Things that Operate 24 Hours a Day

What do we take for granted 24 hours a day? In New York, the city that never sleeps (unless it snows real hard or Irene passes by) nearly everything and the subway system is one. Tropical Storm Irene is probably the only single event that has brought the entire system to a halt last fall.

Now repairs to the system shut down entire lines for five nights in a row leaving commuters in the 10 or even 100 thousands stranded for a week if they work night or early morning shifts. For most of us a 10 PM to 5 AM closure is merely annoying and might result in a big taxi bill for a night or two, but what if you are one of so many people who offer services and goods the “other 16 hours” of the day and depend on night schedule from public transport, to shopping, customer service and recreation? How many percent of the working force are they? What support do they get to get to work in time to serve us our first coffee at the deli when we run to the subway, or relieve us from a midnight craving of sushi? Pick up our garbage and prepare the morning news?

One thing we always can count on is the internet – at all hours, all the time, and (nearly) everywhere. That is: until now. I just goggled Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)  and Protect IP Act (PIPA) and as you might have noticed I hyperlinked them to Wikipedia. If you click on those links as of midnight tonight (1/18/12 and for the next 24 hours) they will NOT be operational. Incidentally Wikipedia will suspend operation to protest SOPA and PIPA. And Wikipedia will not be alone Reddit, MoveOn, BoingBoing, the Cheezburger Network, and FailBlog among others will join in the black out. Both SOPA and PIPA are bills slated to be passed (or not) in Congress. The New York Times has a very relevant article on the topic should you need some freshening up. The key sentence, a quote from Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit: “[…] it’s not a battle between Hollywood and tech, its people who get the Internet and those who don’t.”

Ok, so back to things that operate for 24 hours. We tend to think we need to always be available. Response times have to be under an hour. With email, text, Skype and face time (phones are now near antiquated), and our many “i ”Devices we connected at all times. I find myself hanging my head off my bed in the morning after turning off the alarm clock to totally sleep drunken look at my iPad or BlackBerry I left on the floor besides my bed (and it also gives me the right distance to read without my reading glasses), to make sure I haven’t missed anything while sleeping.

Do we really work more and are available more, or do we just push our work around the work week or calendar year to end up doing maybe even less than when we showed up at 9 AM and left at 5 PM and had worked with less technical distractions? Where is our focus? How much time do we have to dedicate to one task without interruption?

My sister said to me the other day: “I’m open for business from 7 AM to 8 PM”. I thought she was kidding until I realized that those were her hours of operation as mother, daughter, and employee. After 8 PM she wanted to be left alone, kid in bed and no more work or planning sessions – “CLOSED” sign on her forehead. Might not be a bad idea to set boundaries where there are often none (especially in the mother and daughter category). I solved the issue differently – I moved a six hour time difference away from my family and that decimates the family-operating hours. As for the vendor, friend and buddy-hours – I’m working on those.

I personally have a hard time with the “all or nothing” stance that I still see a lot in Europe even in management positions. I never forget the German producer who announced, as we were wrapping out a 13-part series of one-hour TV show, that she would go on vacation the next day for three weeks with no access to phone or email. I don’t think I’ve ever wrapped a job faster and gotten the final invoice for her approval submitted that quickly.

I’d rather check my email daily while traveling and spend a few hours a week taking care of some of the email bulk so when I get back I’m not buried in a sea of emails and pending potential disasters. Being a small business owner of course also means that I can’t disappear for three weeks without any knowledge of what’s going on at the office.

So, for now I’m open 24 hours, but will be sleeping for seven of those and as I don’t have a home phone and turn off the cell phone at night, all hell can break loose and I will be oblivious until I turn on the cell phone or check email hanging off my bed. But I’m open for business 24/7 – theoretically.