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Why I Never Turn Off My Cell Phone


One of the major tenets of this whole personal productivity dance is the elimination of distraction. Many productivity-related sites and blogs (including this one) espouse everything from the closing of email clients and instant messenger applications to the wearing of headphones as possible ways to reduce “background noise” while working. Another one that I hear tossed around is the turning off of the cell phone. Personally, I don’t partake in this particular piece of the pie.

Not long ago, my wife was pregnant with our first child. As the due date drew closer, there was the looming possibility of her going into labor at any moment, including the moments when I was at work. At the time, my job (and the culture of the company) dictated that I would have random, lengthy, ad hoc meetings in the halls of the office. Whenever these normally took place and I received a call from her, I’d hit the little “ignore” key and send her to voice mail. She understood that this meant that I was either talking to somebody or otherwise occupied. But, due to the imminent arrival of our son, we had to develop a system so I would know that the call she was making was “the call”. If I got a call, sent it to voice mail and immediately got another call, that meant that something important was happening and I needed to speak to her.

Granted, there aren’t many times in the average adult life where this kind of thing is necessary. Barring things like a grave illness in the family or a touch-and-go birthing situation, I get that the cell phone doesn’t *need* to be on all of the time. But I also don’t *need* to stop for donuts once or twice per week on my way to work. I do it because I like it and it makes me happy.

The same is true of my cell phone. While I may not love the actual phone itself (I’m starting to think they should’ve called it a “dropkick” instead of a “sidekick“), I take a certain amount of comfort in the fact that my family can get a hold of me at any time. Having two small children at home (and being something of a worrier) can lead to all sorts of unexpected incidents. And the thought of my wife frantically dialing my cell phone only to be met with my abrupt voice mail message – while I whistle away, feeling oh-so-proud of how productive I’m being – sickens me, frankly. The reason we *have* these damn things to begin with is for accessibility and, secondarily, convenience. There’s a reason that all cell phones in the US are capable of dialing 911 with nothing more than the battery power required to make the call.

I realize I’m probably in the minority among my productive brethren, but this is where I sit. There are precious few things that are so important that I must actively shut myself off from everybody not in my physical presence. For me, I’d rather have my wife interrupt me just to say hello than miss the call telling me that she’s taking one of the kids to the hospital with a broken something-or-other. I realize that most of this stems from the fact that I’m a relatively new father and I’m a paranoid S.O.B., but that doesn’t make me wrong :)

Do you agree? Do you think I’m completely full of crap? Comment and let me know!

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