Today, we are lauded for staying online and glued to our phones 24/7. There is this false notion that the only path to effectiveness is being available at all times. Despite these beliefs, maintaining a commitment to essential tasks leads to increased success both personally and professionally, whereas scattered attention to the many trivial requests that are thrown our way brings diminished returns. Here, I will outline actions and steps that have been instrumental in maintaining a work-life balance and overall equanimity.
- Have an objective. Do you need to shut off distractions because you are pursuing a career outside of your job? Have a family to focus on? Just can’t handle being attached to your phone because it is a blinking vortex of ‘Breaking News’ doom? It doesn’t matter what your reasoning is. Write down an objective in two sentences or less, and stick to it. Repeat it like a mantra. Eg., “I will be fully present for my job as a dental office receptionist for exactly forty hours a week, no more or less. This way, I will have enough time to pursue my true passion of jewelry making at night and over the weekend, while still being able to take care of my health and well being.”
- Respect your own time. When you are off the clock, be off the clock. When you are on the clock, be on the clock. How you do anything is how you do everything. Punctuality and presence in one aspect of life affords it for the rest of them. This includes that grueling day job that supports your true passion of jewelry making (or whatever your true passion is.)
- Prioritize. Thoroughly understand the scope of responsibility that your position calls for. In order to do this, it’s crucial that you maintain a strong and centered approach to your work day. If you are in a fast-paced environment or support role, your to-do list will likely be an ever changing, limitless beast due to the demands of your coworkers. Therefore, you must reevaluate your tasks throughout the day and triage them into manageable chunks. First, pause and evaluate everything in front of you. You can sort out each of your tasks based upon which person assigned them and where each of these individuals is on the food chain, as well as whether or not you report directly to them. Once this is finished, Immediately place aside any requests made by peripheral employees as either a ‘No’, or something to delegate to a coworker who has both the bandwidth and skill set to assist.
- Employ mindfulness techniques to better understand your limits. Observing a successful work day, note what made it flow and how you were able to maintain your sense of calm. This will be a good gauge of which tasks you can commit to with integrity. Did you leave your phone on airplane mode until you got to work, an action that prevented you from reading the news and therefore being on time and more available to tackle what was in your inbox at 9:00? Make this a habit. If someone asks you why you didn’t reply to an email sent at 8:27, when you are normally responsive during your commute, you will have proof that this tiny action of disconnecting had a positive effect on yours and your team’s successes that day.
- Set boundaries. No one likes being told no. Well intentioned as they may be, people will frequently try, and succeed at manipulating your no into a yes. This is where you will need to stand your ground. Remembering your objective to be able to peacefully disconnect and own your time off the clock will empower you. If immediately declining a request is too difficult, begin by pausing before agreeing to tasks. You can tell your coworkers that you will need to assess what is in front of you and get back to them once your priorities have been completed. This will buy you some time until you can formally turn them down.
- Touch base with your supervisor. Go to your boss prepared with solid examples of increased productivity during scenarios where you have committed to only essential tasks. Tell this person which projects you are truly able to handle seeing through to completion. A good manager will want to work with you and know the best methods of doing so, so that you are both able succeed.
- Transfer your skills. If you are the only worker in your department that possesses a particular knowledge base, ie. purchasing international flights through an online software booking platform, teach others this skill so that they can help out when you are disconnected or off the grid. People won’t always be open to spending time learning how to do these things themselves. However, they will ultimately need to know. One day, the CEO may get stuck in Galway, Ireland because his return flight was canceled. It will be beneficial if more than one person can tackle that challenge.
- Train people to expect and respect your boundaries. Do this by standing firm in your objective to disconnect. This is applicable to any facet of life. When you decide to take a measure to unplug, stick with it. Your cousin won’t grasp the fact that you toggle your phone to airplane mode after 8:30 p.m. and don’t turn it back on again until you get to work, unless you stop answering her text messages at 11:23 p.m. When you no longer respond to your supervisor’s calls on your personal phone, and diligently answer emails in a timely fashion, you will cease to receive the former mode of communication because she’ll see that it is ineffective. To avoid getting pulled into Facebook messenger conversations with that one random acquaintance that DM’s you every time you post a status update, tell them you really aren’t big on chatting but like to keep your social media current. They’ll get the hint. If not, stop answering. If this still doesn’t do the trick, change your privacy settings to exclude them from the post.
Let go of how others are going to react and enjoy sweet, sweet freedom. It is a personal decision to prioritize self care by setting limits to your availability. At the end of the day, your well-being takes high priority over anyone else’s feelings. Moreover, when your boss, friend, roommate, partner, or family member sees your renewed energy, focus and creativity, they will likely want to hop on the initiative to unplug too.
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