I’m one of those people who fought getting a smartphone for a long time. My excuse? I didn’t want to be THAT connected or accessible. I already feel like I’m a slave to my laptop. Although I have an office, my laptop and phone live on my kitchen table. It’s difficult to walk by and see emails or phone messages and ignore them.
When colleagues were first issued smartphones by their employers, I was always shocked that they were excited about it. What they saw as a symbol of status in their organization, I saw as a new expectation by employers that employees would be available 24/7.
The result of our all-day, every-day accessibility via smartphone and computer is the following:
– Half of smartphone owners say they can’t sleep if their phone isn’t close by
– 30% of people surveyed said they get up regularly during the night to check email
We’ve become slaves (or allowed ourselves to be enslaved) by this marvelous communication technology. It’s time to create some boundaries on all-access communication. Here are tips for “unplugging” from these devices and why you should.
1. Turn your phone and computer OFF (not just sleep mode or on vibrate) at a “reasonable” hour at night.
2. Set your “out of office”message and don’t check email while on vacation.
3. Don’t check email on the weekend, or at least pick one day of the weekend to disconnect.
4. Put devices “away” during off-limits hours. When they’re out of sight, they’re more likely to be out of mind.
5. Let others know your new “rules” for accessibility, so they won’t be surprised when you don’t respond immediately.
Some people may say they can’t do the things I’ve outlined above. Really?
Are you really so indespensible and your input so important that they can’t wait a few days, or at least until tomorrow, to hear from you?
I doubt it.
Unless your a physician or someone else who’s on call for emergencies, your evenings, weekends, and vacations should be for relaxing and other activities that regenerate you. You should be focusing on spending time with loved ones or connecting with your children.
If you need some additional motivation to disconnect, think about how you cripple those who “rely” on you for information.
If you’re always answering their questions and telling them what to do, they never learn to think and figure things out for themselves. If you’re a manager or supervisor, you should be encouraging employees to be proactive and problem solve on their own. If they’re not ready to do so completely on their own, rather than giving them the answers when they call or email, try asking them what they think should be done. When they come up with a great answer, say, “That’s exactly what I would do. Great idea.” Once employees build confidence in their own abilities, the volume of calls and emails will drop significantly.
The same applies to people who email you for information they could easily find on their own. I recently recevied an email from a student asking a simple question about an assignment. He could have found the answer on the internet in about five seconds. Instead, he emailed me one day and then emailed me again the next day saying he was worried I hadn’t received his first email because I hadn’t responded yet. It would have been easy for me to answer his question, but not wanting to be a crutch, I told him to “Google it,” then let me know what he found.
For those of you who are still worried that the world will come to an end if you disconnect for awhile, I challenge you to just try one of the steps above. I think you’ll be amazed by the result, not only for yourself, but for those trying to hunt you down. You’ll get to relax, get a good night’s sleep, and enjoy your time off. Others will learn to do without you and will gain confidence in doing so.
Oh, and by the way, I’m taking my own advice and disconnecting this coming week because I’m taking a vacation. If you don’t hear back from me when you call or email, don’t worry, I know you’ll be just fine on your own.