Disclaimer: If you missed the last post, the focus of this blog is changing. I’m no longer writing insights on how to “Make Work Great” on this site. Instead, I am writing about my fledgling adventure to finish my Master’s degree and start my own Marketing consulting company within the next few months. If you’d like to continue to follow the “Make Work Great” theme, I would like to encourage you to follow my growing company, Introverted Consulting (link opens in new page). If you decide to continue following my journey here, I look forward to having you along for an exciting adventure into the world of business.
I’m giving up and letting go. But I’m not quitting or abandoning the things I believe in. Nor am I giving up out of exhaustion. No, I am giving up and letting go in an intentional step in order to move forward with my desire to start a great company and do great work for the businesspeople and leaders who need me. I’ve discovered that giving up isn’t always dramatic declarations. Sometimes giving up involves simple things. Simple things that somehow became a big distraction. And my simple-big distraction started with something that is rather well known in our technology driven culture: my iPhone.
Having worked in consumer electronics for many years, I acquired a bad habit of being an early adopter of everything related to technology. I have picked up a smartphone, MP3 player, tablets, certain video game systems, and many other pieces of technology before my peers. The iPhone was slightly different, in that I waited for several generations to come out before finally converting. Even adopting later, I became instantly gratified with the device. I had several Apple products before (and several after), so the transition was manageable and fun.
For the most part, I was very intentional about how I used the device. I read the Bible. I downloaded podcasts and audiobooks like there was no tomorrow and listened to them during my lengthy commute. I read many more eBooks on the Kindle and Nook apps and free books from the public library. I was inspired by all this information overload to work on expanding my educational horizons and earn my Master’s degree (so to the school currently benefiting from my tuition money, you owe Apple a huge thanks). The iPhone kept me up to date, informed, and inspired.
I was also acutely aware of the distraction an iPhone could bring. Inspired by productivity gurus like Michael Hyatt, I made sure that I turned off all of the notifications and alerts. I wasn’t bothered by email alerts, Facebook updates, and telemarketers, so I managed to stay on task. Instead of “checking” my email every 30 seconds, I did well by checking my email about twice a day.
Email is where my problem started. I do a great job consuming information (see the paragraph about podcasts and books above?). The iPhone shifted my consumption of email from an activity done on my computer to an activity done wherever I have my phone. So naturally, I was doing a great job staying informed by email through the phone. But I neglected one of the more important things about email: the ability to reply. I received hundreds of work and personal emails each day and read most of them on my mobile device. Yet I rarely responded.
By not participating in email, I hurt people. My wife would send me emails for coupons and contests that I would forget to print or fail to enter (she saves us a great deal through coupons, and wins a great number of cool prizes too). So there were missed opportunities for me to support my wife in something she does very well. The children’s minister at our church would email me a confirmation requests for volunteer activities I signed up for, and I couldn’t reply through my phone — which meant I rarely replied at all. This absent response likely created a great deal of uncertainty and stress on whether or not I would show up. People I respect would email me questions and ideas, and I would ponder their emails and spend significant time coming up with solutions in my head; but I would neglect to reply, because typing out my (wordy) response would be difficult on a tiny phone. I wasted their time, and my thoughts. I am proud to be a part of Chris LoCurto‘s amazing community, which is constantly growing stronger through emails. And yet I don’t participate as much as I should, which means I am an awful friend to the group.
So I have this small plan to give up email on my phone popped into my head one day. I figured in order to do great in my business, I need to focus on being clear and responsive in my communication. In order to be clear and responsive, I need focus on reading and replying to emails on my laptop where I actually have an opportunity and ability to write back. I will take the good habit I did learn from the iPhone (checking about twice a day) and combine it with the great habit of communicating and building relationships with all those that I can reach via email.
As is the case with many things in life, one small change (giving up email) can often lead to changes more significant. Sometimes people pay off one small credit card balance and roll down the road to being completely debt free for life. Other times, they give up sugary drinks and lose fifty pounds. In my case, giving up email on my phone has somewhat removed the justification for having a smartphone — which means letting go will save me a huge chunk of cash when I do finally come around and let go of the iPhone completely. I’m not at that point just yet, but I am getting closer and I’m ready to have that conversation to bury the smartphone. This change in attitude has a significant consequence outside of being productive and saving money. This change in attitude reflects my mindset to be more focused on doing great work as I start my business.
This is what giving up and letting go means: focus. Focus on things that matter, whether it is the financial strength gained from being debt free, or the physical strength gained from losing fifty pounds. This willingness to give up my iPhone and let go of bad communication habits will help me focus on developing better relationships with others. Building better relationships will help determine how far my business will grow — and get me rolling.
I will choose focus.