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The stressful cocoon

cocoonThe “cocooning” trend has been with us for many years – the tendency to hole up in our homes and send out for pizza, watch home videos, shop via phone or TV and even work from home. BrainReserve describes it as “the impulse to go inside when it just gets too tough and scary outside.”

Although The Popcorn Report is a book about trends and the marketing opportunities arising from these trends, it also provides a glimpse of the time-obsessed world in which we live. Technology brings us facts faster than we can handle them. Texting seems to have become a national pastime. We email or text our messages and letters and seldom have to visit a post office, We shop online, have groceries delivered, scan and email contracts, invoices, and proposals, send electronic greeting cards, and order take-out from our laptops or smartphones. We don’t even have to visit people; we now have social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and can even save time on relationships.

Time itself seems to move faster and stress increases as we lose even those brief respites provided by obsolete comments such as “it’s in the mail” or “I’ll get back to you.”

The amount of available information is now doubling every few years. By 1987 the microwave oven had already topped the dishwasher as the most commonly owned kitchen appliance. By 1989 people were spending $900 million dollars in the U. S. on microwaveable foods. Faith Popcorn suggests that speed-eating has been elevated to a fine art. About half of the 86% of Americans who eat dinners at home during the week are eating pre-packaged or take-out food that they pick up or have delivered.

A new trend is continuing to develop. Originally described by Faith Popcorn in her book, The Popcorn Report (Doubleday, 1991) as the “wandering cocoon”, the trend involves making our cocoons mobile. So when we do get out of our home cocoons, we can live and work in our cars. Thus we are decking our cars with iPods, plug-in TV’s, a GPS, and literally having our meals on wheels. Cars are being made more “livable” and drive time becomes a protected escape. There’s even talk of a microwave in the glove compartment and dashboards that serve as tables to eat from. Some people use their cars as offices on wheels.

How ironic if cocooning is an attempt to escape the stress of a fast¬ paced world, and yet finds itself invaded by smartphones, texting, electronic mail and electronic faxes. And as personal one-on-one relationship time decreases, stress increases.

Let’s not relinquish that final bastion of peace and tranquility of a home life and friends. It may mean sacrificing the efficiency of working in transit for the sanity of quiet reflection or trading a pizza ¬on-the-run for an old-fashioned home-cooked meal or playing cards with our kids at the kitchen table. It might even require that we turn off our cell phone while we visit a friend or, heaven forbid, actually leave our handheld device at home the odd time. Whatever it takes to regain balance in our lives is a small price to pay for the concomitant rewards: self-renewal, creativity, wellness, and the opportunity to touch base with ourselves.

Time management is great as far as it goes — until it goes too far. To quote Peter Drucker, “Time has a way of changing your assets into liabilities.”

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