Celebrating 10 Years of Mental Interruptions

Posted 06.17.2008


Perhaps no one deserves more credit for tanking the mental focus of executives around the world than Mike Lazaridis. Haven’t heard of Mike? Even if you haven’t, you’ve heard of and possibly own his invention, the BlackBerry, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

I don’t mean to be too hard on Mike. After all, the BlackBerry is an amazing piece of technology which we’ve come to take for granted at this point. It does enable us to get more done in the course of a day. But at what cost?

A couple of weeks ago I was with a group of high potential leaders discussing the habits of renewing energy and perspective in our Next Level Leadership® group coaching program. Everyone in the room had a BlackBerry and I asked for a rough estimate of how many e-mails a day they receive on the devices. The average seemed to be about 200 to 250. My next request was, "Show me your physical response when you feel or hear the buzz of your BlackBerry.” One women captured it for everyone when she literally winced. Multiply that reaction by 250 times a day and it’s not hard to figure out what the impact is on sustained and focused thought and attention. You end up spending your time reacting to stuff rather than driving stuff.

When Lance Armstrong was training in Texas for his last Tour de France a few years ago, he realized that interrupting his conditioning rides to check his BlackBerry was affecting his focus and results. He solved the problem one day by stopping on the side of the road and tossing the device into an adjacent lake. OK, that might be taking it a little far for most of us. What do you think the impact on your focus and productivity might be, though, if you declared a couple of hours each day as a BlackBerry or PDA free zone? Want to improve your focus, productivity and capacity to get meaningful things done? Get into the routine of turning the damn thing off a few times each day.