Shirley's Articles / Email Essentials

Focus On The Present, Not Your Phone!

When it first became possible to have email delivered directly to your mobile phone, I thought “Why would anyone want to do that?” I swore I would never do it. Of course, it wasn’t long before I gave in and joined the trend. Whenever I was away from my computer, I would check my mail at any opportunity – in taxis, in lifts, after a meeting, at a coffee shop, at lunch with friends, when listening to a presentation or attending a conference, even when having reflexology. I also used to check mail regularly in an evening when enjoying some down time after work while having dinner and watching TV. OK, I will even risk total embarrassment by telling you I sometimes read mail on my phone when I woke up in the middle of the night! How crazy is that?! Does any of this sound familiar?

Twelve days ago, all this changed. I was having lunch with a visiting speaker, Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking. Darren was telling me he checks his email once a day and there’s no way he would ever have email on his mobile phone. I argued that sometimes I’m out all day in meetings and it helps to keep checking on what’s happening. (Come to think of it though, I would rarely reply on my phone, because I prefer to sit at my computer and compose a well-structured reply, thus avoiding further ‘ding-dong’ that results from messages that aren’t thought out properly.)

Darren had caught me checking email during my lunch with him, and commented that I obviously wasn’t fully focusing on the present or enjoying my lunch or his company.

Reflecting on his comment, I realised that when I checked my email during a conference, I wasn’t fully in the present gaining value from the speaker’s presentation. When I checked email during a reflexology session, I wasn’t gaining the full benefit of the massage because my mind was thinking about my email. Darren also pointed out that I’m reading my messages twice – once on the phone, and then again when I get home on the computer. “No wonder you’re stressed!” he said. It was all very interesting food for thought, literally!

As Darren and I were talking, he asked me what I tell participants in my business writing and email workshops. I smiled with embarrassment, and told him the truth – in every workshop, I tell people that we are adding to the stress that email has already brought upon us. We are increasing our own stress levels by carrying email around in our pockets or our purses. I always put up my hand and say, “Guilty!” but I have never told people not to do it. And I consider myself a business writing and email expert? How ironic is that?

“Delete the email settings from your phone,” Darren said. I knew I should, but could I do it? I was surprised at my reaction. I started to cry. Tears literally streamed down my face. I passed my phone to him and said, “You do it!” He took my phone and did the deed. Of course I cried even more! It was like an epiphany moment for me! “Now,” he said, “you can tell your participants why you did it and how it feels. You really will be walking your talk!”

When I told a friend this news, he said “I’ll give it four days max!” He was convinced I’d give in and put back the email settings on my phone. It’s now been 12 (yes, 12!) days and I still feel great about my decision. The day after this transformation I attended a conference and I really felt the difference. I was able to focus on each speaker’s presentation and be fully present. At lunch-time I was able to enjoy the company of new friends. While walking around the exhibition area I was able to focus, enjoy the environment and meet people. In the taxi I could sit back and reflect on all that had happened during the day. When I got home, I checked my mail and I realised the world hadn’t fallen apart while I wasn’t connected to email, my business hadn’t collapsed, and there was nothing that couldn’t have waited till I got home.

It’s been 12 days, and so far so good. I’m looking forward to conducting my two-day public workshop Powerful Business Writing Skills later this week. I shall take great pride in telling my participants about my epiphany moment, and asking them who’s going to join me in easing their stress and learning how to make the most of the present.

I will continue monitoring what happens while I’m away from my desk. So far I am much more focused and ‘in the present’. When I am at lunch with friends I enjoy their company (and the lunch) more. When I am having reflexology, I totally enjoy the relaxing massage. When I’m attending a presentation, I listen to the speaker and interact with the audience. When I’m walking through the Botanic Gardens I enjoy the environment. When I’m watching TV I give myself permission to relax and focus on doing something other than working.

Oh yes, and I’m having some really great sleeps!

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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