Take a Break From Information Overload

The other day, I was waiting for a train to get into the city. As I sat in the waiting room, I noticed that every adult, including me, was on their BlackBerry. I wasn’t surprised, since the train was late, with no hope of coming. I’m sure we were all tweeting about how annoyed we were. I was.

Ruthanne Terrero

Included in this group of Tweeters was a young mother, whose daughter stood and watched her as she typed into her BlackBerry. Once in a while, the mother would look at the girl absently and say, “Are you all right?” and then go back to her PDA.

I felt pretty bad. The little girl had a smile on her face but I’m sure she had no idea as to why her mother was favoring a small metal device with a keyboard over her.

When I got on the train, I continued to obsess with my BlackBerry, but instead of typing e-mails, I decided to read The New York Times. Wouldn’t you know, one of the technology features of the day was entitled “Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime.” Basically, it cited the behavior I’d just noticed, and in which I was engaging. The writer described a woman who would use her iPod, her iPhone and watch TV, all while she was exercising. The article also told of a man on line at a bagel shop whose BlackBerry-typing was interrupted only when the woman behind the counter asked what he wanted to order.

The point of the article was that we’re all using our devices to fill in every tiny little gap of downtime and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Turns out, the brain needs a little rest once in a while, to resolve issues and think things through.

I wasn’t surprised to hear it. How often have you had to let a problem go unresolved, simply because you didn’t have an answer to it, only to wake up the next morning and figure out a solution when your mind was relaxed and clear?

I wonder how this trend impacts travel advisors; most of you are already on computers all day, going through the GDS to book and research travel. But, have you added to your online time by checking your messages when you stop at a red light? Do you find yourself trying to resolve complicated travel issues while briefly waiting for a table at a restaurant?

Here’s the big giveaway: When you’re at dinner, or at a meeting, do you step away to check your messages under the guise of going to the lavatory?

While that’s fine for an urgent issue that needs to be resolved, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to finalize that grand European tour for a client successfully with just 60 seconds available to you. That’s what good old-fashioned desk time is for. Remember, giving yourself a break from all the information that’s constantly coming in to you is a good thing. It’s tough to tear away from it, I know, but you’ve got to let your mind have some imaginative time so you can create dream itineraries for your clients.

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