July was a busy travel month for me. I was out of the office more than I was in, with client trips to Austin, DC, San Antonio and Wichita. It was topped off by a great week in rural Maine for family vacation.
Thank goodness for cell phones with email and internet capabilities. Before cell phones, I'd always have dimes and quarters on me so I could access pay phones, which were on every corner in the city and readily available pretty much anywhere you went. I eventually got an AT&T calling card so I didn't have to carry change and keep adding coins as minutes would go by.
And then there's email. It's just about the first thing I look at (on my cell phone) when I get up, often before I brush my teeth. Since I get email on my phone, I find myself checking email while I'm walking in the city, while waiting for a light so I can cross the street... even in the elevator. (It's amazing how many emails you can read as you go up or down 11 floors.)
The phone's come in handy in places where I didn't have internet access, like on a recent Amtrak ride from NY to DC. I activated the phone's WiFi hotspot and, bingo, I had full internet access so I could work on my laptop during the ride.
All this is great, especially for smaller businesses that don't have legions of people back at the home office to cover us while we travel. Younger people may wonder what it must have been like in "the old days" before constant connectivity, and I often find myself talking with friends my age who recall the days of pay phones, costly long-distance calls, fax machines (originally called telecopiers). Somehow we managed, because everyone else had to function with the same limitations.
Constant connectivity means the days of 9 to 5 (or 8:30 - 6:30 for us agency folks) no longer exist. The office may shut its doors at 5:30, but business doesn't stop. How often do you see emails sent to you at crazy hours of the night, early morning or weekends? Many of us now work when we want to, or when a thought strikes us. If we get an email from someone at 10 at night and we hear the ping, we often check the message and respond on the spot. So much for 9 to 5.
During the vacation week in Maine, I handled my emails in the morning before we got started for the day. I'd check in to the office voicemail early and late in the day, and sometimes mid-day just to be sure there was nothing urgent. My clients have my cell number, and I had one client call during the week, which I was able to handle easily. And when the client realized I was on vacation, she said it could wait till I was back in New York.
So I'd say connectivity is both good and bad when you're in business. I realize we need to set our own limits on how connected and how accessible we want to be on our personal time. A few times, I made the decision to let a call or email wait, and I felt good about it.
I love work. But I also treasure my personal time, especially moments with my family. Those moments, as the ad says, are priceless and I try to keep that balance in mind.