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How Much Are You Missing Every Day?

May 23, 2016

What would YOU do in that situation, Carson?

The teacher repeated the question, not for emphasis, but to try to get Carson to quit looking at his phone and pay attention to the lesson. It worked long enough for Carson to stammer,

Uh. . .I don’t know.

Teaching 12 year old boys can be challenging. I know. I’ve taught this same group, and will again next month. Many of the 11 boys in the room were paying attention. A few of them weren’t. Suppose the information was really important to them? Do they care they missed it?

I recently read an article that decried the goal of a Zero Inbox. The author’s point was that anything that is truly important, the sender will follow up again. Is that who we have become? Have we become so distracted that we assume that anything worth knowing, people will hit us up a second time? Or a third? Or forth?

My family has a planning meeting every Sunday. We have eight teenagers at home, and with my lovely wife’s and my schedules, if we want to get to the important events of the week, we bring them up in this planning meeting. The kids are less interested. And yet, I wonder how much they are missing by not paying attention. Several of them have jobs this summer. We have a couple of family vacations planned. (One for my family reunion, one for my lovely wife’s.) Plus, the boys have scout camps, and two of the girls and one of the boys are going on a handcart trek: Three days of pulling handcarts across the Wyoming prairie to appreciate the early Mormon pioneers who used handcarts to travel to Utah. 

There are a lot of dates to keep track of. I’ve tried to explain to my kids that having a job means they will need to ask their manager for the time off. And if they wait too long, they may not get it off. And yet, they still don’t pay attention as we literally give them the days they need to request off. Maybe they figure, if it’s important we’ll follow up with them again. . .and again. 

We’ve become a nation of people staring down at our devices. It would be easy to talk about “the good ol’ days” before cell phones and iPads. But, personally, I don’t think they exist. By that, I mean that what we have is much better than what we had, just as cars were an improvement over horses, and electric lights were an improvement over candles. 

But, we still have to make sure that we are managing our devices and not the other way around. As someone with ADHD, I understand the attraction, and in fact, the value of distractions. Being bored, we can miss just as many messages as being distracted. I heard an interesting talk in church on Sunday about the need to stop and smell the roses. With modern devices, I think we need to also add the importance of looking up and noticing the roses as well. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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