When I started at Plante Moran in 1980, there were no computers. I can remember doing real estate projections by hand. Legions of us would crunch numbers on 14-column sheets of paper for hours; today those projects are completed almost instantly, via the click of a mouse.
I remember when the firm got its first PC. It was a thing to behold. It had its own office and was perched on a kind of dais. Only a few people had access to it. (We didn’t want to hurt it.) Shortly thereafter, we got a few “portables,” which looked like sewing machines and weighed 28 pounds. We called them “luggables.”
At one point, we put a desktop on every staff member’s desk. There were people who literally never turned it on—it was just another piece of furniture
All of this is laughable now because we can’t live without our technologies. Ignoring our laptops would be like ignoring the food in our refrigerators…unthinkable. Our laptops, smart phones, and tablets afford us instantaneous access to anything we need. They make work easier and faster, and they afford us so much flexibility as we can access e-mail and instant messages anytime, anywhere. In a word, they’re great.
As long as we don’t become slaves to them, that is. Recently, a colleague e-mailed me at 11:30 p.m. and again at 4:30 a.m. I called him and said, “What’s going on?” He had a reasonable explanation, but I still worry about our staff getting the message that since they can access e-mail 24/7, they should.
If I send an e-mail at night, I typically include information about what else I’m doing: “I’m sitting here watching a Tiger game and thought I’d send a note.” The last thing I want people to think is that I’m working around the clock. It’s okay to disconnect. I’ve even disabled some of the notification features on my phone so that I’m not constantly directing my attention toward it (and, consequently, away from others).
Technology is a powerful tool, but sometimes we give it too much power. What do you think? Do you have any tips on how to reconcile being in moment with the benefits of technology? How far has your technology come in the years you’ve been working? Do you find that the distractions of it sometimes outweigh the benefits?