Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Your phone is hurting your career.

I snuck out of work on little cat's feet a few days ago at an uncharacteristically early time. A friend from the business--a bona fide advertising big wig--had asked me to dinner and we were meeting at a restaurant in mid-town.

These days agencies are so far from the center of the city that midtown seems about 200 miles due east of my agency. 

It hadn't started raining yet in New York, and it was a particularly pleasant evening, so rather than take a car service or a taxi, I decided to do things the old-fashioned way, and hoof it. The fact is, in New York, car-speed is just about the same as foot-speed.

I live way east in Manhattan, as Thomas Hardy might say, far from the madding crowd. My office is far west, also far from those crowds. Being away from the center of things means where I live and work is far from the crush of the city.

As I walked east, the streets got more and more crowded. What I realized, and this may be a cranky old man talking, is that people seem to have forgotten some of the basics of life. What I mean is, they've literally forgotten how to walk.

New Yorkers, like myself, have always complained about the speed--or lack of it--of out-of-towners. My friend Jack, who I grew up with about a million years ago used to argue that sidewalks should be divided like highways with slow lanes and passing lanes. 

But even that wouldn't help today.

Mostly because walking today isn't about actually walking. Walking today is 90% looking at your phone and 10% forward motion.

In fact, that seems to be how most everything is today. Say you're in a meeting. Most people spend 90% of their time looking at their phones and 10% of their time listening to what's going on.

A lot of times I find myself at work behind the eight-ball. The situation is usually something like we need ten hours of work done in one hour or two. That's often when bosses and boss' bosses find me.

I head to my table and hunker down. Usually within the allotted time, I've done eight scripts or ten. I'm sure people wonder how I can get all this done in such short order.

Surely experience has something to do with it. I've written a lot of ads in my time and have gotten pretty good at it. I also turn things over in my head a lot, thinking whenever I can, wherever I go.

But mostly, when one of these jams happen, I hide my phone in the clutter of my desk.

And instead of looking at my phone, I do the work I've been told to do.

I guess to simplify this down to a sentence or two: Put down your phone when you've got something to do. You'll be better at what you're doing when you just do one thing.

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