Step Away From the Phone

photo by  Sharon Suh

photo by Sharon Suh

Heading a start-up is a non-stop job…at least, it is for me at the current stage of Fitz.  I find myself glued to the phone much of the time – reading and returning emails, creating and approving social media content, responding to customer and investor questions… it never ends. When my weekly app shows me how many hours I’ve spent each day on my phone, I cringe.  At least I’m wearing my blue light Fitz glasses to protect my eyes and protect the short sleep cycles I manage to squeeze in. :) (End of shameless plug.)

But, what makes me cringe even more than my weekly phone log is when my kids notice how much time I’m on my phone.  In responding to MOMMY GET OFF YOUR PHONE, I can (and have made) a million excuses. While all legitimate (Mommy’s working, talking to friends/family that live across the country, emailing your teacher, etc.), I know my kids won’t remember these excuses.  They will remember seeing me nose-deep in my phone, not listening to them or constantly preoccupied with things that seem more important. PS – the same goes for not neglecting your spouse while running a startup – blog to come…

Kids know you’re on the phone even when you might not think so– my daughter asked why I was on my phone at one of her basketball games when I was writing a work email. Oops.  And we’ve all had the occasional lapse of attention that’s ended badly… at a playground, I looked down to text a friend, missed my daughter’s fall from the monkey bars and ended up in the emergency room without being able to say exactly what happened.  While parents obviously need to use their phone for work or pleasure sometimes (we can’t be always be offline), there are enough hours in the day to occasionally unplug and focus on being together.

To remind myself of this, I’ve created a few rules for myself to put the phone down and give my full attention to my kids. Not rocket science, just conscious ways to separate myself from my phone.

After work – I leave the phone in the other room so that playtime, games, baths, etc. remain uninterrupted. Ditto for family dinners – if we are home, I put the phone away.  If we are out together, I leave the phone at home. This not only prevents me from looking at my phone, it also removes the temptation to let the kids play on it at the restaurant. My kids still love to play 20 questions, go around the table and name something in a category quickly and do pretend interviews where they get to be silly.

Driving – I never want my kids to see me texting and driving for fear this will become learned behavior. When I am able to pick my kids up from school, it’s usually the best time of day to connect with them and hear what’s happening in their social lives - a lesson I learned from child expert, Donna Holloran. I try to not overwhelm them with questions and put my phone on do not disturb when we are  on the road.

Another rule I’m trying to employ - checking email only twice a day (yeesh).  This is a tip I received from entrepreneurial guru and general badass Robyn Ward supported by the theory that you will be productive by devoting only two periods a day to read and respond to emails.  I haven’t mastered this yet, but am working on it as I think it could yield great results if I dedicate my time and attention in this very focused way.

Don’t get me wrong, phones aren’t all bad (my entire business is based on using one!); but these small changes I’ve made have made my kids complain less and talk to me more.  I may not be able to completely control my crazy schedule yet, but at least I can protect my time at home with them.


- Heidi