Unplug and Connect

Laptops, and tablets, and smartphones, oh my! When technology and constant connectivity begin to hinder organizational productivity, get your groove back by going “old school.”


If you’re going to attend a meeting, you really should be present.

Of the things that cross my mind while watching a children’s movie, having a work-related epiphany usually isn’t among them. If you can even call that an epiphany.

More like common sense, right?


Yet another Pixar-animated masterpiece, this one focusing on humans laying waste to the Earth, an industrious little robot trying to clean up the mess, a love story, and an adventure. Forget that roughly the first half of this movie included only a handful of spoken lines—a grand achievement in visual storytelling—the latter half is what spurred this analogy.

You see, we learn that due to hundreds of years in space, humans now have low bone density, which causes them to remain in chairs all day, stare at computer screens, and barely interact with each other.

…stare at computer screens and barely interact with each other.

Sound familiar? I think most of us can relate:

Sitting in a meeting with multiple coworkers—perhaps across different disciplines—while the majority (if not all) of attendees are focused not on the meeting organizer or presenter, but squarely on their laptops, fingers tapping away feverishly.

Taking notes? Perhaps (we’ll get to that momentarily). But equally as probable:

Checking work email…?
Revising a PowerPoint deck…?
Checking personal email…?
Engaging with social media…?

You get the point.

It may not be the end of the world. But. It. Is. Wildly. Inefficient.

And it’s not just me, there are studies that back this up!

You probably could’ve surmised this, but yes, research shows that laptops have a tendency to be distracting. And when it comes to taking notes during meetings, even though people can type faster than they write, a separate study found that the more words people copied verbatim, the worse they performed on recall tests. The fact that we have to be slower when taking notes by hand is what aids in comprehension and retention.

Listen, I’m old school. I like paper and printouts. And for meetings, unless I need to access files or project from my laptop, I arrive with only a notebook and pen in hand. And no, I didn’t fund the aforementioned studies.

But what I did do was have a simple, but logical thought:

If you call the meeting, you call the shots.

So, for the next few meetings after that WALL-E viewing, if I was the organizer, I stated “NO LAPTOPS” in the email invite. It felt refreshing to type, but I did wonder how this would be received. Would there be email responses to the contrary? Would coworkers disregard my plea? Would Skynet delete that portion of the email?

Nope. Instead, we engaged in a robust discussion, achieved the meeting objectives, and finished a few minutes early.

Every time I’ve used this approach.

This meeting method may not be for everyone. And working at a digital agency, expecting people to always take handwritten notes will cause someone to proclaim, “Does not compute!” right before their processor and display driver burn out. (Kidding…sorta)

Yes, I understand the irony of touting a “NO LAPTOPS” approach when that is the very tool I used to create this post. But I can assure you, it’s effective. I also assure you, as I’ve been typing feverishly, that I’ve been equally, if not more so, distracted by my television this whole time.

I guess I could’ve finished this sooner if I turned the movie off.

So…never mind.


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