Are You Becoming A Slave To Your PDA?

“Good afternoon Caldwell Tower, This is Seven-Six-Four-Charlie-Delta, with you at 3000 feet.”

“Seven-Six-Four-Charlie-Delta, please climb to 3500.”

“Climbing to 3500, Charlie-Delta.”

At any given time there may be over 200 airplanes in the airspace around New York City. And Caldwell Tower in nearby New Jersey has to direct a lot of them.

In fact, Caldwell Tower can’t take even a second of down time if it’s going to keep all those airplanes safe.

Has Your PDA Become The Control Tower For An Endless Stream Of Traffic?

If it has, you may need some regulation. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States has been regulating air traffic controller fatigue for decades. But when it comes to you and your PDA, there’s no one regulating your behavior but you.

Do you feel like you can’t take even a second of downtime from your work? Do you find yourself texting during dinner, or late at night? Does your spouse complain because you never spend much time together?

These are all signs that your PDA has wirelessly attached itself to your cerebral cortex. And you may want to reexamine how this setup is working for you.

Let’s Remember What A PDA Was Designed For

PDA stands for “Personal Digital Assistant.” Notice the word, “assistant” in the name of the device itself. The name is not, “Personal Digital Slave Master.”

Yet, this is the way we tend to treat our PDA’s. Like they are more important than any bit of personal life that we may have. When the phone rings, if it’s from work, no matter who we’re talking with in person, we interrupt to take the call.

When we’re at home, or out to dinner, do we ignore our text messages? Of course not. We wouldn’t want to miss a single thing. And yet we miss the very thing that we keep working for: our time off.

But Let’s Get Practical. How Does This Affect Your Work?

Have you noticed that your enthusiasm for work starts to wane when you are always tethered to your job? You get up to face another day, but your heart is not completely into it. The only down time that you may have had was sleep, and not enough of that.

When you’re at work trying to type up a big report, do you switch off your phone? Oh no. You let the endless stream of air traffic continue to use you as its central control tower.

You answer emails and text messages in between writing paragraphs, heck even in mid sentence, when you’re writing a big proposal. And you take almost all the calls, no matter how unimportant they may be.

In Essence You Tell The World, “I Am Your Most Obedient Servant”

And you back it up, by letting the demands of your PDA override your own plans time and time again.

This can drive you crazy. This can ruin your family life. And this can make you much less effective at your job.

So How Can You Find Balance?

Well, you can try tricks for managing your time. You can even bury your phone in the back yard in an attempt to get free.

But the problem is actually not your PDA, it’s what you’re believing about your PDA that’s holding you captive. And more importantly, what you’re believing about all those people who send you messages.

Until you question your stressful beliefs about these things, you will eventually cave in and break your “no usage” rules. Despite your best intentions, you will dig up the phone from your back yard and go back to the same old ways.

But When You Question What You Believe You Can Get Free

Take a look at your beliefs. For example, you may be assuming that your boss will get angry with you if you shut off your phone for two hours while you work on your big report. But is that really true? It’s possible that she would be upset, especially if you don’t tell her your plans ahead of time.

But in reality, your boss may be very happy that you’ve blocked off the time for such an important project.

And Don’t Stop There. Question Everything

Maybe you’re thinking that you’ll never be able to keep up with your email if you don’t check it all the time. Perhaps you think that you’ll lose a customer if you don’t pick up on the first ring. Maybe you believe that people won’t like you if you’re inattentive to their texts.

When you question all these things, you may find that customers are not as demanding as you think. You may find that your colleagues’ problems can sometimes wait.. And you may find that people like you for lots of other reasons besides your email etiquette.

This Questioning Can Open Up A Whole New World

When you question your stressful thoughts, you may find that you have options. You may find that you can set the rules. And you may find that people will respect you when you do.

So How Do You Question Your Beliefs?

The method that I use is called The Work of Byron Katie. It is a simple set of four questions and something called “turnarounds” that you can apply of any stressful thought. It’s easy to learn how to do The Work in detail on my website.

When you use The Work to question your stressful thoughts about your PDA, you may discover that the shackles of your slavery exist only in your mind.

But Will Questioning My Stressful Thoughts Make Me Become Complacent?

You may be thinking that by questioning your thoughts about your PDA, you will end up throwing it away, or ignoring it completely. And you may fear you’ll lose your job.

The Work does not promote complacency. The Work is simply a way for you to look more objectively at your situation. By questioning your stressful thoughts, you remove the blinders that have held you hostage.

And when you see things more clearly, you probably won’t throw your PDA away. Instead, you’ll start to use the PDA for what it was designed: to be your handy assistant.

When you question your stressful thoughts, you may find that that your PDA is a powerful tool in your hands, but it’s not your master.

I Had A Problem Like This Once

It wasn’t with a PDA. I didn’t own one at the time. Rather, I had a problem with email. I checked my email almost every minute. I couldn’t get through a project without getting distracted. And I felt like I was a slave to my inbox.

The solution to this problem came unexpectedly. One day I got frustrated at someone because she did not reply to my email promptly. I did The Work on the concept, “She should reply within 24 hours.”

And I Woke Up To What I Was Believing

As I went through the process of questioning this stressful thought, I started to see how I apply that very dogma to myself: “I have to reply within 24 hours.”

Except that I twisted it a bit so it came out something like this, “I have to reply within 24 minutes!” That thought is what made my email life so stressful.

Having questioned that thought, I now check email only two or three times a day. And I have a lot more time for uninterrupted work. That is the value of questioning stressful thoughts.


Your PDA is your digital assistant. It is there to serve your needs, not the other way around. And that’s all fine to say and hear. But you can’t force yourself to to live by the truth of it unless you question what you’re believing about it.

If you want to overcome your mental slavery, you have to question the assumptions that keep you tied to your PDA. Question anything that prevents you from leading a more balanced life.

The Work of Byron Katie is a way to systematically question these stressful thoughts.

Next Step

Here is an exercise. Download a One-Belief-At-A-Time Worksheet. For twenty minutes, switch off your PDA. On the worksheet, write down one reason why you have to be a slave to your PDA. Then, follow the instructions on the worksheet to question this concept.

After twenty minutes, when you are done, switch on your PDA again. You may find that this device seems a little less threatening than it did before you questioned your beliefs.

And You may notice that you don’t feel so obligated to be on call every hour of the day, as if you were an air traffic controller at Caldwell Tower.

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