Blackberry Thumb | Brain Numb

In 1999 I unpacked my very first Blackberry wireless e-mail device and was elated. I could now receive e-mail anywhere, instantly. Better than that I could easily respond to messages and completely conceal the fact that I was not dutifully sitting in front of my computer just waiting for new messages. The Blackberry helped me to say "I'm my own boss, I make my own schedule, I can come and go as I please."

Over the years I upgraded from the black and white small screen model, to the black and white large screen and then to the color large screen with international capabilities (more on the international in a minute).

Between the blackberry, new remote access capabilities, an e-mail support ticket system, and an after hours telephone follow-me service I was getting more done. I could golf and e-mail, eat dinner and update websites, and watch TV while doing server updates.

Then it hit me... even after I left the office I was always working.

It seemed perfectly normal to catch up on odds and ends after hours, but with the blackberry always beeping, always up to date with the latest e-mail even when I wasn'tactively working my mind was always on work. The problem with the timing of this realization was that it occurred on my Honeymoon, in Italy, with the ever capable Blackberry (with international access) beeping away and taking my mind "away."

This condition has been coined "Continuous Partial Attention" by productivity experts and it occurs when multi-tasking or in the presence of devices, such as a Blackberry or Cell Phone that interrupt and are always demanding attention.

I improved the situation by turning off all Blackberry notifications and noises. I also made a conscious effort to put it away when I left the office. But the best decision of all was when the battery died in the Fall of 2004. Instead of panicking and rushing for a replacement, I took a deep breath and, while holding my overjoyed wife's hand, threw it in the trash. I realized that I already had systems and people in place that could reach me for true emergencies and that most likely, things that came in after hours could wait until the next day.

Here are some related links on Blackberries, Continuous Partial Attention and working too much:

(Some) Attention Must Be Paid!

Blackberry users learning painful lesson

Workaholics Anonymous