Where's the off button?

Over the last month, I have paying attention to how connected we are - both as an industry and as a culture - to our phones.  They are great, aren't they?  I was in a session earlier this week at the CoreNet Summit on mobility and one group came up with forty things that our phones have replaced.  On the list were magazines, newspapers, CD's, and even friends. But it seems that we constantly have our heads buried in our phones and I'm just as guilty as the next person.  During another session, I looked around and at least half the room had their heads down and phones open.  This was a session and an event that I found very interesting and others had chosen to attend.  However, it's almost done by force of habit that as soon as we are bored for a second, we check our email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

During the Jewish Holidays, I sat in temple with my phone off.  I didn't check email at all.  It was as peaceful as three hours could be, and I am not a religious person.  Similarly, during a recent Springsteen show, the battery on my phone died.  Even if I was tempted, I couldn't take out my phone and take a picture, text a friend about the show, or answer a client email.  I was able to be more in the moment and frankly, I didn't miss the phone.

So why don't I shut off my phone more often?  To be honest, I think it's a combination of expectations and fear.  Because we are all buried in our phones all the time, the expectation is that we will respond to every text, email or phone call quickly, if not immediately.  Many of us also feel the need to share moments with others while they are happening by tweeting pictures from a show or game or posting random thoughts or links.  Once you start, it's hard to stop.

The fear is a little more complicated.  As a service provider, part of my job is to be responsive to my clients.  I operate under the mentality that if I don't respond both thoughtfully and quickly, they will find someone else who will.  Having that fear is one of the things I think makes me good at my job, but where do we draw the line?  I typically check my email right before I go to sleep and first thing when I wake up.  We aren't curing cancer, but everything needs to happen and happen fast.

Are we giving our clients better service than we gave them before we all had Blackberries and iPhones?  Definitely.  As I have said in a previous post, clients are demanding more and we are happy to deliver.  But that delivery also forces them to work harder in many cases. 

Are we better off for all of this connectivity?  Would we be better served taking our foot off the gas once in a while by simply turning our phones off?  I'd like to think I so, but I'm not sure I am willing to do it.  Truth is, there's no line between work and home for me and many others. 

What do you think?  Do you have a line between work and home?  If so, I'd love to hear how you balance.

JN