Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stop and smell the roses but please not with your cell phone

Four years ago I made a presentation at the National Health Physics Society meeting, and wrote a follow-up article for their Journal [The Radiation Safety Journal, Vol. 99, August 2010] about running an effective Radiation Safety Program. While I was writing from the perspective of a Health Physicist and my duties involved with radiation safety, it was really about how to effectively run any program. To my pleasant surprise, several people at the national meeting and from around the country responded very favorably to my words and simple, yet effective message: Be thoughtful, be funny, be realistic, be human.

Along with my requisite humor, I divided the presentation and article into six areas to achieve success. One of them called “Getting Yourself Organized” included a section on “disconnecting yourself from email for a while.” For me, this was really important. I felt so bombarded, almost continually, by people sending me messages, forwarding messages, and sharing the details of something with which I was only peripherally connected – and of course wanting/expecting an immediate response -- that I really needed to take a break from it all. Once I realized that I was spending several hours each week typing, reading, responding to emails that I also realized that I was wasting valuable time doing what I should do – getting out of my chair and doing something truly important and worthwhile!

I lovely friend of mine sent me a New York Times article entitled, The “Joy of Quiet” by Pico Iyer [December 29, 2011] that addresses this very concept. While he personally may have taken this concept to the extreme (by most people’s standards) by living in a remote part of Japan, checking his email only in the evenings, Monday-Friday, and never owning a cell phone, he touched upon that same concept that I noted in my 2007 lecture. To be effective, you really need to unplug yourself from time to time. You don’t need to take your cell phone to the bathroom. You don’t need to check your email at lunch, all evening, every holiday and weekend. You don’t need to have a Facebook account to exist, nor tweet every thought in your head.

My advice to “get up, get out and get going” rings truer and louder every day. Can you remember the last time you actually got out of your office and talked to someone about something? Do you remember the pleasantries exchanged and how much more effective your communication was? Sure, we are all busy, but when we de-humanize ourselves by making electronic mirages of ourselves, then, little by little, we cease to exist at all.

Yeah, OK, it is going to take me some time talk to everyone I need to, but isn’t that what we should all be about? Making connections, sharing thoughts, and observing those subtle physical messages that we send one another...Humanity. Yeah, it will take longer, but it will be so worth it.

Happy New Year, everyone. And I really hope to see you sometime this year.

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