I haven’t worn a wristwatch in over a decade, but I am thinking about buying one. Although I’ve been considering the purchase for a while, I was galvanized into action on Monday while attending the Little Man’s swimming lesson1.
One of the kids in the Little Man’s class is a little hellion. The instructor does her best to keep him under control, but often looks up toward where the parents are seated with an expression of can you do something about your child on her face. The effort always fails, but it wasn’t until this last session that I realized why. When I looked around me, every parent was dutifully ignoring what was taking place in the swimming pool. Instead, they were busy on their mobile devices.
I am just as guilty of this, I am afraid, or I probably would have noticed this sooner. Still, it came as a sort of shock to my system. I was missing stuff because of my mobile phone. Not everything. I made sure to look up every minute or two. When the Little Man looked over at me, I always gave him a thumbs-up, and he smiled in return. But I was not engaged in the event. I was not—to borrow a current buzzword—mindful of what was happening.
A younger version of me—one half my age—would react to this revelation with knee-jerk defiance. “That’s it,” he would say, “I am giving up my mobile phone. I’m better off being disconnected from this hyperconnected world, anyway.” But that is neither reasonable, nor true. The apps we use on our mobile devices, and the automations we enable with them can work to free up time for us to spend on other things—like watching our kids struggle with the backstroke.
On the drive home from that swimming lesson, I realized three truths about my mobile device.
Truth #1: my mobile device has become a proxy for idle time. Whenever I am idle, I pull my phone and look at something—often just to feel like I am doing something. Get on elevator—out comes the phone. Waiting for a meeting to start—out comes the phone. Waiting in line—out comes the phone.
Truth #2: my mobile device has become a megaphone to the larger world. Ooh, that’s a pretty sunset—Instagram it! Hey, check out the Little Man floating—update Facebook! I’m five minutes from home—better text Kelly to let her know that I am five minutes from home.
Truth #3: my mobile device has become my primary information source. What’s the weather like today?—check my phone. Is it discrete or discreet?—check my phone. What time is it?—check my phone.
It is a good thing to be able to have this information at my fingertips, but it can also take away from the experience. While I am updating Facebook with a picture of the Little Man floating, I am missing whatever it is he is doing next. When I pull my phone out to check them time, I am also like to see that 10 new email messages and 7 Twitter replies have come in.
Which brings me back to the wristwatch.
A nice analog wristwatch would allow me to check the time without pulling out my phone. It might not prevent me from using my phone as a proxy for idle time, or as a megaphone for what goes on during my day. But is provides one less entry-point to distraction.
I can do more. I can alter my alerts and notifications. I can leave my phone in the car for swimming lessons. I can leave it on my desk, instead of beside my bed at night. But I’ve learned that small incremental changes work better for me, and it seems like a wristwatch would be a step in the right direction.
- Early Monday evenings are a bad time for swimming lessons. On Sunday mornings, it takes 15 minutes to get to the pool where the lessons are offered. On Monday evenings it takes at least half an hour. Also, the entire high school next door has swimming practice making an already steamy indoor pool area almost unbearable. ↩