1.10.2011

What I learned when AT&T disabled my DSL service for nearly six days. And why I still like them.



I've been using AT&T for all my communications needs for......well, decades.  Home lines, home DSL, studio voice and business DSL, and a couple of cellphones.  Recently, my long distance service got slammed by some creepy firm that specializes in shady practices.  When I saw the charge on my phone line I called AT&T.  They were great.  They investigated and disallowed all the charges.  But it made me re-think all the $$ I spend on these services.  A cellphone and a business line for a one person business?  Made sense when clients actually called on the phone but now everything is an e-mail or a text.

I called the business office back and asked them to discontinue the voice line into the studio.  I'd save nearly $100 a month.  They were to convert the DSL service to a "dry loop."  It should have been a slam dunk but it wasn't.  They got rid of the voice line okay but somehow the DSL service fell into the void.  That was last Wednesday.  Now it's monday and service has just been restored.

To their credit, everyone I spoke with at AT&T was competent and highly motivated to make sure I was taken care of, happy and patient.  The actual techs who came to the studio figured out the problem in under five minutes.  For a company that gets routinely slammed online I found their service and customer service demeanor to be absolutely great.  One reason to keep them in my vendor list.

Now my communications waistline is a bit thinner.  I'm practicing my texting and maybe I'll love that too.  But it was calming and reassuring to know that our home DSL was unaffected and that home is only fifteen steps from the front door of the studio.  Maybe that's why I didn't step over the line and become "one of those customers."

So,  what was the positive takeaway of nearly a week without high speed access to the web at my fingertips?  What did I learn without instant communications from the starship "VisualScienceLab?"
I learned that, without visual candy at my ready disposal, I was able to sit down and work on a project from beginning to end without even a glance away from the work screen.  Just this morning I retouched a bunch of stuff, wrote two bids and edited 700 images, placing them into two different online galleries.

Coincidentally Seth Godin wrote one of his short and obvious blogs to tell us that someone who receives and responds to 27,000 texts a month is a victim of resistance.  Duh! Seth.

But really, we've become acculturated to receiving information indiscriminately during our work days and we generally feel compelled to respond in real time.  What this does is serially and frequently interrupt our workflows.  Being isolated (the nature of being a freelancer) we tend to hold on to the communications we receive as a gesture of validation of our existence.  But what it really does is keep us rooted to our chairs or our smartphones, in a constant hold pattern.

I spent more time with the family over the weekend.  I checked e-mail less often.  I didn't surf the web. Instead I went for walks with friends.  Met clients for coffee.  Worked on my book.  And just relaxed.
Now I feel a different sense of calm than I did when I started the week, last week.  Even my overwhelming coffee habit seemed to have abated when my web access was restricted.

Talk about increasing productivity!!!!!  I guess what I'm saying here is that we need to individually reappraise just what the real pay off of social marketing, web surfing and facebook posting really adds to our bottom lines and our enjoyment of real life.  We can always "be" someone on the net.  Can we step up and be a real someone in real life?

Try turning off the stuff and see what happens.  You can always turn it back on.

8 comments:

James.M said...

Maybe you should give Freedom a run:
http://macfreedom.com/

kirk tuck said...

Thanks James. I won't show this to my wife or son because I'm sure they'll rush to order it and install it on all my machines without telling me.........

Dave Jenkins said...

But--but--I'll feel so alone!

Paula said...

Nice post. Glad ATT's customer service isn't all bad as they say it is and good for you to make the most of your time without service. ps. I work for ATT but not in customer service thank goodness. :)

Robert said...

I have that love hate relationship with the internet. its so convenient, but i would still love to live back when only super geeks used it.

I was also curious why you didn't share your DSL between the home and studio, wouldn't having one line save you money?

Tobias Key said...

I think that this type of experience or sentiment has a in common with photographers who want to return to the darkroom. I'm never totally sure has to do with the results as the experience of working in a focussed non multi-tasking way. In the dark room there are no distractions save for perhaps some music in the background. A lot of the process demands that you can't answer the phone or emails, just have to deal with what you have in front of you. When the same photographers say their darkroom prints are better than inkjets. How much of that is down to the technical aspects of each process and how much down to the fact that most people work in a state of constant distraction on a computer?

kirk tuck said...

Sharing is highly overrated. When you're running a business it's comforting to know that when something does go down you have a back up. Like carrying a second camera body in your bag......

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

... But really, we've become acculturated to receiving information indiscriminately during our work days and we generally feel compelled to respond in real time. What this does is serially and frequently interrupt our workflows. Being isolated (the nature of being a freelancer) we tend to hold on to the communications we receive as a gesture of validation of our existence. But what it really does is keep us rooted to our chairs or our smartphones, in a constant hold pattern. ...

Couldn't agree more. So many people these days are addicted to their cell phone, to their email, to their FaceBook, etc etc. They're constantly distracted. I count myself in that too ... It's hard not to be distracted when there's always so much stuff hitting your eyes and ears every moment.

I turn off everything for periods of the day, every day, so I can think and work in peace. I get lots done in those times. And I turn the world back on at my discretion, not at its. I'm much more useful to others this way. ;-)