Finding Time for Yourself, Your Family, and Your PDA

Analyst Analogy   

In the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise's character—a workaholic sports agent—decides that he’s had enough of trying to sign as many athletes as possible with his “show me the money” attitude and opts instead for fewer athletes on his roster where he will create a more “personal relationship” with them. He decides to write what he calls his “mission statement”—hoping the other sports agents in his organization will follow suit with his idea. Instead he gets fired!

The point I’m trying to make here is that Jerry felt that if he proposed this idea to others like him (those in his chosen field), that it would resonate well with the others and that he could make a “difference” in the way they do business. This is what I plan to accomplish with this blog; make a difference to our readers by merely suggesting (through a mission statement of sorts) to find more time for the things that really matter.

So here’s “my mission statement”—the miniature version that is. Hopefully it won’t find me packing up my personal belongings once it gets published.

As a Managing Research Analyst for TEC, my job (among other things) is to write about the latest advances in technology. Part of the reason for creating this type of content is to help our readers (often IT decision makers) understand the importance of embracing technology—especially if they want to be successful in business. But there’s the other side of me who is a wife and a mother who understands the need—and the importance—of balancing work time and family time.

Sherry, Meet Jerry

Being connected to our colleagues, suppliers, customers, etc., is an important part of business. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) have allowed us to do this more easily. PDAs (such as Palms, Pocket PCs, etc.), or combination PDA/cell phones (such as the SmartPhone, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) have changed the way we do business. Because of its unique size, taking your PDA wherever you go—which often includes bringing it to bed with you—has become much more convenient than using a laptop—but not necessarily more efficient. Not to mention, there are certain issues associated with using PDAs--some of which are operational, while there are others which are considered more social in nature.

It’s fairly evident these days that people need to be connected (especially in the workplace). No matter where you are, business men and women are on their cell phones, text messaging, listening to their MP3 players, and eating their breakfast—often all at the same time. Additionally, children (many under the age of 16) are increasingly over stimulated by the use of electronic gadgets like MP3 players, iPods, iTouches, Smartphones, or gaming devices like Nintendo DS, Gameboy, and more. And like their adult counterparts, children have become electronic multi-taskers—surfing the Web while text messaging their friends, listening to music, and watching TV. Statistics show that 8 to 18 year olds devote a little more than seven and a half hours a day using entertainment media.

So, whatever happened to playing outside, reading a book, or spending time together as a family? I personally think that there’s a lot of good to using PDAs for work, but when they start taking over my personal life, that’s where I draw the line.

PDA Pros and Cons 

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using PDAs for everyday use (business or otherwise).



Operational – for business purposes

Information available at your fingertips The smaller screen jeopardizes ease-of-use
Can often recognize your hand writing, which makes entering notes much easier than using a keyboard Handwriting recognition or—for example—Palm's Grafitti systems rarely approach the same input speeds as keyboard users
Data is more secure Easily broken if dropped
Boot time is very fast Compatibility issues with certain models
Has a long battery life Need to constantly recharge; must travel with recharging cord or cradle
Compact, portable, and lightweight; requires little space when in use Its size and portability makes it easy to lose (which can put your data at risk of getting into the wrong hands)
It is a computer with a powerful processor and quite a bit of memory (often 8-128 Mb) Limited video playback capability; no Flash support
Allows you to run various kinds of software applications that are available for download Touch screen can cause you to accidently delete stuff without knowing
Can be connected to your PC for data or file exchange; can talk directly to other PDAs via infrared signals or more commonly Bluetooth technology Connecting a PDA to other electronic devices often requires additional PDA accessories or special software for downloading data (at additional costs)
Greatly reduces the amount of paper (document and reference printouts, various notes) you need to shuffle and carry around Inputting large amounts of data without a standard keyboard can be tedious; not ideally suited for taking lots of notes or performing a lot of text input

Social – for personal use

Helps us to be more organized with the ability to set up calendars, create to do lists, organize contacts, and more. Unconfirmed statistics show that extended use of electronic devices (most significantly cellular phones) and exposure to the electromagnetic energy they emit may be harmful to our health
With thousands of downloadable applications, it can be great for travelling (e.g., learning a new language, using conversion calculators for currency, measurements, etc.) People (children included) can develop addictive relationships with these devices; often having symptoms of withdrawal or becoming miserable or jittery when not using them
Readily available for entertaining your kids when you need a little time to unwind; (but 30 minutes should be the maximum) Texting or listening to music with headphones while driving, walking, or biking can cause accidents
Carry your personal photos to show family and friends rather than bringing photo albums which can be cumbersome Being “plugged in” (juggling our electronic devices) all the time can cause stress; and people often suffer neck, shoulder, and joint pain (especially in the hands and wrists) from over texting

Some Crazy Statistics

  • 84% of people check their PDAs just before bed and as soon as they wake up

  • 85% peek at their PDAs in the middle of the night

  • one survey found that over a third of Smartphone users would pick their BlackBerry over their significant other if they had to choose one to live without

  • a new study conducted at the University of Maryland (Students Addicted to Social Media) asked 200 students to abstain from using all media for 24 hours.  After the 24 hours of abstinence, the students were asked to blog about their experiences. Among the results derived from these responses—among other interesting facts that were found—was that most 21 year old college students were constantly texting and on Facebook—while calling and e-mailing were a distant second as ways of staying in touch

The Bottom Line 

So what does all this boil down to? Use your PDA when you absolutely need to. Make an impression at work when you’re close to sealing that big deal (because you had all the right numbers, sales figures, etc. readily available when the client called). But make an impression at home too and take some time outside the office to unplug and find time for what's really important: your family, your friends, and reconnecting with yourself.

Better yet, get the whole family involved by dedicating one weekend a month to “turning off” (your gadgets) and “tuning in” to one another. You’ll be glad you did.
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