The Afternoon I Put My iPhone Down

Years ago I attended a banquet at Brigham Young University where Jeffrey R. Holland spoke. He was the president of the university at the time. He was introduced to the group by his wife who described him as the ultimate multi-tasker. She told us about how each morning he’d sit at the kitchen table eating his breakfast while reading the news, taking notes and conversing with his children. She explained how he felt like he was wasting time by not working on more than one thing at a time.

When I heard President Holland speak, I felt like a slacker. When I’m having  bowl of cereal for breakfast, I struggle to chew and read the back of the cereal box at the same time. I can’t imagine adding a few more chores to my breakfast.

Over the years, I’ve thought back to this talk. Technology has made it easier to multi-task since then, but I wonder if we’re better off for it?

I’m not saying what President Holland does at breakfast is wrong. I’m not as busy as the president of a university and can’t imagine the demands it places on his schedule. But I don’t believe that juggling multiple tasks or responsibilities works in all situations.

I’ve been guilty of bringing my iPhone to the dinner table. I know I shouldn’t do it, but it’s not easy to keep it in its cradle while I spend those few minutes with my family. I’m on email for 12+ hours a day, so why do I need to add a 13th?

I took a day off work on Wednesday. When it came time to pickup Anna from the bus, I’d normally take my iPhone along in case I get bored. At the last minute, I placed it back in its cradle.

I made the short walk to the bus stop where I stood on the curb with my hands in my pockets wondering if Anna would be surprised to see me. The warmth of the sun felt good to my face. This is my favorite time of year in Seattle. Just enough blue sky and crisp air to get us through the cold, dark winter months.

The brakes on the bus squealed as the bus descended Lea Hill and turned onto our street. The bus driver waved at me as Anna came bouncing down the stairs. Her blond hair danced off her shoulders as she ran across the street to give me a hug.

“Dad, why didn’t you go to work?”

“Because who would have chased and tickled you after you got off the bus?”

She held my hand as we walked towards home. Well, I walked and Anna skipped and sang goofy songs. She explained why we should walk on the sidewalk and showed me where a mean dog lives. Every sentence is filled with excitement.

Not once did I think about my iPhone. But I did wish our home were a few blocks further from the bus stop.

annabus

Comments

  1. For the record, I did not read this on on my BlackBerry at the dinner table.

  2. I thought this was going to be a horror story based on the title. But I am glad I decided to read on…

    The little moments without technology are amazing.

    But I am reading this on my iPhone. But on the couch not at the table.

  3. Nice work, Mike. I'm trying not to bring my phone to the dinner table either. And no magazines.

  4. Would the fact you're reading it on your iPhone have anything to do with the iPhone theme I installed? :-)

  5. bentalbert says:

    Quite an intuittively insghtful post substantiated by neurological research. The notion of multi-tasking is completely fallacious. You might find the writing of molecular biologist, John Medina, intersting. I posted about his book, “Brain Rules,” on my own blog. He's one of the most user-friendly brain researchers you'll ever see. You can check him out at http://brainrules.net/.
    What I enjoyed so much about your story was the joyful experience you find in being fully “present” for your daughter. Being present to the existing moment is not something I do well at and have been working on for the last 7 months. As you noted, the pay-offs are so much more rewarding than trying to do it all at once, resulting in doing all of those things poorly.

  6. But “great multi-tasker” has been the highlight of my resume for years!

  7. Ben, maybe I can borrow the book once Kim finished the Talent Code? I check out the website and it looks interesting. Thank you for the kind words.

  8. Veronica, I suggest replacing “great multi-tasker” with “WordPress guru” :-)

  9. From 'placed it back in its cradle' to Anna's sweet picture this hits home with me. I multi-task because I'm trying to catch the world. I need to learn to let some of it fall and just catch the big things that really matter. Being fully present is a great comment from bentalbert. It's something we should all be lucky to learn, especially with children.

    Closing my laptop & going to read a book with my youngest…

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