To have good balance in our lives, we have to pay attention to and make time for things that really matter and set boundaries for other things that distract or interrupt us.
Email, cell phones, Blackberries and other technology wonders were intended to save time and add convenience to our lives, not run our lives. When a client says he or she receives 200 emails a day that have to be read and often answered, it is clear that email has become more of a time waster than a time saver.
Recently, I was teaching a class and two of the participants were texting away like mad on their Blackberries. I asked if they were taking notes or playing a game. The answer was that there was a problem with a project and they were giving instructions. They may have just been bored but, if as a manager they could not confidently leave their staff to work on their own for two or three hours then there is a leadership problem.
On the other hand, ego issues may be a factor in such constant interruptions. Does being constantly interrupted by phone calls and text messages make you feel important and needed? Is it a status symbol to always be on call? (As a side note, paying attention to laptop and cell phone messages during a meeting is rude and implies that the meeting, client or leader is less important than your messages from others.)
These constant distractions often keep people from doing the more demanding and important work that needs thoughtful, undivided attention. Thus the distraction may be a way to escape doing more demanding tasks.
An operations manager that I was working with complained of constantly being interrupted by her project managers even when she was in meetings with clients.
I asked her if perhaps by being constantly available, she was training her staff to depend on her instead of learning to think for themselves and be responsible for making decisions on their own.
She had not considered this, and soon changed her outgoing voice message to say that she was in meetings and would check and return messages at 11 AM and 3 PM. She was amazed at how quickly her staff started to manage their work more effectively. She was now more in control of her time. The best part was that her staff grew in confidence and capability, which is what she needed and wanted.
Take a look at your life to determine who is in charge, you or your communication devices? Placing too much priority on message interruptions puts others, not you, in charge of your life.