Yesterday I was thinking about my dorm-room desk from the mid-eighties. On it sat the following essentials: a typewriter, a desk lamp, a month-to-month calendar, a clock-radio, a family photo or two, a few pieces of mail, and the latest edition of the campus newspaper. In the desk drawers I could find a small selection of pens, pencils and highlighters, a stack of spiral-bound notebooks, some textbooks, a calculator, stationery (including envelopes and stamps), a copy of the “Yellow Pages”, my camera, my checkbook, and a few menus from nearby restaurants. Dorm-room desks were solid, but my “office supplies” probably doubled the weight. They were my band of brothers, helping wage battle on that ever-elusive college degree.
If I recreate that same desk setup today, I would lug a huge box into my home office (bend the knees so you don’t hurt your back), drop slowly into my chair, reach into the box, and first pull out… a smartphone. I’d set it in the middle of the vast empty space of my desktop, reach into the box again, and pull out… nothing else. Whoa. My entire college setup has been condensed into the confines of a shiny 2″ x 5″ silicon wafer.
I forgot to mention the “telephone”. My college provided a wired phone with the room – (one of those fancy new touch-tone models – ha). Since my roommate and I positioned our desks to face each other, the phone straddled both desks. That way either one of us could reach the corded handset when all those girls would call (okay, I think that was a fictional memory boost).
Sadly, only a few of my college-era office supplies have survived the advent of technology. I have family photos on my desk, but they’re in the form of a digital frame, scrolling every several seconds. I have pens and pencils in the top drawer, but I only seem to need them for my signature. Finally, I have a wall calendar, but I really only glance at the monthly photos (of my college campus, ironically). Heck, I don’t even need my desk. I can just sit back in my chair with my smartphone and choose any item or activity I was geared for in college.
The convenience of having a desk’s worth of productivity inside a smartphone comes with a drawback. It is the convenience itself. When I woke up in the morning in college, my first thought was breakfast; not sitting down to the various tasks at my desk. In today’s world, we wake up to the instant access and undeniable craving for Facebook and text and email. The capsule may be slightly larger than those in the pill bottle, but the addiction to the contents can be just as powerful.
Here is my nugget of advice. Take a lesson from my college days and choose breakfast first. Avoid the temptation of the smartphone when you first wake up (and the premature stimulation to blood flow – see this Finnish study). For me, it means simply charging my smartphone within the confines of my home office. This forces the inconvenience of opening the door and considering the several other temptations and distractions of my work. Those can wait – bacon and eggs not so much.