off means off

To continue my series of posts on things I have learned from the past 29 years of failures, I am going to tackle the topic of “off.” In the case of this particular learning, I have to say that I have failed much more often than I have succeeded. And continue to do so.

Our lives seem to get busier by the day, and thanks to modern gadgets like smartphones, laptops and ipads, it is so easy to never truly disconnect. Personally, it’s something I struggle with more than most. The problem with not disconnecting and constantly thinking or doing two things at once is that at some point you forget how to live in the moment. Once you forget to live in the moment, you stop enjoying the small things in life. If that happens, good luck trying to find happiness. You’ll be forever dependent on major moments of success and once they happen, you’ll stop appreciating the moment a new tweet flies by.

While such might sound a bit apocalyptic, I believe it to be true.

Here are some examples of situations moments and situations that I will never get back.

  • Being on your laptop while watching a movie with your girlfriend.
  • Doing other things while talking to someone on the phone.
  • Bringing your iPhone (with which came my work email) on a camping trip.
  • Keeping my iPhone turned on while having coffee with a friend.
  • Responding to text messages under the table during dinner.
  • Tweeting while being at an MLB playoff game live with one of your best friends.
  • Pretending like I use my iPad to take notes in a meeting.
  • Being on Facebook while trying to write this damn blog entry.

Those are just some examples, but you get the point. I constantly get distracted by technology when I could actually have a meaningful conversation, be productive or just enjoy the moment. For some people technology enables human interaction, rather than distract from it. Unfortunately, such is not the case for me. At all. I have zero self control and left to my own devices, I will live blog my own wedding.

Recognizing my own shortcomings, I am constantly trying new things to control my mind and attention from wondering. I am still not good at it, but off means off and here is what I do to be one step closer towards being one step closer towards eternal focus.

No lighted screens after 11pm

All lighted screens must be off after 11pm. No more TV, computer, Internet  or iPad. This rule refers to lighted screens as reading on my Kindle is legit. This helps me wind down at the end of the day.

Turning off my phone whenever I hang out with someone

Generally speaking I will not bring my cell phone when hanging out with other people. I usually just put it into silent mode and leave it at home or in the car. And then I forget about it, which has resulted into to the sad fact that I answer about 1 out of 10 phone calls.

Getting a corded landline phone

A few weeks ago, I got a corded landline phone. So if I ever call you with my New York number (don’t ask), I am ready to talk. Having a corded telephone forces me to be in one spot, which means I am not doing the dishes, surfing the web or cleaning the litter box while talking to you.

No work email on my iPhone

This rule has been in effect ever since Bill Cosby’s manager nearly ruined my Kauai vacation.

Not bringing my phone on training rides

It would actually be much safer to always have my cell phone on my during my long training rides. But that would mean I would be taking pictures, checking my email and tweeting dumb jokes while training for the most important race of my life. Being out there with only my own thoughts can be complete bliss, which I am not willing to ruin.

No alerts of any kind

I don’t receive alerts of any kind. No meeting reminders, no to-dos and no mail notifications. I’ll check those things when I think it’s time to check them. Unfortunately, that means I miss a horrendously large number of meetings, deliverables and sometimes it takes me a couple of days to answer my email.  Oh well.

Please note, that I am still really bad at staying focused on anything. But these measures help, and every day I try to improve at becoming a better friend, co-worker, and son.

Off means off.

And when you’re doing something, that’s all you should be doing.


  1. Anonymous June 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    As a 20th century guy myself, I hope it works out for you – just be prepared for all of the taunts about being old…

  2. Anonymous June 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Hey Mario, I feel your pain! I don’t have my work email on my iphone as well and i refuse to carry a work phone or put my work email on my phone. Nothing is so important that I can’t take care of it in a few hours when I get somewhere to actually log in to my email. I’m with you on thinking that all the gadgetry of modern life is making it nearly impossible to slow your mind down and think clearly. Sometimes I catch myself watching TV purley because i’m so used to looking at a screen, in fact sometimes i’m just flipping through the channels over and over with no real clue what i’m even looking for, it’s just sort of a habit to be “watching something”. I’ve definately been trying to unplug more and more lately though, even tossed in some meditation music and tried the whole meditation thing. It’s amazing how truley chaotic your mind really is when you can’t even really focus on meditating for more than 5 seconds without your mind wondering off or thinking about something else.

  3. Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 3:37 am

    This reminds me of something I saw recently on It talks about the surprising benefits of daydreaming and the benefits of turning off. It’s sort of a debate on whether or not the internet is a blessed piece of technology…or something that’s just making us lazy, stupid and ADD-like. Conference: The New Yorker Festival 2010 – Your Brain on the Internet: Digital Intelligence

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