Cognitive Load and the New Phone



Dear Russell & Friends,

I mentioned my weekend adventure to the Apple store in the last post.  The day before I had gone to fix the battery problem on the iPhone 5.  If your phone powers down suddenly with apparent battery life left, check this link as we’re close to the end of the recall window.  They were efficient and repaired the phone.  I left with a great hand-me-down for P3 and . . . and iPhone 6.  Mrs. Pascal is groaning in the other room.  I really can not be trusted in an Apple store.

I used the store’s super-fast wi-fi to restore my data to the new phone through iCloud.  It worked really well and as far as I know there is little missing.  My wordpress e-mail populated correctly as did our home account.  Where was the work e-mail?  Hmm…  It did not import well.  No worries.  We have a tech desk at work with friendly people who would be able to re-establish the connection.  Family, blog community, work contact in my pocket all the time.

The weekend went on.  I knew when we had new followers here or when a comment deserved a read or reply and I knew when our home schedule needed to be revisited, revised or refreshed.  But why did the volume seem less?  Why did I feel like I had extra breathing room?  I checked the work e-mail once on Saturday, once on Monday morning as I wrote here.  In aggregate perhaps 20 messages — things slow down on the weekends.  Then I parked in my Star Wars space at work (far, far away) and walked in thinking.

Do I really want e-mail back on the phone?  I have a desktop computer and check e-mail several times during the day.  I am accessible to my closest colleagues and bosses by text message.  Do I want the cavalcade of 5, 17, 23 superscripts advancing through the day and demanding my attention?  I asked my closest colleagues – – so, what effect would it have on you if I no longer had e-mail available while I was away from the desk?  You could still text.  They smiled and shrugged – – “honestly Pascal, we don’t need you as much as you think we do” – – I’m liberalizing the response, but that was the gist.

So. I. Didn’t.  My whole life has not changed.  My walks up the stairs have.  I think and pray and don’t risk life and limb to watch the e-mail ticker rise.  My attention is not commanded.  There is cognitive margin. Cognitive load theory comes to us from education literature and is fairly simple:  your amazing computer has limited working memory.  You can’t multitask nearly as well as you think.

Family stay on the phone.  You here stay on the phone (I still risk life and limb reading on the stairs – – writing, not so much).  I don’t consider these streams to be a load or a burden, but a joy and a calling.  Work will wait for me to get back to the desk when I can focus and answer well.  Sigh.  Smile.  Panic attack?



photo credit:  Russell’s screenshot (actual) – – let us take a moment of silence for Russell & hope that he knows to read this.





  1. Oh, and I didn’t realize he was down to the triple digits! Someone has gotten some work done during nights of insomnia!

    And just so everyone knows, the vast majority of those emails are from some Geek News Source and have subject lines saying something like “Attention geeks:”. The messages say something like “A geeky thing just happened in the tech world that all you geeks should be really, really excited about” or “This famous geek just tweeted this geeky thing! Geeks read it now!”

    He actually checks the work emails and the emails from all of you—priority inboxes help a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Haha. Very true, my love. The real count is much closer to 30,000 unread. I just set up a limit on how many will stay on my phone at any time. Actually, I do sometimes miss the WordPress ones. Yes, I need a new strategy. 🙂


  2. I recently got a new smart phone after having a blast from the 90s past for a few months. My old one had broke and I had an opportunity for a much bigger upgrade if I went without for a few months. So I did.

    It was amazing. Not having the ability to constantly check-in with email or media of any kind made a big change. I couldn’t look something up spur of the moment, texting was a nightmare, I didn’t know if my chat friends had chatted. It was a pain in a lot of ways, though my battery life was astounding. But it also helped me realize just how often I didn’t need to check it, how relieved I was that I wasn’t being paged by notifications all day long. I noticed more, lived more in the moment.

    I know exactly the weight that is now off your shoulders. It’s a tightrope life, but I’ve found balance is a bit easier with the knowledge of what I can leave behind.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so glad you’re here! What should we call you? Others call you Muggle – – I think your writing is plenty magic (come back often for more cheesy puns).

      “I know exactly the weight that is now off your shoulders. It’s a tightrope life, but I’ve found balance is a bit easier with the knowledge of what I can leave behind.”

      I agree with your conclusion. Balance is a constant concern and something I often get wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok, if you get an e-mail of a comment of mine don’t read it on the stairs – it can wait. 🙂

    I’ve always found it really good to leave my work at work. Luckily I have a job that allows for that most of the time.

    Liked by 2 people


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