Not too long ago, after a good weekend, I walked into the office to hook up my laptop only to find that it was out of commission after startup. I promptly notified IT and they asked that I leave my machine with them for a while so they could run diagnostics and get the problem fixed.
All of a sudden, I’m at my office in a sales role armed with a desk phone, my smartphone, and writing tools (pen and paper). After I copied down my calendar on an index card to keep my tasks and schedule in front of me, I went to work. What resulted was a full workday based solely on what I could produce with my head – without my electronic brain. I felt like it was some of my best content/work since being in my current position. Here are some other things I noticed:
1. It’s Harder to Put Things Off
When there’s no busy work (read: email) to occupy you, it’s much harder to put off those things you’ve been procrastinating on. I had several pages worth of printed notes and follow-ups that I needed to get to work on, and a paper to edit as well. With no “emergencies” coming through my inbox taking my attention and my time, I was able to knock out a few tasks that I had been dreading. This was simply due to the fact that there wasn’t any busywork I could have been doing.
I had a few people that I needed to discuss things with that, normally, I would have just emailed about. However, without the computer as an option, I spent time actually walking to offices and talking face-to-face. The follow-ups from those meetings had to be prompt and able to be performed without a computer. I don’t know that I’ve ever found collaboration so useful.
2. Increased Focus on Content Generation
Employees can easily get bogged down in doing stuff that they aren’t really paid to do. Content generation and adding value through that content is a big part of my job. Without the computer, I was left to quietly focus on what I needed to produce. The results of a day of hard focus were fantastic. I genuinely believe that the reason for this was because I didn’t have the computer.
3. Most Email and Calls Aren’t Urgent
Yes, my smartphone has email. But it doesn’t connect to our server where the majority of my files are located. I don’t think I answered email much at all that day. The calls I did get had things that needed to be done with the computer that I had to defer to the next day. You know what happened? Nothing.
That’s right. The company is still in existence. I still have a job. And we’re still making money. My lack of email and computer work that day weren’t detrimental to the company’s performance at all. I know you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Yeah, good for you. But mine are pretty critical.” I completely understand as I was in a similar position before. But we figure it out and get it done, anyway.
There are lots of people who would’ve been completely lost without the computer for a day and probably would not have gotten much done. That’s the mark of a non-producer – someone who can’t generate value on the virtue of their mind and talents apart from electronics. If that’s you, start looking for ways to change that. Those things you learn apart from machines are transferrable skills and can contribute to any organization. Keep up the good work.