoyment at a time?

This practice has made my life more manageable. Maybe it would work for you if you are Always Available. Try it, you might like it.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Another excellent life-improving post, Ann! (Yesterday, while having brunch with you I answered one call but ignored the next one...I'll do better next time ;-) xoxoxo