phone on sink(110367)

Squat and Surf is more than just an addition to urban slang, it is a reality. So do it right.

A few weeks after first getting my iPhone, it dawned on me that while I was taking care of business in the bathroom, I was often on my phone. I was kind of embarrassed that I was doing it, but I didn't stop. I never mentioned it to anyone either, not even my wife. Later on at some point I heard the term “squat and surf” and thought it was funny—but again I never admitted to it.

Imagine my surprise when a few months ago someone in my Facebook feed casually posted, “I get a lot more done on the toilet since I got my iPhone.” The really funny thing to me was that this person was older than me AND he just so happened to be my PhD advisor. It was at that point that I realized that more people do it and I don't need to be (that) embarrassed. So I turned to trusty google to see if any productivity blog or site talked about it. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't really find anything about squatting and surfing. So here are some guidelines to the silent millions who do what I do almost every day.


1. Talking on the phone is NOT okay

I can't think of any other time in my life when I burst out laughing while sitting on a public toilet, but I did so this past summer while in an airport bathroom. A man came walking in to the bathroom talking to what sounded like his assistant. And he kept talking...walking straight into the stall next to me and continuing his meeting with his pants down, scheduling appointments, asking her/him to check on something for them, etc. These same people would consider it a breach of privacy if I came and listened to them talk on the phone in their office, yet he sat their exposed (parden the pun) for the whole public bathroom to listen in.

Don't start, continue, or begin a phone conversation when you are on the toilet. It is just wrong. And you aren't fooling the person on the other end—there is something about the echo in a bathroom, not to mention the sound of water and flushing toilets, that people can tell what you're up to. If your phone rings, there is a handy little trick (on an iPhone at least): press the power button and it will go straight to voicemail—because the sound of a ringing phone, especially in a public restroom, is just as annoying as those car alarms we all ignore going off all of the time.


2. Turn Your Sound Off (Or Put Your Earbuds In)

This doesn't matter as much in the privacy of your own home bathroom, but just as annoying as a phone ringing in the bathroom are the endless beeps and bells of phones when they aren't silenced. Either silence your phone, or stick your earbuds in. I personally always have a podcast on the go, and when nature calls for a long time, I'm listening to my latest downloaded content. And use earbuds even when you're at home, otherwise your spouse or roomate will wonder who the heck you are talking to while in the john.


3. Get Some Quick Emails Dealt With

I've been able to stay on top of my email as never before with my smart phone, and I can't imagine going back. During my squat and surf time I practice something David Allen teaches in his Getting Things Done (GTD) approach to task management: take care of things that take less than 2 minutes immediately. Almost every time I squat I scan my email quickly, trashing stuff I don't care about and answering emails that require only a few words. The ones that will take more time, either flag them or mark them as unread for later.


4. Do a Quick Check of Your Calender and ToDo List

I'm pretty regular (pun intended) in having to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning. Early in the day is a prime time to see what you have scheduled for the day, to see what tasks need to be completed, and what is coming down the pipeline. There are numerous times every month when that morning check reminds me of something I had totally forgotten about and my calendar wouldn't have told me about until an hour before it began.


5. Check Your Twitter & Facebook Feed

Twitter and Facebook for the majority of us is not really essential to our lives. I try hard to be productive throughout the day, and that means limiting social media. Squatting and Surfing is the one time when I give myself free reign on social media, because at that point I'm not taking any time away from my family, my job, or the projects I'm working on that day. So go ahead and read through those feeds. If you're in the bathroom for the long haul, you can read those links from lifehacker or that blog author you follow. If you see something you like but are going to read it later, open it in your mobile browser so that next time you open the browser on your phone, the content you wanted to read will be right there.


6. Don't Take Longer Than Necessary

Lest you think I take forever in the bathroom, the final guideline is to not sit there longer than you need to. If you want to be a productive person, you should strive for excellence and efficiency in everything you do—including going number two. If you really want to relax, go sit on the comfy couch in your living room! You don't need to do all of the above suggestions every time doody calls, but you can get a lot done in those few minutes if you choose to.

Now go forth and be productive on the porcelain!