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Don’t Touch That Phone!

April 21, 2014

I read this opinion article from CNN about the amount of people who reach for their phones as soon as they wake up and the detriments of that action. As a Stage Manager, I am extremely guilty and have fought the urge to pick up my phone for the past year now. I recognized that whenever I looked to see if I got emails, texts, or calls, I couldn’t let things end there before making tea, showering, and eating breakfast. Before I tossed the covers off, I had to go further and find out who was contacting me and why. It would bother me if I didn’t satiate this curiosity. More often than not, I’d open the email or text and the message would be something that instantly caused worry, stress, anxiety, frustration, or annoyance – sometimes all the above. And then I couldn’t stop myself from dealing with whatever I read. Fortunately, if I responded, it was in a professional and level headed manner. But the damage to my psyche and start of day was done. Every time I look back on each circumstance, I realized that none of it was so urgent that it couldn’t wait until I had showered, had my cup of tea, and read the morning news.

So, I made a vow: don’t touch my phone until I have done my morning ritual. I only got as far as turning my phone on to see how many messages arrived but I managed to stop myself right there. And I did rather well until last week.

It was at the witching hour of 4:30a that I happened to wake up and couldn’t fall back asleep. I looked at my phone to see what time it was, saw an email waiting for me and in my tired state, opened it. It was a message from a Stage Manager who I bent over backwards to work with in trying to get them to come back for another summer season. A few weeks after getting a decisive answer from them (which I was happy to hear was a yes) this SM emailed me saying that they had to back out of the summer season due to another opportunity that conflicted and couldn’t be worked around. Normally I would be happy that this person is doing something exciting and it was longer term and lucrative. But at 4:30a and after having a hard enough time getting this person to originally say yes, I was not in the best of spirits. From that point, my brain would not shut off as I thought about who else I knew that might be available and would be the right person to SM the tricky set of personalities in the production. After 90 minutes of this unhelpful thought process, I got out of bed and went about starting my day. I at least didn’t respond back to the SM until later when I was more awake and peaceful. But still, the damage was done because I did not resist picking up my phone.

In some ways, this was a good thing to have happen because it reminded me why I started putting boundaries in place in terms of where work and home life collide. That is hard for a Stage Manager to do. We are trained to instantly act on things so that the process keeps moving forward and that no one is waiting on us. As one gets older, you realize that it doesn’t have to be this way – and I wish this is something that gets brought up more to young, up and coming SMs: understanding priorities and when to act upon them. The first step to learn is that when you wake up each morning: Don’t Touch That Phone! Whatever is waiting for you out there can bloody well wait until you have properly woken up. And it’s true, if it’s an absolute emergency, it can make a phone call to you. Make sure your cast and production teams know that. It won’t make you any less of a Stage Manager (or Director, Actor, Technician, Designer, etc.) If anything, it will make you better and more professional because you owe it to your colleagues and yourself to address things when you are fresh, alert, and in a good state of mind.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Sarah Louise Lilley permalink
    May 2, 2014 6:09 pm

    Love this!! I googled and found the CNN article that inspired your post too. I never have my phone in the bedroom but I fall out of bed and go right to the kitchen and stand for 5minutes checking my emails. Today I got out of bed, had coffee and breakfast, wrote my goals for the day THEN checked my phone. SO MUCH BETTER! Thanks!

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